March 05, 2004
Screed away, Lileks. That was just what I needed this morning. You know when someone says something that completely throws you off guard, and you stammer and miss the opportunity to make your point? And then hours later you know what you should've said and you curse yourself for letting the moment pass? I had one of those last night.
There were a couple of stragglers at the party last night, and out of the complete blue one of them said, "Do you think Kerry will be elected President?" Now, I know that wives don't have rank, but since this woman's husband way outranks mine, I thought it in good taste to be vague, so I just said, "Well, I don't know," because it's true after all: I don't know what's going to happen. But another wife replied, "God, I hope so." The gist of the conversation was that Kerry would pull the troops out faster than you can shake a stick, and that means everyone's husbands come home, so Kerry's our man.
I wish I had said something. Anything. I was just sorta dumbfounded.
I understand the selfishness of wanting your husband to come home. I understand that we had spent 20 minutes of our meeting discussing who would come knocking on our door if our husband died in Iraq, and it wears on you after a while. And I understand that the military lifestyle takes its toll: one wife has been married six years and her husband's been deployed for three of them. But...
What I wish I'd said is this: Our husbands' job is to protect the American people. This duty is better fulfilled by their being in Iraq now rather than waiting until someone attacks on American soil again. This war we're fighting now only exists because we didn't get the job done in 1991; would you rather have your husband stay in Iraq for a year now, or return to Iraq for combat in another few years when some new dictator decides he wants to start somethin'?
I wish I'd said that. But how do you tactfully tell people whose husbands have been in the Army for years what it means to be an Army family?
An Army family means selflessness. I have to come to terms with the fact that my husband might have to die to protect other Americans from future threats. Not an easy thing to accept, but that's part of the job, and that's what we signed up for. An Army family also means understanding the complexities and repercussions of our nation's actions. I'm not saying that every Army family will fully support President Bush, but "who will let your husband sleep at home" is perhaps not the best gauge for your vote. Army families have a duty to follow and understand world events, but to be willing and ready to do whatever the Commander-in-Chief asks of them.
I'm not happy that my husband is living in Iraq. I'd rather have him home too. But I was shocked to hear other wives say that having their husband at home is the most important thing in their life. More important, seemingly, than principles and duty. Am I the only wife who gets choked up when she reads the Army values? Am I the only one who finds comfort in the fact that her husband's job requires selfless service?
Selfless service is placing your duty before your personal desires. It is the ability to endure hardships and insurmountable odds because of love of fellow soldiers and our country. Placing your duty before your personal desires has always been key to the uniqueness of the American soldier. As citizen soldiers, we claim our service to the nation, state, and community to be an especially valuable contribution.
In a sea of houses sporting Service Flags and yellow ribbons, why do I feel so alone?
MORE TO GROK:
Amritas suggests that selfless service is really a form of love.
Posted by Sarah at March 5, 2004 08:54 AM
I sincerely hope that you were not the only one staying tactfully quiet. Given that you said the Kerry supporter's husband outranks yours, I hope others felt they had to be tactful too. I'd be saddened if you were in the minority.
Rare postings from me for a Friday, working overtime this week to help pay for a vacation at the end of the month. Enjoy while it lasts.
PS. Even tho I hit Remember personal info in your comments, it is never saved from one comment to another.
You're not alone. I feel the same way you do and recently, in my online college course, we were asked to write a personal portait. My topic? Being an Army wife. Based on the responses to my post, I was able to make my classmates kind of understand what's it like, but they will never know unless they live it. I too find it hard to stay quiet when wives in this unit only wish for their husbands to be home.
Selflessness...THAT is the most important word for anyone in the military. It is the essense of what makes people in uniform, including police and fire department, put up with the things they do.
Too bad for this lady's husband. He obviously has a sense of honor, and look what he has to put up with at home.
It is hard to remember duty in the face of understanding that the person you love might have to suffer or die for that duty. It is good that you understand that duty. At the same time, you should understand where the women who don't understand that duty are coming from....
Keep the faith. There are surely times when you're surrounded by people who regard the concepts of duty and self-sacrifice as disposable items, to be abandoned as soon as the price becomes too high for them to bear.
Military spouses bear a huge burden, too often overlooked.
I served in another Army (not the U.S.) and have never forgotten the support of other soldier's families. Yet I never regarded the voices of those who would have had us stay safely at home as "support"--all those voices ever produced was a sense of betrayal and ingratitude.
Dr_Funk: It's not important to understand where the women who don't understand the concept of duty "are coming from". If they don't understand the concept then they have no place as a military wife.
Congrats to you madame for being a military spouse.
I think you did the right think due to rank structure. its sad how ever that you had to keep silent.
More people try to see the military as "just a job" but its not, never has, never will be. Statement such as the ones made to you by the higher autorities spouse are bad for moral, image and would make the common grunt wonder of the leadership abilities his or her commander would have.
I would not want a Captain over me or my boys who felt he was doing merely a job and that he can come home with the changing of the Presidency.
I'm going to stick my neck out and say that perhaps you did the absolutely the right thing for the wrong reasons?
I'm a Marine colonel's wife, so I've come up through the ranks for 22 years and listened to just about every sort of idiocy imaginable from senior wives. And I'm still listening to it, because there's always someone senior. Except that, as a wife, they're NOT really senior to you.
Politeness is due - to all wives, whether they're officer or enlisted - but there is no rank structure in the "wife corps". I understand the Army is less tolerant of dissent from talking with Army friends, but this is something I feel very strongly about. And I think this persists because it goes unchallenged.
I might have done the same thing you did, but perhaps for different reasons. So the end result would have been the same. Ironically, I'd have been quicker to challenge the remark had it been made by her husband. You were in a social setting, and it is generally poor manners to provoke an argument in someone else's house, so I think you made the right decision - your instinct was 100% correct. You have to take the setting into account.
When my spousal unit was a 2nd Lt, the BN CO used to bait jr. wives at parties and they would tamely put up with it. I got tired of it, and started coming back at him (hopefully with some wit). He was taken aback, but once he figured out I wasn't going to roll over, he rather enjoyed the contest and my husband didn't suffer any repercussions. I think the important thing was that I didn't get my pantyhose in a knot over it, and my SU already had a reputation for speaking up for himself gently but firmly. 22 years later, he's survived in spite of having quietly pointed out to several seniors that they might want to reconsider something they had just said (because it made no sense). He'll never make General, but no one expected that anyway.:)
I've had a few run-ins with senior wives (once even my husband's CO's wife), but a sense of humor and willingness to talk it out and compromise go a long way, and I can look at myself in the mirror in the morning (well, most mornings)!
I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't let rank get in the way too much - choose your battles and try to seize the high ground :) The younger wives are watching what you do, you sound like you have good instincts and only you can decide what the right time and place are, but if the time comes and your husband supports this, don't be afraid to speak your mind politely and firmly. I'm very lucky in that my SU has never tried to muzzle me (probably realizes it's hopeless). His attitude has always been that if the Marine Corps is going to penalize him for something his wife says, he's fighting on the wrong team.
Sorry for the long post - you can see I have strong feelings on the subject.
Cassandra has the right of it: "choose your battles and try to seize the high ground".
A note: As a 'pro-war' sort whose friends are almost entirely 'anti-war', I've found that a simple question can often make people think again. Don't argue, don't fight, just ask. "What does your husband think about it?" "Do you think that being nice to bullies makes them less likely to attack you? (That one usually gets a double-take, they don't like to think of terrorists as bullies... but watch what happens if you can get them to do so.)
Just keep trying, subtly. I'm sure you can think of your own questions. Just make them questions, not statements. Ask, and ask some more.
I'll echo Cassandra again... "Sorry for the long post - you can see I have strong feelings on the subject.
Thank you for your selfless sacrifice. I say this as a retiree, but also as a spouse of an active-duty military member; my wife was also active duty when we met and got married. I did not tell her to get out after 12 yrs, that was her choice. My wife and I were (are) both very out-spoken, and I have to admire your tact. I agree with Cassandra; "choose your battles." The fact that you were caught offguard by these questions indicates that this spouse was fishing for an agrument, in my opinion. Also, since you didn't know her, you couldn't know if she thinks that she "wears her spouse's rank," as we used to call it. All organizations, civilian as well as military, contain people who "play politics." But I noticed less of it in the military, than I have seen since I've retired.
My elder son left home for the Army as an 18 year old. I have seen him twice since then. He has been in Iraq for nearly a year and is now over 21! GO BUSH! Please defeat that traitor Kerry who has more faces than the "mirrored ball" in the discoteques (sp?) he frequents.
Its probably for the best that you didn't respond. You can't teach a grown person the meaning of the words like "selfless, honor, integrity, community, discipline, and patriotism." If "Ole Cut-N-Run" wins, the woman you spoke with had better hope her husband is on the first boat out. It won't be pretty for those at the other end of the line. Soon after that it won't be pretty here either.