Geo-bachelor (n.)- geographic bachelor; (1) a service member who is stationed in one locations, whose family resides in another location; (2) the spouse of a service member who chooses not to move to a new duty station.
It’s not a topic that has been written about frequently, because most military families pick up and move with every new set of orders. My husband and I racked up 5 moves in our first 5 years of marriage. Moving frequently strains military family members. While the service member is looped in with a degree of job continuity from duty station to duty station, military family members get to start over from scratch over and over: new jobs (maybe-if you can find one), new location, new household to be set up, new schools, new friends, new navigation routes and unfamiliar surroundings. It can be overwhelming.
This is not why we ended up as geo-bachelors. We ended up in this situation because I don’t exactly have a portable career. I am in a PhD program that requires my attendance at a brick and mortar institution. As more military spouses explore more diverse education and career options, more of us end up as geo-bachelors, so I thought a run-down on what it’s like might be useful.
The first thing you tell yourself when you are considering geo-bach-ing it is that you’re apart all the time anyway, thanks to the deployment fairy, so it won’t be that different. This is a myth. It’s a myth that will be busted the first four day weekend that comes along or when your service member gets an unexpected half-day and you are stuck an 8 hour and $400 plane ride away. Up until this happens, you will fool yourself into believing that the empty bed and missing combat boots are just like deployment light ( you know, minus the danger element). The guilt is what will get you, because no matter how much your inner feminist says that it’s not your job to give up your career and your dreams for him, part of you will feel like a bad wife for following your dreams.
Right now I live exactly halfway across the country from my service member. I work 80+ hours a week and he works about that much too. As a result, we see each other 4-5x per year. It sucks hairy ass chunks, and that’s probably being kind. Don’t get me wrong, the sex, when we do see each other, is mind-blowing. This may just be because of how long the dry spells are, but there are lots of ways to have mind-blowing sex that don’t include torturing yourself.
It’s expensive. You are going to buy two sets of everything again. It’s insane. Groceries cost less when you are sharing groceries and can cook and plan for two instead of one. In addition, you have all of the travel expenses, and in my case 2 cable bills with high-speed internet so we have a hope and a prayer of using Facetime occasionally. We have gotten around this at some points when he has been able to live on the ship, but the ship’s internet is hideous so then we’re back to email and the occasional phone call when he’s not too busy and I am in a place in the lab that gets halfway decent cell reception.
All of this is doable if you have a strong support network, at least it’s doable for a while. I haven’t been particularly fortunate in that regard. My milspouse friends are awesome and seem to always make time for a chat when I need them, but it’s not the same as a coffee klatch where we can share experiences face-to-face. I haven’t been lucky in finding people who understand the stresses I am under. As one woman I know put it, when my husband was in the hospital, “It’s not like he wouldn’t be deployed some of the time anyway.” *Cue stabby music** This is where the real struggle has been for me. Civilians don’t understand “normal” military life. They don’t want to know or hear about it. They really don’t want to hear about how going home to an empty house–again– is depressing, or how someone giving you a hug is an occasion for tears because it’s been 2 months since someone touched you at all. In the end, the isolation is what gets you. You stop talking to people because they don’t want to hear about the funny thing or stressful thing your spouse told you over the phone. They don’t care how he’s doing, because he doesn’t exist in their world. And they make it clear they don’t care how you are doing, because he’s an off-limits conversation and he’s still a part of your life.
Being a geo-bachelor is hard work because it is so much extra effort to keep the plates spinning, the family together and moving in the right direction, and everyone moving in the right direction. Finding a way to get back together after geo-bach-ing it is also extra work. It’s a ton of planning and is fraught with all the competition between your career and his, your needs and his, etc.
The only real value I have found in slogging it out as a geo-bachelor is: I’ve really learned how much I love and value my husband. It sounds stupid, I am sure. I’ve always loved him, but I’ve learned exactly how much by having him be away so much. I learned that there wasn’t a single thing I’ve accomplished, and I’ve had quite a few triumphs in the past few years, that has mattered more to me than my spouse.
I don’t know that I would have been happy without chasing my dreams, if I wouldn’t have resented him at some point because my life goals were getting tabled. I do know that those dreams have ceased to have some of the luster they once did and family means more to me now. I still want a successful career, but I am less willing to take a future position that would keep us apart.
If you have specific questions about the geo-bachelor life, feel free to post them and I will answer to the best of my ability. I hope this gives you a brief insight into the trials that come with this particular brand of military life.
My Dad is a complex person. He isn’t perfect. He has done a lot of things I think are amazing, but he is flawed. So am I. But it his humanity that makes him a perfect example of everything that Veteran’s Day and Our Nation represent.
My Dad volunteered to join the Army during Vietnam, because he believes in duty, in sacrifice, and in putting one’s country and the freedoms for which it stands ahead of his own life. These values are values passed down to him by his father, who was wounded at Iwo Jima. My Dad only served his enlistment, because my grandmother was ill and my Aunt, who has cerebral palsy, and my grandfather could not care for her. He didn’t fight any battles you read about in history books; he simply served his country without fanfare.
I believe that a combination of my grandfather’s values gained in WWII and my father’s own experiences in the Army codified the values my father instilled in each of his four daughters. He taught us first and foremost to be loyal to our family, our friends, and to those placed in authority over us. Our family always comes first. We all rise or fall together. It was this value that had the most meaning to me throughout my life. Every choice I have ever made has been driven by my loyalty to my family. I sacrificed to get into college and pursue a career because I believe it is my responsibility to promote my family’s success and financial security.
He taught us the meaning of duty to our country, our faith, and our family. Duty isn’t a sexy word, but it is the underpinning to a successfully functioning team. Duty means doing the hard work even when you don’t want to and it isn’t easy. It means continuing to follow through until you complete your goals, even if it’s a slog to get there. For me, this has meant supporting my service member regardless of the obstacles his service has thrown into our lives. For my sister it means serving a mission. We all express this value differently.
My Dad taught us to treat people with respect. Whether it’s the homeless guy on the corner or the President of the United States, we should show that person respect as a member of the human race. As a result, all four of his daughters are deeply invested in social causes.
Lastly, my father taught us selfless service. He could have had a fancier job that would have made his family wealthy, but he chose to stay near his family. He took me to visit my grandfather in the VA hospital throughout my childhood, even though it was a scary place as a kid. (The VA hospitals were quite horrific when I was little- blood on the walls and such). He stayed close to his disabled sister throughout his life. In this way, I think he actually reflects my grandmother as well who took care of her family until she died of breast cancer months after I was born. Each of his daughters has chosen a different path of service. Two of my sisters are deeply involved in working with disadvantaged populations abroad. My other sister and I tend to focus on social issues nearer home.
My father’s life isn’t marked by grand acts, but by daily choices that are the measure of a man or woman. In many ways he represents the typical American Veteran. He served his country. He came home and he served his family and tried to instill in us the values he believed would make us good citizens and good people.
When Americans think about Veterans, they rarely think of people like my father. They either conjure service members and veterans as heroes far removed from the American experience or broken souls who cannot integrate into the society they left behind. Many veterans are neither. They are just average people who made a choice to serve their country when they were needed. They are people who believe in duty, honor, sacrifice, and loyalty to their families, their friends, and their country. These values are the core of what make them good leaders, good employees, and good citizens. So next time you thank a veteran, think about why they deserve our thanks. They value each and every one of us enough to live for us, to fight for us, and to grant us the privileges that we derived from the Constitution. These values are what make them worth thanking.
Friday afternoon I was heading out to the department’s picnic, when I heard from my husband that one of the spouses in the command committed suicide. Unfortunately, this has become an all too familiar topic for military families, even as it is largely ignored by the media and military.
One of the side effects of the all-volunteer force is that there is no shared national sacrifice. A miniscule 1% of the US population has borne the entirety of two wars on their backs. We are bruised, bloodied, and some of us are broken by the strain of it. The worst part about it is we can’t even have an honest conversation about how we’re coping or not coping, because everything we say can be taken out of context, abused and used to any number of purposes that do not include an honest account of our stories. One side will trot us out as examples of resilience. Another will label all military spouses as hysterics who are seeking attention. It’s a no win game. As a result, many of us learn that silence is safety, until we break and no one even knew we were at the end of our ropes.
I don’t know why this spouse decided to end it all. We may never know why because there are no statistics kept on how military spouses are coping and why they breakdown. What we do know is that the ship changed ports recently and many of the spouses in our command have chosen to be geo-bachelors for the duration of their spouse’s tours rather than move with the ship.
Geobachelorhood confers an extra set of challenges to an already difficult set of circumstances that come with military life. It is not unlike being a Guard or Reserve spouse, where you may not live anywhere near another military spouse who may know what you’re going through or when you need help.
Recently, I wrote about the benefits of being around caring civilians, but the truth is there are challenges to being a military family of one. For example, this past month my husband took ill unexpectedly. We still don’t know what’s wrong and navigating the Navy’s medical system is a post unto itself. It was the week I was prepping to move back from my internship, when he got sick. I had a profound realization that I had not one person I could call and say, “Hey, take the dog and can you pack my apartment while I am gone? I am getting on a plane right now.” I sat on the floor of my half empty apartment and weighed my options. I could leave everything and fly out and hope everything was okay and I could get back in time to move before the end of my lease or I could finish packing, move, and hope he was okay until I could get there. Neither is a good option. And both reminded me that I am tight-rope walking without any sort of safety net.
What do you do when you fall? What do you do when there’s no backup plan and when you can’t cope but there’s no one to call? Most of us find a way to play through the pain, but what happens when it’s too much, when it’s just a bridge too far?
We make a big deal about being resilient because the military and civilians make a point of calling military spouses hysterical women (even though we aren’t all women), whenever we raise our hands and say enough. Sometimes we aren’t resilient. By pushing the resilience story, we often push those that are struggling to the fringes of the group, where they are far too easily lost. When I was sitting on my floor alone wondering how I could manage, I called my mother and told her I wasn’t coping and I needed help. Her response still rings in my ears, “Ophiolite, no one helps you because we know you are resilient. Even when no one steps up to help you, you always find a way to make it through.”**
Maybe this is our collective problem as military spouses. We’ve gotten so good at putting the brave face on for so long and managing under extreme circumstances that even when we ask for help, no one realizes it’s because we’re already at the breaking point and we simply can’t walk one more step alone. What’s worse is that we don’t even know how much rougher it is for Reservist and Guard spouses who do not have access to many of the resources Active Duty spouses take for granted. As long as military spouses don’t count, we won’t get the help we need to combat military spouse suicides. That is frankly unacceptable.
**Author’s note: At that point I hung up the phone and texted my milspouse friends near the ship who, while unable to resolve the dog/move/sick husband issue, did help me make the decisions I needed to make and line up contingency plans for my spouse and I. For their support, I am truly grateful.
“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.”
― Patrick Overton, The leaning tree
The handwriting is on the wall. The military will face budget cuts over the coming years that will put many of our spouses out of a job. This is both good and bad news for all of us. On the one hand, I am thrilled to think of a future where I won’t wake up to another day of war and everything that comes with it. On the other, I worry about all of the families who will be displaced and have to start over in a world that isn’t always veteran & milspouse friendly.
I’ve been trying to embrace the coming changes. I always knew they would come and I started a PhD several years ago in preparation for a career after my husband separates from the service. In some ways, I feel uber prepared. In others, I feel horribly lost, scared, and alone. Those who have made the transition seem to disappear from the lives of those of us still in the thick of it, so there isn’t a lot of connection of feedback on the process of transition.
Over the summer, I have had what might be my first “real job” in 5 yrs, if you can call an internship with a large company a “real job”. It’s been awesome, scary, and stressful all at the same time. It has taught me a lot about the coming transition and while I had hoped to save this for my personal blog, I feel like it’s most beneficial to put my lessons learned in this space so that you can make entirely new and different mistakes from the ones I have made.
Here’s my lessons learned:
1. People care.
Don’t laugh at this. I’ve been in an environment for 5 yrs where people distinctly do not care about all the extra shit (e.g. the military, or any number of other things that make me me) and its impact on my life. As a result I’ve become very comfortable with having superficial acquaintances in my life and only a very small core group of friends, most of whom are other military spouses. It’s a new thing to find out that civilians care.
This knowledge is also somewhat overwhelming and sort of freaked me out. I almost feel like I don’t know how to have a “normal” friendship any more that doesn’t include Navy policy and it’s impact on my life, another move or deployment or whatever. With the exception of some awesome milspouses, I have felt like the military would have been a lot happier if I had sat down and shut up at the back of the bus for the past decade. It is a really strange experience to have people express interest in those aspects of my life and yet still treat me like a real person. Being surrounded by people that care about you, have your back and want nothing but your success is humbling and awe inspiring. Embrace it to the fullest.
2. People generally want to be helpful.
We’re used to living in an organization where you have to very carefully advocate for things you need. That care and consideration still matters, but it’s okay to ask for help. This was hard for me to learn and I still haven’t mastered it. I’ve gotten so used to being 120% self-sufficient, to being able to pack up the house and move to a new place while looking for a job, managing the dog, selling the house, etc, etc. I just didn’t recognize at first people were trying to help me. Then I didn’t know if they were offering to help because I was a wreck. It took me a while to realize this is what normal people, not just your battle buddy, do for each other.
I still have trouble asking for help, but I am trying to learn that being good enough doesn’t mean being perfect or being all things to all people. People want to help and they want to be friends. Part of friendship is learning to let the mask slip a bit and realize that people still care even when you aren’t being perfect.
I know this may seem like an easy or straightforward thing, but I felt it was worth mentioning because I think we often feel siloed by the “hero culture” American society levees onto us. We are always shown being stoic and brave, whether on the front lines or holding down the fort at home. It’s easy to come to believe that’s all people see in us and all they want to hear. It’s not true. Instead, you need to tell people what you need and what you want, and why it matters to them. Most people are really there to help.
3. Embrace the fear.
The simple fact of the matter is that there isn’t one way to make the transition, because we are leaving a pseudo-monolithic organization and moving into a big, diverse, and complex world. We each have different skills, talents, and abilities. As a result, we will each end up on slightly different paths. This will produce some fear and anxiety as we each step into the darkness. We need to embrace the fear and ambiguity.
This is something we should be good at, but in the past we knew what most of the scary outcomes were/are with a deployment. This is more ambiguous. It’s hard to contain fear and anxiety when your imagination can conjure almost any creature in the dark. This is why it’s important to establish relationships with veterans, milspouses, and civilians on the outside who know what the light looks like at the end of the tunnel and who can guide you there.
It’s not going to be easy for many of us. We are all going to be faced with lots of scary changes in our jobs, our lives, and even in the way we think about the world. It will take time for each of us to make it through the transition and find ourselves squared away in a life outside of the military, but the one thing I am certain of, after 10 yrs as a milspouse, is that we are strong. Even in our weakness, we are strong. We will face the coming challenges together. We will need to embrace the civilian population and build strong relationships with them, which will be challenging after these wars. There will be people who will want to prohibit this, who will judge our veterans and their families for answering the call. Even though they are loud, they do not represent the voices of everyone out there. We must seek out the people who want to help us, who want to be our friends, and who want to provide guidance as we move toward the next phase of our lives.
In the end, the light is at the end of the tunnel. You simply have to keep walking, even when you can’t always see it.
|Oh, #ketchupgate. You complete me.|
- These journalists and the readers to whom they issue this call to arms have no fu**ing clue what they’re talking about. Journalists are getting the facts wrong, and their perspective completely lacks experience to inform them. We’re certainly not asking our maids to vacuum the Porsche floorboards, and we’re not chillaxing at the polo event with our houseboy at the ready to serve us champagne. Hell, some of us are barely able to cover the electric bill right now because deployment gremlins drained our savings when the car lost its starter two months ago. And we’re really hoping Military One Source will cover another therapy session for our kid who’s having night terrors now that Dad’s left for Afghanistan for the fifth time. Meanwhile, we’re waiting three weeks for an appoint ment with our PCM for that pesky pneumonia we can’t shake.
- We are not responding appropriately. Today, I saw a call to action: send Chandresekaran a bottle of ketchup on National Ketchup Day (today) as a statement that we don’t appreciate his tone. I don’t know if this is enough. It’s a good start, and the awesome jokes running around the Twitters right now via #ketchupgate, @MilFamKetchup, and @LavishMilFam are bringing attention to both the ketchup inundation and the issue at hand. But really, shit like this isn’t going to stop because the 1% is up in arms about The Man threatening to take our ketchup. It will only stop when there is understanding and real discussion. And that’s not going to happen until journalists stop writing Schlockety McCornPoo and start investigating the military family experience.
professional burdens and conflicts that fill the cracks between anchors aweigh and welcome home and anchors aweigh again.
Feel Good? Fuzzy Feelings? See what they did there? They are using military families–exploiting military families–for ad money, and they’re enticing
civilians who want a nice feel-good moment. Result: civilians associate military with sadsauce deployments but ALL THE FEELS when the soldier returns
home and NONE of the icky squicky reality in between.
ETA some initial thoughts:
I don’t know how, but someone on my Twitter feed is pulling a total fucking bait and switch on me. I keep somehow ending up reading Spousebuzz posts lately, and I swear I’mma hulksmash something the next time I end up reading complete and utter bollocks like this.
Don’t get me wrong. Advice columns are a genre all their own, typically full of trite isms and smarm and patronizing suggestions, and that’s why we like reading them. But this particular advice column lit my ass on fire. Why? Because of its condescension, sketchy advice, and assumption that we Navy wives with a happy life share a hivemind and an addiction to pearls and potlucks.
I thought about taking the post down piece by piece and showing why it’s completely ridiculous and should be killed with fire and perhaps a few loads of nitro. But I’d be here all day and for no reason. The people who saw that link either love it (and like the author, will never understand why this piece hit every nerve because of our completely different worldviews) or have devised other ways to kill the post (with a grenade, with an ax-wielding Texan on bath salts, etc.). As much as I want to crack jokes about the advice to “dress your family in anchors” being a great way to teach your kids how to survive a keelhauling, I will refrain. After all, I’m sure showing “spirit” about a service might actually somehow be a vital piece of a milspouse’s happiness…I guess. O.o
Instead, I will provide some of my own advice and an open forum for others to add theirs. I pinky swear, I will do all I can to avoid the isms and smarm. But this amounts to an advice column, so you’ve been warned.
There is no one way to have a happy life when you’re a Navy wife, and advice that assumes all Navy spouses (or even wives specifically) share a pearl-encrusted hivemind is ridonculous. I know, I’ve only been a Navy spouse for 18 years, but I’d like to think I’ve seen a wide variety of my tribe pass through our lives, and I’ve noted that no two will handle the Navy life the same way, much less thrive in it. I’m pretty sure that goes for all branches of the military.
But every spouse has experience and comfort to share, so it’s always helpful when we speak up and offer our own to each other–not as trite generalizations and servings of sugary Kool-Aid, but as real, actual, helpful advice that doesn’t oversimplify or minimize the conflicts and pressures of military life. Maybe something works for you. Maybe it doesn’t. Share your own in the comments, and let’s get a real and helpful list of advice for a happy military life.
Find Your Mil-Bliss. When it comes to getting involved with events and people on base, some love it, some loathe it. Don’t assume that your only outlets will be affiliated with your spouse’s job. When you’re getting your sea legs as a new spouse or even after a recent PCS, test the waters. See how you like it. Don’t pressure yourself to volunteer if it’s not for you. Don’t pressure yourself to get involved if it’s not for you. Just because your husband or wife has joined the military doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. You can be a supportive spouse without involvement. But if it works for you, fabulous! There are tons of opportunities to be involved, so you’re in luck.
Find your Civ-Bliss. The military will fondly remind you constantly–even as it voluntells you otherwise via your spouse–that you are not military. You are a civilian. Be okay with that. In fact, enjoy the freedoms you have that your spouse does not. When you’re new to the life or new to a duty station, don’t feel pressured to jump into a new life there. If you’re looking for a job, take advantage of both military and civilian help, but do everything you can to ensure that the civilian life you lead makes you happy.
Build Your Network. When underways and deployments and TADs happen, you’re going to need a local network. Not everyone wants a lot of friends, but having even a group of acquaintances you meet with once a month for a book club or a movie night or a moms’ night out event will help you endure the endless parade of separations and stress. Chances are good you won’t be near any friends or family, so put yourself out there and find a local family of your own. Civilian or military or happy mix, it doesn’t matter. What matters is giving and receiving support and a social outlet.
Excercise. Because endorphins.
Find Local Treasures. Your current home has unexplored gems where you can spend time, refuel, recharge. I know it was much easier when we were childfree, but just letting yourself get lost and finding your way home again can result in some amazing discoveries that change your experience–and your stress level–in your town. Is there a really cool spot tucked away on the base where you can sit and meditate? Is there a little shop hidden on a back street that carries the coolest craft supplies? Are there tours and parks where you can learn history or sample local wares (mmm wine)? Don’t let xenophobic tendencies hold you back. The military might send us to some truly armpit cities, but boobs are just around the corner, and who doesn’t love boobs? They’re totally awesome and amazing. They feed babies, after all. All by themselves! Even better, sometimes (particularly after a certain age) boobs are in the armpits. Bladow!
Keep an Open Mind. It’s hard, I know. Even across the US, cultures vary wildly, and the unfamiliar can feel threatening or alien. But remembering that you are just as alien to everyone else should help with that perspective thing.
Vent. Find a venue. Let it out. It’s healthy, and if you drop f-bombs, you’ll feel even better. Science says so, so you know it’s true.
Treat Yourself. Your spouse might be the one in dangerous situations, dealing with long hours and high stress. But don’t downplay the stress that translates to us: the worry on good days, the dread and fear on bad days, the long hours, the additional responsibilities, the lack of outlets, the instability, the inability to build a satisfying career of our own. It’s a lot to deal with, and we deserve time off and away. Find opportunities within your budget or–gasp–take advantage of programs on base that allow you to treat yourself with the things you like or like to do. And no guilt! You’ve earned it.
Manage Your Expectations. Probably the biggest issue I struggled with for the first ten years of this life was expectation management. Every time I was okay with or even excited about a coming PCS or other change, the Navy would yank it away from us and saddle us with something decidedly less awesome. Every time I got my hopes up or made an assumption, we were denied. It’s so important, in a culture where everything changes fast and often at the last minute, to suspend expectations and roll with the punches. After ten years of withstanding some pretty bruising impacts because I refused to roll when the Navy punched, I can say my life is a lot happier now that I have accepted that I don’t have the first frakking clue where we’re going to be this time next year…or next month. Of course, this meant finding workarounds on things that don’t roll when I do–a portable career, the willingness to homeschool until we found an alternative, a family that would happily let me move in during an unexpected surge deployment, independence and a separate civilian tribe with more stability than my military tribe. This takes time, and expectation management must be cultivated, but it’s so worth it not to take the brunt of one crushing blow after another.
What are your suggestions for a happy military life? What has worked for you? Let’s confab and offer each other our perspectives.
(cross-posted with 280% more f-bombs at Snarky Navy Wife)
I wrote this for a civilian site – so excuse any explanations that seem redundant to us, ok?
This weekend, the military community social media was buzzing with the new articles written by columnists for the Washington Post, the latest in a disturbing trend of articles about the military and military community. The first one, discussing benefits that supplement the low pay of most service members, concentrated on the commissary that is on most military installations, and that make a huge difference in some areas, less so on other bases. For some reason, the columnist sees this as over the top, pandering to an elite – or some such nonsense. Another article compared military and civilian pay/benefits, including retirement; this particular article has some of us scratching our heads and wondering which LES the author was looking at. Some see these articles as the latest and most visible evidence of the new feeling the country has about us. A new catchphrase – “check on all that ketchup” from the Washington Post reporter’s indignity at seeing what he calls 15 types of ketchup **– is being bandied about with a wry twist of our figurative lip; the general consensus is that we are on the downslope of the up and down relationship the military has always had with the civilian population.
In a time of shrinking budgets, sequestration and recession, the American public has turned to the very group they have been celebrating with parades and flags; praising with effusive speeches and sticky sentimentality; for whom they have placed flags and bumper stickers on their precious vehicles. Or should I say “turned on that community”.
The articles “facts” about military pay and training have been countered beautifully in the article written for SpouseBuzz, the Military.com blog that is written by and for military family members, by Amy Bushatz. As she says, the numbers Rajiv Chandrasekaran gave don’t exactly add up – especially the pay figures. Amy also points out that even to join the military means that you have to have certain attributes, not just walk in, sign up and walk in step! Her question of “ if it is so good, and so easy, what aren’t YOU joining up”, is a great one, and one that some of us have used when responding to allegations of over pay and enlistees unable to make it on the outside. The response is usually a mumble and change of subject!
The facts that are being massaged and trumpeted in articles that are popping up in various media outlets can be refuted; but what most of us were confused or angry about – as Amy again points out – is the tones, the snark, the anger at our community. Many of us have been uncomfortable about the past overly positive and effusive (some say nauseating) essays and speeches made about our community; the mythical attributes ascribed to us, the saccharine simplification of our lives as shown in Hallmark Channel movies. This about face, this veiled anger at us – the “you are a drain on the taxpayers” attitude – is all the more hurtful when you look around our community. Coming right after Memorial Day when we remembered those who died in the service of their country, the slap in the face from these articles really resonated.
As an older member of the military family, I have seen the civilian world either put us up on pedestals and fling ticker tape on us, or spit on the uniforms and call us babykillers and jackbooted thugs. The current climate of nickel and dime-ing our benefits, chipping away at the benefits promised to the service member when they put their hands up and swore an oath to protect and defend this country – is nothing new. BUT, coming after over a decade of wars, it is hard to swallow. The very real sacrifices our service members and our families have endured over the past decade, the families that didn’t go to the mall like the other 99% of the civilian population, are being disregarded by the public that once declared “nothing is too good for you “. The families who have gone to memorial services for the fallen time after time, who have survived deployment communications blackouts and waited for the knock on the door, who live at hospital bedsides, or who wonder who this stranger is who has come home – that isn’t made better by getting a discount at a store, or having a commissary or post exchange.
The truth – that prices are usually better at a local discount store unless you live overseas where prices are staggering and most military families wouldn’t be able to survive on their pay – is not the important fact here. Most commenters I have seen have said “if it’s a choice between bullets and the PX, take the damned PX away”. The attitude of the public that we are all a bunch of spoiled, lazy good for nothings – that is a lot harder to take.
We know that, as Babette Maxwell at Military Spouse Magazine said , the civilian population just doesn’t understand, and frankly, we are sick and tired of trying to explain the differences in our way of life. Very few civilians have gone through what we have (I will put a caveat here, police and fire fighter families live this tension as well ). Trying to explain what a communications blackout after “an incident” involving fatalities and severe injuries is like to someone who has never sat with a phone in their hand willing it to ring and running into a bathroom crying when the UPS man rings the door bell , would equate to a woman attempting to explain labor pains to a man. Before any commenter says something like “you knew what you were getting into”… or “he volunteered” – please don’t. Just don’t say it – because we have heard it all before.
We are waiting – waiting to hear the next attack on us. Will it be in print again – another ridiculous set of “facts and figures” by a newspaper reporter? Are these articles being written as a response to the prevalent feeling by the civilian community, or are these reporters and commentators trying to guide and influence the attitudes of the civilians? Is this another “us vs. them” simplification of facts, and an easy way for the media to help their audience understand hard facts? Will it be another radio announcer talking about the terrifying aspect of hiring a veteran who just might snap and take out his entire job site because of PTS? Will it be another cut to retirement benefits and healthcare benefits coming out of a Congressional committee? Or will we listen to another relative speak dismissively of our service member or our community’s service? I don’t know. But I’m not looking forward to it, this level of anger and hurt isn’t good for my blood pressure.
** a friend went to the commissary on Ft. Belvoir today – the condiment aisle has 3 brands of ketchup, with 3 different sizes. I may be a mathematical moron; but that’s not 15.