Blood Doesn’t Make Family, Love Does
Recently my 11-year-old son asked if he could attend the change of command ceremony for our neighbor who was leaving command. I wasn’t surprised because he is best friends with the son of the outgoing commander and phrased the question as “Mama, can I go to Sam’s change of command?” Sam is the son mind you, NOT the outgoing commander. As I thought about taking my children out of school to attend the ceremony, I began to understand this would be his last chance to share one more moment with his best friend and allow him to participate in their family event. I suddenly realized my son was developing his own military family. The decision was an easy one and both my children attended the ceremony.
At the end of the ceremony, the outgoing commander escorted his family out of the building and off to their new assignment. It is military tradition for the family to leave “just like that.” As the audience began to disperse I looked down at my son who was literally sobbing. I knew immediately he was finally letting out the emotion he had contained all week as he watched his friend, part of HIS military family, leave. All I could do was wrap my arms around him in an attempt to shield him from the pain, and the eyes of other audience members. All I could do was bury my head in his curls to control the emotions I felt for him, from him, and with him. When I looked up we were in the middle of a mass of people socializing and instead of escaping with him, we stood there. One by one as my friends walked by I was given looks of empathy and understanding; my son was given gentle pats on his head. I realized we were safe; they understood my son and me; they were OUR military family; they would take care of us. And sure enough they did. One friend had water, another Kleenex, and a third words of encouragement for both of us.
We then attended the reception as part of the celebration for the new commander. I got the kids their food and sat them with a new friend (family member) I knew would be happy to have them as I went through the receiving line. She even replenished their drinks while I was away. As I was socializing I told another new friend (family member) about my son’s meltdown and she was happy to go show him pictures of her new puppy knowing it would cheer him up. I kept an eye on the children realizing they were well attended to as more friends (family) continue to sit at their table. When I finally got back to them I sat down and looked around the table, and I saw it. In the faces of four beautiful women I saw My military family.
I had never thought too much about the friends I was making through the military as my family. In fact within months of being married to my husband and moving to our first base together, I was invited to a baby shower. I did not know the mom-to-be and didn’t understand why I was being invited to a shower for someone I barely knew. Now, 14 years and one very special moment later, I see how my military family has evolved over time, and how important they are to me.