Freedom isn’t free.
Our blessed America is the “land of the free because of the brave.”
Men and women proudly wear the uniform for God, country, and the flag.
Freedom is a family affair.
Husband, wife, mother, father, son and daughter all make great sacrifices for the flag.
When mommy or daddy deploys, the family deploys with them, even if their battles are fought at the Home-front.
Salute a soldier today. Your freedom isn’t free.
Most soldiers receive their orders to deploy at least once in their career; usually more. Deployments take mommy or daddy to the other side of the world for nine to twelve long and difficult months; separating parents from their children, husbands from their wives. Deployment is a secret battle civilians can’t identify unless you fight with them in the Home-front trenches during their long and painful separation.
Children of deployed soldiers learn to be brave when children their age are learning to sleep without their security blankets. These brave children want to be good soldiers while mommy or daddy is gone. But they’re just kids, making their sacrifice for the flag; albeit not by their choice.
A few years ago, our daughter ‘n law and two grand-children (with one on the way) came to live with us for six of the nine months our son was deployed. Not wanting them to face deployment alone as they lived a three days journey away from us, they packed up their belongings and found a corner of our house to call home.
How do you say good-by for nine months to the love of your life? Your rock, your anchor, your mooring is leaving and taking a piece of your heart to a foreign land, a place of strangers and dangers; how do you say good-by?
As painful as separation is, life has to go on. Light and hope can be found in every remote city and town on the map, in every situation the day presents. With the advancements of technology, deployment isn’t waiting for weeks to get a letter like our great grandparents and their families had to in the wars of the past. Our grandchildren could usually see their daddies face or hear his voice sometime during the day. Daddy was always silly, making them laugh with his antics, lessening the heaviness of their hearts that wanted him near.
As wonderful as daddies phone calls were to his children, nothing ever takes the place of being in his arms during those moments kids just need their daddy. Big sister made sure her baby brother had those arms to comfort him with when he appeared quiet and lonely; being that brave soldier girl she promised she would be.
During deployment, there’s no place like home in a box. Care packages are the oxygen that sustains life when the drought of time together takes the living out of you. Signed Father’s Day cards from Daddy’s Boy and Girl sealed in stickers is just what the doctor ordered. Monthly boxes of candies, favorite foods and hidden surprises traveled the air miles to their daddy solider arriving just in time when he need that pick me up.
But the highway of air miles went both ways. Trips to the mailbox brought more excitement than the toy store, because daddy sent a piece of himself in his special surprises to them also.
Before bedtime children always request a story. What better story to select than those found inside those packages sent from their daddy, books handpicked to follow along with as daddy read page after page to them beside their bed, even if their bedrooms were a million miles apart.
Flowers do bloom during deployment, especially during your two week trip home for the birth of your third child and birthday parties of your other two.
Flags everywhere welcomed our soldier home, and a surprise trip to the airport would be the best birthday gift ever to daddy’s little girl and boy.
While two weeks felt like forever after landing state side from hours in the air, the days would go quick and every second would be celebrated.
Daddy couldn’t go anywhere without his “tag-alongs”. Making up for moments missed, they held on and kissed on their daddy every chance they could.
Baby number three made her debut and big sisters nails and bow created a perfect first impression thanks to daddy. Big brother had his hair combed special for his little sister too.
What better time to celebrate your mermaid / fish birthday party than when you haven’t seen your daddy for a long, long time.
Daddy even made sure to buy his daughter a princess dress for her birthday, a request she made when daddy was overseas. It melted my heart to see he really honored her request.
Two weeks flew by and this family captured every moment while in the moment.
They went fishing together.
A families first portrait together after baby number three arrived and one day before returning to deployment.
As far away as the end of a two week visit seemed in the beginning, that sad trip back to the airport is now here. The silence of their last moments together spoke volumes to this grieving mother watching from behind. The children still holding onto daddy as they had been the last fourteen days and now taking their last steps to the plane before that painful good-by was almost too much.
Their sacrifice for the flag is great and deserves a medal for bravery and honor like every other soldier is decorated for.
But deployment and life goes on again at grandma’s house. Thankfully there are lots of cousins to share your days with. They are a source of fun and laughter, that bouquet of balloons to brighten up your day.
Hard to believe but grandma’s calendar reminds her that six months with her daughter ‘n law and babies are coming to an end. Their corner of the house will find its way back into their boxes for the next grandparent’s house to visit; the last stop before home and end of deployment.
Never celebrating the holidays together as the military life keeps families so far away from each other, we celebrated three holidays in one in the hot, steamy month of August that year. Stockings were filled with Halloween candy; a turkey dinner was prepared and enjoyed after we took pictures by the Christmas tree. Seeing all grandma’s babies together for the first time by her tree was the best gift ever though December was still months away.
Six months has now passed and our house echoed quiet as a museum minus my military kids and their presence in their rooms across the hall. It didn’t take but a second without them that my heart cried out a river of tears; which didn’t dry up for weeks.
Deployment is close to the finish line, but Christmas without daddy was still a given. Daddy under the tree would have been their best gift ever, but their sweet family reunion day is so close they can taste it.
Daddy sent his seasons’ greetings in a photo Christmas card to those he loves back in the states, a reminder and glimpse of what deployment looks like.
Deployment is so much more than families being separated. Deployment is fighting for our freedom, and the freedom for others.
As families of the military, we cling to our American Motto:
In God We Trust.
Without Him, we couldn’t handle the unimaginable.
We find great comfort that God follows our soldiers onto the battlefield as we are reminded in Deuteronomy 20:4:
‘For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’
DEPLOYMENT IS FINALLY OVER.
All that remains is the million mile flight home in the air and back to American soil called home.
Returning home is a sobering reminder that some soldiers return to their families after paying the ultimate price for the flag. These are our TRUE HEROES whose bravery should be etched in our memories; that their sacrifice never be forgotten.
Thank a soldier today. Your freedom isn’t free.
The bookend of every painful good-by is that firework celebration of hello, especially when your soldier daughter has been brave as long as she possible could.
Now, she just needs to see her daddy.
Nine months long and finally back together again. Baby number three a bit bigger than her daddy remembers, and soldier daddy is finally home at last. Everyone has a bit of catching up to do.
WELCOME HOME DADDY! WELCOME HOME!
AMERICA, WE CELEBRATE YOU TODAY!
YOU ARE OUR GREAT COUNTRY.
WE LOVE THIS GREAT LAND.
Song sung by my husband David Alicea
Song God Bless America – Written by Irving Berlin
Staub Media Productions