The sound of boots smacking the pavement. The whip of helicopter blades cutting through the air. The sound of an American flag waving in the wind. These are the sights and sounds of life on a military installation.
I grew up in this world.
I was born into an Army family. I was born into gold. Okay, not exactly, but I was born at Fort Knox, Kentucky! My father was an Army officer who left the coal mining hills of West Virginia to see the world and join the Armed Forces. In my first 18 years of life, I moved 12 times. I lived everywhere from Hawaii to Germany. Military life was all I knew, and it felt completely normal. It wasn’t strange to me that I attended multiple elementary schools, or that I would have to pack up my room and move 6,000 miles away after having just unpacked in that room a year before. That was just life!
These experiences of moving, starting over, making new friends, and even learning new languages instilled in me a deep love for the military community, as well as an appreciation for the individuals and organizations that support them.
This past May, I had the privilege of “going home.” No, not to a military installation I once lived on, but to a military post that I’ve never seen before or previously visited. You see, when you grow up in the military, driving through the gates onto any military installation is the closest thing to visiting the DNA of what “made you.”
I visited Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Fort Bragg is home to the Army’s Airborne Corp and the US Army Special Operations Command. What does that really mean? It means that at Fort Bragg there are a lot of tough and rugged soldiers, as well as an entire network of caring individuals who support military families.
Most people don’t know this, but there are hundreds of nonprofit organizations on most military installations. Isn’t that incredible?
For as many forward fighters as we have in our Armed Forces, there are countless organizations that care for the families who are left behind. These nonprofit organizations do everything from meeting basic needs to emotionally and financially supporting families during long deployments.
I visited Fort Bragg a few weeks ago to meet with the director of the Fisher House. The Fisher House is akin to the Ronald McDonald House. Its mission is to provide a safe, clean and quiet environment for military families who find themselves in challenging times – in transition, visiting family in the hospital or simply in need of a place to stay on or near a military installation. According to their website, Fisher Houses all over the world have provided 8 million nights of free lodging to military families since 1990. That’s amazing!!
I’ve always had a heart for these kinds of organizations because I’ve been personally impacted by them.
My youngest son was born prematurely and had to stay in the NICU for over 3 weeks. During his entire hospital stay, my family was able to stay in a Ronald McDonald House, free of charge. I will never forget what a huge blessing that was for my family!
I’ve spent many Saturdays volunteering at Fisher Houses since then. I’ve helped clean, cook and mow the lawn. And as I was sitting in the living room of the Fisher House at Fort Bragg last month, I began to think about the guy who started it all. He had a vision – a heart for a specific group of people, with a specific need – and decided to act on it, having no idea that almost 30 years later, what he started would provide millions of nights of lodging to countless military families. That’s pretty remarkable.
If you’re anything like me, you also have a dream or vision of a way to help someone or meet a need. Acting on it is the scary next step. So I want to encourage you to not lose sight of that vision! Don’t be hampered by the short-sightedness of others. Don’t allow the voices in your head to stop you from acting.
The world needs your heart-in-action. The world needs your vision.
The DNA of the community you grew up in has created you with a specific outlook on life. Whatever shaped or formed you, others may need. So I encourage you, start and don’t stop! Put your vision into small action steps! Who knows where it’ll lead in the next 30 years.
– Nate Cox, Public Affairs Specialist in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves