So I have to admit that I am kind of confused about the festivals and holidays for Italian saints. There are so many of them, and I can’t keep them straight! Today, for instance, is the festival of Saint Martin, who is the patron saint of new wine and also the patron saint of the Italian army. And this is one of four saint-related holidays this month alone!
Anyway, we’ve been enjoying a lot of things related to San Martino’s sainthood lately. Yesterday we went out to lunch at an agriturismo (restaurant on an organic vineyard and olive grove) and drank deeply of their wonderful new wine.
Today Elliott was asked by his base commander to represent the U.S. military at a mass in honor of San Martino. It was held in a chapel next to the huge Cathedral of Saint Agatha in downtown Catania, and there were several hundred members of the Italian army in attendance. The archbishop of Catania led the mass!
The kids and I stood in the back for about half of the ceremony. We did our best to stay quiet for the entire thing, and we did okay… until it became absolutely necessary for us to leave. My children had reached the limits of their endurance. Sadly, just as we were leaving, the little nun (who is on her knees in the photo above) came up to me and lashed out in rapid Italian, chastising me firmly because my bambini needed to be in absolute silence for the mass. I stuttered and blushed, forgot all my Italian, and finally just turned and ran!
Anyway, the day improved after that low point. After the ceremony we took pictures with some of the veterans, and one of the military gentlemen put his incredible feathered hat on my head. Can you believe that thing?! I can’t imagine taking myself very seriously if this was part of my uniform!
Elliott also got a photo with the commander of the Italian army in Sicily (!), and we got a family photo in front of the Cathedral of Saint Agatha in the main piazza of Catania. Doesn’t Elliott look handsome in his dress blues?
I remember the slightly panicked feeling I got when I first heard that Elliott — then a dashing young veterinary student that I was developing an enormous crush on — told me he was in the U.S. Army. I already liked this guy… so if I married him, what would it mean for our lives? I couldn’t imagine being a military wife. It seemed so foreign, a totally different way to live my life: all macho and Army and going all over the world to live on military bases.
But as the years have passed, and as Elliott and I have faced the challenges of being a military family together, I can only say that I love this life. We have made serious sacrifices for the U.S. Army, such as living apart for 12 months of the first 15 months of our marriage. We have also reaped enormous rewards, like living in Italy for three years and enjoying wonderful healthcare benefits. No matter what the future holds, I will always be grateful that Elliott chose to begin his career in a place where honor and service come first.
I know it isn’t always easy for Elliott to get up each day and go to work. I know sometimes the honor and greater good of his work get lost in the monotony or the politics. But he does it, and he does it faithfully and uncomplainingly, skillfully and thoughtfully, compassionately and diligently. I know the Army doesn’t even know how lucky they are to have him! I am so thankful and so proud of him today. Happy Veterans Day, my veteran!