Happy Memorial Day—To the Unsung Heroes, We Give Thanks

The Spawn dragged these out of Daddy’s closet.

Today is Memorial Day and a time to stop and remember those who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms. I am so grateful for the men and women who serve this great country. Today, I want to take a moment to also thank heroes we might forget to think about. First, I want to thank the families of our service people. To the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, children, husbands and wives, THANK YOU! You guys are so vital, and maybe we don’t express our gratitude near enough.

This past year I got a little taste of what military wives go through. It was about two weeks before Thanksgiving, and my husband came home from his weekend warrior drill. He had this odd look on his face I’d never seen before. I asked him if he was okay, and didn’t reply. He just sank down into one of the kitchen chairs and hugged me for a long minute. I laughed nervously, wondering what had gotten into him.

“Honey.” *awkward laugh* “What’s wrong?”

“Bagram. We’re being deployed to Bagram.”

“Bagram? Where’s Bagram?” I asked, hoping that Alabama was at the end of that sentence. Or Maybe Mississipi. The South was known for naming small one-horse towns after exotic locations.

Palestine, Texas. Enough said.

Yes, that was it. I was sending my husband to Bagram, Georgia for a month of training, mosquitoes and mud.

Note to self: Look up exact location of Bagram, Arkansas.

He buried his face deeper in my apron and mumbled, “Sweetie, Bagram is in Afghanistan.” His voice cracked. “I’m being deployed to Afghanistan.”

His words tipped my world upside down. I remember feeling very dizzy and then crying for days then weeks. All I could do is look at my husband and then think of him not being here. What would The Spawn do without Daddy?

***Note: The Spawn totally loves his daddy way more than me.

What would I do without my husband? I could barely pull our SUV in the garage without taking off the mirrors. And changing out the propane on the grill? I could easily wipe out half of Arlington, Texas just trying to make a burger. We won’t even begin to talk about the whole, You’re the husband so you get rid of any bug bigger than a flea agreement that is just part of every marriage license.

Everywhere I turned I just saw one more reason to start crying all over again. We went to our family ranch for Christmas and it was the best time I’d ever had, except then I’d watch my husband ride by on an ATV with The Spawn, both of them bundled against the cold and I’d think, He won’t be here next year. He might never be here ever again. This might be the last Christmas you ever have with him.

Most people cannot appreciate how difficult it was to find a man willing to marry me without the influence of psychotropic drugs or extortion. My husband loved that I played video games and that I knew every Star Trek episode and that I quoted Monty Python way more than was socially acceptable. I’d spent most of my life trying to find him and now he was going away and it was totally not fair.

Then I would feel so selfish and horrible. Why should I be so special? Countless other wives were going through the same thing, had already been through the same thing? Why was I an exception? And I knew I wasn’t, but I hated myself for wanting to be. I hated myself for praying my husband would spontaneously develop flat feet and then he wouldn’t have to go.

They did still kick people out for flat feet, right?

I so suck.

I love my country, and my family has been in the military for countless generations. Yes, we were the rowdy clan that got booted out of Scotland because we didn’t play well with the English. The military was in my blood and so was the life that went with it…and yet here I was still utterly unprepared.

Now, every time I drove home, I somehow managed to drive by every funeral home, cemetery and headstone manufacturer in the area. I saw more commercials for preparing a will than ever before. It was maddening. And I still had to blog and be funny and uplifting and I couldn’t even tweet about what was going on. What was I going to do without the support of strangers all over the world?

***Never underestimate the support of total strangers. It got me through Spawn knocking out all his front teeth.

Everything changed. We had to prepare for life without my husband. He’d be gone for almost a year. I had to make some major changes and learn things I thought I’d never have to, like exactly how the remote controls in our house worked, where all the flashlights were and how to change the line on the weed eater.

Might as well been back in the frontier days. Sheesh!

I started to notice all the things my husband did that I took for granted, then I’d sink into some more self-loathing. I loved my country, and I loved my husband. It all just hurt so much.

It didn’t help when I had military friends tell me that Bagram wasn’t that bad, that my husband had more chance of being killed in Washington D.C. than in Bagram. Okay, then why couldn’t he deploy to D.C.? Then I could at least visit.

It didn’t help when they told me that the time would go quickly or that my husband might not even go. Orders changed all the time, they told me.

I willed myself not to think about it. I had to prepare for him being gone and I didn’t dare hang my hope on his orders changing. I just had to prepare and it wasn’t like I was the first military wife to have to fly solo while her husband deployed. I would make this as easy for my husband as possible and this totally would make a great book one day.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, everything changed again. I got the phone call from my husband. His orders were canceled. He wasn’t deploying (this time). I’ve never been so happy about anything in my life, yet at the same time I feel guilty for my happiness. I know there are so many wives, so many families who don’t get this kind of reprieve.

Just so you know? I am so grateful for you. I cannot tell you how much I value your sacrifice. I valued it last year on Memorial Day, but not like I do this Memorial Day. You are made of finer stuff than I am, I know that.

So yes, thank you to all the troops and thank you so much to the families left behind. Thank you for your sacrifice.

Before I go, I would like to talk about one more type of hero that is easy for us to forget. War dogs. Many of these furry service pooches provide such a valuable service to our troops. To honor these unsung heroes, my friend NY Times Best-Selling Author James Rollins is calling for pictures to add to a Pinterest board dedicated to service animals.

Here are the details from Jim:

[WAR DOGS] I got all my ducks….or should I say, dogs…in a row this morning and created Pinterest Pinboard featuring military war dogs.I’m hoping to enlist members of the armed forces to share their pictures of their companions: at work and at play. If you are one of those folks, share them! Post your photo and story here on Facebook or just jump on over to my Pinterest page an pin your photo and story.

If you feel like sharing your OWN pictures of your four-legged companions being “warriors,” send those too! They could be serious, funny, poignant, or silly. I’d love to build a board of those pictures, too.Pinterest link: http://bit.ly/james-rollins-pinterest-pageDon’t have a Pinterest account? I’ll send you one. Email me here: http://bit.ly/james-rollins-contact

Photo Credit: Jennifer Ross. Location: Oman.

Again, thank you to all the troops, to all who are serving and all who have served. We love you and can never fully express our gratitude. Also, to those who live near Arlington, Texas, my husband changed out the propane. You are safe…for now.

Happy Memorial Day!


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  1. Very powerful post, Kristen. Thank you for sharing your experience. (((hugs)))

  2. Wow, that is really the worst thing to have to deal with going and being left behind. Lovely post for Memorial day. Take care!

  3. I think only a Kristen Lamb could get her point across so clearly while still injecting her own special brand of humor. Another great post in an endless line of them. And while we are honoring the military vets, families, and fallen heros, let’s also remember with praise and prayers, those local heroes who put their lives on the line every day, too. Police, firefighters, first responders, and so many more. We DO live in a great country, and it is because of the people who are willing to sacrifice their time, families, lives, etc. that lazy, unqualified folks like me can enjoy the privilege of living in the USA. Thanks again, Kristen. You are amazing.

  4. “Most people cannot appreciate how difficult it was to find a man willing to marry me without the influence of psychotropic drugs or extortion” – I laughed )))

  5. Kristen, you made me cry and laugh. I remember well July 1970, we were both 19 and my husband was drafted into the army two weeks after we were married. Our worst fear was Vietnam. Some how he managed to never leave the US. Like you, I don’t know what I would have done without him. Our first daughter was born in August of 1971 and only intensified my fears. I know that was a long time ago, almost 42 years for us, but the fears of that time are just as real today as they were then. Maybe the war will end and your husband will never have to go either, but whatever happens, know that You Are Not Alone.

  6. Been there, done that, had those same thoughts when my husband deployed. This was very well expressed. There is usually a whole process to go through…shock, anger, sadness, acceptance…and back to anger when he is gone and you have to kill that ginormous Texas-sized spider, the washer floods the basement, kid ends up in ER for stitches or the dog goes missing during a blizzard. (All true stories.) It’s all part of the military wife experience and of course, all part of loving a man who loves his country. Good blog!

  7. Oh, yes. This sounds so familiar. What a beautiful post on the range of emotions spouses go through from the moment they hear “orders”. Thanks for writing it so honestly and so perfectly.

    • D.J. Lutz on May 28, 2012 at 11:57 am
    • Reply

    Having put my wife through the “we’re really going” drill way too many times, and after 21 years never going, I can relate to your post well. You are very honest with your writing, and that is a special type of bravery unto itself.

    As for the propane, if my sister in Plano tells me she heard a boom, I’ll know… 😉

  8. Wow. Certainly an impactful first-hand account that achieves its voice! Meeting a former SEAL really drove home (to me) the role of military families as real unsung heroes. Not something I had ever stopped to really consider until recently, and I did have a work-related association that should have been my the opportunity to do so. Like you, I chose Memorial Day for my post on the subject. I will share it here in hopes that it reinforces your message and helps to create awareness on the topic. http://bizsinc.wordpress.com/

  9. As in the passing of a loved one, those left behind often have the most work to do–physical, spiritual and emotional. Certainly the most grief. No amount of email from that deployed love one can fill the hole in our heart.

    God Bless those who sacrifice.

    Thanks for putting words to those feelings, Kristen.

  10. Such a powerful, yet humorous post. Well put.

  11. Oh honey. Sending you and the Spawn and your hubby LOTS of hugs and love and laughter and relief. I don’t know how you do it, I don’t know how any military family does it. Courage beyond compare.

  12. The sacrifice of those who are left to watch the home fires or propane grills is a reality that hits home. Husbands and wives of the military who’ve been deployed wait for the return of their mate, someone who is caregiver, nurturer, lover and other halves of their souls. Sometimes they don’t return and they must move through life alone. God bless those who wait.

  13. We can only pray for a world without wars.

  14. Once again: well done. All kinds of Memorial Day tears today. Hugs to your husband.

  15. I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Kristen. I’m glad it all worked out. Did you ask your husband why his orders were cancelled. Maybe he mentioned leaving you alone with the propane. That could be like having flat feet, right?

    1. That is a thought. “Kristen being left at home unattended with highly explosive gas is a far higher security risk than Al Qaeda. You can stay.” *shrugs* Sounds about right :D.

  16. Kristen, this post kicked up an old feeling of guilt in me. As my son became a teenager, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at their worst. I was forced to picture my little boy as a young man wearing the uniform of a service member. My periphery understanding of what it must be like to say goodbye to a child that might never be held or kissed again, changed my world. It inspired me to become politically aware, and take whatever action I could to help assure our troops get everything they deserve. I never want to take that kind of sacrifice for granted. Ever. Again.

  17. I’m sure glad Hubby is staying put to hug y’all, change the propane and kill the bugs. I can see it now… “Jenny, the bugs are getting out of control over here. Can you come to Texas and calm Ingrid and I down?”

  18. p.s. Copying the bottom of your post re: WARDOGS and adding it to the bottom of my own Memorial Day post.

  19. You would have been fine, I promise. I did a year without Bill while he was an interpreter in Iraq. Was it hard – yes. But our life is dearer, sweeter and better for the time apart – and for me realizing what an incredible guy I’d married and me begging God to bring him back.

  20. Very touching post. It brought tears <3

  21. Your post comes under the category of “Writers, Above and Beyond.” It’s our job to record these things for posterity; how it feels to watch a loved one prepare to go in harm’s way for all the rest of us. This is for the comfort of others, and for the instruction of those who come after: this is how it was for us. Never forget. Always remember.

    I’m including a link to the newsletter of the Hickory Aviation Museum for last Memorial Day. I think you will find some interesting perspectives on Memorial Day there.


    Thank you for this post, Kristen, and please thank your husband, for all of us, for his service.

  22. Wow. Just…wow. Your post was moving. I did, however, laugh at the ‘bugs’ part of the marriage license comment. 😀 And I’m way down here in Houston, so go ahead and fire up the grill. I think I’m safe. 😛

  23. What a touching blog piece. I laughed and I cried, and I join you in thanking all those who have made that ultimate sacrifice.

    • marsharwest on May 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm
    • Reply

    Great post, Kristen. My father served in the Air Force for 30 years, and many a time he left and Mom and I were alone. Thanks to your husband and the countless other men and women who serve so we can be safe. Thanks to them and their families for giving up so much for the good of our country, especially to those who gave the “last full measure of devotion.”

    • Jan on May 28, 2012 at 7:06 pm
    • Reply

    Aloha Kristen, My son was in the military and on 9/11 he was in Kuwait. The military called me that morning and told me he was safe but they were leaving and I would have no contact with him for awhile. I knew where he was heading. All I could think of was “Oh my god, please, please, don’t leave him alone out there. Please someone go out to help.” I could not leave the house for three days. I kept telling myself to just breath. Needing food, I eventually had to go out. What I encountered was people, everywhere, wearing flag pins, and flying flags. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. My son didn’t belong just to me anymore, he belonged to us, our country, and we cared. When my friends sons did not come back alive, I was the one who could not stop crying. They comforted me, how strange is that? But also strange was that my son drew a line in the sand and became my hero.

  24. I was gripped with compassion for the plight of military families as I read — and, of course, for you personally. I am SOOO impressed with those who sign up to serve our country through military service and put their butts on the line day in and day out. God bless ’em!

    And my husband says there is no such clause. He actually wanted me to kill the roaches myself when we got married. Can you believe it?!

  25. Kristen, you made this experience so real…as if it were happening to me. Thanks for opening my eyes further to what military wives go through on a daily basis…they sacrifice as well!

  26. Two weeks after I got married my hubby (a contractor) was deployed. He and the marines were some of the first americans in the front lines in Afghanistan. I didn’t get a chance to freak out until he was already gone. It was the longest six months of my life. He’s gone several times again, this time for a year. Military wives are the unsung heroes who manage to keep the family going and the stress levels low for their husbands who are sacrificing so much for us all. Bravo for your honesty, loved it!

  27. Thanks for giving voice to what all of us think in that situation. We want to be strong and capable but the world just doesn’t work the same way without the hubster’s daily presence. 🙂 shhh…I don’t tell mine I said so. I have trouble enough controlling the universal remote he programmed.

    While being grateful for his 22 years in the Navy, I am very glad for many, many reasons that my DH retired from service 2 years ago.

  28. Great post, Kristen. It’s far to easy for those if us not directly involved to take for granted the commitment on the part of the guardians of our freedom and their families, and what it costs them to keep those commitments. Made me squirm a bit to read such a raw description from someone I’ve come to “know” through your writing. Thanks, I needed that.

  29. Thanks, Kristen. Your post brought back many memories and stirred the same emotions I went though each time the “orders” came and changed. LIke poster Kecia Adams, while I’m grateful for what those years in service taught me, I’m happy the “orders” days have been retired.

    To all those who stil service, I say a hearty THANK YOU for your sacrifices.

  30. I understand this post with all my heart. I have three sons. Two of them are active-duty military. This time last year, they were both in Iraq. This time next year, one of them will be in Afghanistan, unless his orders are changed. I know it’s different when it’s a husband — and my husband is the least military type imaginable — but it’s also a challenge when your sons are deployed.

    I am so glad you and the Spawn will have your husband at home and not off in Afghanistan.

    1. I don’t even want to think about that. I think it would be worse if it were my son. Don’t care to test that theory though, LOL.

      1. When my boys were in Iraq, I myself visited the River in Egypt: I kept telling myself they were at “the Beach.” When my boys’ friends were in Afghanistan, they were on a “mountain vacation.” Now my son will also be “on a mountain vacation.” Me, I’ll be on a raft on the River Denial. *grin*

  31. Great post, Kristen! I am pilot in the Air Force Reserves and I’ve put my wife through that dance half a dozen times over 20 years, but she has stuck it out. I think she discovered a few things about herself in the process, but it still sucks every time. My hat is off to all the military spouses out there. We have guilt and would love to do just about anything but put you through it, but sometimes duty calls. We still joke about the fact that she actually broke up with a guy in college simply because he was in ROTC and she didn’t want to be a military spouse.

    It was nice that you wanted to make it easy on your husband, and we do appreciate the effort, but we know…trust me. I’m glad he didn’t have to go this time. Thank him for his service for me and you for being there beside him.

    • Reetta Raitanen on May 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm
    • Reply

    Touching dedication to the soldiers and their families and the furry friends. I’m really glad your husband didn’t have to go.

  32. My apologies for this late comment, but I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your post. I too wish to express my thanks to the families of those who serve. I was there once, but not during war time. The sacrifice and courage of service families rivals none.
    Thanks to your husband’s service and to you and your family. Even though he may not be deployed…all who serve preserve our freedoms.

  33. Having a personal connection with a National Holiday certainly helps us to appreciate it more.

  34. My husband had #69 as a lottery number during Vietnam and the only thing that kept him from going was that he attended a military college and the military knew they were going to get him one way or the other. We both grew up in the military (Navy and Marine Corps), so thank you for taking note of the families, who do sacrifice so much. Glad your Memorial Day turned out well!

  1. […] Here’s an excerpt from Kristen Lamb’s exceptional Memorial Day post: […]

  2. […] blog by our own myWANA founder, WANA International co-founder, and blog guru, Kristen Lamb. In her Memorial Day post, she gave me an inside look at the pain faced by the spouse of a brave man about to deploy. In her […]

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