Jennifer Milele is a dear friend who I met at networking event. Jennifer's personality, her work ethics, and love of political satire are attributes that I admired instantly. Our friendship grew deeper when I hired her for several graphic jobs. Now we interact several times a week while “working on the paper.” Jennifer is also a night owl like me and has answered her phone at 3:00am to hear me read a blog post. She has weighed in on many blog posts that never made it to print or the Internet over the years.
Our mutual love of politics keeps us constantly discussing the issues that are considered hot topics of the day. The only thing that we talk about more than politics is our children. We spend countless hours discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of parenting young people in today’s culture. Jennifer has two sons. I have two sons and a daughter. Jennifer’s oldest is a Marine. My friend’s pride in her son’s decision to serve his country is no secret to those of us who know her and to those who meet her for the first time. If you visit her home, there is a Marine flag on the mail box and a Marine sign on the front door. When entering her home, the Marine memorabilia meets her faith. You know right away what her passions in life are: God, family, and country!
Last month, her son, Tyler, was home for a short visit prior to his deployment to Afghanistan. I made up some excuse to drop by. I wanted to tell him in person how proud I was of him serving our country. That visit lead to an interview where he shares about his decision to serve our country as a Marine. Meet Lance Corporal T. Hoffman:
Why did you decide to enlist in the USMC?
To be a part of defending America's freedoms.
Have you always wanted to serve?
Where are you stationed?
Camp Lejeune, NC.
Where will you be deployed?
What has your greatest experience been so far?
I love being a dog handler.
You got married recently. How has being married affected you?
I have a wife now who I am responsible for and someday hopefully a family. I am fighting for their freedoms as well, so hopefully my children won't have to.
Do you have any fears?
My dog overlooking IEDs and/or getting blown up.
What would you like us to know about being a Marine that many of us would not know?
That freedom is not free, it has a price. It always has and always will. The risk of NOT fighting overseas on the enemy's turf is far greater than going. If we don’t fight them there, we would be fighting them here in our own country and that would put our families and loved ones at greater risk.
Not everyone can be a Marine. How does that make you feel to wear the uniform of a few?
It makes me very proud and honored, especially when I look back now seeing everything I have accomplished up until this point.
How do you feel about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?
I feel that if you are open about your sexual preferences that would create a lack of bonding within the corps and military as a whole, and as a result would bring division. We cannot be divided within our military because that puts us at greater risk. I don’t want to feel that members of my team may not have my back in a life/death situation. I also feel it diminishes the "image" of the Marine Corps.
How does serving affect your faith?
It makes it harder to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ because the military has become a very secular environment with so many restrictions.
Do you have any last thoughts?
It makes me angry when Americans complain about trivial things and how bad their life is here. We are the greatest and most blessed nation and we take too many things for granted. If Americans had a clue what it was like to live in other parts of the world we would truly realize what a blessed nation we really are. We should be grateful to God for our freedom and liberty.
Wow. He is so young, married, faithful, and serving our country on such a dangerous mission. Reading his words makes me want to throw a ticker tape parade for him just for the hell of it. As Independence Day is fast approaching, his words about freedom are playing over and over in my head. As I was preparing this post for print, I decided to turn off the nightly hate feast that "highlights" everything that is wrong with our country for the remainder of the week. The hate is killing the united in United States of America.
When I think about Jennifer, I get teary-eyed. She is a rock for her family and a dear friend who has counted the cost a thousand times over the last few weeks about her son’s military mission. She has shared her fears, hopes, and dreams for him. In June, I called her as she was preparing for the 12-hour drive back from North Carolina to Tennessee to wish the family a safe trip. She was one proud Momma! After chatting briefly, I said a quick prayer for her son and his dog that will be protecting our country’s interests for the next year. I also prayed for the family. They are serving along beside him.
During our July 4th celebrations, let us take an opportunity to have a real conversation with a military family. They are everywhere in our communities. Ask the families how they and their loved ones are doing. I challenge you to make an after-holiday pledge to keep celebrating our country’s Independence by emailing or penning a letter to an enlisted solider. Long after the ribs and hot dogs are gone, they are still serving our country. Thank God for that! As Lance Corporal Hoffman said, “Freedom is not free.” Have a wonderful Independence Day!