Valentine’s Day – Military Families Taking Care of Their Own
I’ve never been much of a fan of Valentine’s Day. My birthday occurring just a few days later may have something to do with it. As expected, early on in my dating life, boyfriends would inevitably double-up on the gifts or a “Birthday” dinner became a dual celebration. To be honest, it really didn’t matter because back then it seemed like a manufactured holiday to benefit florists and chocolatiers anyway.
I married a Marine who doesn’t make much of a fuss about anything. He usually forgets our anniversary, so the bar for Valentine’s Day is pretty low. Every now and then, he’ll come home with chocolates on February 14. I suspect he overhears coworkers making their plans for the day so he’ll make a stop at CVS on the way home. I am always surprised, and I do appreciate the gesture, but since I’ve been in a constant state of trying to lose weight for the past twenty years, I could do without the heart-shaped box.
So, given my general apathy about Valentines’ Day, you would think I would hardly notice the day during deployment. You would be wrong.
I don’t know if it was the timing of his last deployment. He left in July, so Valentines was deep into the year apart. Or maybe it was the fact that Murphy had plagued the deployment from the very beginning. This Valentine’s fell smack dab in the middle of what we now refer to in northern Virginia as “Snowmageddon.” I was dreading Valentine’s Day that year.
Maybe it was the three feet of snow on the ground. Perhaps it was the tree which had fallen through the skylight in the family room in the middle of the snowstorm or maybe it was the fridge that quit or the broken air conditioner in the house we owned in Florida or the stolen credit card. I was not looking forward to February 14th.
And then my fellow mil-spouses got involved as only mil-spouses can. They had planned a twilight bus tour of the Washington monuments. Of course, I begged off. The last thing I wanted was to spend the evening out with a bunch of couples. I don’t know if it was a ploy to get me to agree to go, but I was told everyone was bringing their kids. Hmmm, a romantic bus ride around beautiful D.C. as the sun was setting, wine flowing in plastic wine “glasses,” cheese, crackers…..and kids?
It didn’t sound quite right, but my posse of mil-spouses pointed out the kids hadn’t seen the inside of a school in weeks because of one snowstorm after the other. We had all been cooped up in the house, and if you’ve ever lived through a deployment, waiting for the phone to ring or email to arrive, you know it is crucial to keep busy. Shoveling snow is not the kind of busy you need when waiting on a call from the desert. And try avoiding the news!
So, I relented and went on the tour. Growing up just a couple of hours from the District of Columbia, I had visited all the monuments on numerous occasions. In fact, anyone stationed here will tell you it is our “go-to” when we have out-of-town visitors. But seeing these majestic statues and buildings covered in beautiful white snow just as the sun was setting was nothing short of amazing. Valentine’s Day falls very close to President’s Day, so despite all the snow, there were a lot of tourists out and about.
The kids had a great time with their friends. The adults enjoyed the wine and cheese and a unique look at our Nation’s Capital that evening. I don’t know why this particular Valentine’s Day was so hard. Sure, I missed my deployed husband, but we had been separated on numerous occasions in the past to include holidays and birthdays. I didn’t feel like I was missing all that much during past Valentine’s Days even when there wasn’t a box of chocolates involved.
And that’s when I realized, when you are lucky enough to find your person, to be in a relationship you can count on sure as the sun rises, you don’t need the fancy dinners, the fresh roses or even the chocolates because you have what you need, your person, your rock.
At PCSgrades we often say, “The military doesn’t take care of their own, military FAMILIES take care of their own.” That is precisely what happened on a frigid, beautiful, peaceful Valentine’s night in downtown D.C. My fellow military spouses, their husbands, and their kids took care of one USMC family missing their Marine on Valentine’s Day.
-Carla Olivo is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer. She currently serves as the Strategic Communications Director for PCSgrades, a review website exclusive to the military and veteran community. A Military Spouse, she frequently writes about mil-spouse and veteran employment, military moving, deployment and many aspects of military life.