An Air Force Wife’s Thoughts on Memorial Day

Military personnel and civilians join together to line the streets at MacDill AFB for every "Fallen Hero Homecoming."

This Memorial Day I couldn’t help but reflect on some of my new experiences of the past few months. I have attended my first few Fallen Hero homecomings since moving to Tampa last summer.

Each time, the sidewalks on MacDill Air Force Base slowly fill. People mingle and talk and joke with one another. Some are in uniforms, some are in office attire. Some hold flags, some, like me, hold babies. It is always quite a cross-section regardless of where I’ve stood.

As the first police cars or motorcycles come into view, a silence takes over. Even fussy babies and rambunctious toddlers seem to know that it is time to be quiet as they watch the cars drive by. Of course, the hearse carrying the guest of honor gets my attention, but I can’t help but get choked up looking at the family members in cars behind. They clutch to their cameras. They gasp and cover their mouths. They are stoic and yet you can see that their eyes are glossy and red from tears.

Dayton National Cemetery where Michelle along with the Girl Scouts place flags on every grave annually for Memorial Day.

The families are the reason I attend these homecomings. The journey is over for the soldier but it is just beginning for the parents, spouses, and children. I will continue to take my daughter with me because I want her to respect the sacrifices of others. I know that I am fortunate that my husband does not deploy too often.

Watching a story about the American Widow Project on the Today Show this morning, I caught myself thinking “Wow, I want to do that.” I then realized, no, no I don’t want to be able to be part of that organization.  I can’t imagine going through losing my husband. Those spouses are who my heart goes out to on days like Monday.

Treats for Troops boxed up and awaiting shipping.

When my husband and I lived in Ohio, we participated in placing flags on the grounds at the Dayton National Cemetery through the Girl Scouts. I always found it interesting to listen to the children talk about what they were doing and how much pride they took in placing the flags just right. I plan to find a way to participate in something similar next year here in Tampa.

There are so many great organizations that do so much for military members and their family’s year round. There are organizations here in the Tampa area that I hope to volunteer with when I am able to. Operation Homefront Florida has a variety of events throughout the state. I recently began working on collecting items for care packages for Treats for Troops.

Memorial Day, and every day, I am thankful for all that have served to make this a great country and to those that serve today to keep it that way. Thank you to their families that support them as well.

Michelle VanHuss is an Air Force wife, Off the Base contributor and member of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club. Her other entries include:

Finding a Balance: Redefining Myself as an Air Force Wife

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Do You Remember Where Were You When …

I will always vividly remember sitting on the floor in modern dance when the door opened and in came the rest of the dance department students and faculty of the small arts college I attended. The pianist was confused and slowly came to a stop mid-bar as all of us taking the class finally realized that we needed to stop, too. It was the morning of September 11, 2001 and the Dean had gathered us together to let us know that planes had flown into the Twin Towers.

Classes were cancelled for the rest of the day and I made my way home from Downtown Miami. I spent the rest of the day watching the news as footage of the planes and later the buildings collapsing  played on a loop.

There would be the start of the war on terrorism, anthrax scares, countless speeches from elected officials, bombings, and the ever-growing list of things you can’t take on planes. It all instantly became the new normal and life continued.

We were getting ready for bed and my husband decided to check his Facebook page one last time. Seemingly out of nowhere, he said “Osama’s dead.” Thinking either I or he had misunderstood, he immediately began looking for information online and I turned on a local TV channel. There in big letters read: “Osama bin Laden has been killed.”

There was a moment of relief and celebration as we each scrolled through our Facebook pages reading everyone else’s comments and leaving a few of our own.

However, relief quickly turned to concern as the questions started running through my head: What now? What does this mean for my husbands’ job in the military? Will there be more deployments? What are they going to do to get back at us?

When the President came out to speak, I almost wanted to wake up my daughter. She’s only four months old but I thought I could tell her when she was older that she listened as the President told us we had one more reason to slept better at night.

Running errands around town on Monday, I sensed a buzz in the air as people talked about Bin Laden’s death, news coverage released more information, people celebrated in the streets and the Facebook posts continued. My personal favorite: The regular girl married the prince and the bad guy is dead. This weekend has been brought to you by Disney.

Does this fix anything? No. Could there be retaliation? Yes. Will we get through this phase of this ongoing saga? Definitely. Our soldiers still put on their uniforms and went to work today. Osama bin Laden’s followers aren’t going to just lay down their guns and walk away. However, I think America needed this reminder that our efforts are not in vain and we needed a reason to celebrate. It’s not over, but I hope we are getting there.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 467 other followers

%d bloggers like this: