When I was in high school, my summers weren’t spent getting a tan and shopping with girlfriends. I got up at 5:30 every morning and swam a mile in our pool, then scarfed down a quick breakfast, dried my Spanish mane, and scrambled for work by 7:30 for a 40 hour workweek at the local dealership as a receptionist. I look back and see that the work ethic forged in my youth has served me well as a military family member.
I used to have my “good days” while swimming when everything was hitting perfectly from my breathing to my pacing. Then there were “bad days,” when I could barely keep my head above water and each stroke left me gulping for air as I cranked out the mileage.
I’ve found that military deployments are kind of like swimming those early morning laps. We have all our daily duties in already crammed-packed busy days, but then we have the added responsibility of dealing with our loved one being in harm’s way.
On good days, my head is above water. I’m optimistic, volunteering amongst my community (which always makes me feel better), refusing to walk with fear and anxiety for the day and choosing to not worry about his safety. But there are no guarantees that we always have good days.
On bad days, I’m left gasping for air as I’m worried beyond belief. On the tough days, I feel as if those men in white coats are lurking behind every corner, just waiting to cart me off to the funny farm as my emotions try to rule the day (see my blog on ‘Deployments and Random Acts of Emotion’).
I’ve found that my friends and family can be my finest support or they can be fickle foes when my military member is in harm’s way. That’s why I wrote the blog, “Five Things You Should Never Say to Military Families.” But today’s blog hits the upside of the good things we want to hear.
I’ve also found that I can be the same (support or foe) for my Marine when he is gone. When things aren’t going well overseas and our military members have lost comrades, seen team members injured or experience an increase in ops tempo that is stressful, it’s super important that we say things that will truly encourage them.
I think there are five things that your friends can say to you and that you can say to your military member that will make all the difference:
- You are loved – So often we want to just “fix the problem” but that can end up sounding like platitudes or uninformed opinions. We don’t need others to fix things for us and we don’t need to stir up anxiety or anger in our military member by going on a rant against the circumstances that are making life difficult for them or for us. Those three words go a long way in taming anxiety and healing hurts.
- I’m proud of you – Did you grow up with parents who told you this on a regular basis? If you did, then you were blessed. If you didn’t, then it might not come naturally for you to tell your military member this important sentiment. I have family members from my growing up years who have still never said, “I’m proud of you” and yet, I have friends who have stepped up to the plate and said, “Ellie, I’m proud of you” as they watch me deal with my son being in Afghanistan. All the Kay kids know we are so proud of them that they ask us to kind of hold back because we can be obnoxious!
- Together, we’re going to be all right – It can be pretty lonely for military members when they are stationed a half a world away and the baby starts to walk and open doors and get into mischief. They miss those things and we miss them being here. If we tell them this simple statement early and often, then we help them get secure in the fact that they don’t need to worry about us. When my friends tell me this, they remind me that we’re not in this alone and they have my back here on the homefront.
- I’m praying for you – This past May 1, 2014 on the National Day of Prayer, PewResearch.org published the statistic that said 55% of Americans say they pray every day. While 78% said they prayed daily or weekly. Tell your military member you are praying for them and let them know of others who are praying as well. At www.billygraham.org/MilitaryPrayer you can find free resources to help you pray for our military. I know that I feel a real sense of peace when friends and even acquaintances tell me this and I know my Marine counts on those prayers for himself and the men in his infantry platoon.
- Thank you for your service – I’ve often said there are two kinds of heroes: the one who wears the uniform with integrity, excellence and a sense of service and then the hero at home, who holds down the homefront with those same characteristics. If you thank me for being a military wife, a Marine mom, an Air Force mom, an Army mom, then you really see me and I sense that you have an understanding of how hard it can be to keep the home fires burning while they are gone. Being understood is a great feeling and my friends and family do that for me and for my military members when they take the time to verbalize these affirming thoughts.
Share this blog with friends who have encouraged you in the past and thank them for the specific ways they have made the life of your military member better. You can also thank them for ways they’ve made your life easier as you swim out those laps during deployment, trying to find your rhythm and pacing until they get back.
Oh, and by the way, has anyone told you lately that you are amazing? Because you are.