April is Month of the Military Child
By Jorge Martinez, Chief Operating Officer, American Red Cross, Northeast Ohio Region
Commander, United States Coast Guard (Retired)
Military members past and present are routinely honored throughout any given year in many ways, and rightfully so. As a retired military officer, I can say that I feel more than adequately recognized for my service to our wonderful country. Truth be told and as any member will tell you – it’s not why we serve. And while not necessary it is appreciated. However, it is not the individual that serves, but rather the family. And most members will tell you that the service member has the easy job.
That was certainly true for me.
I would deploy for months on end carrying out the king’s work with people I loved and trusted while my family stayed back and did their valiant best to go on with life as normal — though always worrying but not showing it. They too were serving honorably but doing so silently in the shadows.
I would get painful glimpses from time to time.
I remember one particular instance nearly 10 years ago when I was putting my then 6-year old son, Ben, on the school bus before heading out to sea myself for nearly 5 months. He was the last of my two sons to head out that morning; my infant daughter was still asleep in her crib.
Ben was and is a very stoic kid. Though we were very close, he never showed his emotion and I know he never wanted to disappoint me. I hugged him when I put him on the bus and told him I loved him. He sat in a window seat… and gave me a look that I will never forget. It was a “you’re leaving me again, Dad” type of look and it cut right through me. As soon as the bus pulled away, I hugged my wife and we both started to cry. This was not an isolated incident.
Military families and their selfless service to our nation are all too often overlooked, especially the children’s service and sacrifice. They go about their days like any other kid would and typically without complaint about a parent being gone for long periods of time. They keep it together most of the time. They didn’t ask for this, but deal with it they must and do. It’s hard and it’s thankless… but it’s necessary.
Military children are my heroes! They have a wonderful purpose and possess such quiet strength. After retirement, I’ve been able to reflect on them and their journey of service and it’s an inspiring one to me. Throughout my career, I have been blessed to be part of many great teams that have accomplished much. But my greatest accomplishment (really my wife’s) is seeing my children grow up and be better than I ever could have been at their stage of life.
Our country’s military children have been inspiring and helping our military members for as long as we’ve been a country. Our nation owes them a debt of gratitude. If you agree, next time you see a military family thank them all… especially the children. They’ve earned it.
The American Red Cross supports our nation’s military members, veterans, and their families through Service to the Armed Forces. Learn more here.