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Air Force

Dear Air Force: Had it not been

Dear Air Force,

Where to begin? How do I put into words how I feel at the end of a 24-year relationship that brought some of the best experiences but also some of the hardest moments? I can remember feeling excited and exhilarated but I can’t ignore all the times you made me feel scared and alone. Had it not been for the highs and lows, I wouldn’t have learned what I have.

Lamenting and thanksgiving

Honestly, I wrote and rewrote this post a dozen or more times. I just couldn’t find all the words nor the right ones. A couple of versions sounded too angry and I don’t want to bow out now with anger. My friend Ashley is a minister and preached many sermons on lament. See her sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv7UxeFzbcU  The Bible has a whole book of Lamentations, prayers of anguish calling out in faith. Part of walking in faith is lamenting. Job lamented. Even Jesus wept. I realize now that had it not been for the lamenting, thanksgiving would not have followed. With pain, disappointment, sorrow, chaos comes praises of thanksgiving in the morning. Therefore, I find thanksgiving in the ‘had it not been’ statements.

Had it not been

Had it not been for Chris washing out of pilot training, he never would have crossed trained into Airfield Management. That career change opened up many opportunities for us. We never returned to a previous duty assignment or location which was a good thing.

Had it not been for his year-long remote to South Korea, I never would have discovered just how strong I really am. I met some of my dearest friends during this time. Even though it was a really hard time, I found out what I was made of. A sweet reward of this remote was that we were handed an assignment to Germany!

Had it not been for The War on Terrorism and living in a foreign country, I would not have experienced childbirth with three of my closest friends. This was by far the scariest thing I have ever gone through. It is a barometer by which I measure all the hard things in my life thereafter. I thought I was strong from that year-long remote, but this made me stronger.

Had it not been for all the moves, I wouldn’t have friends around the world. The friends we have collected are by the far the greatest treasure we have gained.

Had it not been for all the deployments, I never would have known who Missy Kuester is when she is alone. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time alone and I like my own company.

Had it not been for Oklahoma, Germany, and Delaware, I would not have my three sons.

Had it not been for all the places we lived, I couldn’t share those experiences with others. I can say definitely that I have lived there and known what it’s like. I’ve lived in other cultures and with people not like me. It makes me a better human. See my previous post about the exciting life my kids have lived, https://missykuester.com/reasons-i-dont-want-you-to-feel-pity-for-my-military-kids/.

Had it not been for assignments to Germany and Belgium and South Korea, we wouldn’t have traveled and seen places some people only dream of. I have sailed the fjords of Norway, stayed in a home given to General Patton near Normandy, and experienced the 70th-anniversary activities. I have stood on battlegrounds, been to Paris, gone in a boat in the canals of Amsterdam, Venice, and Switzerland. I have eaten whale, reindeer, and a lot of weird stuff in Korea. The experiences are too numerous to list here but I treasure them all.

Had it not been living away from our families, I wouldn’t have been able to show them the world and our beautiful country.

Had it not been for the 7 deployments, I would have never experienced the homecomings

Had it not been for all the goodbyes, I never would have had the hellos.

Had it not been for all the heartache and loss, I never would have known how truly blessed I am.

Had it not been for the Lamenting I wouldn’t have Praises of Thanksgiving.

Who holds the future

When I started this blog, my friend Angie asked me what I wanted to write about. She asked if I wanted to write a military blog. My answer was a resounding, “No!” As I explained to her, I want to be something other than a military wife. It has defined me for the past 24 years. It is time to be someone else. I don’t yet know who that will be but I’m looking forward to meeting her. I don’t know exactly what the future holds but I know who holds the future.

It’s been an honor.

It’s been hard.

I believe those two statements best describe our years as a military family and go hand in hand with one another. I’m glad we did it but I’m glad it’s over. I’m tired.

So, to you, Dear Air Force, thank you, for making me who I am. While you didn’t always live up to your end of the bargain, I know I gave you everything I had. 

Thank you Air Force, had it not been for you my life would be profoundly different but in the end I wouldn’t change a thing.

Now, off we go into the Wild Blue Wonder…….

 

 

 

Jenny says hi sign

My best friend lives in heaven

On April 27, 2011, at the age of 36, Jennifer, my best friend passed away. Something happens to a person when they lose their best friend. I have found in the years following her death, I have tried to live out all the good parts of who she was. Her life influenced me but her death changed me. I still have a best friend but my best friend lives in heaven.

Jenny on her 21st birthday
My best friend, Jenny on her 21st birthday.
©missykuester.com

Here is the eulogy I spoke at her funeral with her parents’ blessing.

An Ode to my Woobie

I had the distinct honor of being Jennifer’s best friend. It all started in choir class, in the front row. We struck an unlikely friendship that lasted for over 20 years. My husband has known Jenny since Kindergarten. His first memory of her was that she couldn’t drink the milk and had to get the juice at snack time. He and I have a long history with Jenny.

Jenny was adventurous when I knew her in high school, she kind of scared me. She was falling out of haylofts, breaking bones, and passing out off the back of bleachers long before it was cool to do so. But she kept on being that feisty 16-year old I always knew. She and I have our secrets; we have things out parents don’t even know about. She’s keeping my secrets and I will keep hers. She’s the friend that knows my history and my story. She’s also my Woobie, and there’s a story behind that too. We were at my house playing Scattegories, the category was a pet name you would give someone and the letter was W. Without knowing what the other one had written, we both came up with the same name, Woobie. We had that kind of chemistry.

Jenny was my maid of honor and I was hers. At her wedding, she asked me to sing the song, Friends (by Michael W. Smith). In the song, the words say, “A friend’s a friend forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never ‘cause the welcome will not end.” Our welcome never ended. As I moved away and became the adventurous one I always took her in my pocket. Jenny made me adventurous and it took that spirit to do some of the things I’ve had to do over the years. After every trip, she wanted to know what I had seen and done. She wanted to live the adventure with me.

Jenny saw me bring three beautiful boys into this world. She was their godmother. And she was my ever faithful, cheerleader, and encourager. She loved my boys, prayed for them, and she had a bond with them. She took the job of godmother very seriously.

The one regret I have is that I wasn’t always there for her but I knew she was always in good hands. And no matter how much time or distance, as soon as I stepped foot in her presence it was as if I hadn’t been gone so long. As my life and my friends changed over the years depending on where I lived, she was the one true constant friend I had. And she never made me feel guilty for not being there; in fact, she always told me how proud she was of me.

I take from Jenny her feistiness; I used to be the docile one without an attitude…..I used to but not anymore. I take from her an adventurous spirit, sometimes launching myself off into the unknown just like she did on that rope swing out at the Salamonie Reservoir. I take her willingness to find the good in all people because we’ve all benefitted from that. I take her love of animals, elephants, babies, scrapbooking, her will to fight, and all the words to ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me.’ In return, I hope I’ve given her something. I promise her now that I’ll live a life she would be proud of now and always.

Friends are friends forever

I wish you were here, but you’re in Heaven. Heaven doesn’t know how lucky it is to have you.”-author unknown.

I realize now that I took having her here on earth for granted. She was my first call when something wonderful happened. My enemies were hers’s and she didn’t need to know the details. If I didn’t like someone, she wasn’t going to like them either. If I was mad, she was madder. She hated injustice of any kind. She was loyal like that. Without going into great detail, Jenny had a host of medical issues, mostly those dealing with her immune system. She was in and out of the hospital for most of her adult life. Like all the times before, I just assumed she would fight, recover, and call to tell me she was feeling better. But that didn’t happen.

Every day is how often I miss her

I honestly believe that God gives you one best friend in life. I miss Jenny every damn day. Today (July 1st) is her birthday. Every year, I like to do something she would want to do. As much as I want to call her on the phone, I can’t. However, I know that she’ll send me a beautiful sunrise, a favorite memory, or she’ll send me on some adventure. Nonetheless, I will celebrate her today and be thankful that I had her in my life for 20 years.

Everyone should have a best friend like Jenny in their lives. Mine just happens to be in heaven.

“Though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.” I promise you, Jenny, we will always be best friends and you’ll always be my Woobie, death cannot change that.

Michael W. Smith singing Friends: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAeD2UEYaAk

cemetery

How I learned to appreciate Memorial Day in a foreign land

Thanks to Covid-19, many Memorial Day activities are canceled or look different. With so many places still closed, it’s the perfect opportunity to reevaluate what Memorial Day is really about. Since I cannot attend my usual activities, I will reflect on our time overseas. Seeing other countries honor our military gave me a renewed appreciation of the meaning of the holiday.

Read more to understand the history of Memorial Day: https://www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert/memorial-day/history/

Observing Memorial Day abroad

Because of my husband’s career in the U.S. Air Force, our family had the opportunity to live overseas in Europe twice. Our second overseas tour was to Belgium where he was the commander of the 424th Air Base Squadron stationed at Chievres, Belgium. Public Affairs would often ask him to attend and participate in memorial services. Many of these events coincided with the day and place a plane crashed during World War II.

Europeans do a great job observing US history in their backyards. During World War II, Chievres Air Base saw activity. Planes flew in and out of Chievres for months supporting their allies. Unfortunately, some aircraft crashed in the surrounding countryside. Those communities to this day still hold ceremonies to memorialize the heroes that sacrificed for their freedoms.

Magnum at ceremony
Magnum at a ceremony in Wodecq, Belgium. ©missykuester.com

On occasion we had activities at the many American cemeteries scattered throughout Europe. While we have been to Arlington Cemetery in the DC area there is something breathtaking about seeing the American cemeteries on foreign land. What is truly remarkable is how our allies honor and memorialize American soldiers. These cemeteries while paid for and monetarily maintained by the American Battles Monuments Commission (https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials), are visited by foreign and local visitors. Some cemeteries have adoption programs that allow local people to adopt an American soldier’s grave. 

Celebrating American heroes in Normandy

We also had the opportunity to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the invasion at Normandy. To walk the beaches that many of our country’s men stormed and died on is humbling. But what struck me the most was how the many non-Americans were there celebrating, honoring, and depicting roles of American soldiers. When tourists found out we were Americans they enthusiastically thanked us and wanted to share their stories and appreciation. How can you not be moved by other citizens celebrating what your countrymen did for them?

Boys at Utah Beach
Our boys at Utah Beach in Normandy France
©missykuester.com

Not the usual Memorial Day

So, your usual cookout, camping trip or other 3 day weekend looks different this year? That’s okay. Maybe we have gotten out of hand with our celebrations. Hopefully this year, we can focus on what Memorial Day represents. This might be the year that it really sinks in for you. It finally hit me when and where I least expected. Standing on foreign soil was when I understand what Memorial Day truly meant. I hope you experience the true meaning of Memorial Day this year. Thank you to all who answered the call and ultimately gave their lives so that we could live a life in freedom.

A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and wood, but it is a principle, and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.    George William Curtis