From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul


We ordinary people must forge our own beauty. We must set fire to the grayness of our labor with the art of our own lives.

Kenji Meyazawa

When I found out the news of Larry’s deployment, I quickly realized that I’d be in a new city alone, in a new job, in a new house, without many new friends, no children of our own and no family living close by. I had no idea who or what would surface to keep me going and support me through the time he’d be away. I just had to trust that they would appear.

And appear they did: in the form of a small group of seventh-grade mothers and the entire cast of two hundred students at Sacred Heart Middle School where I’m a teacher.

In September, just prior to his deployment, my husband visited my students. Captain Larry, as the students called him, gave an outstanding PowerPoint presentation (worthy of an A+). He showed them maps of Kosovo, teaching them about the peacekeeping mission he’d be a part of, and, of course, the many possible meanings of the word “Hooah!” They were mesmerized to see a soldier up close.

One cool October night at a parent/teacher conference, my seventh-grade student, John, asked me, “Mrs. Doss, when does your husband get home?”

“Sometime next September, I think, but we can’t be sure,” I replied.

When John’s mom overheard his question on that autumn evening, she asked, “Mrs. Doss, what do you mean? Where is your husband?”

Realizing that John hadn’t told his parents about Larry, I proceeded to tell her that he was deployed to Kosovo with the Iowa National Guard, and would be gone for the next year.

Her questions came like a flood: “Do you have children? Do you own a home? Do you have family nearby?

Do you have a pet?” Her outpouring of care and concern for me was heartwarming. But there was no way I could have been prepared for what was to come.

A letter was sent home to the middle-school parents, stating that there would be an “Out of Uniform Day” for all students donating one dollar or more. In a private school, the students value these opportunities to sport their latest fashion purchases. That being said, I was expecting our two hundred students to raise about a hundred dollars or so.

You can imagine my surprise when those same two hundred students brought in about eight hundred dollars on the Out of Uniform Day. With a little help from the student council, the students and their mothers used a thousand dollars to purchase two-hour phone cards and prayer cards for each of the 180 soldiers in my husband’s unit.

The same group of mothers declared April 1 to be “Mrs. Doss’s Day.” My room was decorated for the likes of a military ball, and my corsage made me feel like the belle of

the ball. The patriotic stars and stripes spilled out into the hallway and dribbled on every other classroom door in the place. Matching decorations were carefully packed in the box headed for Kosovo so that my husband and his unit could decorate along with us. There was a huge banner that the students signed, sending their love, prayers, support and gratitude to the soldiers protecting their freedom and their safety.

There were so many other surprises for me throughout the year, including a Valentine’s Day gift, an Easter basket (signed “From the Easter Bunny,” of course), as well as two huge welcome-home baskets of goodies to use in celebrating my husband’s return. One student brought a bag of HERSHEY’S KISSES to comfort me while my husband was away, and another presented me with a stuffed dog that looked exactly like my own Boston terrier, Toby. She thought having a stuffed Toby at school would keep me from getting lonely. There were lots of questions about how I was doing, who was shoveling my driveway, how the house was holding up and an occasional “Hooah” when the kids thought it appropriate. It always made me laugh, no matter what I was trying to teach!

Before my husband’s deployment, I envisioned “serving your country” as serving in the armed forces and a few other choice careers that also fit the bill. Now, I know that serving your country involves so much more.

When we help each other in times of need, when we volunteer our time and effort to make our schools and cities better places, we serve our country. When we become informed voters and concerned citizens, we serve our country. When we support the families and friends of deployed soldiers, we serve our country. Good deeds strengthen our communities, and, one by one, they build a strong nation. This is what “united we stand” is all about.

I hope and pray that my students learned a lot about reading and language arts from me this year. I trust they learned the true meaning of patriotism as well. Hooah!

Theresa Doss

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