Never before in the history of civilization has there been a country quite like the United States of America. We have far more opportunity, wealth and personal liberties than any other group of human beings since the dawn of time. And despite all our shortcomings, it remains an indisputable fact that we are the greatest country on earth by a significant margin.
Yet compared to the rest of the world, the vast majority of Americans are a spoiled lot. Though we all have our share of hard times, very few Americans have any idea what it means to really struggle in the traditional sense. And most importantly, there’s a HUGE difference between struggle and survival. Most of the world struggles to simply survive.
Did you know if you have ANY food at all in your refrigerator that you’re automatically richer than 70% of the world? As an American you’re also one of the world’s wealthiest individuals by default. The top ten-percent, in fact. Who gives a crap about the Forbes annual list of richest people anyways? As Americans, you and I my friend, are already on the only list that really matters.
How lucky are we?
Our status as a social and economic superpower is no accident. When our founding fathers penned the sacred constitutional documents that govern our way of life, they did so with one overriding principle in mind…the fundamental concept of personal freedom. At its core, it is these freedoms that make our entire way of life possible. The freedom to speak our minds without being shot in the back of the head. The freedom to choose our religion. The freedom to start a business and make a better life for our families. And most importantly, the freedom to rest our heads at night without the worry of some Nazi asshole kicking down the door to haul us off to prison. These are just a few of the many things we take for granted every day because we’ve been born into liberty. Yet billions of people all over the world can’t even begin to dream of a life this good.
It can therefore be said that nothing is more important than protecting and defending these liberties at all cost.
And that is why the men and women of the United States military are deserving of our highest levels of respect, gratitude and admiration for their critical roles in safeguarding our way of life.
It goes without saying that men in the military are heroes in every sense, but as the saying goes, behind every great man is an equally great woman. Nowhere does this sentiment resonate with more truth than when it comes to the women of the United States military. And I’m not just talking about enlisted personnel and officers either. I’m talking about ALL women associated with the armed services. Either directly or indirectly. Wives. Mothers. Sisters. Daughters. Female loved ones of every sort.
Over the course of the past several weeks, I’ve had the great privilege and honor to speak with a number of these incredible ladies. I found each has endured her own unique set of sacrifices in support of the American way of life. Although the front-line troops and active combat personnel get most of the press and recognition, I’m now convinced more than ever that women are the true unsung heroes of the United States military.
What follows is simply my take on those conversations. This isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive look at women in the military by any means. I could write an entire book on that topic alone. This is purely my unfiltered reaction to the remarkable stories of these extraordinary women.
Military Mothers and Significant Others
In a recent article of mine entitled, Ode to Women, I wrote this:
As far as I’m concerned, every man alive should have a heroine symbolize the special woman in his life. I don’t care if it’s SuperGirl, Wonder Woman or Bat Bitch…superhero status is only fitting since women are endowed with special powers. How else do you explain x-ray vision that can see straight through a man’s bullshit? Or how women can multitask with greater efficiency than precision robotics at the Ferrari factory? Men like to joke about women being the weaker sex, but the joke’s on us, fellas. There aren’t many men alive who can manage a household, earn an income and juggle family responsibilities with a fraction of the combined competence a woman can.
Nowhere are these words more applicable than when it comes to the role military mothers, wives and significant others play in the support of our troops. You won’t hear about them on CNN, but behind virtually every service member is an indispensible female making it possible for that soldier to do what they do.
I’d like you to meet Kimberly.
Kimberly is the mother of two young Marines currently stationed in Afghanistan and the wife of a career Army officer. When she was in her early twenties, their young family moved every two years as her husband advanced in rank through the service. When he wasn’t deployed abroad for months at a time, he was often gone fourteen hours a day, leaving Kimberly to raise their two sons virtually singlehandedly. She estimates he was gone close to 80% of the time during the first ten years of their marriage. To this day, they have yet to spend their wedding anniversary or a Valentine’s day together.
Kimberly’s husband’s deployments saw him dodging enemy fire on the front lines of Operation Desert Storm and again ten years later in Afghanistan. To add insult to injury, his military pay placed them only slightly above the national poverty level during the first few years of his enlistment. During this difficult time, Kimberly had to rely on government assistance programs and the generosity of other military families to meet her basic needs. It was a very difficult time. They lived hand-to-mouth, paycheck to paycheck. Hardly a show of appreciation for a young family fighting to keep us safe.
And if that weren’t bad enough, Kimberly’s long days and lonely nights of solitude were haunted by a sense of foreboding all too familiar to the loved ones of our soldiers everywhere: Living in fear of that dreaded knock on the door and the shattering news that their loved one has given their life in the noble defense of liberty.
Every time the doorbell rang, Kimberly would literally jump and then prepare herself for the worst. Many a woman with a loved one in the military knows this soul-wrenching feeling all too well. If losing a child or spouse is the most painful thing a person can experience, then living in constant fear of that loss surely must run a close second. Ask any woman who’s ever been there and she’ll tell you. You live with it because you must, but the clouds never truly part until your loved one returns to you unharmed from the field of battle.
Through those early years of hardship and fear, Kimberly was the glue that held it all together. When interviewed for this article, she told me her greatest motivation was the sense of pride she derived from giving her combat-weary husband a life at home worth fighting for and worth coming home to. I was blown away by her genuine humility and sense of duty. It is a testament to the nobility of her character that her husband and she are happily married to this day.
And the most amazing part of all?
There are millions of women just like Kimberly in every corner of the globe. They may not have a military commission or enlistment, but they’re an integral part of the armed services backbone just the same. In many ways, they are the glue that binds our war machine together because they represent everything worth defending to the troops themselves. Their lifestyles exemplify a level of sacrifice I can’t even begin to fathom. Many of them work full-time while going to school AND raising a family. What makes it all the more commendable is the fact many of them do it in an environment of scarcity and uncertainty few civilians will ever experience. How they do this and still maintain a sense humor is beyond me. I wrote recently in another article that since I’ve become a single dad myself, I have a whole new level of respect and admiration for mothers and caretakers of every sort. And that was before I learned about these extraordinary women.
The upside is that the good people of the United States military take care of their own. You won’t find a closer knit or more supportive community anywhere on God’s green earth. They cook each other meals. Clean their neighbor’s homes. Watch each other’s kids and dry each other’s tears. They support one another at every turn and give of themselves with a generosity that rivals the good Samaritan on steroids. Military mothers, wives and significant others may not carry a weapon or drive a tank, but as far as I’m concerned these ladies make our entire way of life possible by uplifting, supporting and caring for the troops who put their lives on the line for us every day.
Let’s thank the good Lord for them.
Enlisted Women and Officers
Imagine a job when you work excessively long and often grueling hours for pay that is well below average. Then imagine that job can take you away from your loved ones for weeks, months or even years at a time. Add to the mix an environment that’s overwhelmingly masculine in every regard and you can only begin to imagine what it’s like to be woman serving in the United States Armed Services. It takes a special breed of female to walk this path because this is no ordinary job. For many women, it is both a calling and a way of life. Sure, some join the military because they don’t have better options, but the vast majority of servicewomen who join do so for the most noble cause of all…love of country. How else could a new mother make peace with having to leave her newborn son the week after his birth to deploy to the front lines of Afghanistan?
In November 2001, two short months after 9/11, Michelle was deployed to the Taliban stronghold of Mazir Sharif in Northern Afghanistan. Her efforts with the US Special Operations Forces were a critical part of the first major victory in the War on Terror. American troops initially annihilated Taliban forces in Mazar and then proceeded to trounce the remainder of these misogynistic, cave-dwelling pricks throughout the rest of Afghanistan. Michelle and her company were there all along ensuring that our troops had what they needed to blast the scum-sucking terrorist swine back to the Stone Age.
Of course, among many things, it was devastating for Michelle that she missed her only child’s first smile. And his first steps. His first tooth. And sadly, his first birthday. When I told her I believed she was a hero in every sense of the word, she deferred my compliment with a characteristic humility so often found with the good people of the armed services. She said she wasn’t really a hero at all. The true heroes, she said, were her fellow brothers and sisters who came back in a flag-draped coffin. Her comment literally stunned me into silence and I had to pull my car to the side of the road as I felt the bridge of my nose tighten and tears fill my eyes. She spoke with such passion and conviction, I could literally feel it burning through the phone.
And there are tens of thousands of women like Michelle stationed all over the world in every branch of the service. The part they play is a critical component of the engine that drives the US military machine. Women like Michelle dispel the common myth that the role of women in the military is exclusively one of administration and support. Nothing could be further from the truth. While there are certain jobs they’re precluded from taking, there’s no shortage of women kicking ass and taking names in an operational capacity; to use a military term. These ladies mix it up with the best of the men and dirty their hands on the front lines and behind the scenes. They are the female fighter pilots. The combat medics. Ariel gunners. Field officers. Engineers and thousands of other critical functions women play in taking the fight to those who would seek to end our way of life.
But what matters most are the untold sacrifices these ladies have made and continue to make. They’ve lost loved ones and dearest friends. Many have given up the dream of having children or families of their own due to years-long deployments or impossibly demanding tours of duty. Sure, military enlistment is completely voluntary, but that doesn’t make their sacrifice any less noble.
And therein lies the rub…
Freedom is never free. Throughout history it has been purchased with the blood, sweat and sacrifice of countless patriots of every race, color and creed. Ronald Reagan once said that freedom is never more than a single generation away from extinction. And he was right. To paraphrase further, freedom isn’t something we give to our children in their bloodstreams. It must be fought for, protected and passed on for them to do the same; or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children’s children what it was once like to live in a land of the free that was the home of the brave.
Thankfully for the good people of the United States of America, we have the noble men and women of the United States military and their loved ones who support them. Michelle, Kimberly and the millions of women just like them are true patriots in every respect. Not only do they make our way of life possible through service and sacrifice, but in every sense of the word, they’ve given up some of their freedoms so you and I can enjoy ours.
Thank you, Ladies.