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Service and Sacrifice

5/1/2015

Ashley Kepper

A happy military couple

The author and her husband are pictured at their home in St. Marys, Ga.

Each day, brave men and women voluntarily make sacrifices to defend our liberty and way of life. Death, the ultimate sacrifice, naturally comes to mind as we reflect on Memorial Day in late May. But even those who return alive, many suffering from physical or psychological wounds, deserve our thanks. We are incredibly blessed to have military men and women who willingly respond to the call to serve their country, including periods of separation that can be filled with pain, stress, exhaustion and even resentment. As a Navy wife, I have felt this range of emotions, but I always come back to a feeling of gratitude for my husband’s service and for the Catholic faith that binds us together and guides us through thick and thin.

Jimmy first contacted me through a Catholic dating website while he was stationed in Hawaii and I was working in Atlanta. After reading his profile and learning of his Navy life, I responded to his email and thanked him for his service and sacrifice. Although I appreciated his desire to protect and defend America, I never could have imagined the daily sacrifices made by service personnel and their families until we were married.

With time and God’s grace, I grew to accept, then understand, and ultimately embrace the fact that he is called to military service. I now know that for my husband it’s more than a career; it’s a vocation. While I cannot completely comprehend what this call is like, any more than I can completely comprehend a calling to the priesthood or religious life, I am confident that it is part of God’s plan for his life, and for mine, too.

The discipline required by the military fosters virtues such as selflessness, humility, obedience, love of neighbor, temperance, prudence and forgiveness. These same character traits draw Jimmy and me closer to Christ. I am more blessed than I deserve to have married a man who knows the true value of sacrifice. This carries into his vocation as a husband and father. Jimmy also recently joined the Knights of Columbus, and we both have learned how the Order supports military personnel and their families, as well as all people in need.

God is stretching and purifying me through Navy life. While marriage is a means of sanctification for all couples, a military marriage comes with distinct trials that can put tremendous strain on a relationship and family. When unexpected challenges arise, I pray and meditate on Romans 8:28: “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.”

One of the greatest challenges is the lack of control. Our culture values independence and autonomy. Yet servicemen and their families often have little or no control over significant life events. Deployments occur regardless of pregnancies and births, illnesses and deaths, holidays, birthdays, graduations, baby milestones, school events or dance recitals. You receive orders and move accordingly, putting aside personal plans for the greater good. Critical to our national security, these sacrifices can be incredibly painful to our servicemen and their loved ones.

Therefore, a word of appreciation and encouragement goes a long way. Our men and women in uniform desperately need the support of not only friends and family, but of our country as a whole.

As we celebrate Memorial Day, let us find ways to serve those who serve, and say to our brave men and women, and the families who wait and pray for their safe return, “Thank you for your service and sacrifice.”

ASHLEY KEPPER writes from St. Marys, Ga., where her husband, Jimmy, is a member of St. Marys Council 11058.