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Standing By- A book by a milspouse who gets it

May 2, 2009

I’ve read an awful lot of books/articles/blog posts  by military spouses, about deployment, life between deployments, the affect on the family etc.   Some are the chirping type – all is wonderful, aren’t we having fun; some are the doom brigade – it all sucks, the world is over; some are a list of good (or not so good) references/sites/helpful groups.  None of them particularly resonated for me. Some were TOO political on either side (gasp, LAW says something is too political, can you believe it?) .  Some are boring treatises on the right/wrong of military life; some are so inane I swear they were farting rainbows and fairy dust (still gotta thank you for that phrase!), some were useful for figuring out where to get information, some were well written about past deployments, but they still didn’t resonate for me.

Then I read a blurb about a new book – Standing By; the Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War , written by Alison Buckholtz an Active Navy wife, that didn’t go into politics, but was honest about the life we lead as milspouses.  I bought it, since I wanted to go to her reading here in DC (at Politics & Prose – a great independent bookstore here)  And this one – did resonate.  Whether it’s because it is very well written (and it is); whether it’s because she had the same questions about living life as a milspouse; or because she said things I’ve been saying for a long time, but she said it in print – I don’t know.  I just know I sat on the Metro, tabbing certain pages, making notes and wanting to shout – YES, Exactly!

alison-buckholtz-002 There are so many points I want to touch on, but this shouldn’t be a book in itself!  The over riding concern that I read, that I heard when I listened to her at the reading – was for the families, for the children of the present military, for the spouse who is home holding the family together, or making a new “normal”.

Alison talks about the “ultimate draftees” – the children who didn’t sign on the dotted line, but who are so deeply affected by their parent’s deployments ; the wives who often present a cheery, chirpy happy exterior, but aren’t always so happy behind closed doors or with others that are going through the same thing; the perception of military families by civilians.  The latter – was one of those points in the book when I almost leapt to my feet in the Metro.  Alison was telling my story at this point, the questions from non military friends and family – why? – why does he do this?  why don’t you come “home” during deployment?   The civilian viewpoint that we are all ” well intentioned robots”, the indifference/ignorance of many civilians of what a military family’s life entails, and the fact that the gap between “us” and “them” is growing rapidly, since the draft means that most Americans don’t know any one in the military, have no connection with the military and don’t think about the military other than parades and  TV shows.

There’s a lot to this book – the tearing grief of a child who misses his daddy and the anger and pain of the mother who wants to fix it, who wants to keep her children happy and safe; the gradual acceptance and the great pride of a woman in the Navy that she and her family are part of; the new friendships made during deployment, and the realization that the pre-conceived notions of being a “military spouse” were for the most part unfounded; the coming together of a group of women to help one of their own, without judging, with the realization that her problems, could be their problems.

Most of “us” in this life , during our frequent PCS’s, go through our books and agonize about getting rid of this one, or that series.  We have collections, We have keepers, we have our favourites, and we have the ones we bought because we liked the cover!  This one, is a keeper.  This one, I’ll loan to those who don’t understand and want to; who need to understand; who want to get a “cracking good read” and learn something about military spouses. But they won’t get the signed one!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2009 12:34 pm

    Wow. Sounds like an awesome book. Thanks for the review.

  2. Meghan permalink
    May 2, 2009 12:43 pm

    Thanks for bringing these resources to our attention!

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