How Do Military Families Cope?

By Chandler S

My father’s second tour of duty would turn out to be the hardest trial of my life. I grew up in a military family where my father served two tours of duty; the first to Iraq when I was in the 5th grade and the second to Afghanistan when I was a sophomore in high school. When time came for my father to leave, I noticed something different in my mother. She was still the same person but was coping with the stress of my father’s being deployed far differently than when he was on his previous tour. She would shut down and isolate herself. She was always there physically if I needed something, but mentally and emotionally were a different story. As a sophomore in high school, life was hard enough having to adjust and to make new friends. I suffered the normal challenges of a young high school student but not having a dad around was a big problem in my life. Not having a father to pat you on the back and tell you that it’s going to be okay was very difficult for me. I needed my dad to personally tell me he loved me. Having my dad gone was hard, but having my mother deal with her stress in a way that made me feel like I was out of the loop made it that much harder. I felt so alone. I was struggling to make friends, my dad was halfway across the world getting shot at, and my mom didn’t want to confront the issue. So we all just bottled it up. This made for one very miserable fifteen-year-old boy.

While growing up I was told that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was supposed to make me happy. I thought that even though I would have hard times, I would never be alone. I was finding that harder and harder to believe. I never doubted the existence of God but I began to doubt that He really cared about me. Yet, one day, I figured I would make a last ditch effort to find strength in the Savior. So I began praying earnestly every night for some kind of peace. Not just the “thanks for this and the please bless me with that” kind of prayer, but really begging my Heavenly Father to help me feel better. As I did this something began to happen to me. My circumstances were the same but I began to see them very differently. I knew that my dad would be okay. I knew that instead of moping around worrying about myself, I should start looking to see what I could do to help my family. I made an effort to lighten the burden for my mother by doing chores around the house. I reached out to my younger brother in private conversation to make sure he was doing okay. I noticed that as I tried to help other people in these small and simple things, I wasn’t so caught up in what was going wrong in my life. I was able to feel the peace I was searching for begin to come into my life. It didn’t come all at once, but gradually, day after day, I felt a change. I really felt my Heavenly Father’s love for me as I helped others.

I now know that Heavenly Father is always there watching and wanting to help us. But I think some people, like me, don’t always ask for the help or have the faith that help will come. I now know that it is through the Savior we can find comfort in life’s trials no matter how big or small. From this personal trial I came to the understanding that we are never alone and that sometimes the best medicine to cure our aching heart is to look around and to try to help someone else fix theirs. To anyone who feels alone: I would invite you to kneel in prayer and ask your Father in Heaven to send the peace and comfort that He sent me. I promise you that it will come, if you believe or even desire to believe.

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