It wasn’t controversy that broke the internet over former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno’s remarks at his retirement ceremony August 14. It was what he said about Army spouses.
When the Army Chief of Staff retires, people notice. Retirement from such a powerful, insider position can be a chance for a top official to say what he really thinks about what’s going on without too many repercussions. News articles are written. People listen.
So when instead of saying more about the problems in Iraq or the downsizing of the force, Gen. Odierno used his time in the spotlight to acknowledge the sacrifice of his wife, Linda, and Army spouses everywhere, everyone paid attention.
“It’s often hard for me to stand up here and make other people understand how much our spouses sacrifice,” he said.
He picked up his notes, folded them in his hands, looked around the audience.
“You don’t understand. You don’t understand everything that they do every day in order to make us a better Army. I don’t believe there’s any other profession (where) we count on our spouses to do so many things,” he said.
The debate is over. Yes, we sacrifice. Yes, we serve.
But what you and I have done probably pales in comparison to the work of Odierno’s wife, Linda. It’s not a contest, but stop for a minute and think about the incredible strength of this woman.
Linda Odierno weathered 39 years of Army life with her six foot, five inches tall high school sweetheart and countless months apart — including 55 months of deployments to Iraq. Fifty-five months, people. Just in Iraq. And THIRTY NINE YEARS of marriage. (I’m working on eight over here. Thirty nine seems like an eternity). She attended over 500 memorial services, he said, often in his place while he was deployed.
“She sacrificed her entire life for me. I can never repay her for that,” he said.
Thank you, Mrs. Odierno, for being such a great example of courage and sacrifice to military spouses everywhere and worthy of the most public of thanks. And thank you, General O., for pausing to see us.
Photos courtesy U.S. Army.