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"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." — Abraham Lincoln
The incessant demands of deployments, cross-country moves and rigorous training cycles put a great burden on not only the service members that make up the United States military, but also their families. At a time when the American fighting force is evolving to meet the changing global demands of the 21st century, there is one constant that gives us the strength to accomplish any task: our families. Through the military families I have met since I first put on my country's uniform over five years ago, I have realized the true beauty of life that surrounds us. Born of two immigrants to the United States from France, I was always told how fortunate I was to be an American. My parents explained to me every day how unique the freedoms we have here are. In my mind, it was only natural that I would join the military to give back to the nation that had given my family so much. What I hadn't realized, though, was that the military culture I was about to enter had a lot left to give me. From the first day of basic training, we are taught to "stick with your battle buddy." Indeed, the loyalty that forms the foundation of the American military is born of trusting relationships unparalleled in any other segment of society. It is through these relationships that we learn that more can be accomplished when competent people work together toward a common goal. In much the same way, military families work together to support service members' missions. There is a mutual trust and understanding in all healthy relationships, be it in a foxhole or a three-bedroom home, that we are best when we are united in our efforts. As I observed senior officers' families and newly married soldiers, I came to a realization that this true source of strength is what makes the military life so worth living. There is nothing more beautiful than knowing you are making an impact, that you have done something today that will change the world for the better. That is the commitment we make when we raise our hands to take the oath of enlistment or commissioning. If we did not have the strength of wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends and children behind us, however, where would we be? As President Lincoln so eloquently put it, "If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." Life is beautiful, but it is fragile. Let us never forget the critical importance of our relationships, especially with our families in both doing our jobs and building a better tomorrow for those who depend on us. That is the greatest lesson any of us can learn.