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?
I’ve made a list of things people hate to hear when their spouse is deployed. Perhaps you could add to this list, but these are the statements about which I’ve heard complaints: “I’m sorry.” “I know how you feel. I was a single mom.”
It’s unusual for a wife to speak at her husband’s military retirement ceremony. More “normal” is for him to give her a gift—maybe a bouquet of roses—and then speak about her sacrifices as a military wife. Then she usually receives a commendation—pictures are made with her—and much applause is given to her, as it should. So when I heard about this poem, recently included in the printed retirement program of a dear friend,
She was a strong woman. Perhaps that came from being the oldest of seven—no doubt a rowdy bunch. Perhaps it came from growing up during The Great Depression and having to work hard at home. Perhaps it came from having two pretty strict parents who expected a lot from their kids. She was strong even in the days when it wasn’t the “norm” to be a strong woman.
When I see it—in actions, words, or formal presentation, it’s always a favorite combination . . . power with tenderness . . . When I first read Eric Blehm’s book on the life of Navy SEAL Adam Brown, "Fearless", I was struck by this description: “Known for his compassion, Adam was always the first to do something like break open a light stick for a baby to play with or give a candy bar to a terrified child. But he wasn’t the only one. In a group of men whose business is killing, the fury they release upon the enemy is rivaled only by the humanity they display for innocents caught in the crossfire.”