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, . . ."
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.
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?