In April of 2009, on the way to a VFW meeting right before my husband, COL (R.) Randy LeCompte, deployed for war, our grand-son, Tristen, who was then six asked from the back seat, "Nana, how are we going to keep Papa Randy safe when he goes to war?" I told him we would pray for him that God would keep him safe, because there was nothing that he and I could do, we are just human beings. I told him we could pray that God would send angels to protect him. I firmly believe that the earnest prayers of that little boy and others have been what has kept my husband safe for the past almost five years.
My daughter who served for eight years in the United States Army, married a Soldier. After 9/11 she left the Arm,y worried that she and her husband might both be deployed at the same time. She now works in the civilian sector of the Army. Her husband returned from his fifth overseas deployment back in November. They are both serving in Germany at this time. Samantha and Gabby are my two grand-daughters who were born into this military family and have never known anything but the life of military kids. There are thousands of "military kids," and the people of our country, and other countries, should see to it that they do not stand in need of anything while their parent is absent at war.
I have wept many times, for many reasons, as I have thought again of those questions from such a small child. I have thought of our own countries' children, the children of Coalition forces from countries around the world, the children from Iraq and Afghanistan, and yes, the children of the enemy. What a price these innocents have paid over the last ten plus years.
It isn't just the small children of military families that bear the burden of war. Who more than a young teen needs their father or mother? The older a child grows, I think the more acutely an absent parent is missed. The award ceremonies where there is someone glaringly absent from the audience, the basketball games, the broken hearts, and the lectures that should sternly be given, fall to only one parent. A phone call lecture just isn't the same. Nor is the congratulations offered over the phone, the same as that hug in person that says, "What a job well done!" The suit picture of prom sent in an email doesn't feel the same as the kidding and smiling faces of proud parents as a young man leaves for prom. There are pictures with mother, but not with father.
There are even grown children who sacrifice holidays, birthdays, and the ability to call a parent on their cell phone for advice, or just to express their love, while a parent serves. As with every age child of those in military service, some have had a parent return from war never to be the same again due to injuries sustained. Some see their parent for the last time in a flag draped coffin. Their sacrifice unnoticed or forgotten by most of the people that it was made for.
Then there are the babies... infants born while a parent is at war. I can't imagine labor and delivery without the father of the child I was bringing into the world at my side, but there are women in this country, and in the countries of all those who make up the Coalition Forces who have done just that. I can vividly imagine however, the thoughts going through that woman's mind, and the state of her heart. I wrote two poems about these babies who change everyday, who say their first words, take their first steps, cry through cutting their first teeth, and grow each day without the loving gaze of a proud father.
Make certain he has no need that you have resources to meet.
I Came Home to My Daughter
There she lay, so warm, pink, soft, and sweet.
When first we finally did meet.
I saw so much of her mother there in her eyes,
The stamp of my own features on her countenance threatened to make me cry.
Wonder at the first sight of my darling daughter,
Swept my soul, and I knew my life she would forever alter.
Feelings too tender for the battlefield,
In that moment caused all my vigilance briefly to yield.
Then I realized more clearly than ever before,
I was called to war because of an evil good people everywhere deplore.
My newborn child and all the children of the world,
Need those of us in service, the flag of liberty to unfurl.
In my daughter’s face I saw the hope of our world and our nation,
Waiting for her contributions, which true peace will hasten.
I knew that in a land far away, where long I had stood the wall,
Children were seeing first hand our intent in the service of us all.
As they watch, I know they too will learn,
Their own hearts for peace and liberty will come to yearn.
In this the power of the enemy will disappear,
The truth of all our brotherhood will finally do away with all fear.
So though my heart longs to stay,
I will again return to the war zone in just a few short days.
In my mind, images of her gentle beauty,
Will give me strength and bring complete commitment to my sacred duty.
Our grand-daughters, whose family is stationed in Germany, will not be able to attend this dedication ceremony, and Gabby is probably the ranch's biggest fan. When she calls me, (almost daily) all she wants to talk about is what is going on at the ranch. Today when she called she wanted to write a poem about the ranch and "military kids." So I helped her with making her words rhyme, and here are the results. Read the words of a seven year old child who does not understand well the meaning of war, but none the less, has sacrificed for her country. Someone's father or mother must go, for many of our military are women, and surely without the defense made by these men and women, none of our children will know liberty.
In this photo you just have to note that Gabby insisted this day on wearing Papa Randy's boot... all day long.
Being in a military family involves many sacrifices. The rewards can be equally fulfilling as well. That happens if the one serving makes the time and effort to not only live a life of sacrifice and service before their children, but in that service they carefully communicate the importance of honor and devotion to sacred duty. The other parent must also support and be committed to service. That must be evidenced by both parents lives and all they say and do, as the reason they serve. There is a special set of skills, a special identity, and the knowledge of how to live with purpose "above the common man," as General Douglas MacArthur stated in his most famous speech, that is the reward that comes to the children of those who truly serve God and country. They are empowered by the ideals lived before them, rather than being disadvantaged by the sacrifices required. May God richly bless the children of those who serve, and may His mercy be with all the children who live with the reality of war.
Samantha, Gabby, Brian, and Rebecca, thank you for your many sacrifices for our country. Brian and Becky, your father and I commend you personally. You are both persons of courage who have been through much. Thank you, and we publicly acknowledge all you have given. Samantha and Gabby, Papa Randy and Nana have watched all you have sacrificed too, you have both done well. We love you, are proud of you, and hope to see you all soon.