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Living in a military community

January 11th, 2004 · No Comments

The largest employer in our county is the military. There is a naval base and large shipyard in Bremerton, about forty minutes from here or so. Here on Bainbridge it’s easy to forget the military community, although 2 or 3 of the 70 families in our neighborhood are in the service. However, once I start driving off the island, and the closer I get to Bremerton, the more I notice the difference.

For example, on the island there are not many American flag stickers on cars – I’d say that if you see a flag on a car on the island, it’s probably someone who moved here recently from out of state. Instead, many bumpers and flyers around town talk about the cost of war and world peace. But in Bremerton I see much more red, white and blue, along with POW flags too.

When we went to the Bremerton Symphony , I was struck by the ushers who were high school ROTC students, young faces, girls, in sharp uniforms. Also that was probably one of the only Christmas concerts I’ve attended where the choir director started talking about the graveyards at Normandy…it’s a different culture in most of the rest of the county, and I try to remember that whenever I drive off of the island….

Last spring I went shopping at Target to get a new car seat. The car seat in a box was larger than the cart, and I had my three girls with me. It was quite a struggle getting us all through the parking lot, so I was grateful when an older man (gray hair) offered to help me.

“Is your husband home?” he asked.
“Yes.” I said.
I wondered why he asked. I wondered if Ted would be offended that this man had asked if he were home. Was he implying that my husband should have been helping me buy this car seat?

Then I thought about the time and place. I was in Silverdale, the town neighboring the base in Bremerton. It was the time of the war in Iraq.
I realized that this man was probably trying to ask me whether my husband was at war or at home. I realized that to this man, I looked like I might be a military wife. And I became even more grateful for his help.

Not that I completely agree with what our country is doing. I’m not really sure how I feel about it all. But I am grateful for the sacrifice and discipline the military families are making. I am grateful for what they are willing to give for our country. I felt this man was showing his gratitude too by helping me. And I was grateful for his gift.

The other day Abigail and I went to Poulsbo, the town next door to us, to go to a place where people can decorate pottery pieces. At the table behind us was a mom and a little girl painting ornaments. Then I noticed her baby sleeping in an infant seat on the floor. The mom wanted to make footprints from the baby to put on the ornaments. With the help of a store employee, they took the baby out of the car seat, took off the baby’s socks, and made the prints. The baby cried and cried, upset. I noticed the baby was wearing an outfit that looked like military fatigues, all mixed gray and green colors – but with a rim of white eyelet lace on the rump, as if to make it feminine.

The way the man at Target wondered about me, I wondered about this mom and her children. The military fatigues on an infant seemed to me to be pretty unusual but maybe I was making more of it than I should. But, especially being in Poulsbo, I wondered. I wondered if she was a mom home alone with two little children, if she was a military wife.

The baby cried and cried. She screamed so loud the mom and big sister had to leave in a hurry. I wanted to help them. I didn’t know what to do. But I wanted to give them a gift, just as the stranger at Target had given to me. I wanted to pass on what I had received. I wanted to somehow say Thank You.

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