Americans are extremely generous — this is especially evident after disasters occur anywhere in our country and, often, in the world beyond our borders. It is a given after an earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire and other catastrophic events that the money will start pouring in from concerned citizens to help out the victims.
And then there are the people in the vicinity and sometimes far away, who will travel to the site of the devastation to help clean up, find survivors or bodies and bring food and clothing in for the victims and the first responders.
It happens time and again, and it is truly inspiring and restores one’s faith in our country that we can, in times of adversity, put aside our differences and just lend a helping hand.
The Army family is a sub-culture of our society at large and so, not surprisingly, our Army family helps out during and after those events, too. But the Army family also takes care of one another throughout the year. Or, since I’m a member of that family as a spouse, I should say we take care of one another.
I have a wonderful family and it’s made up of some really delightful people. Some are always happy, some are very funny. Others extremely loving. In fact, I guess, they all are.
Some tell great stories and some have sad stories they never tell. They are all strong, decisive, compassionate; male and female, young and old. Well, my age, at least — I guess that’s old.
I have a very large family. Made up of sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. Some are even related. Most of my family members are tough as nails, but only when handling the challenges of life. Most are gentle as doves when handling other people’s hearts.
That’s why I love them. They are my Army family. They support me, they laugh and cry with me and I do the same with them. We share common experiences, even if we weren’t stationed in the same place at the same time. Because they can relate, we have a short-hand — an understanding — so some things can be left unspoken.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of words exchanged. And lots of hugs and smiles. My Army family lives all over the world, but we are never far apart. A phone call, a Facebook post, a text — that’s all we need to reconnect. We have memories we will fondly hold onto for a lifetime.
There is much gratitude and joy every time we think of each other or whenever we are blessed to actually be together. I didn’t know when I married my soldier that I would gain all this, but what a happy surprise — what a splendid gift our Army family is.
These experiences are not unique to me. Ask anyone who has served for more than a little while and most will concur with my sentiments.
Another great example of the Army family taking care of each other can be found in the private organizations that are Army-spouse run, with the main — or often sole — purpose of assisting people in need in our communities. Here at Fort Hood, we have the Fort Hood Spouses Club, the Fort Hood Area Military Family Member Scholarship Fund, the Fort Hood Area Thrift Shop, the Fort Hood Volunteer Childcare Fund and the venerable Santa’s Workshop.
All of these organizations work to improve the quality of life for Fort Hood families and services or organizations that support or benefit them, on and off post. They are run by Army family members, active duty and retired, who want to give back and take their jobs very seriously while finding much joy in their efforts to help others.
They all welcome volunteers to serve on their boards and/or to help with fundraisers. If you are an Army spouse or service member, the Army Volunteer Corps office on Fort Hood can help put you in touch with any of these organizations. Their phone number is 254-287-8657. All of them have Facebook pages, if you want to check them out or contact them directly.
While the Army family reflects the society from which we come, we are also often a bright, shining example of what service is all about. Our soldiers, of course, personify this with their profession, but families serve, too, and the sacrifices of the family are many. The most impressive thing is that so many of us work in a voluntary capacity in addition to the selfless service that is embodied in the career of a soldier or the life of a family member.
At this time of year that is all about family, I think it’s the perfect time to celebrate the spirit of service and the generosity of our Army family that is born of compassion and a sincere desire to help our comrades in arms and our fellow citizens in the civilian world.
My next column won’t appear until December 28, so I just want to wish everyone a very blessed and safe Christmas and a Happy New Year. Please remember our deployed troops this holiday season and their loved ones, also. Please think about the Gold Star and survivor families, too, who are without their special someone every day, but feel it more keenly at this time of year. If you are a family member with a deployed soldier or you have lost a loved one who was serving in uniform, I want you to know that I keep you all in my prayers each day and I know that many others do, too.
To everyone, near and far, I sincerely echo Tiny Tim’s immortal words — “God bless us, every one,” this Christmas and always.
Lynda Macfarland is the spouse of the III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general. She is a proud Army wife, mother and advocate for military families.