I recently visited Norfolk, Virginia with the Navy Mutual Aid Association and had the honor of touring the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier and the USS Stout destroyer. As a Navy mom and Marine aunt, it was a day that I will not soon forget. As tours were conducted and I met the sailors stationed on the ships, I began to think about our military, the service they provide, and how inspirational their patriotism is.
Next, I remembered all the civilians and companies that have helped my family since my son Devin joined the Navy. It gives me comfort that we are not fighting the fight alone. Why do these civilians, who sometimes have very little or no military in their family, choose to serve those who serve? I think Sangeeta Jacob, COO of Navy Mutual, summed it up the best when she said "serving those who serve gives us a sense of purpose and a constant reminder that what we do matters. It truly is an honor and privilege to serve the men and women who do so much to protect the freedom we enjoy each day. I am humbled and thank those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. For 140 years, Navy Mutual has been providing peace of mind to servicemembers and their families.”
One week after Devin had started boot camp, I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic. What if something happened to him, how would I find out? What if there was a family emergency where I needed to get a hold of him? Do I call his recruiter? Do I call Great Lakes Recruit Training Command and hope to get someone on the other line? Less than two days later, I received a phone call from the American Red Cross. A compassionate voice on the other line gave me my answers. The Red Cross would be there for me and my family if I had any issues or needed to contact my sailor for any reason. The conversation lasted at least an hour and this Red Cross volunteer was supportive as I talked about my fears and how proud I was of my son. Fortunately, I’ve never had to make that call to track down my sailor, but I will not forget the time this woman, who was willing to volunteer her time, spent with this new Navy mom.
What really inspires me is the normal everyday civilians who make it a part of their lives to serve those who serve. Like Ben, a family friend and retired Marine, who helped Devin through the recruiting process so he could succeed in the Navy. Or the Blue Star Mother that warned me I would be getting a box with the clothes my son wore to boot camp and it would be a hard day, but I could call her if I needed to. And George, Ben’s son and a new Marine, who left for boot camp while getting a block-long send-off from his community, all waving the American flag and cheering him on. And John, my nephew, coming home from a deployment in Australia met at the airport by a local motorcycle club. They were there to thank him for his service and, with the aid of local police and fire departments escorted him all the way home. All of these individuals are helping those in the military to do a job that most of us would not be able to do. They are a united front supporting those who serve, as well as their families.
The tours of the USS Eisenhower and the USS Stout were truly amazing and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My favorite parts were having Retired Rear Admiral Brian Luther (who now serves as the Chief Strategy Officer at Navy Mutual) share his awesome stories and knowledge, and meeting Captain Kyle Higgins, who commands the Eisenhower. Last, but certainly not least, was getting to know the sailors who acted as our tour guides. They embody both passion and commitment in their jobs, as well as a rare comradery and essence of family. I have seen this with my son and nephew, but to see it in all these sailors was truly inspiring.
In the end, you don’t have to know a sailor, marine or soldier to serve them. You can join one of the many organizations that support our military, greet your local serviceman as he or she comes home from a long deployment, or stop those you see in uniform and simply thank them for their service. Home, that’s what means the most to someone serving our country — no matter how close or far away they may be. Supporting them is our greatest gift. This Navy mom will continue to be grateful for our military and thankful for all who choose to serve those who serve.