If you know me at all, you know that I feel pretty strongly about the people who are willing to serve our great nation. My family comes from a long line of military service. My grandparents, my father, my uncles, a cousin, myself and my husband, and now my son….that’s the Neitzke side. My father-in-law, Rich’s uncles, his siblings and their spouses, are all military. Four generations on one side…three on another. It is the life I have lived and I really don’t understand living in one house all your life or going to one school…or growing up with your grandparents, aunts and uncles living around the corner and seeing them every week for Sunday dinner. That is as foreign to me as much of my nomadic life is to many of you. When we get together, we tend to playfully jab each other verbally about their prospective service…why the Army is better than the Navy or Air Force or vice versa. It is just how things work in military families.
I want to thank all my family and friends who are military veterans. Honestly, if you aren’t military and you are my friend, you are the exception. My military friends have become like family to me…especially those whom we were stationed with overseas, so far from our families. We adapted to life in Asia and Europe with the help of our military friends. We went through the pain of putting down a dog for the first time….adopting a puppy or two….adopting a DAUGHTER…and having kids in high school….all with the support of our military friends. I remember calling a friend, Deb, to ask how to use the teeny tiny Norwegian washers and dryers….because it was taking HOURS to do laundry and two teen boys in sports was a nightmare scenario. Same friend let me cry on her shoulder after we had to put our Weimaraner, Aiko, down suddenly just 2 months after arriving in Norway. We had people who threw me a baby shower on Okinawa when we were adopting Lily because I had no baby stuff…or girl stuff. People jumped in to do everything from carting us to and from the Naha International Airport, to standing in as proxies for her Godparents when she was baptized. (Lily was our Chinese daughter – waiting to be an American – baptized in Okinawa, Japan by a Nigerian priest in the U.S. Air Force – yes…light a candle and sing Kumbaya – it is a beautiful thing!) When Joe and Rich both had incidences in Norway that needed emergency care…then extended care…I had friends to call to ask about the Norwegian healthcare system. My mom, a former military wife of 30 years, sent me vanilla and brown sugar in the mail when we lived in Norway because I just couldn’t find it and wanted to still do Christmas baking. And travel or looking for a new assignment? There is always someone who has been there or knows someone who has…to get you the real information of where to go…what not to do, etc. The best friend that comes in on her night off to be with you while you are in labor with your first child and admits him to the nursery and gives him his first bath (now a neonatal nurse practitioner and Godmother to said first child!) The nurse friend that comes and watches your infant because the babysitter is sick and mom & dad are both military and have to report to duty…..and Kris, God bless her, her fiancé had just had his wisdom teeth taken out so she was watching over him as well! Then there is the other vertically challenged bridesmaid at a Naval Academy wedding who got relegated to the end of the line with me…who was a Naval Academy midshipmen and I was getting ready to swear in to the Air Force….we have only ever met at this wedding nearly 30 years ago and we are still friends – as it would be of course with two military women standing next to one another for hours on end during a rehearsal, wedding, and reception. These are the bonds I have with my military family – unbreakable and unforgettable.
Rich and I both spent this Veteran’s Day morning at our respective dentist offices. What were the chances? I am happy to say we are both cavity free and I am happy to put that in my rear view mirror for 6 more months. I have talked to my dad and my son today, thanking them over the phone for their service. I am so proud of both of them. My dad wore his uniform to a Veteran’s Day recognition ceremony at my nephew’s middle school yesterday.