Five years after founding The Gratitude Campaign, I've received over 10,500 e-mails, and 1,500 comments on YouTube. It seems that there is a lot to talk about with regard to gratitude for those who serve; not the least of which is the ever present challenge of understanding how to keep the politics out of it. Hopefully this blog will give us an opportunity for some rational, reasonable, and respectful discussion. I hope you'll join us...

~Scott Truitt, FOUNDER


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest Blog: Allison Mewes' Top 10 Things We Wish Nonmilitary Families Knew

Continuing our series on what military families wish civilians knew about military life, this week’s blog comes from Allison Mewes, a military wife and writer. Allison’s husband is a Sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve, currently serving in Iraq. Allison was kind enough to share an excerpt from her forthcoming book, Intro to Army Life: A handbook for spouses and significant others entering the Army lifestyle:

Before becoming a military spouse, I would tear up when watching the video montages of service members reuniting with their families after a deployment. But honestly, I have to admit my understanding of, and involvement with, the military lifestyle didn’t go much deeper than that. I didn’t know anyone who had served in the military, nor had I experienced the military lifestyle growing up. Now, being neck deep in military life, I realize it’s a big deal! Your life revolves around the military, and it can be tough, especially during deployments. If you love a soldier, there is no doubt that you’re nodding your head as you read this—you get it!

According to the 2010 Military Family Lifestyle Survey conducted by Blue Star Families, 92 percent of military family respondents felt that the general public did not truly understand or appreciate the sacrifices made by service members and their families. Now, we aren’t complaining about our military lifestyle. We have an enormous amount of pride for our soldiers and what they do, but civilian and military lifestyles are definitely different.

These are a few things I’d like nonmilitary families to know about the military lifestyle:

  1. Your husband being gone for one to two weeks on a business trip is not comparable to my husband being deployed for three to 12 months in a combat zone. Unless your husband has been in a combat zone, and you have to worry about his life on a daily basis, you simply can’t understand.

  2. It is hard to manage on your own when your spouse isn’t around. If your friend or family member is dealing with a deployment, he or she may act differently, as life stressors may drastically increase.

  3. Acknowledging the struggles military families are going through, as well as being there as a source of support to listen and help, is extremely valued and appreciated.

  4. Not many military spouses will ask for help, and they may be very reluctant to accept it. If you want to do something, don’t ask if they need anything—just do it! Military parents rarely get time alone; offer to babysit, and let your friend or family member have some “me time.”

  5. Don’t take it personally if a military spouse or significant other leaves your party early or ends a call with you when his or her spouse calls from Basic Training or overseas. Contact with our soldiers is so limited that we’ll most often drop everything (a phone call, a social engagement, a favorite TV show) just to hear his or her voice and know they’re alright.

  6. We don’t want to have a political debate over war just because our loved one serves in the military. We concentrate on the safety and well-being of our soldier, no matter what our political beliefs may be.

  7. The smallest gestures sometimes mean the most. Just asking how our soldier is doing means a lot to us, and it helps to know that they haven’t been forgotten while they’re away. Someone once asked me, “What does your husband need, and where can I send it?” That was one of the nicest things I experienced while he was deployed.

  8. Two weeks of leave seems like a long and short time to us during a deployment. It’s long since we haven’t seen our soldiers for anywhere from four to seven months, and it’s short because we know they’ll have to leave again soon so we have to cram one year into two weeks. It is hard to share our soldiers with everyone who wants to see them during the two weeks of the year they’re home. Please understand if we can’t fit everything in.

  9. Coming home from a deployment is an extreme adjustment for our soldiers. Understand that your friend or family member may act differently for a while, until they reintegrate back into society. Also, help be on the lookout for PTSD symptoms, such as drinking or drug problems, shame, despair, anger and violence.

  10. Some soldiers are career military men and women. They don’t necessary “get out” automatically after a deployment—their lives and careers are focused on serving our country. Now, that is something to be proud of!

Share your “What I Wish They Knew” tips and stories on Allison’s Intro to Army Life Facebook page: www.facebook.com/IntroToArmyLife

Friday, November 11, 2011

On The Love of a Veteran

I attended a ceremony at a local Veterans home this morning in observance of Veterans Day. As I sat in the audience listening to the presenters, I was struck by a couple of things.

First, I was struck by the fact that all of the presenters – every last one of them – were Veterans. The vast majority of the people in the audience were Veterans. As I looked around, it seemed as though this event was really about Veterans honoring each other, as opposed to us honoring them. Where were we?

Sheer numbers suggest that the audience should be filled with more civilians honoring Veterans than Veterans honoring each other. There are about 23 million living Veterans in the United States today, and a little over 2.6 million currently serving in some capacity. That’s 8.5% of our population. Where was the remaining 91.5% of us who have not served but live, and have lived our entire lives under the blanket of the freedom that these people have provided to us? I realize that it was a Friday, and many of “us” were at work. But Veterans work, too. If they can get there, why can’t we?

I suddenly remembered conversations I’d had with parents of teen-aged children about their relationships with their children. Conversations about how the child feels entitled to have the parent provide a roof over their head, clothes on their back, food in their stomach, the latest iPod, smart-phone, tickets to the concert, fees for their sports team, and rides and spending money in their pocket to go do… whatever it is that teenagers do. But the child can’t be bothered to spend time with the family, offer a hug, or tell their parents they love them. No, a simple “thank you,” or “I love you” is too much to ask of them.

I thought this is what it must feel like to be a Veteran. To have sacrificed years of your life; in many cases your mental and/or physical health; relationships; financial abundance… the list goes on and on… all in defense of people who don’t even appreciate it, and in some cases are completely indignant and disrespectful in return. And, like the parent who loves their child no matter how self-centered and unappreciative they are, the Veteran continues to serve regardless of how civilians respond; and in many cases even respects the civilian’s right to be disrespectful as an expression of the very freedom that they are defending.

I’m not a parent. And I’m not a Veteran. But I hope that I can love as deeply as they do; and that I can serve as unconditionally.

Thank you, Veterans, for showing me (again) what unconditional love looks like.

And thank you Mom and Dad (a Veteran). I love you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Flags for Able Company

Today's post is a call for help: a forwarded email that I recieved from the First Sergeant of Able Company, serving in Afghanistan. Here's what he had to say:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I have been making efforts to complete this project, I have finally asked my friend Barbara Walsh to advised me on who to contact concerning the possibility of having flags donated to Able Company, 1/26 Inf. As I have exhausted all Military avenues and am now looking to civilian assistance as Barbara as is State side I am hoping that perhaps we may accomplish this endeavor.

Let me introduce myself and my partner in crime, the First Sergeant of Able Company, 1/26 Inf. I (Christian L. Molitor) am the Border Operations Advisor to the Company Commander of Able Company and the First Sergeant (John Boxrucker) is the ranking NCO of Able Company. Able Company is stationed at Combat Out Post Terezayi in Khowst Province, Afghanistan. We have been at COP Terezayi since December 2010. Able Company will redeploy back to Fort Knox, and other US Bases some even in the San Antonio area the end of December 2011. I will remain at COP Terezayi until March 2012 to assist the new member and attachment personnel, a US Flag that has flown over COP Terezayi for 9 minutes 11 seconds. We will print up flag certificates stating that the flag was flown over COP Terezayi and include any and all persons, who assisted in donating flags or any other form of donation. I am purchasing the certificates, plexi-glass and wood to make the certificate holders. First Sergeant Boxrucker will make all the certificate holders when he gets back to Fort Knox. This endeavor will require 200 US Flags, the flag holders would be an added bonus but we could do without them if need be.

We are looking to do this so that these troops who have fought and survived a year at the Combat Out Post Terezayi one of the most let’s say there are no amenities for us. We are in one of the largest combat zones and we want to send these boys with a lifelong memorial to their service, to the camaraderie, to the tasks performed and the service of their country.

Timeline for the flags is mid November, so there is enough time to fly the flags and then pack them in one of the connex trailers being shipped back to Fort Knox. If the presentation boxes are possible, they could be shipped to Fort Knox anytime in January. All donors will receive a flag and certificate. I might be able to have either the First Sergeant or the Company Commander come to San Antonio to present the donors with the flag and certificate sometime in March or April after I return back to Texas.

I will be out of pocket for about three weeks starting around 29 Oct. Anything questions you have can be directed to First Sergeant Boxrucker at the following email address: [First Sergeant Boxrucker's contact information removed here -- if you're interested in sending flags, or contacting First Sergeant Boxrucker with questions, please email me at scott@gratitudecampaign.org and I will forward your request to First Sergeant Boxrucker].

Any assistance you could provide would be greatly appreciated by all the personnel of Able Company. This Company has lost two of their own during this deployment. One was 1st Lt. Frison, the Platoon Leader of Second Platoon, Able Company and the second was Specialist Elm of Headquarters Platoon. Lt. Frison was killed in Action last May and SPC Elm was Killed in Action last Friday.

I want to thank you in advance for your time and effort to assist John and me in this special project.

God Bless America

American Flags are available online through many outlets, including Target.com for $19 each. For less than $100, you could send 5 flags to Able Company. Check it out at http://www.target.com/p/United-States-Embroidered-Flag-3x5/-/A-11177216.