I started to formulate a post while talking to Tim over the weekend, and it just came together on the exercise bike. I've managed to nail down more firmly why I feel I have a hard time fitting in, why I relate so well with my students but not as well with other wives.
Soldiers signed up for this; wives didn't.
I realize this will take some generalizing here, but bear with me. Soldiers know what they're getting into when they raise their right hand. They know the risks and agree to take them. Wives, on the other hand, seem to have a sense of "why me" when they fall in love with someone who has chosen to take that oath. There's some crossover of categories -- conscientious objectors, anyone? -- but for the most part, soldiers are willing participants in the war on terror and wives are dragged along kicking and screaming.
The majority of wives I know either suffer in silence or express their bitterness at any appropriate moment. None are hooah the way I am. They look forward to the day their husbands leave this mess behind and get a regular job, and though they feel a vague sense of pride that their husbands are doing a noble job, they would welcome him home in a heartbeat and flip the Middle East the finger if they could. They seem to think that since they never took an oath, they are exempt from any obligations to portray Army Values and to selflessly support the mission.
I don't think I've met anyone yet who feels the way I do (except for Tim, but he raised his right hand a while back.)
I don't suffer. Sure, I miss planting kisses in my husband's dimples, but I don't feel the bitterness many wives feel over the separation. I don't feel angry at the President for forcing us to go through this, nor do I feel like I've been cheated out of 14 months of my life. I don't have any illusions that his return next April will signify the end of our family's involvement with all things Muslim, nor do I plan to inform him that I have personally decided he's leaving the Army when he gets back, as some wives will.
My husband is contributing something to this world in a way that many wives just don't seem to grok. I think that's why I feel more comfortable with soldiers than wives, because there's common ground in the idea that soldiers are supposed to soldier. I'm having a hard time seeing that understanding in the wives I know.
On Saturday, Tim asked me how I cope with the deployment. To be honest, I do most of it alone. But when I need empathy in a rough patch, I turn to Tim or Mike or Carla. When I need someone to be sympathetic and get my mind off of it, I turn to Marc. When I'm down, I turn to the blogosphere for support.
I turn to you guys to help me cope. Thank you.
MORE TO GROK:
Amritas adds some insight.
Posted by: Sarah at
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Sarah, you are not alone. Well, maybe since I'm in Giessen in you are, but I feel the same way you do. My husband and I were married for a year when he brought the subject of joining the Army up. He had dropped out of high school, couldn't hold a job and was going nowhere. He felt that the Army could help him become a man and provide for his family. Well, it's almost 10 years later and gues what? The Army did turn him into a pretty good man and has allowed him to provide for his family. At the moment, I think I am more pro-Army than he is. When he made the decision to enlist (and the numerous re-enlistments), the decision was mutual. I sometimes even talked him into staying IN. So, in a way, I feel as if I have raised my hand also. I couldn't be prouder of him or the Army.
Posted by: Lani at April 26, 2004 05:09 AM (rZmE1)
"They also serve" has lost some of its meaning. I grew up in a military family. It was then a real community. We were poor. Everyone in the military was poor except those who came from well-to-do families. So everyone shared. When we lived in Europe, it was soon after the end of WWII, and I was in France when the Berlin Wall went up. Americans felt kinship only among themselves.
Much of that has been lost with the decent pay and two-income families which are now the norm. I saw this during my career, and I would guess it is even worse now (I don't like using that word--different?). Options are much greater now for many quality of life issues. And I have to say, my generation spoiled yours. You don't have that "my career" mentality.
Other wives miss having their family next door to watch the kids. They want to stay in the town they grew up in. You've grown beyond that.
When you are "the Colonel's wife", you'll get them all in line!
Posted by: Mike at April 26, 2004 09:01 AM (cFRpq)
Not many wives feel the way you do.
I am one though.
Posted by: Ellie at April 26, 2004 11:12 AM (JQ67/)
You're a "soldier" in your right--thank you.
Posted by: david at April 26, 2004 12:57 PM (1+76a)
Sarah, you and the other wives who grok are my heroes. I think I've told you this before but we have so many heroes right now, here in the US and all over where families are stationed. And while I feel compassion for anyone who has someone stationed in harm's way I feel great admiration, respect and love for those of you who stand and wait with respect for your spouse, with understanding, love and pride.
Posted by: Ruth H at April 26, 2004 02:13 PM (TBNk6)
With all due respect, maybe you aren't listening to the right wives! There are many just like you in our community. Most do not have a blogpage to express themselves so eloquently. Some do not speak out because they don't want to upset spouses or suggest another spouse's (their friend's) complaints are not legitimate. Some do not speak so that other wives aren't cut off from expressing themselves within the spouse group rather than voicing complaints to their deployed significant others.
Everyone needs a sounding post. I can assure you that most of the client-spouses I see feel like they support the Army by supporting their husbands. And, in their defense, many have been cast aside after suffering through a year of deployment by husbands who have returned with a calloused cynical attitude or a girlfriend. I think you might be oversimplifying? We can discuss over a beer if you like.
It's wonderful that you have such a good attitude right now. But I can also identify with spouses who have been through five or six of these deployments and are raising two to four kids as essentially solo parents. I do not blame them for, in low times, putting their feelings out there and asking for sympathy.
My husband only comes home once a month for a long weekend. I am happy for the time with him and dread the fact that he will deploy in March, when everyone else will be returning. AS a former military member, I can also understand the excitement he feels that he will be able to use his training and leadership skills in a significant way. I also feel somewhat guilty that I get to see him when others in our group miss their husbands so much. You should be flattered that the wives feel like you are someone they can open up to and express their frustration and anger. That must be difficult for you at times. But don't feel like ALL spouses are like that. You come across as an exceptionally nonjudgmental empathetic person. As with all good things, I guess there is a downside and you're seeing it! Glad you had a great Saturday with Tim.
Posted by: Oda Mae at April 26, 2004 06:06 PM (IgwHZ)
Sarah, thanks for posting this. I am an Army Reserve wife and we just finished a 14 month mobilization/deployment. I observed many of the same things you did as a reservist's spouse, and I experienced some of it myself. My husband's decision whether to retire or not is ultimately up to him. I have made no demands and while I expect him to take my feelings into consideration, the mobilization has taught me to appreciate what a fine man I married, and to be more flexible. I was angrier with myself going in to the mobilization, because deep down I knew I would have to make some career sacrifices and I was not ready for those. I struggled to keep the career going full time, but eventually, to my detriment and unfortunately to my employer's detriment, my performance was not up to par and I made a major career change.
Adjusting is really hard to do. Remaining continually angry over things we have little control over does not make the adjustments any easier as a military spouse.
I appreciate your posts and I have enjoyed the comments to this one.
Posted by: Lynn at April 27, 2004 03:10 PM (puWe2)
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