I sat in our Bible study and watched another woman share a prayer request. She was having a hard time dealing with the fact that her parents and sister’s family had moved across the country. After years of living in the same small town of Homer, Alaska, this woman missed them terribly and was growing bitter about it. As I listened to her share with broken voice and many tears, I’m ashamed to admit I had no compassion for her whatsoever. The first thing that jumped into my mind was, “You call that bad? Try being a military wife! We hardly ever get to live near our extended families. We don’t even live with our own husbands half the time!”
I did some vehicle recovery training early in my military career. I don’t remember much of it other than this one exercise where the instructors drove an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier into a swamp and told us to drag it out using some ropes, pulleys, ground anchors and get this---a hand winch! An M113 weighs around 10 tons and this one was down a bank and in the mud. The winch was rated for 2 tons! We followed the instructor’s directions and set up a series of ropes running through pulleys and anchored to solid ground at the other end. The pulley was then attached to the end of another rope and so on. The theory was that each pulley/rope/ground anchor we set up doubled the weight we could pull because the ground anchors would take half the weight.
We gather with military couples every Saturday night for dinner and Bible study. And at the end of our meeting time we take prayer requests—and then pray. But on this particular Saturday night, a certain prayer request brought some deep discussion. One of our young military men voiced discouragement over the atmosphere in his workplace on board ship. There was crudeness—to put it mildly. His desire was to be “light in a dark place”. But, in this current culture, what does that really mean for a Christian serving in today’s military?
Where's our next assignment? Where do we go next—or do we get out? Ever asked those questions? Of course . . . it's part of being in the military. We seem to routinely assess our current assignments, and then decide what the options are for our next move. Of course filling out a "dream sheet" can bring out negativity in all of us—with the cynical attitude that we will NOT get what we put down as first, or even last, choice!
A friend of mine recently asked me how I keep my mind from wandering to the what-ifs during deployments. Her husband is a helicopter pilot beginning his first deployment. She had heard about a fatal overseas helicopter crash on the news and, though knowing her husband wasn’t involved, she wanted some advice on how to deal with the “It could have been him” or the “What would I do without him” thoughts that infiltrate a military wife’s mind when her husband is deployed.
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.
Psalm 78, the second longest psalm next to Psalm 119, is considered an historical psalm, an instructive psalm, and a relevant psalm. This psalm is not just for the children of Israel. This psalm is for parents and the church today. In referring to the Old Testament we find this verse in the New Testament: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). So what are we to learn from Psalm 78? What is the priority given to us? We are to raise our children to have hope, trust, and confidence in God.
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.
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, . . ."