I’ve just returned from visiting my sister, who is living in the frozen northern tundra, right near the US-Canada border.
She is in the military, and she was promoted to the rank of Captain this week. I am very proud to be related to her.
I have never been to visit her before, in all the years she’s been up there. I feel slightly guilty about this, but only slightly, because we don’t tend to visit each other. Rather, we tend to meet each other when we simultaneously visit our parents and younger siblings (who are also VERY proud).
Because I have never been to visit, but maintain very regular contact, I have heard a lot about my sister’s friends, roommates, acquaintances, etc, but have never met any of them. They are all either in the military, or married to someone in the military.
Because she has lived away from “home” for so long, her whole life, pretty much her entire support system, is those people. And it was a delight to meet them. But I’ll tell you something I noticed, which made Memorial Day (which fell on this past Monday) a little more poignant for me.
There’s an aura of loneliness that surrounds the entire crowd.
It’s a lonely life. I never realized just how much loneliness is a part of life for everyone who serves in the military. Part of survival in the military is maintaining distance. If you serve, you will always move away eventually, and you’ll have to give up friends and near-family for a new place and new faces. That’s the one sure thing about military service.
There are so many vibrant, wonderful people in the service, and they are forced to live a life apart, on the move, never able to put down roots or get too close to anyone. When they do, it is always, at the very best, hard work and a lot of heartache to leave loved ones behind. It takes a special kind of strength and fortitude to maintain relationships at a distance.
Even more extreme than the inevitable prospect of moving is the prospect of losing friends (or family) to combat- or training-related death. Everyone out there has a good friend in a red zone. People like my sister and her friends experience loss as a part of both personal and professional life, on a regular basis.
They EXPECT loss.
Thus, being lonely is a way of life; staying lonely becomes a survival technique. Getting close is more of a risk and a sacrifice than most of us can even imagine. This realization gives new meaning to the phrase, “some give all.”
Pretty much everyone in the military gives more of themselves than we civilians ever will, starting from the day they enlist and going far beyond the day they separate. This is worth commemorating. I’m so proud to be related to people who give so much of themselves in both life and death. Thank you.
And congrats to Captain.