Today being Memorial Day has me thinking about others. Yes, I’m thinking about the men and women of the military, but I’m also thinking about the bigger picture of everyone else that we share this world with. This got me thinking about what does military vs. everyone else in the US look like?
Well, a 2016 article states that less than 10% of the US population was a veteran (approximately 20 million people) and another article shared that approximately 1.3 million people were in active duty in 2016. Those numbers don’t sound very big, but what they don’t talk about are the men, women and children who are immediately related to someone in the military (by blood, adoption or marriage). Data from 2015 says that over 5 million people were considered immediate family to active service people, so doing very generous math, that means that possibly one third of the US is related to someone who was or is in the military. And if you go beyond the immediate family circle that number grows again. And beyond that, even if you don’t have anyone in your family who is or was in the military, there’s a strong likelihood that you know someone who is or was in the military or someone related to someone in the military.
Since the draft ended in 1973, these men, women and their families have volunteered to stand up for each of us throughout the world. Representing us, protecting us, and standing in for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Just like we make choices each day, they chose to join the military, not knowing how they’ll make an impact or if they’ll be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Today as you honor and remember the men and women who have sacrificed for our country I encourage you to think about how respectful you are of that sacrifice. Are you working to build relationships with others and a future we can all be proud of or are you helping create a world that will require more men, women and families to make sacrifices for the rest of us?
I was reading yet another email after reading another blog post about someone hitting burnout the other day, and the news has shared that tragically several people connected to mass shootings have committed suicide in recent days. As equipped as I think we may be for all that life throws at us each day, the reality is we sometimes don’t realize how much we’re taking on, don’t ask for the help we need, don’t take time to deal with the overwhelm we’re feeling, and/or don’t realize how serious things have gotten. And then we hit that breaking point, unfortunately sometimes of no return.
Most people have developed coping mechanisms that help them deal with typical daily stresses (a fight with a friend or significant other, deadlines at work, children’s tantrums etc.), but as we know especially from the men and women who have been in the military, there’s no coping with some things, some things we’re just not equipped to deal with normally and that’s when we can get into trouble.
Part of the reason I think we struggle with coping and hit burnout is because instead of taking a step back we pile on the activities, work, people and things. Maybe we think we do it because it means we won’t be able to think about how we really feel or what’s really going on, and that may work for the short term, but it rarely does anything about the actual situation or how you feel.
You may not know it, but we’re in the middle of the spiritual season called Lent which leads to the celebration of Easter. Lent is a time of reflection, for people to get right with themselves and with God. Anytime is a great time to get right with God, but today I’d encourage you to spend some time on self reflection, really considering where your life is at and what you need most. Asking for help and knowing when you need to take a break (and taking one) actually show how strong you are, not how weak. A little reflection and taking a time-out today can positively shape your future if you let it. I’d encourage you to make it a regular practice as well since life shows no plans of slowing down or becoming a cake walk anytime soon.
November 11 is Veteran’s Day here in the US, a day when we honor and remember the men and women who protect our country. Sometimes that means going to fight in a war, sometimes that means dragging a boat through flood waters to rescue people, sometimes that means helping a nation rebuild, sometimes that means protecting dignitaries, sometimes it means sitting behind a computer, sometimes that means speaking to high school and college students.
But being in the military is a high risk career, one that carries physical and mental risks for the soldiers as well as relational ones. Whether you know any veterans or not, you hear stories and see commercials on TV about how people lost limbs and marriages due to their military career. They don’t really tell you what it’s like to have a TBI or try to return to civilian life after you’re done when you sign up.
But a veteran is a lot more than just someone who goes out for the country and does stuff. They’re people who are part of a family, they’re people who live in our communities, and they and their families need our support. Veteran’s Day is an opportunity for us as a community to stand up and do more than just thank them for their service, although that’s a good start. It’s an opportunity for us to help them build businesses, help raise service dogs for them, donate to organizations that help them navigate returning to civilian life, help build adaptive houses for them, and give them flexible but reliable job opportunities.
So today I encourage you to not only thank a veteran and their family, but also step up for them in some way in your community or in the veteran community as a whole.
One of the missionary couples that I support has been going through some extra challenges over the past year, with the wife developing and beating cancer and it having recently returned. These two have been through a lot together, they have children and grandchildren in addition to the lives they live as missionaries (which is a lot more work than just going to some place and sharing their faith because they have to raise the funds and sometimes deal with countries and legal stuff).
We’re in the middle of Memorial Day weekend, the time when we stop and remember the men and women who sacrificed so much to protect us and our country. Whether you agree with the politics or not (and no one does all of the time), there are some 300 million people living in the US who rely on those men and women to keep us safe, and do some other good in the world, too. It’s sad that we can’t just stay in our own corners of the world and everything would be great, but that’s just not how the world works, in part because we are all dependent on the whole world being intact if we want to keep living here, and life wouldn’t be as rich if we stayed separate.
While no couple ever gets together with the wish that one of them will face cancer or one will be killed while in the military, that’s part of life for some couples. But just about every one of those couples will say that the years they had together are years that they will always cherish and be grateful for (even if they wish they could have more). While no two couples are exactly alike and every couple faces challenges, with as many couples as there are that experience one partner being in the military or one partner having a terminal illness who are able to make their relationship work and last, it would seem logical that with a little effort the rest of our relationships could last too.
This Memorial Day, make sure you thank a soldier or their family, but also take time to be with your significant other and enjoy the time that you have together, as long as it is.