Choose Your Extended Family Wisely

Last week I had the special privilege of meeting my son Nathan as he returned home from Afghanistan. He is serving with the 101st, stationed at Ft. Campbell, KY, and was due to return on Tuesday, March 24. I zipped down there on Monday, and then discovered…his flight had been changed. On Wednesday night, as I was ‘talking’ with him as he was in Shannon, Ireland and I was checking the Welcome Home ceremonies, we both realized that his flight was due in at 0425 Thursday. I confirmed…that meant 4:25 am. I quickly went to bed, having set the alarm for 3:15 am.

(The following is the story I shared with the rest of our extended family, spread out over the country from SC to CA)

I arrived on base about 3:45 am. As I followed the signs to the family parking area, in the darkness and the rain, I saw two moms ‘unloading their car’ and getting their three children situated in strollers. I stopped, rolled down my window and asked what was the next step. They pointed in the direction of the location of shuttle buses. I couldn’t see anything, just trusted they were there. I thanked them, continued looking for a parking spot, and finally got situated at the very end of the row. I walked briskly to the area the ladies had indicated, and then I heard, before I saw, the buses moving. I started to run faster as I saw them taking off, and then the first one stopped…and waited for me. I stepped on to it, and there were the two moms with their three kids. They had seen me running and wanted to make sure I got a ride. Wow….what a family!

I asked them whom they were meeting. They had joined forces to arrive at 4 am to greet a friend who had no other family to be there on that morning. Good thing it was dark, because I was getting teary-eyed. What a family!

We got off the bus in the rain, and the moms got their children into the ‘welcome hangar’ quickly. They had little strollers for the two smallest, and one who was already settled in reached out and put his little hand around the other stroller frame, connecting the two of them (I should have taken a picture!)… perhaps unconsciously a statement of how these families hang on and support each other. What a family!

We separated at that point, and I quickly found a seat.

There were banners and posters all over the place. Family of all shapes and sizes, and everyone looking their best. Wives were in heels and dressed beautifully as they were greeting their spouses home from a war assignment. It was an amazing experience- the sights and sounds  of family welcoming home family who had done well. The room was electric with great anticipation, deep pride, and a sense of purpose and accomplishment not seen in many assemblies of our country today.

The family next to me, I discovered, had come up from Jacksonville, FL. Parents and sister of the daughter/wife, parents of the soldier…with a homemade rain-stained sign that said “We love you, Paul” with hearts surrounding the words. Eventually, the father-in-law came in from the rain, as he had been standing outside as the soldiers got off the plane and got into formation. What a family!

(After the soldiers marched into the hangar in formation, and brief remarks, we had about 15 minutes together…that experience provided its own emotion. The soldiers were called back into formation, and marched out to turn in equipment, etc.)

I waited in the designated area with other family members, and waited, and waited…talked with Kim, Patrick’s mom…talked with FRG (Family Readiness Group) leaders- women who volunteer to be the liaison between those at home and those away, and provide support during the deployment. We got periodic updates…’looks like it will be another hour or so’…’we are missing 5 dufflebags’ (several waiting family members volunteered their services to locate them… we were a highly motivated group!) ….’another 50 soldiers to process’…

Finally, at 9 am, (so that was about 4 hours of waiting!) they were all released…for the day…

Now, why would I include such a personal story on this blog where I have been sharing insights about lifestyle choices?

What I saw last week was an extended family supporting each other. They were there for each other. They made sacrifices for each other. Together, they are a team, the Army, and they get the job done. They’re the best in the world. But they don’t do it alone.

Many overweight individuals try to lose extra inches on their own instead of finding help that can teach them how to get healthy. Increasingly, studies show that not only does the likelihood of being overweight increase among friends and family members, but the opposite holds true.

When people joined a group based on a weight loss program with family and friends, they lost more weight and kept it off better than those who joined the same program alone, according to research published in the Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology.

We are not able to select our birth family- that decision is made by our Creator. However, our choice of extended family is ours! That choice includes those chosen by marriage, as well as by activities and association. 

Is your extended family heading down the lifestyle path that you want for yourself?

Choose wisely!

BTW, what has been your experience?

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