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Shine Your Light in the Darkness

While there are a lot of great things about being a part of a military community, it also has its downsides. Frequent separations from those we love due to field time, TDY, or deployments; moving every two or three years to another state or another country; infrequent visits with family, maybe only once a year; changing schools, addresses, telephone numbers, licenses, cars. Sometimes, it can feel like military life has a lot of darkness.

But when you see the light, something amazing happens.

I currently live overseas in Germany at a very small installation. When coming here, people often warn you that if you don’t want to be seen dressed in your gym clothes without your hair and makeup done, then either do yourself up or don’t go out. You’re that likely to run into people you’ve not only seen before but that you know.

Recently, I was having one of those days that tested me as a mother of three.

My husband and I had an appointment at our installation’s Child Development Center to register our children with various child care programs and to sit through an orientation. Because there were countless toys to be played with while the program manager spoke, the kids did great. Of course, they also didn’t want to leave those toys when it was time to skedaddle on out of there. There was some fussing as we left, then more fussing as we tried to load into the car and when Daddy headed back to work.

“How about we go to Burger King and get some cheeseburgers?” I asked my 4-year-old and 2-year-old. The response was big smiles and a resounding, “Cheeseburgers!” My 4-month-old baby was hungry and, as usual, fell asleep while eating. I loaded him up, hopped in, and made the short drive to the PX food court.

We arrived and placed our order while my oldest two briefly stood quietly at my side. As we made our way to our chosen table, the complaints began.

“I’m hungry!”

“Juice, Mommy!”

“We eat soon?”

“Where’s our food, Mommy?”

As I got the children situated and frantically dug through my diaper bag for a bottle to console my crying baby, an angel came to our table.

Well, she wasn’t an actual angel, but she definitely seemed like one to me.

She approached the table, reached out for the empty cup I had yet to fill, and asked, “What can I get you to drink?” She went and filled my cup, brought it back, and then went and got my tray of food to bring back to the table.

I was shocked. I thanked her profusely, but it didn’t seem like enough. She gave me a quick look, a small smile, and said, “I’ve been there.”

And off she went.

I didn’t know her name. I had never seen her before. She saw a slightly overwhelmed mother of three, trying to hold everyone together, and without hesitation, helped a complete stranger.

Imagine if you’re a parent in my situation. You’re wrangling your children. You don’t have anyone to help you. Your service member may be deployed, in the field, or on TDY. Maybe you haven’t showered in a couple days because you have multiple kids who love waking up at the crack of dawn. You might be sleep deprived. Fueled by coffee. Low on food. Probably ditto on patience.

Then out of nowhere, someone helps you.

They don’t ask, but simply jump into action to help someone else who obviously needs it.

Maybe you see someone at the grocery store carrying too many bags while one overloaded bag bursts. Oranges roll across the parking lot. A gallon of milk breaks as it hits the ground.

Maybe you’re on a flight with a stressed out parent who is flying alone with his children. One won’t stop crying while the other whines to get out of the seat.

Maybe you’re at a coffee shop where a young spouse is crying after her service member recently departed for a deployment.

There are so many scenarios, but all with one thing in common: people in need of help.

You see, there are multiple situations, many more, that can apply to military life. So often, we hear about the negatives of this life, the things that go wrong.

We focus too much on the darkness.

But then comes the light that shows us how terrific our community really is.

A commissary manager who is not only a part of the local spouses’ group, but hears their concerns and seeks resolutions to those problems, who even tracks down a lost stuffed fish and opens the doors on a day when the building is usually closed, so that he can deliver the buddy to one very sad child.

A photographer who gives back to her community by taking pictures of family events, unit events, holiday get-togethers, and high school prom at no charge.

That one Family Readiness Group that helps single soldiers, prepares meals for all families that have a new baby or experience a difficult time, provides baby bags full of gifts for a new baby, gives a Christmas to a family that has faced a lot of darkness in the past year, and provides Thanksgiving dinners to families who may not be able to afford one.

A group of military wives that start a podcast to connect with military spouses, even launching a website with other helpful information and uplifting stories.

These are just a few examples of the light in our community, and I know there are many, many more out there.

When you find yourself facing the darkness of military life, don’t forget to look for the light. And if you aren’t seeing it, find a way to be that light in your community.

It really is as simple as filling up an empty cup.

Author

  • Sarah Peachey

    Sarah Peachey is a journalist from southern Pennsylvania currently living in the Southeast. Previous adventures sent her to Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Fort Meade, Maryland; Hohenfels, Germany; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Fort Stewart, Georgia. She lives with her husband of more than 10 years, three children, one very spoiled Dachshund, and a cat who leaves a dusting of white fur on just about everything. She began a career in journalism with The Fort Polk Guardian, an Army installation newspaper, winning three state awards for her work. Her work has appeared on MilSpouseFest, The Homefront United Network, Military.com, SpouseBUZZ, and Army News Service. She consulted for MilitaryOneClick (now known as MilSpouseFest), and helped launch the site #MilitaryVotesMatter, providing up-to-date information important to service members, veterans, and their families in the 2016 election. When not writing for military spouse support sites, she is currently working on her first novel while also volunteering as AWN's Blog Editor. When she can carve the time into her schedule, she writes about parenting, travel, books, and politics on her website, Keep It Peachey. You can find her on Instagram @keepitpeachey. She has a passion for reading, writing, politics, and political discussions. She considers herself a bookworm, pianist, wine enthusiast, and crossword addict.

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