I don’t really remember by daddy being in the Army, but it’s something that I’ve always known about and been proud of. I never realized just how much this all affected me until this past weekend, though, when we met his Army buddy for the first time. I’d grown up hearing about this family, and every year we got Christmas cards from these people in Texas, but I never actually knew them. I was just a baby when my daddy was away from basic training and everything. However, now that I am aware of it, and I’ve spent some time talking to my friends about it, I think it not only takes a certain person to have that kind of background but it makes you into a certain kind of person, too.
One of the coolest part of meeting Gary was when he first got into the car. We picked him up from the place he was staying and the second he got into the car, he and my daddy hugged and started talking like they’d never been apart, let alone being apart for 22 years. Yes, they’d caught up on Facebook and through e-mails, but that’s not the same as seeing someone face to face and actually being together. They kept referring to each other as brothers because that’s what they are. They served out country together. I truly believe that makes you form a brotherhood, which I find very funny because here is this guy who lives across the country who my daddy thinks of as a brother, yet with his real brother, there isn’t that same sense of camaraderie.
But that’s just what it was like: family.
In a way, I don’t really know if I completely understand what it’s like to have extended family because our family is never completely at peace with each other. Someone’s always talking about someone else behind there back. Someone else is always feuding with another. There’s never complete harmony. However, here we are feeling as if we are family after a few minutes. I think part of the reason we feel that connection is because we have had the same experiences–something I cannot truly say about me and many of my relatives. My daddy and Gary know about the Army, and they are the same type of guy, the kind of guy you just know belongs in service and will be proud of it. My mama and his wife know about having a spouse in the military. Though, Mom never had to deal with Daddy being full-time, which I know is something truly different and more difficult. Us kids know what it’s like to have a father who you are proud of because of his service to our country. You just grow up with a certain state of mind towards the military when you are in this situation.
That’s something I don’t feel like my cousins have. Our grandad was in the Navy, but none of their dads served. I’ve had every grandfather of mine serve plus uncles on my mom’s side in addition to my daddy. I know to respect people wearing that uniform. You thank them for their service and talk to them about it because they offered their lives to protect our freedom. Veterans Day is a big deal to me. That’s not how my cousins act or seem to feel. I’m sure they are appreciative if they sit down to think about it, but I don’t think it’s ever something that crosses their minds. I know that my older cousin assumes her son will go play football for WVU and have some degree when he grows up. That would be really cool (Granted, my son will go to Bama), but I want him to consider the Army. It’ll be scary, but I think it’s a good option for boys. I’ve never seen one of them thank a person in uniform. I have seen them get annoyed when my family does and talks to that person about his or her service.
I didn’t realize how similar my upbringing was to these kids in Texas though until Gary began to describe them. His 12-year-old daughter is me. He took a picture of my pink .22 because she would love it. His wife told me she liked my pink Carharrt in a picture. The daughter loves hunting and taking in animals and just all that country stuff that I do. It was mind blowing to become aware of how similar everything is.
As I told this to my friend, we began to talk about being in a relationship with someone in service. She doesn’t think she could do it, but she said that she’s talked to her roommate who thinks she could. I think I could. The similarity between me and the roommate? Military family. Even if you are like me and don’t really remember anything, you still have that sentiment towards it. I wouldn’t like it, but I know I could handle having a boyfriend serving, and I would be proud of it.
I know I’m eons away from the experience of some military families, but I empathize and respect them for what they’ve given up. Any person brave enough to do what our military has deserves a lot of recognition and an immense amount of gratitude. I come from the stance that even if you don’t believe in why they are fighting, you should still support them for being brave enough to do it and give them their deserved respect. I’m very proud of what my daddy did and who he is. It’s made me who I am and it’s given me and my mom the life that we’ve made. I love my daddy, and he deserves a lot more thanks than he gets.