Skip to content

The Great “Entitlement” Debate

June 15, 2010

If you follow the military through social media or the news these days, then this article should be no surprise to you. A fallen soldier is on his way home from Afghanistan. Due to overbooked flights, his family [6 members] is unable to board the same flight his flag-draped casket is scheduled to be on. When the women at the terminal gate announced why exactly they needed people to give up their seats, three people stepped forward.

It took 30 minutes, after much begging and pleading from the gate attendants, for three more people to step forward.

It’s sad, and disgusting and heart breaking that people in this country can’t appreciate a person who gave their life for our country. They weren’t killed in a car accident. They weren’t killed hiking in some foreign mountains. He was killed in the line of duty, doing something that our government ordered him to do. As United States residents, we should respect and honor him AND his family.

But, that is not what this article is about. I was asked by my good blogger friends, Tucker and LAW, to write about another article and topic, closely related to this one. And, because I totally love them, I’m doing just that.

Tom Ricks, over at Foreign Policy wrote a brief article [and by brief I mean he mentioned the situation in one paragraph, but also, HOORAY, linked to LeftFace, my group blog] in regards to this fallen service member and his family, and the horrible situation that was at hand. The topic of this discussion is about some of the comments that have been made.

While I’m not surprised that some of the comments were not at all friendly, they bring up an interesting point. Here is a quick snapshot of some of the comments [emphasis mine]:

I’m sick of this growing military exceptionalism, and I’m worried that much of it is driven by spouses. Not parents – the ones who have the least choice in the matter – but fellow volunteers. Now, why is that? I’ve served on and off over the past nine years. I’m about to re-enlist; my wife is about to enlist. We know about separation. But I volunteered to serve, and my wife volunteered to marry me. We knew the risks and the sacrifices. Yet, day in, day out, we see spouses make a big fuss on the internet, and I think it’s largely because the web has provided an emotional blow-out valve. I know deployments are tough and emotional, but in the end this internet-driven hysteria is both attention-seeking and causes long-term damage to civil-military relations.

I think much of this is driven not just by spouses, but specifically by wives. … when you have women disproportionately running the show, things often get too hysterical. A lot of raw emotion is re-packaged as outrage and sold as something more than that it is (men do the same and re-package it as anger). Too much of this military spouse activism is emotions first, rationality second.

I’m embarrassed by the extent to which people feel they are entitled to be lionized and given exceptions because they volunteered to join the military.

Obviously, comments like these are making people a little crazy. I don’t feel as strongly on the issue as some of my counter parts do [see also here and here for other takes on the issue], but I do think that this “entitlement” issue deserves being addressed. Do we, as military spouses feel entitled because of what our spouses do? Should our spouses feel entitled? Do we have the RIGHT to this entitlement?

These questions, for me, don’t have a black and white answer. For me, it’s not as simple as a yes or no area. The topic is very grey. There is lots of middle ground on all of this! My opinion is mostly that no, I do not feel that I am any more special than somebody else. In the situation above, if GOD FORBID I had to fly my husband home like that poor family did, then yes — I would expect somebody to stand up and help me out. Because my husband does, every single day, what a majority of the people in this country refuse to do. I’m sorry, but simply shouting your patriotism from the rooftops [ahem … Glenn Beck. Sorry. Had to get that jab in there] does not make you better or more entitled than somebody else. Putting yourself on the front line, getting shot at and being blown up by IEDs, spending months and years away from your family, missing births, birthdays and important events, or worse yet, giving your life for your country — that absolutely does give you a right to some sort of entitlement. And to some degree, I expect people to treat my husband better. I would, in a heart beat, give my seat up to a service member who needed it. Whether he was flying for work, or coming home on R&R. Even though my husband does not feel the same way [“It’s my job. I signed up for this. I knew what I was getting myself into when I joined post-9/11.”] I love seeing people treating him with respect and honor when they find out what he does. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside knowing that there are people out there who appreciate him and his sacrifices as much as I do, as well as appreciating the other 1% of the American population who serve in our Military.

However. Comma.

Is there a line? Should spouses feel that same sort of entitlement that Service Members do? I consider myself extremely lucky, and maybe my opinions are so because I haven’t been jaded by the crap the Army can spew out at you. Snarky Navy Wife has definitely had her fair share of bullshit in her years as a military spouse, and I know plenty of others who could say the same.

But me? We’ve been at Fort Bragg for about five years ago, and have recently made the choice[something that a lot of military couples don’t have] to stay here for a couple of more. Our basic housing allowance is enough to cover our mortgage and most of our basic utilities. Health care? It’s not GREAT, but when I was having issues with my primary care physician, I made a phone call to Tricare and they switched me to a much better clinic. I have been happily with them now for about two years. Sure, it takes a couple extra phone calls, and having to go to the emergency room for anything is a major pain in the ass. But I don’t pay for anything. Not prescriptions, not the breast reduction I just had that would have cost a civilian around $6,000, no co-pays. Nothing. Their basic pay isn’t that great — but then things like jump pay and BAH (which, I realize not everybody gets) are not taxed which for us turns out to be a pretty good pay check every month. Again, I realize, completely, that I have been lucky. I don’t have any major gripes with the basic things of our lifestyle. The things that are given to us.

But what about everything else? I’m throwing this out here, and I know that it will make some of my other military spouse friends cringe, but I know what I signed up for. I DID know coming in that the Army sucked, that the programs sucked, that it never went the way that they “said” it would go. Prior to getting married, I had a crash course in how dysfunctional the military is when they changed his deployment date FIVE TIMES in a matter of three weeks. They lied to me. They lied to me again when they told me he would only be gone for 12 months, only to have him gone for 15. Programs like MyCAA, which as others have pointed out was PROMISED to the military spouses. It was touted in front of those who were thinking about reenlisting as this wonderful option for military spouses. Something for THEM. Go back to school, get a degree [as long as it fits into a certain category, but thats another post], and you don’t have to pay for it. And then POOF. It was gone. Just like that. With no real explanation, and from the looks of it, no plan to bring it back. Dangling this, like so many other programs, in front of military spouses and then yanking them away is definitely not cool. So, I agree that getting fired up about situations like that are definitely worth the anger. But is it a surprise that the military has a fucked up way of showing they care? No. Not really.

But on the flip side, much like my husband, I do things that a lot of couples in this country don’t. I deal with deployments — LONG ones. These aren’t just some twinky business trip over a couple of states for a week or two. We’re talking 12 months, 15 months at a time, with my husband constantly in a state of danger. Guns. Bombs. IEDs. In between deployments there are trainings, sometimes months at a time; it doesn’t matter if its in between deployments. Those six weeks he’s gone? It still counts as “dwell time.” And during that time I run a household by myself. I have dealt with family deaths, miscarriages, financial burdens, shitty jobs with nobody to talk to when I come home at night, keeping up with not only my immediate family, but his as well. Worrying about my husband 24/7 while he is away, hoping and praying that is safe and sound. Dreading that doorbell knock or the government car drive by. Throw in kids in there, for all those other families that have them, and you have kids crying because they miss daddy/mommy, kids who don’t KNOW who their other parent is, missed births, missed first steps, first words, first teeth … There is so much emotional baggage that comes with being a military spouse.

I don’t think that I am “entitled” to better programs, or more money on my husbands paycheck, or perfect health care. Because again, I knew what I was getting into. While the Army, in particular, has made leaps and bounds over the years in terms of how they look at families [I see less and less of the “if the Army wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one” mentality], its not perfect. And it never will be. I don’t think I deserve anything more tangible simply because of what my husband does.

However, I do feel entitled to respect. And an understanding of what we, as spouses, go through on a daily basis. Being a military spouse is extremely difficult. It’s not your typical, every day, average Joe marriage. We go through difficulties and hardships that 99% of the people in this country cannot, in their wildest dreams, fathom. You can listen, and you can read about it all you want, but until you go through what I mentioned above, you absolutely cannot relate. So yes, I expect respect, and sympathy and understanding of our situation. I do feel entitled to those three things.

I am entitled a seat on a plane.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2010 2:03 pm

    I’m so happy that Leftface has been featuring this topic! I recently blogged about it myself at the URL above! =)

  2. Kira permalink
    June 15, 2010 3:21 pm

    That was very well said.

  3. Wishful Bohemian permalink
    June 15, 2010 4:43 pm

    Uh, yes. Just this. Exactly. Thank you.

  4. Elizabeth permalink
    June 15, 2010 7:32 pm

    I agree with what you said, but I felt one comment you made wasn’t necessary. The comment about Glenn Beck probably didn’t need to be said. It’s completely fine that you don’t like him or don’t agree with him, but it just irks me to no end when people continually make jabs at people like Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Bush and so on, but get offended when someone takes a jab at Obama, Pelosi, Frank, etc…
    Contrary to what you may think, I honestly don’t mind when people don’t agree with “conservative” or “republican” individuals, but I do mind it when I hear and read about people getting called nasty names when they don’t agree with someone who is “liberal” or “democrat”.
    Anyways, just my two cents I guess. I’m not trying to offend anyone, just wanted to get that off my chest.

    • June 15, 2010 7:41 pm

      I understand what you’re coming from, but my point, which I didn’t really want to elaborate on, is that Glenn Beck [and many, many others] shouts from the rooftop about his patriotism, yet he doesn’t *really* do anything about it, other than talk. And people like him, in my opinion, have absolutely no reason to speak. He has made many comments about the military, including many anti-military comments, yet he’s supposedly the proudest one that there is, and because he’s so proud, he thinks he’s better than anybody else.

      It wasn’t an “I hate Glenn Beck” statement, however true that may be. I was merely using him as an example.

      • Elizabeth permalink
        June 16, 2010 10:17 am

        Well, I hate Obama. That should be okay and I shouldn’t be called a racist, correct?
        Just making sure there are no double standards here 🙂

        • June 16, 2010 12:04 pm

          Not sure where that came from, or how thats relevant. I’m not calling anybody racist, or knocking their political views. That wasn’t the point, AT ALL.

  5. June 15, 2010 10:59 pm

    For those of us who have opposed the war in Iraq since before it began, (yes, yes, I am well aware that the majority of the population does not have the emotional intelligence or intellectual wherewithal to hold two seemingly oppositional thoughts e.g. supporting the troops necessitates opposing wars of choice/based on lies without going insane – yet I do and live with the effects of it every single day) and have led the charge as this nation demonstrates Schopenhauer’s theory about how a new truth enters a system; for those of us whose beloveds weren’t in the active duty, but in the Guard/Reserve, with promises from recruiters and centuries of history and policy that stipulated the Guard was established as a homefront reserve force, I am alternately appalled and fascinated by the fundamentally false premise of entitlement. During Vietnam, the soldiers were drafted. During OIF/OEF, the military families are drafted. Married men, members of the Guard, and military parents, were largely exempt from the draft during Vietnam ( hello Dick and George!) It was understood that military families could not WITHSTAND THE STRESS AND BURDEN OF DEPLOYMENT. Then. Now? Now, the draftees are military family members accused of entitle ment by the same civilians who don’t serve, won’t sacrifice, and can’t keep themselves to their marriage vows. And the mother fuckers with no skin in the game – the armchair patriots and summer soldiers who have not sacrificed a single thing ( and never will) – the old veterans who beat their wives and are on their 4th marriage – have the temerity to suggest that we – today’s military spouses – want too much? Are overly entitled? We, the milspouses, do for free what the men – troops and veterans and fathers – wouldn’t do for money. That’s why divorce rates for female veterans are triple that of male vets: civilian men can’t handle the life.

  6. Sven permalink
    June 16, 2010 11:47 am

    As a first time visitor to this site, I am… surprised. I had expected a reasoned argument, or a more thoughtful analysis of the situation you find yourself in. Rather, it seems like a litany of complaints…

    Entitlement? You are entitled to nothing. The situation you are in has arisen because of choices that you have made. For the same reason, you should not expect the world’s respect. You lack perspective.

    There are people in far, far worse situations than yourself. They die. You live.

    Think beyond your own life.

    • LAW permalink
      June 16, 2010 12:13 pm

      Sven – WE lack perspective? WE are the ones living this life, are you? we are saying that we aren’t asking for anything that we weren’t promised. Beyond our own lives… that’s rich. We are the ones holding our families together whilst our spouses go off and fight wars for the 99% of armchair soldiers who tell us to suck it up (which aren’t your words, but they sure are your sentiments). Thoughtful analysis – go read a Rand Study. Here, we talk about what our lives are like, what we feel and how it’s affecting us and our families.


    • June 16, 2010 12:14 pm

      As I said in my post, I am fully aware of the choices that I have made, and what has resulted from it. I do believe I did say “I knew what I was getting into.” My husband has been through multiple tours to Iraq, both for a year or longer. Our best friend WAS killed in the line of duty in December of 2007. I have SEEN, first hand, wives who refuse to leave the side of their husband’s coffin at night, because they can’t bear to leave their desceased spouses side. We have had many other friends who have been permanently injured during their time overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as a result have been discharged from the military. So, do I still lack perspective? Because I very much have lived the tragedy that goes on. And because of that, because I deal with and see things that most people don’t, I absolutely do believe that I am entitled to some respect.

      I would be curious to know what you do, Sven. Are you military?

      • Sven permalink
        June 16, 2010 2:35 pm

        Apology to Law. On review, that post seems aggressive, which was not its intent. I was more shocked at such a strength of opinion from the author’s point of view.

        No, a nurse. I recently worked in a medical mission in SE asia where we saw the end result of the recent US military campaigns. I understand your patriotism, but ultimately, soldiers kill people- it is their purpose. In the medical field, we see the end result… soldiers get good care, but their targets often do not.

        Speaking from abroad, the distinction between the defense of the American nation and offense seems blurry. Some of my colleagues would condemn you not for marrying a soldier, but constructing a way of thinking in which you (or soldier-partners in general?) are victim. US military is not Israel… Americans have volunteers who are paid to fight… so you are part of the tragedy, but also a cause of it? it seems insane to us here, yes?

        Also~ I have polled 3 men here on the issue of spouses flying on planes, as you described. All of us have variant opinions, but agree on one point: the other flyers should yield their seats for the wife (and only this wife). Not on the grounds that she was a military spouse, but rather in respect for her as a person, as a widow.

        For your question of respect? No, still not. If you stand in the rain holding heavy bags, then yes, it is difficult (but no respect). But if it was by choice, then you would need an umbrella. As a mother + wife I can give you respect, but not as the ‘military wife’ as you talk of above. I think the difference in perception is from different backgrounds and professions. Sorry sorry if I have offended, but thank you for the response, I am learning a great deal from you and this blog.

  7. sreysaw permalink
    June 16, 2010 11:56 am

    Perfect post. Thank you.

  8. Anita permalink
    June 16, 2010 2:43 pm

    Great post!

  9. Crystle permalink
    June 16, 2010 6:32 pm

    To Sven,

    I think the point that you are missing is (and this is just MY take on her blog) the author felt entitled to the respect of her fellow Americans. I don’t believe she was asking for foreigners respect. That is just the way I interpreted her words. Speaking only for myself, I have nothing against foriegners. (Otherwise I would have to disown my Filipino mother…and she will have NONE of that!) I do understand that other countries have their own opinions on the war and that’s understandable. That is why I wouldn’t ask for or expect your respect because we live different lives.
    I do believe you bring on a very common MISCONCEPTION about the American military. Our husbands (or wives) volunteered to defend (or offend as you see it) our country. They don’t sit in on Congressional meetings and don’t make the decisions to go to war with particular countries. We are a democracy that elects officials to represent us. Our spouses do as the government tells them to as it is their job to do so. Many of our spouses truly believe in the wars they fight in and some may want a stable paycheck, healthcare,etc. It’s a job. And in THIS country it’s a job everyone feels needs to be done (having a military to protect their freedom and rights) but very FEW have the courage to do. And I find it absurd of you to say that by marrying our spouses we are somehow as you put it “responsible for this tragedy.” Some of us believe the current war is just and then some of us don’t. Is it your belief for those of us who don’t agree with the current war, we should leave our husbands or wives because we don’t like their job? I’m not sure about your country, but in this country MOST of us would need far more than a job disagreement to make us leave our beloved spouses. I may not agree with why my husband is at war, but my love for him far outweighs political opinions. I support him regardless of my political opinions because I know he loves his family and his country. And I assure you when the government heads are making those big decisions on war, they aren’t asking for my husband’s opinion and DEFINITELY not mine. I respect your opinions on the war, however, you don’t really have a say on whether we deserve respect from our fellow citizens.

  10. Crystle permalink
    June 16, 2010 8:04 pm

    And just to clarify….I meant to say that I respect your RIGHT to your opinion on the war. I don’t respect your belief that our military men and women are murderers. I find that to be an extremely uneducated and almost terrorist-like opinon. However, I don’t think this is the place for those opinons…

  11. June 19, 2010 7:18 am

    Without going into all the thoughts that I’ve had on this topic and this post, I think anyone flying with a casket should get “exemption”, military or not. That’s a horrible thing to go through, and it’s sad that the people’s attitudes about their own important business led to begging to get everyone on the plane.
    I don’t think I’m entitled, either. I tend to understand that no one is special,life happens, blah blah blah. “We signed up for it.” I swear, nothing is worse than that mentality. So if I can catch a break somewhere, it’s nice. I’ll take it, because our life as an Army couple guarantees that we’ll experience more bullshit than imaginable. In my 2 months of marriage (but my experience as an Army SO began long ago) I’ve already thought, “Okay, I DID not sign up for THIS.” I guess what I’m saying is that any break is nice, but I sure as hell don’t expect anything. And I will judge someone who thinks that it’s “all just part of it” and we “shouldn’t complain at all”.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: