So many members of a military family are affected when a loved one is stationed thousands of miles away or deployed to another continent. Many military spouses may have to handle moving, household work, and child rearing duties alone, while their kiddos cope with relocating to a new school on top of missing a mom or a dad for an extended period of time.
Grandparents within military families often find themselves gladly donating vacation days, travel plans, and more in order to be of assistance to their adult children living the military lifestyle. Their self-less support is something that deserves a lot of gratitude. So in honor of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I feel it is important to take a moment and thank all extended family members, especially the Grandmas and Grandpas, who go above and beyond in order to assist their loved ones in the armed forces.
SPANNING THE DISTANCE
Grandparents have a specific role in life, and that is to spoil their grandchildren. However, the opportunities to do this on a regular basis can be taken away when a person’s adult child or son-in-law/daughter-in-law is committed to a service for the sake of our country’s safety. Holiday gatherings, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. often take a backseat when it comes to the duties of a soldier. Military grandparents have no other choice but to be understanding during these times. All of the military grandparents I spoke with were beyond understanding; they were simply incredible.
I know a military grandma named Jean who has a son serving in the Army and a daughter in the Air Force. Both of her children have lived in various areas of the United States due to their assignments and training duties. Jean’s son has also completed two tours in Afghanistan.
“Deployment for us, never gets easier,” said Jean who has had to use many pages in her address book in order to record all of the different locations her kids have lived since enlisting.
Instead of complaining, Jean and her husband appear to look on the bright side and focus on the travel opportunities they are getting when it comes to visiting their children. They also rely on their faith and believe wholeheartedly that the United States has “the best equipped and trained military in the world”.
Modern technologies and social media have enabled Jean to stay connected. For the first time in a long time Jean’s children and grand-babies are within a few hours of driving distance from her. However, for many years this was not the case, and she had to rely on the Internet for some of her duties as a grandmother.
Jean was fortunate enough to be able to use Skype in order to catch happy moments with her first grandchild. Modern technology also enabled her to communicate with her son while he was stationed in a stark area of Afghanistan.
“I absolutely agree that today’s technology has (been) and continues to be the ‘next best thing to being there,’ ” acknowledged Jean.
While technology is important, public support appears to be just as essential when it comes to assisting those that serve, and their extended family. It was touching to hear that Jean and her husband have a strong network of people always willing to offer them emotional support. This, in turn, allows these two military grandparents to be strong and available for their children and grand-kids.
It does not seem like worrying ever ends for a parent or a grandparent. No matter the child’s age we all stay concerned about our loved ones. I think military grandparents worry much more than the average parent or grandparent. They have to lose sleep thinking about their child actively fighting in wars. They also fret about their grandchildren handling the extended absence of a parent due to military obligations.
My uncle Rick is a military grandpa and very proud of his son-in-law, who recently retired from a full career in the Army. He and my Aunt Ann are equally proud of their daughter, Jennifer, and twin granddaughters who have handled relocating and multiple deployments with a lot of strength.
They have all always stayed focused on the importance of what the soldier in their family is doing for the sake of American citizens. Rick and Ann felt that with each deployment it was up to them, as grandparents, to reinforce to their granddaughters how important their dad’s overseas duties were for our country. They continually backed their daughter who also stressed the significance of being a soldier.
“She never let them question why Daddy was gone, but made them understand from the beginning, the duty and purpose for which he served,” explained Rick.
These words are so heartwarming, because I think it would be easy to be angry or spiteful, especially as a grandparent whose main job should be overindulging their grandchildren. Contrary to that, this grandpa and others in his position all showed unwavering support for their family in the military. They felt that providing comfort and help was the best way to be of assistance, especially during a deployment.
“What you have to put your faith in is that this is all for the greater good. That those who serve are dedicating their lives for what they believe in, ” said Rick.
Multiple deployments is difficult for every single member of a military family. NBC News ran an article at the end of last year, written by George Itzhak, that reported “as many as 700,000 service members have served more than one tour in Iraq and Afghanistan.” That number is unbelievably high, and also a huge concern to military families.
“What’s really hard to me with extra deployments is the hidden fact that no one wants to talk about. The law of averages and what can happen with further deployments,” explained Rick who is eternally grateful that his son-in-law returned home safely from multiple tours to the Middle East.
PRIDE AND REMEMBRANCE
All of the family members, that graciously answered my questions for this article expressed huge amounts of pride for their loved ones in the military. My uncle had nothing but respect for his son-in-law, and also wished that the general public could have a better understanding of what it means to be a soldier or a military family.
“It’s a day in and day out commitment to our country and our ideals. They provide us with all the rights we live under as laid out in this country’s Constitution. So, many people take them for granted. They (Soldiers) work for very little pay in comparison to the job they do,” said Rick.
I hope in writing this article, that the hard work of our troops and their family members never goes unnoticed. My empathy for military families is strong and probably has a lot to do with my own “Military Grandpas”. My paternal grandfather was a Marine and stationed on the West Coast. He also spent time in Japan as a part of his duty. He and my grandma had their first child, on a military base, away from all their friends and family. It was a life experience they have never forgotten, and I always enjoy talking with my grandma about it.
My maternal grandfather was a great man who always had the highest admiration for soldiers. He was unable to enlist in the military due to being mostly blind in one eye, but he proudly raised four sons and one daughter who served our country well; and from that multiple grandchildren also have found a calling in the armed forces. Before he died, my grandpa even championed an “honor roll”in my hometown that named every single military person from our small city. He hung that board proudly on his large garage for everyone to see. It now hangs in the town’s cemetery and is a staple for the community.
I know not everyone can show pride like my grandpa, but it was reassuring to hear current military families say they are getting the support they need from citizens. I think Jean, the military grandma I mentioned early in the article, said it best:
“Most Americans have been very supportive of our service members. The sacrifices, that while voluntarily made, are, without a doubt, monumental.”
Happy 4th of July to all of our readers! Do you have a story about a military grandparent that you would like to share? Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment on our site or Facebook page.