I grew up in the military. My father was a career Air Force officer, so I've never known a life without uniforms, parental absences or jet noise. For me, a jet flying overhead is not a source of fear (think post-9/11 in DC or New York), but one of overwhelming pride. Our country is far from perfect, but it takes a special person to agree to defend it with your life. And it takes a special person to love someone you know can never put family before country.
The military life is not an easy one. Growing up, we moved frequently; my father was often gone. The birthdays and holidays that stick out in my head are those where he was present because, you see, that was not the norm. We could usually count on him to be gone. That was our normal and we were used to it.
I was born in 1972. Consequently, my father's wartime deployments were before my memories (or life) began. I've heard stories about how my mother lived with my grandparents for a year; how my father was part of the very last B-52 squadron to leave Thailand at the end of Vietnam; how terrified my mother was because the routine bombing runs across Southeast Asia were predictable and, consequently, sometimes fatal to people in my father's job. But I experience these memories now only through photos and the shadows that cross my mother's face.