I do solemnly swear …

Have you ever been on a military base at 5:00 in the evening?  The loudspeakers click on and broadcast Retreat and The National Anthem to the entire base.  Within the first few notes, movement stops.  Cars pull over.  Children yell “Colors” to each other on the playground and stop playing.  Soccer, basketball, and baseball games stop.  Each man, woman, and child turns in the direction of the base flag, and stands still with their hand either over their heart or frozen in a salute.  Most people can’t even see the flag being lowered, but the entire community remains still until the music is finished.  On military bases around the world, Veteran’s Day isn’t once a year, it’s every day at 1700. 

Brats

Military brats grow up faster than other kids.  They deal with more stress, change, and uncertainty by the age of 18 than most adults will see in their lifetime.  Separations from their active duty moms or dads are loaded with heavy emotions like pride, fear, heartache and anxiety.  They’ve experienced farewells and welcome homes that would bring most adults to their knees. 

During deployments, they watch their parent at home either rush into the room to turn off the national news or sit there barely moving to hear each word.  They know that at the base theater you put down your popcorn and stand for The National Anthem before the movie plays.  In lines, they’re taught that people in uniform go first.  They tend to be hilarious because they’ve learned that humor is therapeutic. 

Brats grow up with sentiments like “Home is where the Army sends you.”  Ask a brat where they’re from and be prepared for a slightly longer response than normal.  They learned early on that home is not a term defined by geography. 

As adults, they tear up at the anthem and are enraged by people who can’t stop texting long enough to pay respect.  They’re quick to criticize the military life but even quicker to defend it to those who don’t understand.  Quite often they end up wearing uniforms themselves. 

I’m a classic brat.  I’d moved eight times by the time I left home for college.  Applications were a challenge because there was never enough space to fill in my three different high schools, nor enough lines to fit in the locations of the ones overseas.  I don’t start childhood stories with when something occurred but with where I lived at the time.  Of all the things I’ve been in my life, I am most proud to be a brat. 

Thank you to all the brats currently waiting for Mom or Dad to come home.

Me with my parents in Germany.

 

Spouses

In a battle of inner strength, I’d put my money on a military spouse any day.  They deal with stressed out spouses, scared children and moving companies.  A military spouse lives with the knowledge that deployments will happen, moves are inevitable, and the needs of the military come first.  It’s not for the faint-hearted. 

When my husband was deployed, I drove home one day to a strange car parked in front of my house.  I pulled my car over and sat for a moment feeling panic rise in my throat.  The car ended up being people turning around in my driveway.  Not a big deal.  It was not the officer in service dress coming to deliver the news of my nightmares that I imagined it to be.  In the minute it took me to understand the situation, I’d experienced the true strength of the fears I kept buried, the fear that all spouses carry around inside until their husband or wife is home.

I get frustrated when military spouses are painted as women waiting at home wringing their aprons in anxiety watching for any sign of their returning hero.  They’re so much more than that cliché.  They don’t put their lives or their children’s lives on hold while their spouse is in harm’s way.  They continue to live and demand that their children do the same.   In every retirement or promotion ceremony I’ve ever attended, the service member thanks their spouse.  They tend to use words like, “without them I wouldn’t have made it this far.”  It’s not an empty sentiment and it’s rarely spoken without tears. 

Thank you to all the spouses who stay behind. 

 

My husband Keith while deployed in Afghanistan

 

Finally, thank you to the moms and dads, husbands and wives, sons and daughters who swear to support and defend. 

My cousin, First Lieutenant David Weart, currently deployed to Iraq. (He's the one in the middle!)

  

My special thanks to the retired veterans in my family:

My great-grandfather, Major General Douglas L. Weart

My great-grandfather, Colonel David M. Dunne

My grandfather, Colonel Douglas S. Weart

My grandfather, Lieutenant General Charles D. Franklin

My father, Lieutenant Colonel Charles D. Franklin

My father-in-law, Chief Master Sergeant Gary F. Stevens

My uncle, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey M. Weart

My uncle, Colonel Steven K. Weart

My uncle, Captain Douglas D. Weart

My great-uncle, Colonel George Weart

My great-uncle, Brigadier General Oscar Ogren

My great-uncle, Colonel Aldo Artiglia

My great-uncle, Captain Paul Maca

 

37 thoughts on “I do solemnly swear …

      1. Thank YOU, Amy, for your service, and for sharing your thoughts and family with us.

        My husband lost his father, a pilot in the Air Force, at the age of 4. Last year, as I watched our 12 yr old daughter singing on-stage with her school choir for the Veteran’s Day program, I hoped the grandfather she never had the chance to know could see her.

        The lives of those who serve touch all of us, in one way or another.

      2. Jodi,
        Thank you so much for commenting. I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s loss and am thankful beyond words for the sacrifice of his father.

        I have absolutely no doubt that he was watching his grandaughter sing.

        Amy

  1. Thanks for a beautiful reminder…so appropriate for Veteran’s day and every day! Made me cry and feel so proud all at once! Just wonderful!

  2. Thanks very much for those wonderful words. My father spent 24 years in the Air Force. We were stationed in such places as Fairbanks, Alaska; Washington, D.C.; Bitburg, Germany, San Francisco, Calif.; and Great Falls, Montana.

    I joined the US Navy in 1962 in an effort to join before I was drafted. I ended up spending 21 years in the service. I married in my first year, and am still married after 47 years. We had our first child in San Miguel, Philippines and our second one in Misawa, Japan. From 1962 to 1971 I spent a total of five tours in Vietnam – the longest weighing in at 13 months. I also spent 15 months in Japan before my wife could join me.

    I, too, become teary when I hear Taps or Colors played and I don’t care who knows it. I live within one mile of Wright-Patterson, AFB here in Ohio and hear Colors every time the wind is my way.

    Sorry to be long-winded, but it needed to be said.

    Bill

    1. Bill,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. One thing I didn’t mention in my post is what a small world the military community is –my family and I just came from the Fairbanks area, we were stationed at Eielson Air Force Base. (I’ve also spent time at Wright-Patt.)

      Thank you for your service and for an amazing number of tours in Vietnam. You experienced separations in a way I can’t even fathom because, unlike you, when my husband was deployed he had access to email most of the time.

      Thank you for your 21 years.

      Amy

      1. Proud to have done it and would do it all over again. We were in Fairbanks from 1946 to 1950 – at Ladd AAF Field (The US Air Force wasn’t created yet).

        Bill

  3. I have always respected military personnel so much but never speak from experience. You’ve got that plus a great perspective from a life of many angles. So much in this post that I’ve never thought of. This is really exceptional, and I’m glad you wrote it.

  4. Amy,

    Thank you for kindly sharing your incredible story with all of us. We also thank you and your family members for your service to our great country.

    Just three weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit my twin brother, Lieutenant Colonel Lane Benefield, and his family in Germany. He is currently the commander for Stars & Strips for Europe and Middle East. It was a humbling experience seeing the military bases and hearing the stories of victory and challenge.

    Last week, I had to research military families and technology for a radio talk show. Lane so kindly had some of his officer friends serving on the front line share their stories. It was an emotional experience to read their emails.

    It is a privilege to serve our country. It is a greater privilege to know individuals with such character and commitment. They are the true everyday heroes.

    Thank you again for sharing with us. My prayers will continue to be with the service families for our great country.

    Laura

    1. Laura,
      What an amazing experience you had! I’ve read many Stars & Stripes.

      I can only imagine how powerful those emails must be – I still have trouble writing about our deployment experiences without tearing up.

      Thank you so much for reading and leaving such a wonderful comment. Please thank your brother for his service and I will join you in those prayers.

      Amy

  5. Thank you for putting into words the tangled thoughts about my childhood as a “brat”. My dad spent 20 years in the Air Force, and since his retirement I’ve noticed exactly how different military and civilian life really are. I’ve come to see that I would be an entirely different person without these experiences. Happy Veteran’s Day.

  6. Hi Amy-

    My favorite posts are the kind that I like, but could not have written and this is both.

    Because of your family members who served, I write this safely and peacefully before I go to the theater. Thanks to all for keeping me and my son safe and free.

    ~Mike

  7. Amy,

    What a heart touching look into the life of a military family. We are soon to leave a military base and the thought of not hearing the 5:00 trumpets and seeing the service members pile out of their vehicles at the red light to salute is something that I will miss until life brings me back to a post. Thank you for putting how we feel into words.

    God Bless you and yours,

    Linda

    1. Linda,
      I truly, truly miss it. I went from being a brat, to an active duty member, to a military spouse and we’re both now full-fledged civilians. It’s a different world and, while we’re grateful for where we are, we definitely miss the military culture. Best wishes to you and your family!

      Amy

  8. I am a day late in this comment as I was not online yesterday, but to you and all of your family who served…thank you. I work in a veterans office and take great honor in helping out nations veterans understand and apply for their benefits. I am amazed everyday at what all of you sacrificed while you served/serve. Gratitude only scratches the surface of what I feel for all of you.

  9. A belated thank you, Amy, to your and your family for your service. The insight you share in this piece is a side of military life that most can’t fully understand, but your strong writing lets us behind the scenes. Great words.

    The picture with your parents is beautiful.

    Thanks, Amy.

  10. Amy, I know I’m very late to comment on this post, but a good friend and fellow AF spouse from a few bases back posted it on her Facebook, and I just had to let you know how touched & moved I am by your words & experiences. As an Army brat turned Air Force wife (don’t think I don’t catch h*ll for that one!) you hit both of those descriptions right on the head! I do think brats these days have it a lot easier though, they still have to leave their BFF, but now can earn mom’s cell phone or some computer time for a quick Skype call here & there vs. the. 5 min once a year birthday phone call we were allowed when I was growing up. I know we as spouses have it MUCH easier, I remember my father calling us at Ft Lee once in 3 months from Kitzingen, Germany & that was to tell my mother & I our flight arrangements, as overseas travel was not concurrent in those days. And looking back at letters from from my grandma to my grandpa, dated months before the last during WWII. Yep, we sure have a good thing now, and I’m grateful for it everyday. Oh and BTW, to you & Bill- hi from Eielson! We just arrived this summer, and as folks who prefer warmer temps, we’re not sure we’ll ever defrost, but we sure are having fun doing all we possibly can while we’re here, how many people actually get the opportunity to live on Alaska for 4 years anyway? 😉

  11. Your Uncles, my classmates:

    Ms Stevens:
    The Selma High School graduating class of 1975 (Selma, Alabama-just a couple of klicks down Hwy80 from Craig AFB towards Montgomery) produced several career servicemen-Mike Ford(USN), Mark Meredith(USN), Jeff Weart(USA), Steve Weart(USAF), (?others) and myself (USN1979-1997, USA2010-present). I just discovered your piece as I was googling Jeff and Steve trying to reconnect with them and was pleasantly surprised to find this wonderful article and your site. We had 3 academy appointments from our class – wow (Mark-USN, Steve-USAF, Jeff-USA). I took the medical route to the USN for 18+yrs, then joined my father for the past 13 yrs in private practice. He (former service in both the Army and Air Force in his younger days) just retired in Mar 2010, seeing his last OB patient on his 75th birthday. I have since rejoined the military- US Army this time (which actually stations us 900miles closer to my USAF Capt son’s daughter, our grandaughter). I am currently serving at BAMC and WHMC as a staff instructor in the OB/GYN departments. I am scheduled for deployment soon to Afghanistan. If you have contact with your uncles, give them my best. My best to you and thank you for the insightful piece.
    John McDonough LTC MC USA

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