Change of Perspective

Change of Perspective

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

Change of Perspective

You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.

Pearl S. Buck

I’d been preparing myself for this moment for weeks, and I still wasn’t ready for the feelings of anxiety and fear that overcame me on the day he left.

In the winter of 1997, my family was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. My husband, a helicopter pilot, was part of the 48th Search and Rescue squadron, and he was getting ready for his first deployment to the Middle East. All through the day, a dark cloud hung over me. I was starting to question his commitment to his country, and I was wondering if it was really worth the pain of this separation.

That evening, as my daughter Sabrina was setting the dinner table, she took four plates out of the cabinet: one for her, one for her brother Nick, one for me and one for her father. As she realized her error, and that her father would not be home for dinner that evening, we both gave in to tears.

In an effort to lighten the mood, I took my children to an evening performance of an air force group called Tops in Blue. Their performance promised an evening of patriotic songs and dance routines, and hundreds of us packed into the local community center in our red, white and blue sweaters.

All around me, I saw other military spouses and their children, as well as many members of our civilian community, smiling in anticipation of the evening’s show. Everyone appeared to be in good spirits, and I wondered what was wrong with me and why I was questioning my allegiance to the USA. I just wasn’t feeling patriotic.

It was at this low moment that the colors of the flag were presented, and we rose to sing the national anthem. As I stood there with my hand listlessly over my heart, I noticed an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair about fifteen feet from me.

The first strains of the anthem began, and the gentleman waved toward two of the ushers flanking the stadium sides. The uniformed airmen hurried to his side, and I wondered if he was feeling unwell. They leaned down so the gentleman could whisper his request into their ears, and then gently lifted him out of his wheelchair, supporting his body so he could stand and salute the flag. Our flag.

I looked at my children, and I saw the awe and reverence with which they watched this wonderful man. In that moment, I felt a flash of understanding and a deep sense of shame that I had doubted my husband’s choice to serve in the air force and my commitment as a military spouse. Tears began to stream down my face.

During future deployments, this gentleman became a reminder to me of what it is all about. His example gave me the dose of courage that I needed.

Sonja R. Ragaller

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