Waiting is worth the effort

FORT DIX, N.J. -- It was after 5 p.m. and I was on my way home from a range on Fort Dix when I just realized I forgot to call home.

The realization came when I heard a song on the radio in my old Ford Bronco where the refrain was, "Sweetheart, I'll wait for you ..."

I imagined, as the song was playing, my wife at home wondering where I was, and, upon arriving home, giving me that "why didn't you call" look when I walked through the door. Truth is I would have deserved it for making her wait for me. 

However, as the song played on, my mind wandered even further. I had just left a range where hundreds of Airmen were practicing convoy operations as part of the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course put on by the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's 421st Combat Training Squadron. I drove and I thought about them. 

Here I was worried about being late to get home and these Airmen were in training to be away from home for a very long time where their loved ones were going to be waiting for them. 

Now don't get me wrong--I've been deployed before. But to make a point, at the moment I was thinking about all this I mostly wondered how families feel about waiting for those of us in the military to go off and do what we have to do. I believe the waiting, tough as it is, is part of the effort for us all to be successful.

I remember an instance of waiting early on in my life when I was about 8 or 9 years old. It was summer and I went out to pick berries in the nearby field with some of the neighbor children in my Michigan hometown. There were probably at least six of us who wandered out to the various wild strawberry patches and we commenced to filling our empty gallon-sized ice cream buckets with berries.

After a short while, most of the children I was out with picked a few berries and headed home. I stayed behind until my bucket was full. When I got home, my dad was just getting home from work and looked at my bucket in amazement. He knew there were others out there with me, but all he could say was, "Nice bucket of berries...it takes a lot of patience to fill a bucket like that." Even my friends were amazed at how much I got and I eventually shared it all with them. 

In essence, I waited and worked until the job was done. The fruits of my labor were obvious in this case. The same holds true for what we do in the military. 

When our loved ones have to wait for us to return from a deployment or finish what we have to do at work, it's not because they like waiting because no one likes to wait. They do it, I believe, because they know that the very foundation for what we do and how we live as Americans involves some waiting. 

For military families, the waiting takes a bit more patience and understanding. And thank goodness we have so many great people supporting our families. While those of us in the military are working late preparing people to deploy, or we're off on some temporary duty assignment or deployment doing what our job calls us to do, we have the true warriors of the home front waiting for us to return. 

Is waiting fair? Is it always necessary? There is no real answer to that. My belief is the answer lies in the strength of the bond you have with your loved ones and those around you. If you maintain good faith, communication, trust and patience, there's no waiting period that can break that strong bond. 

I've kept my wife and children waiting for me more times than I care to count. I don't like it when it happens. However, I know they love me and I them and when we have to wait apart, we know we will always be together at least in our hearts. 

That day I was driving home from the range I made it home as quick as I could. When I walked through the door, my wife just smiled and said, "How was your day?" I couldn't help but smile back. I briefly thought about my busy day and what was done, but mostly saw that my waiting to come home was well worth the effort.