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When Milspouses Attack

April 9, 2015

(x-posted from Just Another Snarky Navy Wife) (no apologies for the language)

Once upon a time, an author at SpouseBuzz wrote a tongue-in-cheek article, one of those kitschy and lighthearted “X reasons why” posts comparing the milkid experience to the First Kid experience.

And lo, the screechers lost their shit.

How dare you compare the White House to base housing?

How dare you compare PCS to the Obama kids’ jetsetting?

How dare you compare my precious, speshul snowflakes to the kids of a man I hate because he’s black and/or Democrat, though I will claim it’s because he hates the military despite his downright charitable policies–compared to those of his predecessor–toward military families.

It says a lot when you know for a fact that, had the author compared milsprogs to Jenna and Barbara Bush, the response would have been cooing and “aw, cute article, though y’know, not really comparable.”

But no. Once again, divisiveness and coddletwattery. Why?


This kind of response is why we can’t have nice things. When combined with the professional bullies of the mil-community (those who sling the word “dependa” like a white Mississippi nonagenarian slings the n-word), we see why there’s a military-civilian divide.

How can we narrow that divide when we intentionally, purposefully, willfully create a divide within our own ranks? And when the civilian community sees this kind of Speshul Snowflake screeching and How Dare Thees and Thou Shalt Bow Before My Incomparable Martyrdoms, what impression do they come away with?

Wow, those military people sure are a bunch of self-important and entitled cockbags.

And you know what? I don’t blame them. I don’t blame them for clinging to their side of the divide between us. Who’d want to lean over and lend a hand when chances are pretty awesome they’ll pull back a nub? Who’d want to stop, listen, and understand when the decibel and pitch emanating from the screechers is all but a guarantee of going deaf? Who’d want to give a single fuck for a group that clearly has enough of everything they need that this is what they focus on? This bullshit. This political divisiveness. This enduring willful ignorance.

You screechers…I’m sickened by your behavior. And I’m sad for this community. My family only has a handful of years left (less if YodaMan is passed over this year), and I will not look back when I go. You are the reason this community can’t have nice things, and judging by the proliferation of your vitriol and toxic hatred in online communities, you’re taking over.

You can have it. When all you’ve got is a wasteland and nary a civilian willing to give you the time of day, maybe you’ll reconsider your juvenility, hostility, and inability to take a break from the Very Serious Matter of Being Married to the Military. Or maybe you won’t. Either way, you’ll have what you deserve. Enjoy the wasteland.

An Open Letter to Congress

January 30, 2015

Dear Members of Congress,

I would specifically appeal to my senators and congressman here, but my congressman has banned me from his Facebook page for accusing the lot of you of acting like a bunch of pre-teens fighting over glitter nail polish and 7 jeans during a looming shutdown (therefore, I know he throws away my emails and letters), one senator is the typical I-am-deaf-to-your-reasoning-because-I-have-opinions-and-they-are-already-purchased-by-a-company-paying-me-all-teh-monies, and the other senator hasn’t had a chance to blow me off yet because he’s brand spanking new.

So for all the good it will do us, I will appeal to the lot of you and hope someone is listening and actually gives a good goddamn.

First, who is this “us” I speak of? Military spouses. We are a silent minority, toiling in the background, and expected–even in this more enlightened age–to stay quiet and docile and not make a fuss. More of us feel empowered with technology to speak our minds, but we’re still largely ignored. We matter even less than service members do.

But here’s the thing: we do matter. We are the wizards behind the curtain, the ones who make things happen while the service members are busy with the tasks you and the Commander in Chief pass down. We are the gear the military would have issued our service members if the government had wanted our men and women in uniform to have spouses, the ones who are given lip service for all we do and endure but understanding all the while that our struggles don’t matter. We are the uncounted, the ignored, the ever-present and ever-struggling, and it’s about damned time we were heard.

I have been a milspouse for twenty years now, and in that time, I have never heard of or seen a politician or military commander acknowledge the price we pay–our careers pay–to keep our families as whole as the military will allow. This misstep isn’t just nonsensical. It’s insulting because the struggle isn’t new, we have not kept our challenges quiet, and yet we are still ignored.

Many of us are welcomed into the military life with a swat on the butt and a “Welcome to the [service], Mrs/Mr X,” and are expected to put our needs aside to support the important career in the family: that of the service member. Yes, they have important jobs. Yes, there are legal ramifications if they don’t follow orders. And they’re gone so frequently and for potentially long stretches, and we want to be a family, so we follow them around the world in hopes that we can make the times together really matter.

We didn’t come into this life without goals and aspirations. Many of us stepped into this new role of milspouse with at least the first steps toward a particular career, and many of us have had to abandon those aspirations because they’re not compatible with this life.

We didn’t all come into this life thinking we’d have to completely change course or even endure long stretches of unemployment on our resumes, and yet that’s what’s happened.

We didn’t step into our roles thinking, “Well, I guess I’d better find some kind of volunteer position to fill this resume gap. And I guess I’d better find a way to shave off some of our expenses so we can survive the next few years without my paycheck.” We didn’t think we’d have to sacrifice our financial goals to be with the men or women we love.

We might have known what we were getting into when we married into the military, or when the military joined our marriages, but you can’t really know what sacrifices are required or how soul-sucking those sacrifices can be until you’ve lived it.

And the thing is, this particular sacrifice–this giving up our career goals, our economic safety nets, our own retirements–is pointless. Technology today is not what it was when I embarked on this Navy adventure twenty years ago. Today, we have email, Skype, webinars, VoIP, secure networks, high speed internet. We have tools that mean our physical presence is unnecessary. We can still attend meetings, even when they’re happening five time zones away. We can still pop in on a team member to discuss an issue, brainstorm new ideas, confab on a project, or just chat and build camaraderie…we just won’t physically be in their cubicle.

We milspouses are adaptable creatures. Semper Gumby is our motto, and so is Get Out of My Way For I Have Shit to Do. We are flexible. We are adventurous. We are strong and proud and motivated. We have dreams and goals, and most of us have to shelve those until our spouses leave the service, or else we have to agree to spend the bulk of our marriages living apart…and what kind of marriage is that? Those milspouses, the ones who pursue their own dreams far from their spouses–they are sacrificing just as much as those of us who follow our spouses. The problem is that we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t–the sacrifice rests squarely on us. Give up on being with the person who inspires us to be our best selves, or give up on what lights a fire in us? Civilian spouses are not required to make this Solomon decision*.

But dear Congress, don’t believe for a second that this doesn’t affect the service members and their ability to do their jobs. Especially as you chip away at the benefits your military personnel have earned through egregious toil in the last decade-plus, they are feeling the financial pinch when their spouses have to leave a job during a PCS and can’t find anything (even minimum wage) at the next duty station because their resume looks like a typical milspouse’s, and who wants to hire someone who’s only going to be here two years, anyway?

Don’t believe for a second service members’ morale isn’t affected when their spouses are completely unfulfilled by the administrative assistant job they scored only because they hid their MBA degree on their resume.

Don’t believe for a second that there isn’t a tiny sliver of toxic resentment chipping away at some of these marriages, affecting the service member’s ability to stay focused at work.

Don’t believe this problem of underemployed and unemployed milspouses isn’t a major issue for you, the ones who send the service members off to war.

We spouses get a lot of lip service, and in those few cases where we see a tiny ray of hope in the form of not-lip service (MyCAA, anyone?), it is yanked away from us. And if it returns (MyCAA, anyone?), it is restricted and restrictive, limiting spouses to pre-approved “careers” that, while great jobs, don’t actually offer any upward mobility. Medical transcriptionists don’t often climb the ladder to CEO, do they? An associate degree opens a door, but where does it lead?

A milspouse should have the opportunity and ability to take a job–whether for fun or extra money or as the next rung on the career ladder–any job, anywhere. Some jobs are impossible to make portable (you can’t telework a sous chef position), but so many jobs are.

Again: So many jobs are or can be made portable. Because technology!

Government sparks so many jobs. Proven need sparks even more. Lip service will no longer cut it. Listen to us. Hear our voices. Spark a change.

Incentivize milspouse employment. Incentivize jobs that are portable, that offer upward mobility, and that are as flexible as milspouses are.

Incentivize employing milspouses and ensure companies can’t discriminate against milspouses with lower pay or by passing us over just because we are milspouses (this does happen–all the time).

We should not be forced to sacrifice our dreams, our goals, our careers–or our families–because our spouses are serving this great country.

Do right by us for once, Congress. We’ve earned it.

Semper Gumby,


*Nearly all, anyway. There are civilian families forced into this position.

Language, OUR site, and the golden days of yore.

December 19, 2014

We’ve been getting some comments about language on our site.  And to paraphrase the marvelous Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station,  this is OUR intellectual property. If you don’t like it, don’t come here.  If you are shocked by the language on here, I’m trying to figure out why the hell you came to the site to read a piece!  To the BRATs who are claiming to be so shocked by our language, may I simply ask where the bloody hell you were stationed, supposedly around the military, that our language shocks you!!  Yes, we curse like sailors, soldiers, Marines… because we too are BRATs, milspouses – hung around those in uniform who have a tendency to use a few good words.

Many of you commenting appear to be my age, I’m a boomer, I’m a grandma.  I won’t curse much around my granddaughter, but I know she’s heard it before.  This looking back to the golden days of our youth in Germany or Italy or wherever, has taken on a “Father Knows Best/Gidget on the Beach” esque glow!  I learned to curse in at least 4 languages, 2 of which I can say nothing other than those words!  Hindsight may be wonderful, but stop using the bleach to make it pablum and pretending that we all fart rainbows and fairy dust because our parents were in the military or, in my case, the Foreign Service.


On good wifeys and social media

December 15, 2014

There’s a time and place to publicly call out assholery and to ask folks–individuals or the masses–to check their attitudes, privilege, bigotry, etc.

But I’ll just throw out there right now: it’s tacky as hell to bitch and gossip online about a spouse within your SO’s command*. Don’t do it. Unless, of course, your life’s purpose is to be a shitty milspouse and a shitty human being. Then, by all means, fulfill your life’s purpose. Embrace that shit, don your pearls, put your hair into a judgmental bun, and go for it.

There’s a special level of gauche involved in taking to social media to bitch and whine about another milspouse. It’s worse when the bitching and whining all relates to a bullshit definition of what makes a good milspouse.

So first, dear judgmental milspouses, you are not precious. You are not speshul and deserving of snowflake status. You wear no crown, and you have zero responsibilities relating to your spouse’s job unless you choose to take on volunteer obligations.

And please to note: Choose. Volunteer. YOU.

Back when women weren’t allowed to have credit in their own names and couldn’t get birth control unless they were married and had their husbands’ permission, a milspouse had to take part, had to contribute, had to be social and deal almost exclusively with other milspouses. Their husbands’ careers depended on it.

But these here days are a tad more enlightened. We are not paid to take part, we are not obligated by virtue of a marriage certificate to take part, and we don’t have to unless it butters our biscuits to do so.

If you think it’s your obligation to be a leader, I have a few things to note:

  • That’s your effing decision, and you have zero right to expect that of any other milspouse.
  • The training for CO spouses includes the appalling fact that NO SPOUSE IS REQUIRED TO TAKE ON ANY VOLUNTEER ROLES, EVER. Hell, the training for CO/XO billets includes the same tidbit.
  • It shows a severe deficit of character if you choose to take to social media to bitch about another milspouse.
  • It shows a failure of leadership if you take to the internet rather than take her to lunch and brainstorm ways to address your concerns. Though…
  • Keep in mind that another milspouse’s decision to refuse a leadership/volunteer role is not actually a valid concern and doesn’t need to be addressed.

I really can’t believe this needs to be said, but obviously it does when this kind of thing is going on in 20-goddamn-14.

So to sum up: Each milspouse has the right to determine how involved s/he wants to be as a milspouse. Each milspouse has the right to maintain that level of engagement and is never required, by virtue of the service member’s job or otherwise, to take on leadership commitments. If you have a problem with this, you probably ought to get some perspective. If you bitch and gossip about someone who has a lower level of engagement than you do, you’re an asshole. If you bitch and gossip online, where no privacy setting is ever going to allow your statements an expiration, you are an epic pissbiscuit.

Do better.

PS Divest yourself of your spouse’s rank. You’re a goddamn civilian.

* It’s tacky as hell to do it off the webz. But today, we’re talking the dickwittery of those who, for example, ask for “advice” on the web, especially when it’s clearly an attempt to gather the voices and confirm they are Right and Correct and that their feelings of harumph are Valid and Good.

CHAMPS, BRATS, and Entitlement Ahoy!

December 11, 2014

I’ve tried very hard lately to curtail my insults because inner peace, motherlovers. But I just today heard about the CHAMPS vs BRATS (whatever, but more about that bollocks later) brouhaha that has now made its way to SpouseBuzz, which is how a friend heard about it, which is how I found out. And now I have all the insults because what has happened is completely unconscionable and deserves an epic effing smackdown.

BLUF: Jacey Eckhart is right. Those words will probably never again pass my fingers, but there you go.

Jacey is right because, regardless of what the CHAMPS people did or did not do, regardless of their military affiliation or non-affiliation, regardless of whether they chortled madly while USO touring (they *gasp* called it a vacay! how dare they enjoy themselves while helping to entertain the military! f*cking heathen civilian beasts!) the BRATS are a horde of bullies and entitled little shits who have just done more damage to the military-civilian divide than they can ever imagine (mostly because their worlds obviously revolve only around them, so seeing beyond their tiny little ego-bound lives is a pretty massive undertaking). If this gets any traction outside of the military world…wow.

And it could. Why? Because one of you egotistical f*cksticks published private details about the CEO online. And worse? She’s a mil-fiancee. Worse than that? Her fiance is deployed.

*golf clap* Good job, assbiscuits. You’ve really outdone yourselves. Online harassment. Bullying. And now now you’ve added “threats” to your list by publishing addresses and personal details–that’s unspoken permission and encouragement to those who are just a little bit that side of crazy or criminal, which makes your participation a threatening act.

Oh, and remember that other little drum you guys like to beat? ZOMG ISIS IS COMING FOR US EACH INDIVIDUALLY BATTEN THE HATCHES AND PREPARE FOR BEHEADING BECAUSE OBAMA. Yeah, good job advertising that military family to the terrorists. But, wait. I guess that doesn’t matter to you guys, right? Because f*ck her and f*ck that and f*ck everything let’s set all this shit on fire just to make our point. Right?

Reading the comments here and here, I have the overwhelming sense that the people leading this charge are suffering from a martyr complex, are so enamored of their own tiny lives that they like the mil-civilian divide because it keeps them special and other and over here, away from the civilian masses.

You know what this sounds like? That other little bastion of entitled little pricks who want to feel special and hate the idea that there are multiple viewpoints within and without their culture and are f*cking pissed that anyone would dare tread on their special space and are willing to harass and abuse and adopt a false front and then tantrum online to get their way: GamerGate.

Look at those comments. They can be boiled down to: It’s all about ethics in gaming journalism non-profit work and for-profit books of which a f*cking handful have sold.

Same thing, BRATS*.

Every one of you involved in this, and most especially those involved directly in the harassment and threats, should be ashamed of yourselves. You are NOT honorable. You are NOT responsible. You are NOT adaptable. You are NOT tolerant. What you are is a bunch of self-obsessed hypocrites, bullies, twatrockets, and buffoons, and you’ve just blackened the eye of the military community**.

Nice job showing the world how you revel in being a brat and eschew being a champ.

And one more *golf clap* just because your sins are so f*cking epic.

F*ck off. Then f*ck off some more. And then f*ck off so hard you tear the space-time continuum and f*ck off in an infinite Star Trek-like loop. And then, once  you escape the time loop, f*ck off again.

* That is such an infantile thing y’all have done there. I’m a military brat. I will never be a f*cking military BRAT. You might as well be balls-deep in a warm wad of virgin cotton candy with this shit. Daring to choose to do what is right is boldness? How about f*cking surviving the mil-sprog life when you’re surrounded by egotistical cockbeasts? That’s bold right there. Responsibility…but of the Christian variety? Roger that, assburgers. Tolerant? Nice word – you’ll put up with anyone, but not necessarily respect their decision or right to live their lives. *high five* And OMG that S addition- spunk. The way you dickbiscuits have acted, I’m inclined to think the spunk you mean is the jizz kind. Good job. Epic job, actually.

** Plus, you made me agree with Jacey Eckhart, which might just splinter this reality, so f*ck you for that, too.

Calling Out American Offense, Jim Wright-Style

September 25, 2014

Not long after I posted a screed about Lattegate being a news item, a friend shared a Facebook post by Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station, and it was such a thing of beauty, LAW and I both asked if we could share his words with our peeps. He gave us permission to repost. We were all over that like a beard on a hipster because what he says is full of Hell to the Yes and A to the Men. Warning: thar be some language ahead but certainly no worse than you’ve read at my blog.

America has become the land of the perpetually offended. We are the forever outraged, we Americans.

It’s a bullshit first world problem that afflicts those who face no real difficulty in their day to day lives.

No difficulty? What’s that you say? Yeah, listen, when you have to lug the day’s water four miles from the nearest river on top of your head, get back to me.

This outrage, it’s a disease common to those who have enough to eat and a warm place to sleep and endless access to cheap goods and more TV channels than they could view even if they did nothing else. Yesterday, I stood in line behind an angry disaffected hipster at the coffee shop who spent ten minutes ordering a pumpkin spice chai tea latte with various ingredients, a drink that totalled – and I shit you not – $14.98. He held the line up for twenty minutes with his bullshit. Fifteen dollars for a cup of tea. Fifteen dollars for a cup of tea, folks. Twenty minutes of screwing around, and the pretentious little prick STILL wasn’t happy. And we all had to listen to him complain to the barista about his goddamned tea. I wanted to snatch him up by his nasty little goatee and smash his fucking head on the counter.

That’s what America has become, right there, a bunch of privileged snots mad because our chai tea latte isn’t hot enough.

We’re outraged all of the time because we’ve got nothing better to do than be outraged all the damned time.

Listen to me, when the worst thing that happened to you today is that the president waved at a Marine with a cup of coffee in his hand, when THAT’s what you’ve got to be offended by, then you really don’t have any actual problems. You’re just being an asshole.

It’s a symptom of the larger disease.

When the only thing you’ve got to be upset about is that two gay people want to get married, if that’s what offends you, you’re just being an asshole.

When the only thing you’ve got to be pissed off about is that other people worship a different god from yours, or go to a different church, or don’t believe in gods at all, then you’re just being an asshole.

When you’re outraged at the idea that some woman somewhere is getting an abortion, but meanwhile the thought of millions of children starving to death, or dying of preventable and treatable diseases, of suffering from poverty and neglect, or dying under the fall of our bombs doesn’t bother you, you’re just being an asshole.

When the only thing you’ve got to be outraged by is that you feel you’re being persecuted for your religious beliefs, or your race, or your gender, or your sexual orientation even though you’re a member of the overwhelming majority and you provably benefit from that fact every single day, then you’re just being an asshole.

When the worst thing in your day is that we’re not at war enough, that we aren’t bombing or invading or killing enough, if that’s your beef, then you are an asshole.

Other countries? Other places in the world? Their leaders are chopping off heads. Literally chopping off heads. Chopping off hands. Murdering. Raping. They’re gunning people down in the streets. They’re invading their neighbors. People are starving to death and they’ve got no choice but to drink out of the same river they shit in.

America? We’re outraged that the president waved at a Marine with a cup of coffee in his hand.

THAT’s what WE’ve got to be upset about.




He shouldn’t be saluting at all.

Reagan started this idiotic bullshit, no president before him raised a salute, not even Eisenhower.

The president is a civilian. There is no law, statute, regulation, or US Code that requires him to salute. Period. Nor should he. And in point of fact, the people who set up this country SPECIFICALLY didn’t want the president to be a member of the military – which is why we put civilians in charge of it.

The president shouldn’t be saluting in the first place. Period. A nod, a verbal acknowledgement to the military folks guarding him is sufficient.

Listen to me carefully: We don’t want the president, this one or any other, acting like they are a general. This is the United States of America, and it’s long past time for you to remember that.


Addendum 2:

Folks, something I’d point out to you, the President is left handed, as am I.

The president was descending the steep boarding ladder of Marine 1, very likely he was holding on to the rail with his dominant hand, as would I, i.e. the left one. Out of habit, likely he was holding his coffee in his right, as would I. Both without thinking about it – because, and I’m guessing here, the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES just might have other things on his mind than which hand to hold his coffee cup in.

This exact thing happened to me, as a military officer, more than once. Holding my coffee cup, moving through the ship, step out on the deck, and get saluted and have to switch hands or nod or just plain fuck it up and salute with my cup. Because, you know, we’re all human. Some of us are left handed humans operating in a right handed world.

Again, if this is what you have to be outraged by, you’re an asshole and I don’t care which hand you’re using.


September 11, 2014

Today – there will be pictures of flags, and the twin towers with smoke or with the Statue of Liberty, and “never forget” clips.  Today – we will all take a minute and remember how we heard, what we saw.  Today – the military community will remember the upheaval in our lives, the changes we never foresaw on Sept. 10th.  Today- maybe the country will change their focus and think about the veterans.  That’s what today SHOULD be.

9/11 Pentagon Memorial.  By Staff Sgt. Laura Buchta

9/11 Pentagon Memorial. By Staff Sgt. Laura Buchta

What will really happen today?  The news commentators will put on their deep solemn voices and look into the camera with a stern look and waffle on about a local event being done for remembrance.  Two minutes later they will perk up and tell us about the traffic, or the weather, or a cute puppy story.  For a second, you’ll be mad – how DARE they make so little of it. Life does go on.  For us, in this little bubble of a military community, we have a multitude of reminders.  The embroidered prayer rug commemorating a deployment; the missed “big days” of every family; the wounds – visible or not- that are a constant presence in our homes; the friends we made and lost in the last 13 years of high deployment tempo, moves, online connections.

Should we continue to “remember” with solemn ceremonies?  Will the two minutes that someone takes to change their cover photo to a mourning eagle or a firefighter’s helmet draped in black truly mean they understand?  I don’t have an answer to that.

Today – in our house?  We’re packing to move, and the boxes that impede our walking in the house are filling and being taped shut.  The anticipation of the move and the myriad of “must do” tasks to get us ready for the Two Marines Movers tomorrow are dominant in my mind.  But as I pack that embroidered prayer rug and move another trunk of old uniforms out of my way – I don’t need Charlie Rose to remind me to remember.  Our lives changed utterly and completely that day, even if we didn’t know it or realize how much.  Are we still being impacted?  Yes,  sometimes I don’t recognize that prior me or him.  Where would we be if it hadn’t happened, if we hadn’t declared/not declared war?  Who knows.

Today – yes, I’ll remember.  And then I will pick up another pair of shoes and put them in a box and try to figure out where I left the tape gun now.  Because we have to move forward and get things done.  We can’t sit and watch commemoration TV shows all day – and even if we could, I don’t think we would.  Mourning friends, mourning the sons and fathers, daughters and mothers lost is the right thing to do.  Getting on with life as we have to NOW live it, is right for us too. We remember what today is, what it meant and what it means.

So. An Opera [about combat trauma], really? Yes.

June 5, 2014

From a very good friend, Stacy Bannerman, who has written, advocated, worked and lived the life of a caregiver of a veteran. 

I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical.  An opera, really? Written and composed by two people from southern Oregon, of all places, who had no direct connection to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, how could an opera possibly begin to capture how these wars were coming home for the veterans with PTSD and their spouses?  That was my frame of mind when I sat down with the rough cut DVD of the workshop performance of The Canticle of the Black Madonna staged at the University of Oregon last year. Sure, I’d read the remarks by the vets who had been in the audience that evening, including this one, from Miah Washburn, 1SG, U.S. Army Infantry, who is right now training for another deployment to Afghanistan with the Oregon National Guard 41st BDE:

“You honor me, and my brothers and sisters in arms, with this opera. Please know that as a combat veteran I am truly and deeply touched that you have undertaken such an elusive and misunderstood issue as combat-related PTSD in America today.  I am thankful to you all for what you do, and I know my fallen friends would be as well.”


But I was still skeptical.  Perhaps I’d been to one too many retreats, seminars, or workshops hungry for, if not healing, at least understanding, some recognition of the reality of what it can be like living with a veteran with combat trauma, and far too often, leaving disappointed, alienated, alone.  And then I watched, and pretty soon, I quit thinking, and started feeling, and then I was crying, a lot actually.  Because they got it, and they got it right.

In the first act, this original, contemporary opera provides a powerful snapshot of what is really going on in too many homes of too many veterans struggling with the trauma of war. But it doesn’t end there, at that point where too many of our families are stuck.  It doesn’t end at the place where our national conversation seems to have stalled.

In the second act – the whole thing runs just under two hours – the composer, Ethan Gans Morse, and the Librettist, Tiziana DellaRovere, move the music, the story, and us, the audience, onto a new pathway, a new possibility for finding our way forward after war, for daring to believe, for having the audacity to hope even in the midst of devastation that there is a path toward healing the souls of those wounded by war.  We aren’t going to get there alone, and this opera serves as both medium and message for that.

So. An opera, really?

Yes, really.

This opera, in particular, is resurrecting a 400-year-old genre to serve as a vehicle for addressing and transforming the invisible wounds of war, while bringing a serious dialogue about the role of the civilian community in healing the wounds of war to center stage.  A nationally-renowned cast is performing The Canticle of the Black Madonna, a groundbreaking opera about the power of love to transform the lives of military veterans suffering from PTSD on September 5th & 6th, 2014 at Portland’s Newmark Theatre.

We need your help. To fund the opera we have launched a crowdfunding campaign. Please support us by visiting:

Stacy Bannerman, M.S., is the author of When the War Came Home (2006) and spearheaded the passage of Oregon’s H.B. 2744, and H.B. 3391, which created the Governor’s Task Force on Military Families.  Stacy is the Director of Oregon Operations for The Canticle of the Black Madonna,  an original opera about combat PTSD, domestic abuse, and the healing of the soul.  E-mail her at her website,





February 4, 2014

The latest State of the Union address and the Super Bowl were the worst examples of military exploitation I’ve seen in quite a while. And before you tell me I’ve got to relax, know this: Veterans are under fire. Benefits are being taken away, treatment and care are being denied (there are too many stories and links for this one, look it up yourself), VA care is mediocre at best and takes longer than it should to provide care and access, veteran unemployment rate is higher than the national average, Force Shaping is in play (meaning that service members nearing retirement can be forced out before they can retire and get benefits), and suicides are at an astonishing level (these numbers don’t include family members either). All the while they are being told to suck it up. After sucking it up – nay, embracing the suck- for their entire military careers. So watching huge corporations and, worse yet, the POTUS (and FLOTUS) exploit veterans as a way to gain positive benefits for themselves is the very definition of exploitation.

The State of the Union address made me uncomfortable and angry. Why? Because a veteran who sacrificed more than I an comprehend was trotted out in front of the very people who voted to cut his retirement benefits, to applause. That applause was earned, fought for, and well deserved, but coming from our representatives in D.C? It meant nothing, because they didn’t and don’t value what he did, what he gave up, what he stands for. They care about re-elections, money, lobbyists, and a whole slew of unimportant things, but make no mistake: They do not care about veterans. Which is why the COLA cuts passed with nary a protest. Which is why no real action is being taken to improve the VA system. Why Force Shaping is the thanks being doled out to those who volunteered to serve when our nation needed them, just in time to prevent them from collecting retirement benefits. No pause, saying, perhaps screwing over veterans who have already served isn’t the best idea (or fair, or ethical) given that they’ve all been at war for 12 years, I bet there are ways we could actually help them. (There is another rant to be had about their claims that younger veterans can make scads of money right now because they are in prime working age so they don’t need the COLA money- never mind that those benefits were already promised, their time has been served, and all veterans- though especially those dealing with much more serious injuries, mental and physical, from war time- have a much, much harder time finding post-service employment, but I’ll let someone else tackle that another day.)

The Super Bowl gifted us with an atrocious ad from Budweiser. No, the parade featured wasn’t atrocious, it was heartwarming. Even I can admit that. And sending him and his wife to the Super Bowl wasn’t atrocious either. But using the feel good (and hard earned, intensely emotional, and frankly difficult) moment of homecoming as a way to sell beer? That IS atrocious. Because it only benefits Budweiser. And it feeds into the disgusting Reunion P0rn that allows the rest of the world to feel good about homecomings without any of the emotional baggage, fear, worry, and struggle that goes into making those moments so sweet.

And lets not forget the tribute to our military shown at the Super Bowl, which had its heart in the right place. But seeing Michelle Obama and Jill Biden saying all the right things about how great our military members are rang so hollow and, again, made me angry. Because, despite her claims and efforts to help military families, I’ve not heard the FLOTUS speak out once against the COLA cuts or Force Shaping or even better standards for the VA system. That isn’t to say she hasn’t done good work for military families, but we need someone to stand up with us on these bigger issues, and she isn’t.

What it all boils down to, for me, is that these groups, companies, and politicians are shamelessly using the military to gain good well while doing absolutely nothing to help them. Clearly veterans (and their families) are struggling. They sacrifice, the volunteer, they suffer, and then they get the bare minimum in return. (This is hyperbole, yes, there are benefits, however many of these promised benefits are coming under fire and being diminished, or are so hard to gain access to they become moot.)

Budweiser is exploiting us. Kay Jewelers is exploiting us. The POTUS is exploiting us. The list goes on. They are parading us out to make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy about how amazing our troops are, how much they sacrifice, and how proud they make us. But they are doing nothing to actually help. The POTUS agreed to cutting the retirement benefits of veterans who have already served their contracts. How is that helping? He promised to fix the VA system but has done nothing. Budweiser claims to help veterans but their programs are paltry at best, especially for a company that saw almost $40 BILLION in revenue last year alone. Kay Jewelers doesn’t mind playing the deployed spouse card to get you to buy a necklace, but the best they can do for veterans is offer a measly discount. The FLOTUS got to say glowing words about how amazing our military members are in front of the largest audience on television, yet she has not enacted meaningful changes regarding the biggest issues facing veterans.

So, here is the real question: Why do so many military members and families fall all over themselves with praise for companies and individuals that are clearly exploiting them?

I ask this in all seriousness. I watched Twitter and Facebook explode with messages of goodwill and thanks from military families to Budweiser and the FLOTUS during and after the Super Bowl. Same with the POTUS after his State of the Union address. We are earnestly giving heartfelt thanks to the very people who are exploiting us. Thanking the very people who are merely saying the right words, showcasing the happy reunions, and reaping the good will while doing nothing to help veterans or their families. In some cases, these people are actively hurting the veteran community! WHY ARE WE PRAISING THIS?

Are we that starved for attention that we can’t help but beam with pride whenever anyone mentions us or gives us the time of day, regardless of context? Are we just glad someone helped everyone else remember, for just a minute or two, that we are still at war?

I can’t decide. I know there was one time, early on in my transition to military dependent, that I might have viewed these things in a positive light. But it didn’t take long for me to see that these elaborate displays of patriotism were nothing but thin veneers, backed by nothing of substance. It is the commercial and political equivalent of the yellow ribbon magnet. And yet these companies and politicians are making huge financial gains by trotting out their token veteran. They get bumps in polling numbers, they get the feel-good purchase at the liquor store, they get rich. All while the veteran community continues to struggle. AND WE LET THEM.

Where is the outrage? Where are the letters and campaigns to be treated with more respect? To get the help veterans need and deserve? Where is the anger at being used and abused for others’ personal and financial gain? Where is the demand for better treatment, actual support, and keeping promises that were made in recruiter offices 20+ years ago?

I want to know what you all think. Do you think we, the military community, are being exploited? Are we encouraging this exploitation by showing support for such displays? (I’d say yes.) Are we actually gaining something from this that I’m not seeing? Or do you agree and think it is time to speak up, tell politicians and companies that we aren’t for sale and we aren’t your feel-good story, not unless you actually help.

So, spout off in the comments. I hope this opens up a dialogue and lets y’all know that it is okay to not feel good about these feel-good moments. (And if you agree, don’t be afraid to tell Budweiser and the like what you think. Social media can be really powerful, but you all knew that.)



*I’ve written here before, as Tucker, in case you are wondering who I am and where I came from!

Media Portrayals of the Military, or How Fox’s Enlisted Could Have Been Awesome

January 21, 2014

A few Left Face bloggers got some links from a producer’s assistant recently so we could view the pilot episode and a few additional episodes of this new series called Enlisted. The pilot? Well, there’s a good reason the producer, Kevin Biegel, apologized for it. I’ve heard a few say it’s insulting, and I can definitely grok that when “Rear D” is portrayed as the sadsack crew who are too dumb to figure out how to do jumping jacks and who wear American flag nail designs and who walk around with their blouses wide open,  and no covers over their long hair*.

 Here it is, if you want to see for yourself. You should probably pass, though.

 Just. Wow. But Biegel insisted we at least try one post-pilot episode and reserve judgment until then. I tried two. And now I’m judging.

 I have developed a kind of mil-life Bechdel test for TV, movies, books, etc. It goes a little something like this:

  • Are there milspouses/milsos (i.e. service members don’t exist in a vacuum)?
  • Do they and/or the service member have to deal with some fucked up, stressy situations?
  • Do they get to avoid shitshows like reunion pr0n, dependapotamus or similar portrayals, and scenes that gloss over all the actual, real stressors they have to deal with on a daily basis?

 If all three answers are “yes,” congratulations! You get a cookie.

Clearly, very few portrayals of the military life on screen pass. Sadly, very few of the books I read as part of my day job pass this mil-Bechdel test. Most of the books I come across (or end up editing) gloss over #3 on this list. Hardcore. So do movies and the telly, when milspouses are even factored in.

And that’s where I’m finding Enlisted also falls down. It’s my kind of humor – very Scrubs only with soldiers on a base instead of doctors in a hospital. And like Scrubs, it takes a second from the verbal sparring and hijinks to glance through the peephole at more serious aspects of the military experience. But it still glosses. Take the second episode, for example (we will pretend the pilot never happened). The main character Pete *just wants to be alone*. It’s kind of implied that he’s maybe got a touch of the PTSD. That’s just…well…

Again, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, it sucks that so much PTSD is in the media conveying the idea that every service member returning from Afghanistan (or Iraq back when) is a bomb waiting to explode in a PTSD flashback…which leads to almost a pathological need to touch on it in any mil-portrayal. On the other hand, couching this subject in humor is super tricksy, and I just don’t think it came through the other side. Mostly because it was there vaguely for five seconds of a 22-minute episode, and by episode 3, it was gone. Maybe it comes in again later? I don’t know. But it gets such light treatment, I don’t know if I trust it coming around again. Better would have been for Pete to go through the ridiculousness that is the Army “suck it up” attitude that’s been hard at work killing soldiers in record numbers of suicides. Or have this be a small running thread for a secondary character who’s just come home. There are other ways to do this than “sometimes, because shit maybe got real over yonder, soldiers just need to be alone for a while.” I didn’t even get the whiff of PTSD until that comment was made, but it’s at least a trope and bordering on a cliche to see this as shorthand for a psychological concern. 

The second episode’s serious moment is during an “FRG” meeting. The FRG meets in probably the nicest Army base housing I’ve ever seen (not that I’ve seen a lot, but jesus crispy christ do enlisted Army get pooped on with some 3rd world housing units, and this looked more like the huge tracts of new faux-stucco North County San Diego houses). Then, it’s like 5 women and a soldier who comes to mansplain to the wimminz how to get their FRG crap done (what??). Despite there being female soldiers all up in the cast, there were no mil-husbands in that living room. And their meeting discussions? Which color paper to use for the care packages.


One wife speaks during the serious moment, and it is a totally legit concern. Her DH has been deployed for over a year, and she’s worried. Yes! This! This is precisely what we need in milspouse portrayals to close that military-civilian divide. This is what will give civilians the context they need to understand why reunions are so incredibly intimate and wonderful and difficult and awful and exciting all at the same time…and why reunion pr0n is therefore exploitative and voyeuristic and unbalanced in its storytelling. This is what we need.

 But then she gets another line. And this line gives me a sad.

 “Does he know I haz all the feels?” she asks the soldier who’s never deployed ever.

And I tear out my hair. It’s at this point I realize the producer does, indeed, have veterans advising him, but they’re likely old dudes, judging by some of the milspouse portrayals. And he probably has ZERO milspouses advising. Because, yet again, we’re an afterthought, and our own conflicts and struggles mean about jack and shite unless our lives can be turned into a completely ridiculous soap opera on Lifetime. Huzzah.

 The show has some funny moments. I lolzed it up during the cooking contest, and I think YodaMan will have his own set of lulz if he sees the disaster preparedness training (zombies FTW!). I really like how Sgt Perez is portrayed. She’s a kick ass woman, and even though she’s a secondary character, she ninjas a lot of scenes and delivers some throat punches on her way out the door. (Just, please Dear Writer, for the love of all that is holy, don’t develop a romance there. Leave this relationship in the friendzone, I beg you. I edit romance novels for a living, and *I* think this one’s better left alone.)

 The banter is fun, and though much of the setting is still unrealistic, it’s better than the pilot’s setting. Also, hairs were cut and blouses were buttoned and covers are appropriately doffed and donned as far as my Navy knowledge goes, so we’re definitely on an upswing.

 I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I’m sure this season’s shows are already written, edited, and in whatever pipeline teleplays go through. But if this show survives into another season, maybe it will pick up some meatier plot threads. Maybe it will pass my mil-Bechdel test later. For now, I’m going to have to urge everyone who’s curious to miss the pilot, skip right to the second episode (really, here’s all you missed: Pete punches his CO and is busted down and sent back to Florida, where his two brothers are also stationed), and judge for yourself. I think some will like it just fine. I think some will hate it with fire. Either way, I do believe Mr. Biegel when he says, “Please just know the show comes from a place of love for my family that did the job, not Hollywood holy-ier-than-though-ness.”**

 Me? I’ll figure it out later, when I’m no longer worried about how we’re going to make up the $100k Congress just cut from our retirement pay. For now, it’s merely one more voice threatening to trivialize our trials and exploit our tribulations. I’m hoping it won’t, but in the last 19 years of living in the lap of mil-luxury, I’ve learned to expect the worst, hope for the best, and invest in vegan cheez*** to get me through the rough patches.


 * I know the other services do covers different than the Navy. Or maybe it’s something about how they salute without a cover on? I can’t remember. I just remember thinking how fucked up it was in ROTC. Consistency, people. No roof, cover on. No cover, no salute. Exception: screwy ship sitches. Ta da! Now nobody’s confused unless they’re on a screwy ship.

** Though that’s the second time in a week a producer dissed on Hollywood to me. Is this a thing?

*** Kite Hill, bizatches. That’s some tasty stuff. So ridiculously expensive, but it’s almond milk cultured just like real cheese. Om to the nom.