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WE? So, where were YOU?

May 4, 2011

The night they got Bin Laden (sounds like a country song) I, together with many of my milspouse Facebook Friends, was sitting in front of my netbook trying to keep up with the news; the TV was on, and there were pictures of the crowds in front of the White House. One young milspouse, who has come to our area to support a mutual friend whose husband is at Walter Reed after losing part of his leg in Afghanistan, was messaging – “pick me up, let’s go to the White House”… After a few of us told her how difficult it would be, how insane things like traffic and parking would be, I watched the coverage of Lafayette Park again. The screams of WE did it, the USA USA chants – the ones who were yelling the loudest were in Georgetown sweatshirts, their hair wasn’t a 3 on the top/2 on the side, they were too young to be veterans. Then the pictures changed to Ground Zero – same thing. Signs – WE did it. WE got him…

Rebekah Sanderlin, whose work I have enjoyed and admired for years, wrote a great piece for the New York Times. As she said “ We?”

WE? Where the HELL were you; when we waved goodbye again and again; when we went to funeral after funeral; when we packed another care package to send to our soldiers instead of seeing them around our Thanksgiving table, or the Christmas tree; when our friends delivered babies alone or with Daddy attending via Skype; when our military spouses were drowning in stress and sadness; when we set our alarms to get up at 3 am, because that was when our spouse could get to the computer to chat.

YOU decided the military cost too much; you decided that Veterans were costing too much and screamed that your taxes were too high; you griped when your roads were blocked when another servicemember’s funeral passed by; you derided the spouses as free loaders when they asked for the military discount offered by a grateful store; you told us “you knew what you were getting into” or “you volunteered, so shut up already”.

Oh, I forgot… you showed you supported the troops, didn’t you. You stuck that little yellow ribbon magnet on your car, and cheered when a color guard paraded into the stadium. But you are much MUCH too busy to help that family on the block that has someone deployed… you are much too busy to mow that lawn, or shovel that snow – after all, it’s not YOUR fault that he’s downrange; it’s not YOUR fault that she’s in Walter Reed or Bethesda Naval Hospital; he’s not YOUR brother; she’s not YOUR aunt.

After a decade of deployments, with another farewell set in a few weeks, and the questions of “doesn’t this mean he won’t have to go”… with the knowledge that many of my friends have spouses downrange or about to deploy and wondering if the vengeance or retaliation will hit here or there, this WE grates. After 10 years of hearing “you people [military] are overpaid” “that combat pay should be taxed”; “why are you getting all these discounts”, this WE irks me. After 10 years of watching marriages crumble; hearing of yet another suicide attempt or even worse of another spouse who couldn’t go on and ended it all, this WE really is starting to piss me off. If YOU want to stand there and yell WE did it – fine. If you can’t put on a uniform, then volunteer with a support group. If you don’t have a ton of time, go help that military family on your block. If you don’t have one of those,  sign up on Joining Forces send a donation to the USO, to Blue Star Families, make a Link for LIFT.

Those SEALS who went in, those intel guys who worked and worked to get the information, the planners, the guys who built the mockups, the pilots who flew them in, the support crews and all those families – the ones who won’t be jumping around in front of a camera screaming but are the ones who should be yelling WE did it, they deserve your thanks, your praise, your gratitude.  Don’t hurt yourself patting your own back, reach out and shake their hands.


15 Comments leave one →
  1. May 4, 2011 11:12 am

    Very well written! The “we” remarks bother me too. And the sudden patriotism so many Americans suddenly have out of nowhere. Why can’t they always be patriotic rather than when a big event happens?

  2. Laya permalink
    May 4, 2011 11:32 am

    This stings a little, I’ll be honest. I’m a milspouse, and yes, I’m a youngish 20-something year old. And maybe these people crying “we did it,” aren’t well-kempt, maybe they’re too young to be veterans, but I also know that Georgetown, George Mason, and George Washington are famous for offering full-ride scholarships to veterans, military kids, and military spouses. In fact, I know of several veterans (who are my age, and were medically retired) and military brats who went to Georgetown, and were at those….gatherings.
    Maybe the average American derides the military or doesn’t support military spouses, but I know that the most criticism I’ve gotten for being a mil. spouse or being affiliated to the military hasn’t been from people in my generation.
    Maybe we’re excitable, maybe we’re rash, and irresponsible and irreverent, but it’s been complete strangers, who are my age, that have been the most understanding. They’ve been the ones offering to help make care packages, who have bought my husband drinks, who have bent over backwards for us. If anything, I’ve found more condemnation for “not soldiering on” or “being weak” from people within the military.
    But that’s my two cents. But if it wasn’t aimed towards people around my age, then I apologize for misreading it. It just…stung. And I’m more than a little tired of people deriding my generation for “not being good enough.” As an overall criticism of the American people and their reactions though, I’d have to agree.

    • libarmywife permalink
      May 4, 2011 11:36 am

      Laya – this was NOT directed at the young. No way. I found it telling that the people cheering and saying WE – honestly weren’t the ones who could say WE did it. That’s reserved, I think, for those who have been in the military or in a military family. Saying Thanks YOU did it, would have been a lot more accurate for those signs.

    • May 4, 2011 11:50 am

      Laya: This isn’t a generational thing. Last week we had @Penny_Lane on NPR’s post about military suicides telling us cart blanche that this is what we signed up for and we should get a grip. We had a friend of mine tell me on FB that my disagreement with him about his derogatory remarks about the President showed that I was deriding the hard work of military families (you can see my post about it at Smurfoflauge Cafe)…me, a military spouse.
      We do have lots of people who tell us we haven’t suffered enough, we are given too much. Another friend of mine told me that I was so entitled (see the blog archive on this site).
      Enough is enough. People should not be allowed to carry on waving the American flag and then spit on the people who protect this Nation’s freedom.
      We’re not saying everyone is that way. I send thank you cards routinely to my neighbor who helps me shovel my walk our from 5′ of snow in the winter. And there are many businesses who do so much. That said, there are some people who’s behavior has to be called to account. This has nothing to do with age and everything to do with respect.

  3. May 4, 2011 11:33 am

    Oh HELL YES!
    *Waving my American flag with the cadence of your speech*
    You said it, and far more politely than I am capable of right now.

    • libarmywife permalink
      May 4, 2011 11:37 am

      I cleaned it up. a lot. my first draft was very … um… yeah.

  4. Laya permalink
    May 4, 2011 11:37 am

    Glad to hear! I’m sorry I misread it then!

    • libarmywife permalink
      May 4, 2011 11:38 am

      I appreciated the feedback. I’m always very grateful for anyone reading and commenting, can only help improve what I say and how I say it.

  5. May 4, 2011 2:14 pm

    Seriously thinking about posting to FB: “To all the “United We Stand” peeps, either put your money where your mouth is on Military Spouse Appreciation Day by performing service for a military family, or do us a favor and put your sign in the trash”

    Too much?

  6. May 4, 2011 6:56 pm

    Fabulous! Way to redirect attention where it belongs without seeming gratuitous. Something I must not be able to do as a military wife, surprised at how often I find myself on the blitzkrieg end of the ‘you have it so good’ campaign.

    I’m equally fascinated by the other side of this jubilee coin, the ‘what is all the fuss about, he’s just one man, it won’t change anything’ side. Uhh…

    For my family, the death of this Just One Man validated my frequently questioned sanity as WE, yes even willingly, suffered through (yet proudly prevailed) so many deployments.

    But hey, if this military success is even mildly able to narrow the yawn between the rest of America and my military family, then fine, join the party. Just bring your own damn booze ’cause we can’t keep spotting you forever.

  7. Shenafa Kenney permalink
    May 4, 2011 10:31 pm

    When the Twin Towers were hit America was hit. Americans, not service members, where in those planes that went down. Yes the Pentagon was a target as well. This county went to war but sent our Service members. To see the collage kids and other Americans Say ” We did it” and not protesting our service members is Awesome. This is a great launching pad for more support of the military and military families. I am a Navy Veteran and a current Navy Spouse. I have sent my husband away while expecting, I have laid to rest fellow shipmates, and I have patched up my fellow shipmates. I do not always see the support I woud like but I do notice the support I do get.

  8. Megan7 permalink
    May 5, 2011 5:07 am

    I understand that this bothers you, but as an army wife AND a student at georgetown university I can understand why people were so excited. I was one of those who ran to the white house. And while most of those people may not be militarily affiliated, it is nice to see a sense of patriotism I don’t normally see, even if it does only happen when something big happens…I’m glad as Laya posted that it wasn’t a jab at the young, and maybe I felt a little singled out since you mentioned seeing georgetown students.
    And I agree, people should be thanking the seals and the military, and not trying to claim credit, but I think it’s meant as more of a success as a nation and pride that we finally caught him and not meant to be offensive…

    • May 5, 2011 10:58 pm

      I am also a military spouse and a doctoral candidate and I have to say that after nearly a decade of listening to people telling me “that’s what you signed up for” any time I mention the suffering of military spouses, children, servicemembers, veterans, I don’t want to hear from a bunch of people how they were there every hour and every minute of this war with us when they have been out partying and carrying on like there is no war.
      I show up and do my job as a student, as an employee, etc the same as them, but I don’t to tune out the costs of war when I get sick of hearing about it. This month, as people have whined in my lab about how hard their lives are, I have worked every bit as many hours as them and supported my husband, and my friend who is a military spouse who nearly ended her life and worried over another friend and her husband after he was injured in A-stan. And these people I work with have told me over and over that well, I signed up so oh, well, you figure it out. And then they were the ones setting off fireworks, drinking, carrying on and waving “United We Stand” signs here. “United We Stand”? Where the hell were they when my husband was so depressed? Where were they when things were so bad it nearly crushed me? I was told either play in the big leagues, no excuses, no favors, no understanding or get the hell out. So I carry this load of so much worry over so many broken in this war, I try to keep myself, my husband, my friends and their families together and then I carry the regular load too, without so much as understanding. So no, these people don’t deserve the right to be arm chair patriots, arm chair generals and pretend that “We did it”, when we. in their own words, didn’t include them.

  9. May 5, 2011 5:51 pm

    I just have one thing to say: It felt incredible to read this and feel the words. Thank you LAW for saying the things so many of us choke back down.

    – Military Brat, Veteran, MilSpouse

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