Samuel (my best friend, soul mate, better half...) will officially be Active Duty for the US Air Force in April. He's my rock, my biggest supporter, and best sound board for anything and everything related to business (he, like many men, does not have a single care for anything aesthetic relating to weddings and events, which is ok!). He's my best friend, and I though I'm very supportive of his decision and dreams of joining the Air Force, a part of me is absolutely terrified (I'm sure I'll blog about it in the future, and link back to here).
Though we've been keeping Samuel's journey relatively low-key, I've always been publicly supportive of the military. I get a lot of questions about why I'm so passionate about our armed forces, and though he's a big reason for it, my passion, love, and ultimate respect starts back into my childhood.
My father is a US Navy Veteran, and for the longest time when I would go the VA with him for his various appointments, I noticed that he was always the youngest guy in the waiting room. Sure, the doctors were about his age, but as far as patients go, we were infants in comparison to the Vietnam, Korean, and World War II folks in the waiting room. Now, Dad is a very sociable man when he wants to be, and when you're in a military hospital, everyone already has some shared characteristics and history to bond over. Though everyone would essentially sit by their battle buddies and others who were around their age, Dad never had an issue talking to other vets and listening.
And I happened to be listening too.
You build relationships with these people, and soon you come to recognize them in your comings and goings. You take notice when they haven't shown up in a while. And yeah, they may not always remember you, but there's a comfort in knowing they kinda-sort of think of and ask after you too. That someone with so many other issues will ask about your dolls and the drama of elementary school.
I'm rambling, forgive me. But I have so many fond memories of Veterans at the VA and the doctors and staff who work so hard to make sure they were, and are, well.
However, as I got older at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "began" to end, I was aware that Dad was no longer the youngest patient. I think I was 15 or 16 when I first saw a younger patient, and to be honest, I thought he was lost looking for his parent. And then it occurred to me he was checking in to his appointment. This veteran couldn't have been five years older than me...and it shook me to the core.
And to be honest, as I watched him go take a seat, and watched all the older guys and their groups watch him too, I knew that it disturbed the routine that had been created in our hospital. Things would not be the same, and now everyone knew it.
After that, I got in contact with a group that sent care packages overseas to those deployed. I couldn't tell you how often I sent socks, deodorant, sanitary napkins, and soap over there. Basic things, but they were always on the list of needed items. I don't tend to lament on the contacts I made or where they were from, but after I received a letter back...I stopped sending packages.
When I got to college though, I knew I wanted to help and give back in any way I could. I ended up joining the LSU Army Scotch Guard, an all-female auxiliary counterpart to the Army ROTC at LSU. As a Lassie, I was able to work with future officers, give back to the community, and build a sisterhood of likeminded women. It is an experience I do not regret. I still keep in contact with all of my cadets (now officers, they're so grown and doing amazing things for our country!).
And then I met Samuel, who was not affiliated in any way, shape, or form to the military with the exception of several distant relatives. And when he first mentioned joining the Air Force two years ago, I was wary. I had watched friends and their relationships be tested and fail, and I did not want ours to join them. But, with knowing and loving each other the way that we do, I have no qualms and only a little bit of nervousness about this new chapter and career.
So yes. This is a summed up, rather personal look, into why I have such a passion and soft spot for our military (and really, all of our folks in uniform). I tend to keep Samuel and my relationship private, but as our life together progresses, I will be sure to keep you updated (especially if and when there's wedding planning involved in our future ;) ).