EDITOR’S NOTE: Today is Veterans Day in the United States, a time when we honor all those who served or are currently serving in the military. The photo above is in honor of my own relatives. That’s my father on the left, along with five of my uncles.
A quick story: Another veteran is my son, Aaron, who is an active-duty sailor in the U.S. Navy. Aaron’s birthday was about six months ago, and he was deployed during that time aboard the USS Nevada, a Ohio class ballistic missile submarine. For his birthday in May, I wrote an article and sent him the link. I never heard back. After he got ashore, I flew across the country and paid him a visit. I finally had to ask, “Did you ever read the article I wrote about you?” He said he hadn’t, and that he never knew I’d written anything, having never received the link. I guess that’s not surprising since he was hundreds of feet below the Pacific Ocean at the time. And therein lies the story. When we civilians think of Veterans Day, I suppose it’s natural that we think of fighting, dying and ultimate sacrifice. But it’s more than that. It’s my son spending his birthday alone and miles from home, never knowing that I remembered him and wrote about him. You can read that birthday post here, but it’s a different post that I’ve elected to shamelessly reprint today in honor of Veterans Day. Yes, it’s about my son, but it’s more than that. Think of it in terms of all the veterans who make a thousand sacrifices we never know about. To them, I say thank you!
Sometimes sacrifice comes in small packages
Sept. 14, 2014 — I’ve been thinking about duty and sacrifice.
We commemorate it — especially around Memorial Day — and rightfully so. We usually think of it in terms of the ultimate sacrifice made by a member of the military on some battlefield, or a firefighter who races into a burning building.
But sometimes sacrifice comes in smaller measure.
My son, Aaron, is a now a petty officer aboard a U.S. Navy submarine. I won’t give the name of the boat out of security concerns, but my son and his shipmates are currently deployed far from shore and hundreds of feet beneath the sea. He’s a sonar operator who listens for the sounds of ships, other submarines, and a variety of sea life including shrimp and whales.
I’m told the boat’s sonar system has amazing capabilities, but the one noise I’m sure my son would most like to hear are the soft sounds made by his young daughter.
Aaron was amazingly lucky to be home for Zoe’s birth. On a previous deployment, he’d barely tied up at the dock before his wife, Jennifer, went into labor. Little Zoe was born just a few hours after her dad returned from the sea. We were so thankful that Aaron, still bleary from lack of sleep, got home in the nick of time.
He’s not so lucky this time. He’s out of touch, deep beneath the Pacific Ocean for several months as Zoe starts to crawl.
It’s sad, and it’s made me think about all the other fathers and mothers who are missing out.
There are the fathers who can’t be there for the birth of a child. There are the mothers in uniform who can’t be there for their son’s Little League game. And it’s not just the soldier, sailor or Marine, but also the wife, the husband or the child whose family member can’t be home for significant life events.
Theirs is not an ultimate sacrifice, but small sacrifices made a thousand times add up to some pretty big losses.
I guess it’s a small thing, but when you think about it, you realize that you’ll only ever have one firstborn, and she’ll only start crawling once.
I’m sorry you missed it, son, and to you, along with Jennifer and Zoe, I say thank you for your sacrifice.