Being the wife of a Vietnam Vet, I served during those years on the home front. I served proudly, alongside the best, including many POW wives. Many of us volunteer now with today’s military spouses—helping with our own brand of training while observing, often up close and personal, a much more difficult war with its multiple deployments and unseen enemy. I have heard it said that Vietnam vets serve so well now because they were so ill-treated back then—and they don’t want our current forces to experience that. Perhaps that’s some of it, but I don’t think that’s all of it—by any means. I think they serve well because it’s the right thing to do.
With a group of military wives in a Bible study on Friday morning, I wondered out loud how our deployed service members ever got used to so much sand-color—that it all must be “very beige” in the desert. A soldier’s wife quickly corrected me with a rebuke — “Oh, Linda, you’re wrong! My husband tells me that he has never seen such beautiful sunrises and sunsets. And the stars—oh my . . . he tells me that at night he has never seen so many stars!!”
It is no secret that my favorite book about military life as a Christian is Footsteps of the Faithful by Denise McColl. In it there is a chapter by Denise’s husband, Angus, in which he shares his heart about the demands of parenting while living the calling of military duty: At times I have really become frustrated in my role as a military man and Christian husband and father.
When did you learn to pray? Was it in Sunday School at church? or at home around the dinner table? or saying your bed-time prayers with your parents? or in Vacation Bible School? or in a youth group? or with an athletic team? Do you remember a time when you memorized a prayer in your childhood? or memorized the Lord’s Prayer? And now do you find yourself crying out to God in prayer because of a crisis?
Stashed away in my “archives” was a letter printed in our overseas base magazine, dated April, 1988. I do not know who wrote it, but I saved it because it expressed heartfelt appreciation from one beginning a military career to one nearing the end in a way that was particularly relevant in our military culture. "Dear Commander’s Wife, . . ."
Our beloved pastor preached one particular Sunday on the Church. I will share only a brief outline, followed by best practices which any church can apply in their own way to serve the military in their midst.
Several years ago at The Cove, we had the privilege of attending a Military Marriage Seminar with Pastor Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church in Texas. You might have heard of this great man of God—he is the one who has taught lessons from the Song of Solomon to many young people (and us older folks, too!). When the weekend together was drawing to a close, Pastor Nelson ended with ten admonitions to the 125 military couples gathered. The points were, in part, a summary of the seminar, but also a strong closing challenge for all of us.
We received a text recently from friends who are well-known marriage conference speakers, wanting help with an upcoming talk to a group which will include Marines. They specifically wanted to know how we advise military couples on sexual intimacy given that much of their time is spent geographically separated because of deployment.
On the battlefields of the Civil War, one hundred and fifty-four years ago, the troops of the Army of Northern Virginia (Confederacy) experienced an event called for by their president, Jefferson Davis. On August 21, 1863, they observed a “day of prayer and fasting.” General Robert E. Lee issued this order in response to President Davis’ request: “The President of the Confederate States has, in the name of the people, appointed the 21st day of August as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer. A strict observance of the day is enjoined upon the officers and soldiers of this army. All military duties, except such as are absolutely necessary, will be suspended. . . .
It is a beautiful thing to see a couple get through something that challenges them in every area of their lives (like a deployment)—and because of faith they do not give up. When the deployment is over, they can look back over the months of discouragement/loneliness/fear and say with confidence, “My God took me through this.” And what if things did not go easily—struggles with children/finances/ temptations/health?