(This has been reposted in remembrance of Veteran's Day)
In my wildest dreams, I never thought I'd end up the proud matriarch of a military family.
As a child, the closest I got to anyone in the armed services, was an arm's length from the television set while watching Gomer Pyle, McHales Navy, and F-Troop.
While I may have laughed at the antics of the military characters on TV, I knew that in real life, soldiers, sailors and marines weren't the baffoons that Hollywood made them out to be.
We were reminded of the serious nature of war, every night on the evening news, as the networks ran footage of the carnage in Vietnam. Sadly, rather than being awed and frightened by what I saw, the routine delivery of the reporting night-after-night-after-night was anesthetizing.
Living as we did, in predominately white, upper-middle class communities, the turmoil I witnessed on television seemed as remote and irrelevant to me as the history we studied in school.
The young men I witnessed fighting and dying in our family room nightly, were little more than characters in a movie.
My brother, and the other boys of our generation, imagined their way into combat with G.I. Joe, and company, but I couldn't in any way relate or identify with the American soldier and his experience.
As unpopular as the Vietnam War was, it would never have occurred to me to denigrate American troops.
I didn't fully understand the politics of the time, but I did try to make sense of what was going on around me, and I knew it was wrong, based upon the values my parents had instilled upon me, to vilify the people our government was sending into combat.
The war in Vietnam ended in 1975, two years before I graduated from high school. Mandatory conscription was discontinued two years before the end of the war.
I spent the next twenty-five years, blissfully ignorant of the perils of military service, as I raised my three daughters in the insulated environment of upper-middle class America.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, my husband was on an American airlines flight from LA to DC. His flight landed without incident, but our lives were forever changed.
We moved to San Diego, home of the First Marine Corps Battalion when my girls were in their late teens.
I was obviously apprehensive when my daughters' dates appeared on our front porch in uniform. I had no idea what to expect, or how to entertain somebody trained to fight and kill another human being. Combat did strange things to people, or so I'd been told.
The young men that sat at our dining table, or gathered around our pool were just that, young men far from home, appreciative of a home-cooked meal, and a chance to be a part of a family again, if only for a few hours.
Invitations to barbecues, led to invitations to holiday dinners. As they rotated back and forth to Iraq, I found myself worrying for their safety, and wondered how on earth their mother's slept at night.
For the first time in my life, the American soldier/marine/sailor/airman, was more than just a card board cut-out to me.
My son-in-laws are civilians now, with more than twenty-eight years of service between them. They are loving husbands, and daddies, sweet, kind and gentle. I don't think about it often, but I never want to forget, that they are also real-life, flesh and bone heros who were willing to give their lives for their country.
I'm proud to call these Marines, my sons.