Ali­son Buck­holtz and her chil­dren Ethan and Esther Moran with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and Mrs. Obama

The scene was famil­iar, but not our place in it. Last night, our mil­i­tary fam­i­ly had the hon­or of light­ing the Hanukkah meno­rah at the White House, recit­ing the bless­ings over the can­dles, and meet­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, Mrs. Oba­ma, and Vice Pres­i­dent Biden. Because my hus­band is serv­ing a 12-month deploy­ment in Iraq he was not with us; our two chil­dren, six-year-old Ethan and four-year-old Esther, talked about their dad with the Pres­i­dent and Vice Pres­i­dent, who thanked them for their ser­vice to the coun­try and sym­pa­thized with the dif­fi­cul­ty of miss­ing a loved one.

In my mem­oir, Stand­ing By: The Mak­ing of an Amer­i­can Mil­i­tary Fam­i­ly in a Time of War, I write about our expe­ri­ence dur­ing my husband’s deploy­ments, and since the last inau­gu­ra­tion I have watched with great inter­est as Mrs. Oba­ma has met with mil­i­tary fam­i­lies around the coun­try to brain­storm on ways to improve the lives of spous­es and chil­dren left behind. It’s a priv­i­lege to speak direct­ly to the First Lady about our own sit­u­a­tion. Her words, ges­tures and actions, and the President’s, under­scored their depth of under­stand­ing for the chal­lenges mil­i­tary fam­i­lies face dur­ing wartime. My brief time with them gave me com­fort, as well as the con­fi­dence that comes from know­ing that the peo­ple mak­ing deci­sions about our lives sin­cere­ly appre­ci­ate the sac­ri­fice inher­ent in service.

Estee Moran lights the menorah

Through­out the evening, I thought of the many mil­i­tary fam­i­lies I have met through­out my husband’s career, and the hard­ships they have expe­ri­enced because of the ongo­ing wars. I also remem­bered the tremen­dous ups and downs that my hus­band and I have expe­ri­enced togeth­er. The evening was espe­cial­ly poignant because it was our wed­ding anniver­sary. Eight years ago, stand­ing side by side in wed­ding dress and ser­vice dress blues, nei­ther of us could have imag­ined where we would be today. That’s part of the mag­ic of the mil­i­tary lifestyle: sur­pris­es lurk around every cor­ner. For us, the mag­ic still beck­ons, and the lights flick­er­ing on the White House meno­rah last night illu­mi­nat­ed truths I had almost forgotten.
Ali­son Buck­holtz wrote the Deploy­ment Diary” col­umn for Slate​.com, and her oth­er arti­cles and essays on mil­i­tary life have been pub­lished in The New York Times, New York Mag­a­zine, Real Sim­ple, Par­ent­ing, Wash­ing­ton­ian Mag­a­zine, Salon​.com and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. As an advo­cate for mil­i­tary fam­i­lies, she has appeared on NBC Night­ly News, NPR, and in nation­al news stories.