There we were, slamming dominoes, joking, laughing, and sharing stories. That is, until one of them got triggered. The other players joked and tried to make light of the situation, but I could clearly see this one gentleman was struggling to regain his composer. Things went to a very emotional place, fast. Within a couple of minutes, he was back in the middle of a WWII mission, reliving it and acting it out before us. The others had slowly gotten up and left until I was the only one left to listen. My heart…that veteran pulled HARD at my heart strings that morning as he took me back in time.
You see, years ago during my then “just friend’s” second deployment, I volunteered to work with a geriatric program for veterans. I have several friends in the military and their courage and sacrifice has continuously inspired me to want to pay it forward. Initially, I thought I’d go in there and paint or sing with the vets, but quickly realized they wanted to share their life narratives and legacies with me instead. Little did they know they also needed dominoes. Oh yes! Being a Miami-native, how could I NOT bring el domino?! Those friendly veterans needed community. They also needed a good dose of banter and laughter.
The games allowed for this amazing team of veterans to join and socialize, rather than sit alone in a recliner all day. One Friday morning, they seemed to be on a mission, aiming pries at my personal life. I shared about email exchanges I was having with a deployed soldier. Why did I ever go there?! Every meeting after that they ONLY wanted to know about my now-husband. They remembered his name. They worried about his safety. They didn’t even know him! As our friendship evolved into a dating relationship, I realized I needed these veterans in MY life, probably more than they needed our domino socials. It helped for me to chat about the distance, the fears, the potential military lifestyle. I miss that group but am so grateful for the fond memories and encouragement they gave me. They left their prints on my heart y’all!
Since then, I may have been introduced to the Soldier’s Creed once or twice and have read those of other branches. Those creeds speak to the core values of the brave men and women who fight for our freedoms…to the compassion and care these brothers had for my now-spouse. There is a thread of honor, courage, service, and commitment, that I heard across their stories, that I also see in my husband. I am one proud army wife!
The military lifestyle isn’t full of rainbows folks. I know a lot of you reading this already know that, but for those who don’t, there are difficult times. There are sacrifices. There are losses of various types. A little Monday food-for-thought: If you’ve ever thought of volunteering or serving in your community, be encouraged—do it friends! Do it in honor of those service members who have served you. Do it to positively impact your local family, friends, neighbors, and veterans. Don’t stop at “thank you for your service.” Reflect on the talents, gifts, strengths, and resources you can offer to the programs in your local area. Ask what their needs are! They may not need you to paint and sing, but you might need to grab your dominoes 😊
Thanks for visiting with me friends. From my coffee mug to yours—Cheers!
p.s. Stuck for ideas? Volunteer Match can help you find a local organization in need of volunteers: https://www.volunteermatch.org/
USA.gov also has a list of organizations: https://www.usa.gov/volunteer
p.p.s. If you know of community programs searching for volunteers, please feel free to comment and share with the @rockyroadsandrainbows community. Has volunteering had a positive impact on your life? I’d love to hear how!