What service truly means: Soldiers, families face hardships of military life

“Fox News special report, chaos in the middle east as American troops…” Click. “9,000 American military advisers remain in Afghanistan…” Click “So Senator, how do you feel about US involvement in Iraq..?” Click. For many, the world today seems like it is falling apart at the seams. Americans see it on the news every day, terrorists attacking universities in Kenya, museums in Tunisia, the threat of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran. With so much conflict, it seems like the easiest thing is to do is change the channel. Click. For some though, there is no turning a blind eye. These are the men and women of the United States military and their families. For them, war isn’t a game that can be paused, they fight so that others can have a fighting chance.

“It’s normal for us to have family members in the military because other people, like our uncles and other family members, were in the military,” sophomore Chyenne Michael said. “The fact that my sister serves meant a lot more, and I got a little more worried with her being gone than anybody else.”

Michael, whose sister joined the military her senior year of high school, knows firsthand what it is like when a loved one makes the decision to serve the nation.

“It makes me feel terrified because I don’t know if I can get a hold of her or if I could talk to her and my sister means the world to me,” Michael said. “If she didn’t come back one day I’d be devastated. Having her gone just makes me emotional.”

While these servicemen and women know the sacrifices they must make, they choose to leave the comfort and security of the nation and risk everything for the greater good.

“She really likes helping people and making sure everybody is okay, so this was a big thing for her,” Michael said. “She knows that the world is not all the best, but that her actions can have a great impact on everybody.”

Many citizens forget the sacrifice and valor of the nation’s soldiers, but for some, the responsibilities and burdens of service are all too real. Administrative assistant Maria Field gained a deeper respect for the military when her son joined the Marine Corps.

“It changed my outlook.” Field said. ”I’ve always respected the flag, but when you have your own child fighting for our rights and our freedoms, it changed my outlook on taking the time to appreciate the little things in life. It’s different when it’s your own child. I was nervous. I was anxious. I worried, but my son always told me, ‘Always remember, Mom, that I’m doing what I love.’”

With so much sacrifice, it can be hard for some to understand why these men and women are so willing to fight and serve the nation. For soldiers it isn’t about medals or benefits, but defending ideas worth fighting for.

“They volunteered to do this, they weren’t told to do it,” Fields said. “My son believes in freedom, he believes in family, he believes in values, and he does what he does just because, and he doesn’t want anything in return.”

While the members of our armed forces are undeniably resilient, it is important to remember that adjusting to civilian life can be difficult for many veterans.

“We need to remember that when they come back, they’ve been away from us,” Field said. “We’re sending 18 and 19 year olds away to fight for our country. They’ve seen things that people at my age have never seen, so we need to ensure that they’re getting things that they deserve, from their medical needs to giving them jobs so they can help support their families when they return.”

For other military families, giving back to those who have given everything is a small way of showing their support and saying thank you. Michael shows her support by organizing and sending care packages to soldiers in training.

“My younger sister Abigail and I started sending care packages when my sister decided she wanted to join the military,” Michael said. “We mainly send the packages to basic trainings, and when my sister gets deployed we are planning on sending them over to her station.”

Although it may seem like a small gesture, simply showing compassion to soldiers and their families can go a long way.

“I want [people] to realize that acts of kindness matter, we need to realize that if someone is grouchy or we see a situation that we think isn’t right, that there is always a story behind it,” Field said. “We don’t live in anyone’s 24/7, keep in mind that they’re fighting for what we wake up to every day and take for granted. When I see students around here not stand for the pledge, I think ‘wow, if only you truly knew what it means when boots hit the ground.’”

Though military families undergo trials and hardships, seeing a loved one come home from serving is an emotional time for everyone.

“When I saw my sister in the blue front office, I just started crying and I couldn’t believe she was back.” Michael said. “I just wanted her to stay. I think that knowing that she is helping other people really helps me because she is still my sister. Granted, she is giving her life for me and everyone else. I just don’t want her to be gone.”

Whether coming home from basic training or a five year tour of duty, the joy of seeing the safe return of a loved one is universal.

“I had seen my son two or three days through the years, but it was a long stint and it was difficult,” Field said. “It was a good feeling, thinking ‘oh my gosh, he is in America. He is on US soil, things are going to be good. Life is good.’”

While many celebrate the safe return of soldiers, the nation honors those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the safekeeping of freedom for people in every corner of the world.

“I found myself saying thank you for your service,” Fields said. “I was proud to be a mother of a marine, and I am still proud. It was hard as a mother, but I couldn’t be more proud.”