The Cross & the Pen: A Conversation with Ellie Kay
- Friday, March 21, 2003
Eva: Ellie, I have found that when we are hurt or angry-or even dealing with self-righteous emotions-we don't always see the obvious. Even though it may be obvious for some as to why you suggest mending fences "before," would you elaborate?
Ellie: The military member should mend fences with those around him. If he is estranged from his parents, if his in-laws drive him nuts, if he's giving his wife the cold shoulder---he needs to make these situations right. It is hard to send your spouse away on a deployment; it is doubly hard if you know they don't have their "affairs in order." They may not come back and life is to short to carry grudges when it could be as simple as making a phone call or sending a letter to make things right.
Eva: You incorporate quotes and stories from all branches of the service and all ranks, yet there seems to be a commonality among all military families. How do you explain this common bond?
Ellie: We all face the same challenges, circumstances and we are all in the "business" of defending our nation's freedom. We know the "price" we pay for freedom (separations, moving, employment challenges for the spouses, new schools for kids, lower pay) are all for a greater good. We were patriots long before being a patriot was cool.
Eva: You write that many military families develop a keen sense of humor in order to get by. Can you give us an example?
Ellie: When Bob is gone, something usually breaks. I like to put it in good news/bad news terms. Here are a couple of actual examples. "Honey the good news is they have another garage door in stock." Or "The good news is that the neighbor was home at 6:00 a.m. when the hot water heater broke and flooded the entire bottom floor of the house--he helped me shut off the water. The other good news is that the kids all helped me mop up the mess and we still got them to school on time."
Eva: Your book features "Hidden Hero Profiles." Why did you add this unique feature?
Ellie: I always enjoy reading the personality profiles in the Sunday paper's magazine insert (Parade). I thought it would be a unique format to use to get to know some of these heroes better.
Eva: Can you give us an example of a hidden hero?
Ellie: 1)A woman whose husband deploys for war and she has a baby two weeks later. She doesn't know when he will see his son for the first time and she willingly accepts this lot in life, choosing to make the best of it and support her husband the best she can.
2) A mother with three sons in the military who watches them all go to war at the same time and is proud of their chosen profession even though she faces her own fears of knowing they may not come back.
3) A toddler who only sees Daddy on the weekends when he's in a school for eight weeks in another city five hours away. He doesn't even know that this sacrifice on his part makes him part of the heroes at home club.
Eva: What methods do our servicemen and women use to "stay in touch?"
Ellie: I recommend that before they leave, the cover all the special days (birthday, mother's day, valentines, etc.) and buy gifts and cards to leave with the neighbor. When the special day rolls around, the neighbor delivers the gift. This makes the spouse feel connected even when they are apart. Videotape daddy reading his child's favorite story and let the child play it each night before bedtime. Email and buy a camera so that you can see each other over the Internet. Keep a video journal at home, to document some of the day-to-day stuff that is so missed when they are apart. Incorporate some of the "Serviceman's Wish List" in chapter 16.
Eva: How important are those operations that send email, cards, letters, etc?
Ellie: They make all the difference. They give the serviceman hope, they take them away from the conflict for a little bit of time, they make them feel that they are still a part of their family's life, they let them know people care and are praying for them, they give them a reason to come home.
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