For this Veteran’s Day, my wife asked me to write my thoughts on being a Veteran. I have served in the Nebraska Army National Guard for seven years now, and it has been a great opportunity to build myself as a person. I have been able to improve leadership skills, physical fitness, planning, self defense, and many other aspects.
I had the honor of serving with Nebraska Agribusiness Development Team Two (NE ADT 2) in Afghanistan from June 2011 through May 2012. It was an incredible experience helping subsistence farmers improve their livelihood. We worked with Afghan government officials to develop projects in agronomy, livestock, forestry, watershed, beekeeping, and education. Our efforts allowed to make many friends among the Afghan population which I will always cherish.
One of the best experiences from my deployment was the friendships I made within our unit. When you start training together you form a cohesive bond. And when you arrive in a combat zone, that bond let’s you know that you have someone covering your back. You share experiences and hardships together that normal civilians can’t fully understand. Living so long away from families can be a definite struggle, and in essence you become one big family away from home. There are the endless days of hard work, long walks to the chow hall, lack of privacy, frustrating rules, and the thought that somewhere outside the wire are people that want to kill you. You become frustrated, and can’t wait to get away from it all. And then when you finally come home, there are times when you miss it and wish you were back with all your friends.
As a veteran, there are times when people will thank me for my service and I am not sure how to respond. I don’t think of myself as a hero, I am just fortunate to have the opportunity to do something I love to do. I have gotten to experience some situations and travel to locations I would have never seen if I was not a member of the military. I have been able to build my skills, and lead Soldiers while setting an example for those under me. And most important, I have made many valuable friendships that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
On this day of remembrance, I say thank you to those I have had the opportunity to serve with, those who served before us, and those who are still in harm’s way. We are forever indebted to our military members, from those who fought for our independence and freedom from England to those who are still in the hostile terrain of Afghanistan. They have provided security and provided hope to countless Americans. God bless the United States of America.
You can also check out this Webinar from Vaughn Hammond, UNL Extension Educator who served with NE ADT2 and tells more about the NE Agribusiness Development Team Mission from his perspective.
One year. Twelve months. Three hundred sixty five days. As I’ve aged, time tends to fly by faster. As a military wife during a deployment, in many ways this has seemed like the slowest year of my life. Yet here I stand at the dawning of the end with the realization that in some ways, the past year didn’t drag quite as much as I thought.
Looking back on this deployment I find myself remembering some not so proud moments. There were times I was angry and perhaps a tad bitter and had a downright bad attitude…I remember telling myself “this stinks”. I remember trying to deposit the hail insurance check written in my husband’s name early on in the deployment…trying to explain I had power of attorney and he was in Afghanistan as I then broke down in tears…it was Aug. 6, 2011, the day the Chinook helicopter went down in eastern Afghanistan and my heart was broken for the families being informed back home. I remember the kindness of the ladies at the bank as I walked out, swallowed my pride composing myself, and walked back in. I remember having no sense of joy as God allowed several trials into my life in a very short period of time…and while I had specifically prayed in a way for them, and while God answered that prayer in ways I never imagined possible nor ways I honestly wanted, the pain of the emotional struggle dealing with those trials with a husband half a globe away seemed overbearing at times. Yet through it all, as I prayed for joy in the midst of them, God allowed me to find joy. He gave me His strength, peace, comfort. He helped me to heal and He taught me much in the process. I can’t imagine going through a deployment or anything in life without God! He truly is my “refuge and strength, an ever present help in time of trouble”.
For the most part as I reflect, though, I feel I remained strong and positive. I’m so proud of my husband and all our men and women in uniform! I’m so proud of the military families left behind carrying the load faithfully, dutifully till their military members return. I’m thankful for the friendships made along the way at family readiness group, yellow ribbon events, and in informal meetings with various military wives. I’m thankful for the friendships my husband has made while overseas-friendships that will last a lifetime and that made being away from home a little easier. I’m thankful for the positive difference my husband and his team have made in the lives of the Afghan people. I’m thankful God gave me the opportunity to work with these ADT teams since 2008. I’m thankful to live in the greatest Nation in the world-a free nation-and for those who continue to sacrifice to maintain our freedoms. I’m thankful God allowed my soldier to return home and my heart aches this Memorial Day for those who aren’t so fortunate…
As I’ve listened to my husband’s stories and viewed pictures and videos of his missions, my eyes have been opened even more how much I daily take for granted. This deployment has once again reminded me how much I take my spouse for granted as well. When he returns, I want to “live everyday like he’s leaving tomorrow” as this military blog post so beautifully points out. I don’t want to take the day to day things for granted and God has also taught me much about being the wife He wants me to be through this.
I have a sticker on my truck that my husband gave me before he left. It says, “1/2 of my heart is in Afghanistan”. I’ve had several people tell me they tear up when they see my truck and that sticker. The saying is true even though I’m complete in Christ. I can’t say it hurt quite as much when he first deployed-probably because I was more mentally prepared then-but after coming home for two week leave and leaving again, I truly felt like my heart had been ripped in half. I’m looking forward to the day when I can remove the sticker but keep it in a place I will always see it to remind me…to remind me of what it was like…to remind me to continually pray for our military and their families back here. I’m looking forward to the day that my whole heart is back at home with me in the U.S.A.!