Serving your country sometimes means being separated from your family during the holidays. Having served a combined 27 years in the military meant that over the years I missed a few holidays and special occasions. I always found it somewhat ironic that those entrusted with protecting our religious freedoms often have to spend their holidays away from home. However, being away from home does not always mean being separated from family because, in a way, we are all brothers and sisters-in-arms.
Military members, especially those deployed away from home, share a bond often reserved for family members. I might go a bit further and contend that the bond between service members may even go further than that of family. There is little doubt, for instance, that just about any mother or father would do whatever it took to protect their children. Surely, that type of love and devotion must be reserved for family. Maybe not; to paraphrase one much greater than I, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Since our nation’s birth, there have been countless stories of soldiers putting their own welfare at risk to protect their comrades, often resulting in their death or grave injury. What makes someone so devoted to another, perhaps even someone they don’t even know? It is difficult for those not serving in the military to understand such a foreign concept; sacrifice, perhaps the ultimate sacrifice for others.
When I was a young child, my father, a World War II veteran, would often watch what he called, “war pictures,” on the family’s only television. I would sit there watching those movies in amazement, I knew I could never do what those soldiers were doing, facing enemy bullets, and charging ahead anyway. I asked my father how people could find the courage to face death in battle. He would really never give me a straight answer, he just shrugged his shoulders, told me to be quiet, and continued to watch his war pictures.
Many years later I found myself working in Air Force Reserve recruiting headquarters, far from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. One day I asked the question, is there any way I can volunteer for deployment? My commander reminded me that I was doing my part for the war effort, but I wanted to “get in the game.” A couple of months later, I found myself in Balad Iraq, square in the middle of the war. What had made me volunteer to put myself in harm’s way? Much like my father’s answer to me so many years before, I can’t really answer that question, I really don’t know.
This holiday season, please remember all service members, but especially those far from home. To the families of those service members serving far from home, I have just one thing to say, don’t worry, your loved ones are spending the holidays with family.
By Dr. Scott A. Ostrow (Lt Col, USAF, Retired) One of the many attractive benefits the military has to offer is providing financial help with college tuition. But is it really possible to earn a college degree while serving in the military? The answer is yes, but you’ve got to really want it!