Tuesday evening, I spent a couple hours of my life meeting and greeting with some of the forgotten 1% of America. It was open house at Eglin Elementary. They came in smiling, couple after young couple with their children around them. They represented all kinds of ethnic backgrounds, all sorts of levels of education, and all ranks.
They are the 1%.
They are America's military families.
Eglin Elementary sits on the largest Air Force base in the United States. Most of the children that come there are dependents of military families. Due to Eglin's multi-service nature, we see children whose parents serve in every branch of service. Monday night, I met two families who serve in the 7th Special Forces group. They had just moved down from Ft Bragg NC recently. They were a bit concerned about whether their children would catch up, since we start school much earlier here. One of the things most of America forgets about when they think about the military - if they think about them at all - is the effects on the families the last ten years of war and the deployments have had on the children. Simple things like whether a child is going to be okay in school don't need to be a worry for someone who is putting his/her life on the line. But it can be.
I met a young Marine family in which the dad was working hard to finish Explosive Ordinance School. Surrounded by four children and his wife, he was saying how happy his kids were at school. All the while I was thinking how proud I was to serve as their teacher. Then I met a Navy Chief who was also part of the EOD community. She was a very articulate Mom who stressed that she wanted to see her child succeed. "Just let me know if there's anyway I can help." I couldn't help but think that many of the people in the room had done more than I would ever know to help me already.
In encounter after encounter, I met people who were proud parents wanting the best for their children and eager and willing to assist me in every way they could.
In this tumultuous time, where pundits and politics are cutting America up into percentages, I want to add this. Less than 1% of Americans are serving in the military today.
And we, the 99% have no idea what that 1% gives up to do so.
I was blessed to see those parents Tuesday night. But all America is blessed by them and their compatriots.
THEY are the 1%.