On August 2nd, 2008, we held our farewell ceremony at the Reserve Center.
Ceremonies are important and necessary. They allow us to reward individuals, celebrate special occasions, and provide a touchstone to the customs and courtesies we have in this organization.
This ceremony was just what it should be; short, to the point, attended by loving families, and followed by good food. We had six guest speakers; the battalion commander, the brigade commander, a local fire chief and three local and state politicians. And still we kept the whole thing under 30 minutes. It was attended by our families and the press.
The one recurring theme for all of the speakers is the importance of family to the Soldier. Nothing could be more true. Wherever the winds of politics push an administration, for good or ill, and Soldiers go into harms way with or without the support of the public, one thing remains strong - the need for or family to support us.
The family takes on so much in our absence. Spouses take over all of the household duties; mowing lawns, changing diapers, paying bills, and countless other menial tasks. The truth is that they could do all of this on any given day if their partner was running late, or out of town for a few days. However, not having that partner by their side day after day for months on end makes the work more apparent.
Children probably face the biggest hurdles. A parent is far away. They may not know much, but children know enough to know that "war" is dangerous - people die in wars. On Active Duty posts the support system is larger and better integrated into daily life. Not so for the kids of Reservists and National Guardsmen. For example, my daughter is the only child in her school whose parent is deployed. In fact, she may be the only child in the entire school district. How prepared are her teachers? I know that I personally struggle with the emotions of being away from my two children over the course of the next year.
And so we need a ceremony like this to say good-bye in some official way. Even though we were not going anywhere until next week, our families were there - and there were hugs all around, tears, and laughter.
A lot of the details of the ceremony were captured by the press on TV channels WTVH, and WYSR, on the web, and in print.