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Military Family – A Little Bit Of Everything!

November 23, 2011

A guest post – that describes so many of us – that makes us all realize that Yeah – Military Families are a pretty amazing bunch!

Warning: this package contains… a little bit of everything.

by ScarletVirago

I volunteered to write this post about my military family for November, Month of the Military Family, without taking into account that I am also signed up for National Novel Writing Month, Thanksgiving, my birthday (which I’m happy to ignore, but evidently my family is against such tactics of denial), various holiday activity/decorating preparations, FRG events and the normal, everyday stuff one does as wife, mother and owner of a dog with ADD.

Not the time to be expounding on the trials and virtues of being a military family in 2011! I thought. But then I thought, no, it’s the perfect time, because what else is being a military family about than herding this crazy mash-up into something resembling order – or at least organized chaos?

The Army is all about organized chaos. Leaving aside the political commentary, an organization (and I use that term loosely) which must plan, structure and label half a million serving members PLUS their civilian families can’t be anything but chaos! I actually feel kind of sorry for them. Especially since I know my family is one that can’t really be labeled.

My family consists of one Sergeant First Class in the US Army, one former workaholic single mom, one fourteen year old girl who prides herself on being the opposite of normal, and the aforementioned canine with attention deficit. We live in Germany, where we’ve been stationed for the past two years and nine months. My husband is career military, having joined the National Guard before he even graduated high school and went active duty shortly thereafter. I, however, became a first-time military spouse six months before my 30th birthday when we married six and a half years ago. We don’t use the term “step-parent” because it’s irrelevant in our situation. We’re nerdy and we laugh a lot and we’re highly allergic to drama.

None of these descriptions are likely to be found in a standard DoD report about the typical Army family, which is more concerned with the target 17 to 24 demographic, and yet…

We don’t often feel excluded. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when antiquated attitudes really get on our nerves. There was that one time when the sergeant registering us in DEERS noted that I was keeping my maiden name and asked my husband, “And you let her get away with that?” I’m still not sure how that sergeant managed to keep all his body parts, except that hubs was prepared for such nonsense and has faster reflexes than mine, which tried to launch me – claws first – right out of my seat. There have been conversations with DoDEA teachers who are more concerned with the amount of sex depicted on television than they are about the lack of college prep materials for their students. There have been captains who’ve stated that the wife of an enlisted soldier is not as good as the wife of an officer. All of which makes me go, “Buh?” and “Asshole!” in equal measure.

But even as I understand that these attitudes are still around, I believe they are being phased out of systemic pervasiveness. The Army is more than the sum of its parts – it’s also a reflection of the society it represents. For every sexist sergeant, there’s a female doctor who complimented me on my choice to keep my name for my daughter’s sake, school counselors who go above and beyond for my kid, and leaders who make it a point to appreciate my volunteer time. It’s unlikely that we’re going to find another family that matches our description in the military community, but by virtue of being part of that community, it’s equally unlikely that we’ll find our match in the civilian world.

Where else but within the military am I going to find that understanding for the emotional fatigue that digs in around month seven of a year-long deployment and which is so different from the month eight frustration or hopelessness at month nine? Where else are those liberal feminists who understand what it’s like to drop everything and run to the aid of a woman whose politics and/or religion they despise? Is there any other classroom where complete understanding and support for kids with deployed parents takes priority?  I don’t think so.

My husband is mostly conservative. I’m mostly liberal. We’re both atheists. Our teenaged daughter is entertaining some radically socialist ideas. We like it quiet, our dog likes to bark. In our family, we make it all work by celebrating a healthy love for debate and the occasional use of a muzzle (not always for the dog). It’s been my experience that the Army family is maybe not so celebratory about diversity, but it is no longer trying to avoid inclusiveness. It may bungle the attempt with weird policies, but to be fair, inclusiveness has a learning curve.

Our family lives at the intersection of “Military Family” and “Atypical” and we’re not the only ones. It’s a growing neighborhood of free thinking, patriotic, gay, religious, single parent, blended families. I think those of us who live here understand that “Military Family” already includes all of that. It will be great when military leadership, government and the rest of America gets it, too.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2011 2:36 pm

    Ha, and I though I was the only one to deal w/ ridiculous statements from people when it comes to last names. (My husband took mine.)

    • December 1, 2011 1:10 am

      That is so cool! I think my husband is so understanding of my choice because his name is important to him, too. It causes some confusion, but we try not to be militant about it and people eventually come around.

  2. November 25, 2011 9:21 pm

    Who’s to even say what is “typical” anymore. I threw that word out of my vocabulary almost 2 years ago because nothing about our family is “typical.”

    • December 1, 2011 1:14 am

      I don’t think anybody feels “typical” when they look at themselves, do they? It’s always fun to get to know somebody who looks like they fit in from the outside only to find out they’re just as messed up as I am!!

  3. November 27, 2011 7:23 pm

    Great post! I can relate – Berkeley grad who married a West Point guy

    • December 1, 2011 1:16 am

      Berkeley’s right around the corner from my hometown: Petaluma! Actually, my husband and I grew up in the same northern California spot, yet he’s still a conservative… nurture over nature, I guess!

      • mirgladd permalink
        December 1, 2011 12:21 pm

        Scarlet, I went to A School in Petaluma. Beautiful place!

  4. November 28, 2011 6:23 pm

    I am SO glad to read this! I am mostly democrat married to my wonderful Navy husband (a republican). How refreshing!!! Thank you for connecting me to other like minded milspouses!

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