U.S. Military History: Unrecognized Heroes

Ross Dunfee

When you hear your service-song played and you were in that branch of military service, please stand and be recognized. And so, the song goes, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and now Space Force. In turn, veterans of each branch of military service stand, the audience appropriately applauds the veterans, and at the song’s conclusion the remainder of the celebration continues. But was a significant patriot group not recognized?

In the Navy I was told that if the Navy wanted me to have a wife, the Navy would have issued me one. I married halfway through my enlistment and with no children or household responsibilities until after my discharge. There were plenty of married personnel in the military who left spouses at home with financial and domestic responsibilities. Some marriages made it, and some did not.

Life as a military spouse is filled with fear, loneliness, anxiety, and social pressure. It can be difficult for a spouse left at home while other “couples” are getting together to socialize. Being left at home while a service member is off to war can also lead to a variety of stress disorders and unrealized tensions that may manifest years later. Some couples simply were not meant to be separated.

Possibly one of the more famous spouses of a military leader was Martha Washington. She was one who couldn’t be separated from her husband. George had been fighting a war for two years when he decided to spend the winter at Valley Forge, Penn. Wars, back then, came to a halt in the winter because of bad weather, so George took the time to rebuild and retrain the Colonial Army. Unbeknownst to George, there were another five years of fighting ahead of him. Requesting help from home, Martha paid George a visit during the winter of 1776-77.

How times have changed! During her stay at Valley Forge, Martha managed George’s headquarters. She organized social events for the officers and soothed the tempers of the officers and their wives. She was a comfort not only to her husband but to the troops as well, who she visited regularly. She nursed sick soldiers and acted as a liaison between junior officers and George. She cheered the downhearted spirits of the troops when the prospect of a victory looked bleak. She was also the General’s sounding board and confidant. She acted as his secretary and represented him at official functions. Similar to today’s warriors, she left the comforts of family and home, often traveling through dangerous territory to be a war participant.

Today spouses and family members are not permitted to perform the activities of Martha Washington. Today’s warriors leave the comforts of home headed for battle, and the spouse remains, at times without even knowing the warrior’s destination. “Will I ever see ______ (fill in a name) again” goes through every spouse’s mind. The answer is sometimes Yes and sometimes No. During WWI, families with service members hung a banner at home with a blue star for every member in service. The blue star was replaced with a gold star for every member lost in battle. Thus began the Gold Star organization.

For spouses and family members, the next time you hear the military branch service song, stand up and represent the warrior (whether they returned home or not). After all, who is the hero, the one who left home or the one who stayed home? I suggest both.

SOT-AZ (Support Our Troops-Arizona) honors our heroes by presenting 628 USA flags along the boulevards in Robson Ranch 11 times each year. SOT-AZ also solicits funds through various events during the year and distributes those funds to many veterans’ support groups. Visit www.sotaz.org to learn more about SOT-AZ.