How do you define "ultimate sacrifice?"

How do you define "ultimate sacrifice?"

When thinking of our military, the statement “ultimate sacrifice” conjures up thoughts of dying in the line of fire.

For those of us not wearing the uniform, that truly does seem to be the ultimate sacrifice.

As a military wife and mother, “ultimate sacrifice” sends a blood-curdling chill down my spine.

Just this past week, my husband’s unit suffered an ultimate sacrifice, but it was not what anyone would have suspected.

A soldier in the unit had to take an urgent emergency leave, fighting days of travel and no moments to spare. He was en route to get from one side of the world to another. He needed to beat the clock and get home to his family. His little boy was fighting for his life. Time was not on this soldier’s side.

Our oldest son just returned from a deployment, and when I shared this story, he sent a text that read, “That’s awful, undoubtedly the worst part of the job, being away until an emergency comes up. Will pray for them.”

As the events of the past few days unfolded, my husband and I have not had our heads on straight. Just when we think our problems are beyond solving, inevitably we hear of someone else’s struggles which are significantly worse. Our conversations were all over the map – how do we help? What can we do? Have you heard any more? I knew how much my spouse was hurting because he couldn’t be with his battle buddy.

Our discussions turned to being in the military, and how much of a sacrifice it really is. Not just to the service member, but to their families. Serving our nation, whether on active duty or reserve status, is a major sacrifice on so many levels – deployments, moving, children changing schools, financial hardships, injuries, death – you name it. In the back of every service member and family member’s mind is the term “ultimate sacrifice.”

How do we really define it?

My soldier explained that dying for the nation wasn’t really the ultimate sacrifice, at least for him, because he wouldn’t be around to know.  I, wanting to interrupt, waited for him to continue.

“Our ultimate sacrifice is time.”

Honestly, with as much as we have been apart, I couldn’t agree more.

I stopped and thought about all the things he and our son and countless others have missed due to training, field exercises and deployments: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries – that’s pretty obvious.

But they miss so much more.

How many births were watched via video feed? How many graduations, proms, school plays, T-ball games and other moments have been missed? Or the helpless feeling that comes over them when they aren’t home to comfort their colicky baby, fix a flat tire, or help with damage caused by floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters? Think of all the moments in the day and milestones in a year, and I can perfectly understand just how a service member would feel that time is the ultimate sacrifice.

Our battle buddy made it home in time to spend a few precious moments with his little boy, before life for that family was forever changed. I ask, if you would, please keep this family close in your thoughts and prayers. No need for names – our Father knows who they are.

I would also ask, too, that if you really, truly want to honor and thank our veterans  and service members, that you would make a personal commitment to make one change in your life: don’t waste your time. Put down that device and spend time with your loved ones. Stop bickering about politics. Don’t engage in toxic conversations. If your marriage is hurting, try to mend it. If you are estranged from a loved one, pick up the phone or send a letter.  If you are battling with your neighbor, be the bigger person.  Help where you can. Make your moments count. Pray. Hug your spouse, parents, children and grandchildren tight.

“Waste your money and you're only out of money, but waste your time and you've lost a part of your life.” – Michael LeBoeuf

 © Lynne Cobb – 2014 

Lynne is a professional writer, whose essays on family and military life have been published in national magazines and metro-Detroit newspapers. Read more on her blog.

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