Young Military Love: Why you should stop saying "happy" Memorial Day
Every time someone says “Happy Memorial Day,” it always strikes me as inappropriate. I know most people don’t realize what they are saying, it is a holiday after all, however, the day is meant to honor and mourn those military men and women that lost their lives in service. While I admit, it is possible to happily honor a fallen service woman or celebrate the life of a soldier gone too soon, using the term happy still seems odd.
In this career, I’ve photographed many military weddings but never had the chance to photograph a military engagement session. As luck would have it, I can’t imagine having more success than I did with this one!
I recently told the story of Sadi and Caleb, who married in May 2021 at Oak and Pine Alley, in St. Martinville. What I didn’t feel like I wrote enough about was the difficulty that it is to be in a young military relationship.
Before I met my now-husband, my most serious relationship before him was with a man in the military. Dating someone who is just starting out from basic training and building a career and life in the military - well, I’ll just say it’s not for the faint of heart (obviously it took its toll where I’m concerned).
Many of us, myself included, take for granted just how much time we get with our loved ones when we both work a standard 9-5 job. It’s hard to explain to someone who has never lived a military relationship, the ache you feel when your loved one starts basic training or how strange it is not sharing a phone call or text, especially in a modern era where everyone seems so attached to their phone. You can’t really explain how strange it is to revert back to letter writing as your primary means of communication or the intimacy of the bond you build when you put pen to paper rather than the usual falling asleep on the phone after a period of silence, or those, “no you say goodbye first,” conversations. There is no space for useless chatter in a letter - you write with purpose and tend to write yourself closer even when you’re miles apart.
You can’t explain the pride that comes with sitting at a graduation, a promotion ceremony, or any military event really. The structure, tradition, honor, and patriotism that come along with them are unlike anything I’ve experienced. Each event would always leave me in a weird and unexplainable “AMERICA” high. I almost bought a bumper sticker. I don’t mean that in jest. I literally was so darn proud I wanted everyone to know, even if it meant an old-fashioned bumper sticker, that under other circumstances I would consider tacky. I was convinced a shirt was more tasteful but I’d still be proud of that bumper sticker had I committed.
Lastly, no one (and I mean NO ONE) prepares you for deployment. Months go by and you’re blessed if you’re able to enjoy a video call. Those calls are few and far between and they don’t necessarily coincide with your holiday or event schedule either. If you have big news, it has to wait, along with everything else including but not limited to planning a family or having your loved one weigh in on big decisions. You send letters, but it’s harder this time because you’re constantly worried whether or not THIS one will make it to him or if it might be the last one he gets to read. Will he come home? Is he safe? What is he doing? Is he scared? No one prepares you for the millions of questions you get every time you show up stag… or the sheer fact that you always show up stag. For some, that means missed holidays, milestones, weddings, t-ball games, funerals, or giving birth alone.
Then, one way or another deployment is over. For those blessed enough to make it back stateside, some return in honor, many with scars, most with scars unseen, but none return the same. Navigating life in and after the military is tough and that alone deserves some sort of medal of valor. Navigation life after losing someone in the military, well that’s something no one deserves. To families of fallen military men and women, we honor you and your loved one. We thank them for their sacrifice for our freedoms!
HUGE thank you Sadi and Caleb for providing some of the most breathtaking images for this blog. Specifically on the cover photo: This image is a five-photo composite meant to express the feelings I felt in a military relationship, a feeling that I believe most military couples can relate to. While the world moves on and seldom realizes how much time you've spent apart, your relationship progresses at what seems like a snail's pace. While two letters have to circulate half the globe and back before you can have one exchange with your loved one, the world is whizzing by and moving on, one text chime or Insta post at a time. Your loved one is stuck while you are immersed half in both worlds, holding on for dear life.