‘Tis the season to be grateful. On November 11, we thank Veterans; on Thanksgiving, we give thanks to our loved ones; and the whole month of November is dedicated to honoring Veterans and their families. A time when America is grateful to those unique sacrifices and challenges that service members and their families make in support of the nation.
As service members, we are no stranger to those sacrifices. We are reminded daily by everyday life, whether that’s raising children away from the support of families, having “date night” over video conference with significant others, or waiting days, weeks or even months just to call home. These sacrifices were built into the contract. We knew what we were doing when we signed that line. And as service members or veterans, we are grateful to those who recognize we made the choices we made in an all-volunteer force so someone who didn’t want to make those sacrifices didn’t have to.
It’s easy to focus on the challenges that plague military life, but one thing that is commonly overlooked to be grateful for is the military and veteran community. Our families away from family, our support systems away from our support systems. While everyone’s experience in the military is different, there are enough commonalities that will allow a service member or veteran to find at least one person within the community that understands them. There is something amazing about having that common bond.
I am a proud daughter of two Army veterans. I understood from a young age what sacrifices both service members and their family had to make, but I also witnessed the strength in the community, which made it an easy decision to join the Army myself.
When I was very young, I remember talking on the phone with my dad while he was in Afghanistan. There was suddenly a loud bang and then the phone line went dead. We didn’t hear from him for days after that.
My mom was distraught, but the military community around us helped her get through it and made sure our family was okay. While not every military family will have an experience like that, every family knows that a situation like that is possible. That possibility brings the community closer and ready to step up and support when one of our own is in need. The support my family received during that time was unlike any other.
U.S. Navy Reserve Chief Petty Officer and V Corps employee, Rebecca Ives, and her husband, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ian Ives, can attest.
In October 2019, while serving with 1st Special Forces Group in Afghanistan, Ian was critically injured by a roadside bomb that was only two feet away at the time of detonation.
Within hours of the Soldiers showing up on her doorstep with the news, Rebecca had fellow Sailors at her house to help with her one-year-old daughter, families from the 1SFG Family Readiness Group setting up a food train and veterans she had never met bringing her ready-to-eat meals.
“I can’t put into words how grateful I am for the military community,” said Rebecca. “They stepped up without being asked. They looked after my welfare, my pets, my home, everything, so I could focus on getting to Ian and being with him. He needed my undivided attention and the community allowed me to give that to him.”
Ian suffered extensive injuries to his face, neck and abdomen. He lost his right eye and right arm just below the elbow. He underwent over 45 surgeries and spent 99 days in the hospital. During that time, the support from the military community helped him make a fast recovery.
“Since being combat wounded, I've had nothing but support from both the active military and the veteran community,” said Ian. “I am so grateful to be a part of an organization that has such strong ties to the past and present members. Even people I have never met or personally served with went out of their way to ensure my family and I were taken care of when we really needed it. It is a good feeling to know that no matter how much time passes or what my location is, I will always be able to fall back on my brothers and sisters in arms for support. There is, honestly, no other career in the world that can offer you the kind of camaraderie or support that the United States military provides.”
A lot of service members are lucky to not need the level of support the Ives’ family needed from the community, but it’s always nice to know that it’s there. And it is there, for every one of us, no matter the branch or length of honorable service.
Whether it’s support through social media pages, family readiness groups, Veterans Affairs, non-profit organizations or the command itself, there is always someplace to turn for answers to questions, voice concerns or just get support.
So this year, whether you are at home with family or eating with your battles in the dining facility, remember to be grateful for the community of veterans, service members and their families around you. They will always have a deep understanding of what it’s like serving during the holidays and all year round.