For this Veterans Day, I'm saluting the unsung heroes who aid our men and women in uniform. Of course, I'm referring to members of American military families.

Most people don't realize the hardships these people could endure by supporting loved ones, who keep our nation safe and secure.

Growing up in a Navy family, perhaps I can shed some light on the subject.

My father was a career man, who served in World War II and during times of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. Since he was a senior commissioned officer, we probably had it better than many of those who protect our nation. But that doesn't mean there weren't sacrifices on the part of every family member. Take my mother, for example:

She had a bachelor's degree in journalism and dreams for her own professional career. But as a Navy wife, her first duty was to support my father in his service to the country. Several relocations ordered by the military made it just about impossible for her to pursue personal vocational goals until later in life.

Although we were from California, the Navy usually had Dad assigned on the East Coast and at one time, serving a 24-month tour of duty in Asia. For my mother, this meant separation from her parents and other relatives for extended periods. Santa Monica friends she had grown up with, became pen pals or simply forgotten.

While Mom had friends in the Navy, their husbands would eventually be assigned to other places. Sometimes they would meet again and other times not.

The wife of an officer in those days was a social director. Her husband's future in the military was partially judged by her ability to entertain via dinner parties and other group activities. Friday and Saturday nights were usually reserved for social engagements Ñ either by hosting one of these events or by attending functions orchestrated by other officers' wives.

Children in these families also had challenging issues. Military kids today still do. Because of ordered relocations, a child might attend several different schools during the K-12 years. This not only causes academic hardships, as not all programs are created equal, but problems in establishing long-term relationships with peers.

I can remember my father being reassigned to another part of the country. To keep peer separations from being painful, I would deliberately pick fights with friends in order to create a "good riddance" scenario.

Yet on the positive side, I looked forward to seeing new places and experiencing different parts of the country. This never would have happened had my parents remained in Southern California. It certainly broadened personal perspectives and helped me realize that not everyone sees the world in the same way.

Perhaps the worst part of being in a military family is the uncertainty that happens when the armed services member is deployed. This can mean separation for up to a year or more. Of course, the burden of raising children at this time can fall solely on the back of the other spouse, which is usually the mother. If both parents serve, grandparents may play a role in childcare.

Wartime anxiety can be overwhelming. One never knows if the dedicated service person has spent his or her last day on Earth. Everyone in the family fears looking out the window and seeing two unknown officers exiting a staff car and approaching the home's front door.

So why do these families make sacrifices that others never do? Perhaps there are many reasons. But primarily, it's because they love their nation as much as the member who is serving. They know our country cannot remain strong and free unless there are those willing to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done.

For career people, the military becomes a way of life. It's like one big family. Often children grow up to serve as well. In my case, it was the U.S. Army. One of my two sisters worked at the Naval Academy and married a Naval officer. The other married an Air Force veteran.

The military is also a community of respect and strong values. Most service people and their families understand that sacrifice for the benefit of others is a far greater personal reward than pursuit of narcissistic, self-centered endeavors.

It's my hope that we will not only remember the military personnel who have served on this Veterans Day, but also those who quietly dedicate their lives in support of these honorable people. Many family members have endured financial and emotional hardships, which others can only imagine.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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