When a soldier in full dress uniform walked across our church lobby, he definitely caught my son’s attention. Jay is in awe of those who serve our country and wanted to meet him. The young officer, Lt. Col. Greg A. Kent of the U.S. Air Force, had read the scripture before the pastor’s sermon on Memorial Day weekend. Like Jay, I also wanted to meet him – to thank him for his service to our country during this time of crisis. For giving up a comfortable lifestyle in order to go to a war torn country to fight for freedom.
After meeting we chatted briefly. I asked about his family, understanding a little about the loneliness wives experience while their husbands are overseas. Lt. Col. Kent informed me that his wife was the one who held the family together while he was deployed in multiple locations in Southwest Asia, Central and South America, and Europe. Though his missions have included the defense of the United States, presidential protection, Global War on Terror, and counter narcotics, he insists his wife, Amy, has the most difficult job.
“She is the one making the sacrifice,” he said. I smiled and told him how my husband and I were separated nearly a year and a half when he was in the service during the mid-sixties, a time when it wasn’t popular to serve your country. There were open demonstrations against the war in Vietnam and even those in uniform. Some people were so disrespectful as to spit on soldiers in public places such as airports.
Thankfully, our servicemen and women are treated with more dignity and respect today, and Lt. Col. Kent holds those soldiers who went before him in high esteem, especially those who served during WW I and WW II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and all other smaller conflicts where servicemen and women were in danger. “They are my long gray line and I try to serve in a manner worthy of their sacrifice,” he said.
“But the toughest job is held by the one left behind,” he insisted. “Knowing my wife is taking care of things at home lets me focus on what I have to do when I am away,” said Kent, who now serves as commander of the 966th AACS, the schoolhouse for training all crew positions on surveillance airplanes for worldwide deployment. Then the young officer did something really strange. He turned to me and said, “Thank you for what you did while your husband was overseas. For being the one who stayed behind, supporting him. It’s the toughest job,” he repeated. “Thank you!”
I left church that morning with a new perspective. In the forty plus years that my husband and I have been married, it was the first time anyone ever thanked me for service to my country by staying home, praying, loving and supporting my husband an ocean away. I didn’t expect such a tribute. Didn’t think I deserved it, but it felt good.
So today, I want to do what Lt. Col. Kent did – thank all those who have supported a husband, wife, father, son, mother, daughter, sister, brother . . . by writing letters, sending care packages, making quilts, hugs and other items that ease the physical discomfort that troops endure. Thank you to those who send cards and pray diligently for our troops, whether at home or abroad.
Whatever your part in serving our country, whatever your sacrifice, whether visible or not, I send a heartfelt “thank you” to each of you for respecting and loving our country and those who choose to serve. May God bless you, and may God bless America!