At an arts lecture in Seattle, I make small talk with the woman sitting next to me. When she mentions having lived on the nearby military base as a kid, I excitedly ask where else she lived. I’m an army brat, too; she gets my enthusiasm. We list the places we’ve lived, looking for an overlap. Besides right then, we haven’t ever been in the same spot around the globe, and yet, it seems like we know each other. That happens more than you think with military brats, regardless of age, nationality or branch of service.

The lights dim before we get a chance to compare stories of growing up on military bases: eating holiday meals in the mess hall, sleeping underneath a coffee table in the USO on Guam, selling Girl Scout cookies office to office escorted by the sergeant major in Korea, knowing it’s time to go home for dinner once “Taps” plays out of the loudspeakers on post. She probably would have interjected with “Me too!” and “I remember that!” They always do.

We’d agree we have the military to thank for so much in our lives: a love of travel, an appreciation for other cultures, the ability to adapt quickly, and strong ties to a community that has become our family over the years. I wouldn’t change the way I grew up, and she’d most likely agree.

But there are downsides to this sub-culture. The long deployments, the relocations, the stress, the fear. We’d agree on that, too. And though we don’t always say it out loud, we recognize it in each other: We are proud. Not just for the soldiers who went to fight faraway wars, but for people like us who helped them come home, over and over again.

Some of the greatest sacrifices are made at home, by the current 1.8 million military family members. But there are no medals for spouses, no pinning-on ceremonies, no moving up the ranks.

The husbands and wives keep the home fires burning. They wait and count down — for the next move or the next homecoming. Their careers are bent and twisted to fit with this transient lifestyle, or put aside indefinitely. They say goodbye more often than any person should - to friends, neighbors, parents, husbands, wives. They dream of having a date night; someone to share the burden of tax season and carpools; a hug. There is little in their lives of their own choosing, and yet, there is no other life they’d choose.

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There are no medals for the kids either. No yellow ribbons, no parades. They try to be good for the parent left in charge. They wonder and worry — about the next school or the next country. Their childhoods are set to the soundtrack of Chinooks and punctuated with evacuation drills. They say goodbye more often than any child should - to teachers, friends, grandparents, fathers, mothers. They dream of having a family vacation, bedrooms to hang their posters, a hug from a deployed parent. There is so much they wish they didn’t have to experience, and yet when they are older, they can’t imagine changing a thing.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories include waking up each morning to the sound of troops running cadence outside my window; practicing finding my family’s meeting point on the base in case of an evacuation; making a paper chain, adding a link a day, to count how long my dad had been deployed and marveling at how the chain wrapped around the TV room and into the kitchen by the time he returned.

It is on the home front, rather than the front line, that military families keep watch, with no orders in mind. We stand ready to welcome our loved ones home. To wait, while still continuing to lives our lives, is sometimes the hardest mission to complete, and we must do it all the time.

Servicemen and women sacrifice more than we can imagine, and face challenges long after they return from combat or leave the military. But their families bear the brunt. There is more to lose than life, and it can take you by surprise. The mental and emotional stresses of war affect even those of us who have only helped a soldier untie his or her boots at the end of a long day. We all have battle wounds, but we grow up learning it’s in the healing back home that wars are ever finally won.

On Veterans Day, when we’re reminded to celebrate the service of all military personnel, find a veteran wherever you are and say thank you. But please don’t forget to look at who’s standing beside him or her. Thank them, too.

Huson is a writer based in the Pacific Northwest.