Photo by Michael Buckelew
Today, we celebrate Veterans Day. I have a deep admiration for our military. I always have. Until recently, I had no idea that the price for our freedom was not just paid by our troops. It is also paid by their families.
The troop's husband or wife who is left behind must be both mother and father to their children. Parents must be a constant source of strength for their children, who spend days at school worrying for their parents and nights kneeling by their bedside praying for their safety. Troops will miss birthdays, sporting events and first steps as they spend day after day and Christmas after Christmas away from home.
When I see our troops in uniform, I thank them for their service and pray for their safety. But I also pray for that troop's spouse and their children. Families left at home make a huge sacrifice.
One spouse whom I recently thanked said, "I am proud to serve with my husband from the homefront. Families serve, too, and my children and I are deeply honored and humbled to serve in our capacity. My children and I may not be in danger, but we serve with sacrifice, worry, stress, pride, faith and above all love for my husband and our country."
When my son, Trey, shipped out to Afghanistan, it was as if someone ripped out my heart. When he came home for two weeks of leave, it was as if those two weeks lasted minutes, not 14 days. When I drove Trey to the airport to return to Afghanistan, he was in his uniform and I was in my business suit. But before we got into the car, we went into the front yard with our baseball mitts to play catch. It must have looked odd to our neighbors, but I wished those moments on the front lawn would never end.
Trey has a passion for military service. When he finished basic training, people would thank him for his service. He appreciated their comments but was uncomfortable for the gratitude because in his mind, he hadn't really served until he was able to join others like him in harm's way. Just before he left for Camp Shelby for training for Afghanistan, I offered Trey a weekend snow skiing, something he normally loves to do. He refused, knowing that if he broke a leg he wouldn't be able to go to Afghanistan.
The Georgia National Guard has 3,200 troops in Afghanistan this year, just as passionate about the military as my son. In 2005 through 2006, the Georgia National Guard served with distinction in Iraq. These soldiers work in our communities as police, firefighters, and teachers.
Winston Churchill once said of his troops, "Never was so much owed by so many to so few." The same gratitude is owed to our service men and women. Thank our troops, pray for their families and pray for the family whose spouse has already paid the ultimate price.
I encourage you to find troops from your community. Join with others to see how you can support families left behind. Take them to the aquarium. Help do yard work. Get to know them and find out how you can assist them. Contribute to the National Guard Family Support Foundation. The Foundation's Web site is www.georgiaguardfamily.org, or send a check to the Foundation at 5019 Ga. Highway 42, Suite 203, Ellenwood, GA 30294-3438.
Support those who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms. Soldiers overseas appreciate our thoughts and prayers, and gain comfort from knowing that their families are being supported.
Don Balfour is a state senator from Snellville.