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Research Etc. Supports Our Servicemen & Women – Loud and Proud!

It’s no secret to those visiting our website that we at Research Etc. have a special place in our hearts for the men and women who have served, and who are currently serving, in all branches of our United States Armed Forces. 
Americans are entitled to their own personal opinions and feelings regarding any war that has been fought since the beginning of time. One person may strongly oppose a war, while another strongly supports that very same war.  Just turn on the nightly news and know that those on either side of war efforts have had the freedom to shout it loud and proud from the forum of their choice. Whether war supporter or objector, Americans have a duty to thank the brave individuals who have fought for our freedoms and who have ensured our entitlement, to have our own opinions. Of course, that is just my personal opinion – you can choose to thank them or not – you were given that gift by each and every man and woman who has served this country under the US Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHCC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps (NOAA). 
Why such patriotism from the President of a Private Investigation firm? Friends and family alike know the answer, but for those who may wonder, let me shout it loud, even though certain aspects of the answer do not make me quite so proud of myself.   This is my chance to “out” myself about how I came to be a patriotic person – maybe it will give someone a chance to learn from my experiences.
I grew up in the 1970’s living a privileged life in Northern California. I was sheltered from the realities of war, or simply oblivious for many reasons. First, there were no CNN or Fox New channels running around the clock to give minute-by-minute updates and images from conflicts around the world – we had 12 channels to choose from at any given time and The Military and History Channels were not an option. Not that I would have paid attention anyway. I marvel at how little I still don’t know because I chose to pass notes, paint my fingernails or sleep during my highschool American History classes. (Students, please pay attention – trust me, if you don’t, you’ll regret it!) Second, during my teenage years, no one in my narrow little world was going off to war at that time. My big sister, Judy, had a head start on the whole patriotism thing - she anguished as many of her childhood friends went off to Viet Nam and experienced the sorrow when some didn’t return as the same boys who had left, or sadly, didn’t return at all. She totally got it, but I was simply too young to understand.
My entire life up until my young adulthood, I was aware that my grandfather served in the Navy and my dad was in the Merchant Marines in WWII. I recall my older female relatives talking about working in the shipyards, food rations and the worry and hard times they experienced on the home front while their loved ones fought abroad. I thought that was sad, but did I really care? I am not proud to admit that I didn’t care all that much. Really, it simply didn’t pertain to the world revolving around me. I had my dad there to work his ass off to provide a good home for us and buy me party dresses - and my grandpa was alive and kicking and loads of entertainment for me. I had my mother, grandmother and aunts, who had sacrificed as well, to load me up with hugs, kisses and birthday presents. I just was oblivious to the fact that the one big party that was my life was earned by the sacrifices they had made.
So, like many teenagers and young adults, I glided through my late teens and early 20’s pretending to hate the Presidents and Politicians who I perceived as war mongers because that was the popular thing to do – did I understand one single thing I was opposing? Sadly, I did not – I just wanted to shout about my opposition. I can now thank our members of the Armed Forces who gave me that right and also, as an adult, can also apologize for my ignorance.
So, I grew up, met a great guy and got married. He was a state police officer and in the Army Reserves. He was, in my eyes, an over-the-top patriot and public servant. While I was proud that he could be that way, I was his exact opposite. Any time I was dragged to some Army event, I’d say, “Fine, I’ll go, but that is your gig – I married you, I am not a military person, I have nothing in common with them and besides, I didn’t marry the Army!” Ugh. I shudder at my words, my ignorance and how that must have hurt him. In 1999, I somehow wound up being “encouraged” by my beloved to fill the vacant role of the “Leader” of his unit’s Family Support Group prior to his deployment to Kosovo. I’ll admit it: I was more than a little reluctant and resentful that he thrust me into this unknown world, (I didn’t know a Sergeant from a General!) I wondered if  he could be any more selfish? Not only was he leaving me behind to hold down the fort and raise our 3 year old daughter, but he had heaped a huge responsibility on me to boot! Little did I know how that perceived “selfish” move of his saved my sanity and made me a Patriot. 
As I got up at the crack of dawn one weekend a month and schlepped breakfast goods down to his Unit to build the funds for the Support Group, (I even learned to make coffee in the process!), I couldn’t help but talk to the Soldiers and get to know them as individuals. I also couldn’t help but like them, and start to admire them and their families. In making courtesy calls to deployed Soldiers’ families, I stepped outside of myself and, in consoling the wives and mothers, I was consoled. Suddenly, my sacrifices didn’t seem all that big, and I found myself wanting to do more and more. After a lifetime of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the Star Spangled Banner by rote, I now found myself saying or singing the words with real meaning as I saluted our flag. 
My dear husband knew, as he patiently listened to me gripe to him in emails and the rare phone calls, that he was saving me – even if I didn’t know it at the time. He returned home in time to watch two Generals and a room full of new friends award me with a beautiful plaque that proclaimed me “United States Army Reserve Volunteer of the Year 2000.” It was one of the proudest accomplishments of my life. I was also ashamed of myself at the same time. Surely, if anyone had known how stupid I had been, they’d have thrown rotten tomatoes at me on that stage! My husband reassured me by telling me that bravery is being afraid of something and doing it anyway. He told me that he was proud of how I’d grown as a person. In all honesty, that meant the most to me – it was as if, with those words, he forgave me so I could forgive myself.
Our family, made larger in 2003 by the addition of our baby boy, was faced yet again with deployment – this time to Iraq. I’m not going to lie – I was scared to death every single day for 14 months. It was only when my husband stepped off the plane - exhausted, aged, grieving the loss of more than a few brothers in arms, and virtually changed forever by the Iraq War – that I was able to breathe again. But I breathe now with a heavy heart in finally understanding the pain, sacrifice and losses suffered by the loved ones of all the brave men and women who have left the safe confines of our beloved country to fight in foreign lands. Many of these brave individuals may never return to the loved ones they fought so bravely to protect.
So, please accept my thanks, all of you selfless defenders of our country. You gave, and continue to give, all Americans the freedoms we enjoy today. It is my humble pleasure to Thank Each and Every One of You and Your Loved Ones. I hope you receive satisfaction in knowing that my teenage daughter and her 5 year old brother know what it means to salute and display our United States Flag because, unlike their mother at their ages, they understand what it means.
Kristen Hamilton
Research Etc., Inc.
Whether or not you support a particular war or conflict, please support our troops – the brave men and women who serve so that we may continue to enjoy the freedoms they afford all Americans.
These links will take you to websites that Support Our Troops:

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