As published in: The Daily Nonpareil
| Dec 09 2016
This year, I was fortunate to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Force Base surrounded by some of our nation’s finest men and women in uniform. I had the opportunity to visit with two Iowa companies stationed at Bagram: the B Company, 2-211th AVN, and the 185th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion. While my visit was far too brief, it filled me with gratitude knowing that Iowans are providing such outstanding support in defense of our freedoms.
While sharing some turkey with our troops, I could not help but think of my family back home. It reminded me of the holidays and special occasions I missed while I was deployed with the Iowa National Guard during Operation Iraqi Freedom. As I looked around the Thanksgiving table, I thought of the many soldiers who felt the same at that exact moment.
Military families face unique challenges when a family member is deployed. There are many sacrifices and tough decisions to overcome, and it is certainly not easy. I do not know what I would have done without the unending support from my husband and our family while I was overseas.
As a company commander in Iraq, I often spoke with my young soldiers about the four pillars I strived for, and encouraged them to strive for as well: Assuming risk. Leadership. Service to your community and country. An attitude of gratefulness.
With the holiday season in full swing, gratitude particularly comes to mind. While I am eternally grateful to all of those who responded to the call of duty to protect and serve our nation, I am just as thankful for their families and friends who sacrifice so much and faithfully support our men and women in uniform throughout their service, during their transition back to civilian life, and long after.
Recently, I had the honor of attending the troop send off for the 467th Firefighting HQ DET at Fort Des Moines. I met soldiers, ready to deploy to Romania and Bulgaria to defend and support our interests abroad, but I also met their spouses, children, parents and grandparents, who were all present in support of their soldier. These military families know the importance of the task their loved one is undertaking, and seeing their pride and willingness to do their part here at home was inspiring.
Last month marked “Military Family Appreciation Month,” and I urge you to take a moment to thank a military family for the great sacrifices they make every day for our nation. During this season of giving, love and family, I encourage you to bring comfort to our military families and thank them for their sacrifices. While our soldiers are thousands of miles away defending our freedoms, let us do our part to give them peace of mind that their families are appreciated and cared for here at home.
– U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst is a Republican from Red Oak who served in Iraq with the Iowa National Guard.