It’s Mother’s Day weekend again, which means Moms young and old will be on everybody’s minds.  This will be my third iteration on Mother’s Day since I began writing this blog in 2009.  In each of the past two years, this entry drew more readers than any other post of the year.  This statistic is not surprising … everybody loves Mom.  It’s a truth beyond debate.

Everybody loves Mom!

Over the years, it’s easy to lose track of how much Mom means to us.  For me, my adolescent years were blessed to have my beloved Grandmother … “Other Mama” … to watch over me.  As my childhood gave way to the teens and early 20s, Mom took on a larger than life role of honor, example and sacrifice which could never be repaid.  I wrote of both these amazing women in past Mother’s Day posts which I hope you’ll review here:

2011

2010

Blythe Danner & Robert Duvall from THE GREAT SANTINI (1979)

So where do I go this year?  The answer is obvious.  In the 1979 classic film, The Great Santini, Robert Duvall’s ‘Bull’ Meechum Marine fighter-pilot character proudly escorts his son to the Officers’ Club to celebrate the younger’s 18th birthday.  To kick off the festivities, Bull makes this toast:

I’d like to propose a toast, to my son.  He is eighteen today.  He has just ordered his first drink.  Before he drinks it, I’d like to wish him a long life, a wife as fine as his mother, and a son as fine as he’s been.  To my son!

Therein, Bull (for all his flaws) paid a not so backhanded compliment to his wife, Lillian.  And that’s what I’m writing about today.  Military spouses are under levels of stress never experienced before in our national history.  Despite comments from the office of our chief executive, the Global War on Terror is far from over.  We as a military have been in continuous combat operations for more than a decade.  Yes, a DECADE!  And in the midst of this ongoing war where real men and women are dying and families are being forced to endure multiple deployments, military families are holding steady.

Despite unprecedented hardships, military families are holding on to each other!

According to an April 2012 study conducted by Journal of Family Issues (Benjamin R. Karney, David S. Loughran and Michael S. Pollard), the military divorce rate for 2011 was 3.9%.  That represented a 64% increase over the 2.5% of 2000.  Still, it’s about ½ the rate of comparable civilian counterparts.

How is this possible?  I know the answer.  It’s because of strong family ties keeping the home fires burning.  And I’m not surprised as I married one of those ties 25 years ago.

Amanda (7) holding Nick (newborn) with William (1.5) in Germany, 1991. I was not even in country, but Renee held the family together.

In all the turbulent years I spent in hostile SW Asia and long deployments to places like Korea, Panama and Grafenwoehr, I never looked back because I had Renee waiting for me.  She raised our children alone more than with me, many times in a hostile environment of her own.

As I wrote in my 2011 book, Crossing The Line, I left her 8.5 months pregnant in Giessen, Germany on Christmas Eve to deploy to Saudi Arabia for DESERT STORM.  Not only was she about to give birth in a foreign nation, it was a not-so-friendly nation rife with anti-war and anti-American protestors and a terrorist threat rating off the charts.  And she still had our daughter (age 7) and son (age 18-months) to care for.

Renee holding Nick moments after his birth in 1991. I would not return from the Gulf War for another 6-months.

How many times did I leave her for months at a time to unpack boxes and enroll the kids in school?  Or to leave on her own with kids in tow to find a home at our next duty assignment?  Or to clear quarters?  Or to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, rainy days and Mondays without me?  I have no ability to count them!  I can attest that of our three children, I was only present for the birth of one.  I was not even in the same country as her when she gave birth to the other two.

Renee and Amanda many times relied on each other to keep the family together. They are both heroes in my book!

The great Eleanor Roosevelt once opined:

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror.  I can take the next thing that comes along.”  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

Over the years, Renee has done the thing over and over that many could not have done.  It’s a fact few acknowledge and even fewer respect.  But I know.  And I respect.  And I’m eternally grateful that she rode shotgun with me through the badlands.  (And still does).

So with apologies to Bull Meechum, I’d like to say to my three children on their wedding day (none are married yet):

I’d like to propose a toast, to my child.  Today is his/her wedding day.  Before they depart to begin their lives together, I’d like to wish them a long life, a spouse as fine as their mother, and a child as fine as they been.

Happy Mother’s Day, Renee.

Can you believe that some foolish souls back in the day said we’d never make it?