July 20, 2008

SPEAK FOR YOURSELF

There's just too much to say about this article, and most of what I want to say will make me sound mean. I'll limit myself to a few points: As wars lengthen, toll on military families mounts

If the burden sounds heavier than what families bore in the longest wars of the 20th century World War II and Vietnam that's because it is, at least in some ways. What makes today's wars distinctive is the deployment pattern two, three, sometimes four overseas stints of 12 or 15 months. In the past, that kind of schedule was virtually unheard of.

Honestly, I'd rather my husband do all the time he's done in Iraq than do one tour in either WWII or Vietnam. I can't help but think of Easy Company from Band of Brothers. They were only deployed for a year, but that year included D-Day, Market Garden, and Bastogne. No way. I'll take two years in Iraq over that one year in Europe anyday.

"Infidelity is huge on both sides a wife is lonely, she looks for attention and finds it easier to cheat," she said. "It does make even the most sound marriages second-guess."

Um, no it doesn't. Speak for yourself, honey.

"Deployments don't help in strengthening a marriage, but they do not have to kill marriages," [Col. Ronald Crews, one of several chaplains called from the reserves to help with family counseling] said. "That's a choice a couple has to make."

Again, speak for yourself, Chaplain. I know a few wives who've said that deployment strengthened their relationship; CVG even called deployment "couples therapy." I really disagree that separation can't strengthen you.

When my husband left, I posted "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" on my site. To me, that is the perfect deployment poem. My husband is the roaming foot of the compass, and I the fixed foot that hearkens after him. Our love is the "gold to aery thinness beat" and we don't need "eyes, lips, and hands" to remind us that we're still in love. And our relationship is just as strong, even though deployment "doth remove those things which elemented it."

I don't need my husband in my house to know that I love him. I also don't need him here to know that I oughtn't cheat on him, or to strengthen the bond that exists between us.

But then again, we don't have "dull sublunary lovers' love."

[article via LMT]

Posted by Sarah at July 20, 2008 02:46 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Question: Do you think you are the rule or the exception?

Posted by: Non-Essential Equipment at July 20, 2008 03:09 PM

NEE: I don't really know. Since there have been many articles like this one over the past seven years, I assume I am an exception. But we are out there, families that cope and cope fine. There just aren't any articles about us.

Posted by: Sarah at July 20, 2008 03:31 PM

I guess this article speaks to me because I see so much of it firsthand as an FRG leader. Sure, a good number of the marriages that fall apart should have never happened in the first place but I think the distance and the uncertainty take a big toll on a lot of relationships.

One marriage that just broke up was done from the soldier's end. Facing a third deployment, he said he couldn't be the kind of father that his kids deserved. He divorced his wife, who was coping, in hopes that she'll find someone who will be around.

Next question: why do you think your marriage does work despite the distance? If you can articulate it, it would make a great article (and I'm sure the Army would want to use the material for some kind of marriage retreat). =)

Posted by: Non-Essential Equipment at July 20, 2008 03:41 PM

NEE: My husband has a friend in the Air Force who has said that he'll never marry as long as he's active duty because he doesn't want to do that to a wife. I told him that some wives can handle it, but for him, it doesn't feel right. So I can understand, sadly, that divorce you mentioned.

As for your question...I don't know that I can explain it, but I will think about it and see if I can figure it out.

Posted by: Sarah at July 20, 2008 04:22 PM

I wish there was more of a balance in the press. When all some people read is how bad it is for some couples, they assume it *is* the rule.

I was joking with someone recently that the only way I'd ever be able to get a mortgage now is if I married a man with the GI bill. They responded by telling me how messed up they are when they come home from the war. The way it was phrased, the person seemed to think they're all coming home with chronic PTSD.

I wonder if this is how the anti-war types will need to play their hand now: the personal cost to our military and their families is so high that even if we are winning, we should cut and run.

Posted by: Jacki at July 20, 2008 04:48 PM

My husband and I met 31 years ago in Navy Officer Candidate School. We got married 8 months later, had a 10 day honeymoon which ended with my start of a 1 year tour in Adak Alaska while he went to various schools and a shipyard overhaul for his first duty on board a ship. The decision we made almost 31 years ago was to be together part time or not at all. I was willing to make the part time commitment(Navy has always had deployments of 7 months and unaccompanied tours of 12-18 months)if and only if he was too. I needed him in my life, and fortunately, he felt the same. I wrote daily from Adak and we spent hundreds per month on phone calls (at $.40 to $.60 per minute in 1978 dollars). I watched his first tour on board a ship where he was expected to make do with a few hours a week of sleep, then on his second, when he was assigned to a carrier. Women as I came in did not go on ships. That changed shortly after our first of 3 kids were born. We felt one deployer was enough when kids were involved. Later, my husband got out and went into the reserves after that 3rd child arrived. I stayed active until I retired as our children hit 1st, 7th and 10th grades and became a stay at home mom. My husband, a teacher, activated for 2-6 months per year in Hawaii, away from our California home until he too retired ten years later. He only missed one year when he had a tumor removed. We made a commitment to each other, and both of us had a first hand knowledge of what the military demands of it's people. I did not come from a military family, so I needed that direct experience. Our commitment included a faithfulness to each other and the expectation that we would work through rough times to "grow old together." Did we, including our children, face some hardships due to the moves and other inconveniences of military life? Yes. But oh did we have opportunities. The elder two are now service members, each with more than 6 years in. One is a dad of a remarkable (of course) 2 year old boy. The other will wait until she finds the right person to spend her life with. Would I live the same life, making the same choice if I knew what the future held? In a heartbeat.

Posted by: HChambers at July 20, 2008 08:19 PM

I think someone has their facts wrong. I had two uncles and one cousin in WWII, two of them in the Pacific and one in France and Germany. Believe me they did not have R&R or time home, they spent from 1942 till the war's end, April and August 1945 , if I remember correctly. I don't know of anyone who got a year's deployment and then came home during that time. It probably happened just not to anyone I knew.

Posted by: Ruth H at July 20, 2008 09:07 PM

Why some families can cope and others can't is the question of the century, isn't it?

I mean, it's obvious why some couples didn't last - and there's fault scenarios on both sides of the fence. It's fairly obvious that they would not have lasted as a civilian couple, either.

And the military divorce rate has actually dropped since the war started.

But there are those whose divorce has completely taken me by surprise, too.

The military divorce rate has always been high, and it is just hard to compare now and then with accuracy. I can't help but think that the slant everyone has going into studies (this is all the fault of the war) keeps us from actually being able to accurately figure out what IS the fault of the war.

And that keeps us from being able to understand what steps we CAN take to make things better.

Posted by: airforcewife at July 20, 2008 10:14 PM

Adultery is no longer shameful and, in some units, seems to be the norm. It's not punished or even actively discouraged unless the wronged spouse complains - and complains LOUDLY. A lot of our choices, especially when young, are still influenced by peer pressure. Unfortunately, we are no longer enlisting a majority of what I call "good people." And yes, it's turned me into quite the cynic. If one more guy asks me to tell him the 'legal' way to commit adultery while waiting on his divorce, I'm going to clock him!

Bottom line - it's becoming easier and more acceptable every day to divorce after 10 months or so of marriage. It's unfortunate, but it's more a 'cut my losses' attitude, instead of sticking it out and remembering why you married the person in the first place. (Although I do discourage them from having children together until the marriage is in a better place. And I think anti-depressants are MASSIVELY underprescribed - for the soldiers and the spouses! Thank goodness we had a good, tight group of support during the deployment!)

Posted by: Oda Mae at July 21, 2008 10:03 AM

I agree that deployments during WWII and Vietnam are grossly misrepresented. Servicemembers were gone for much longer periods of time and communication was much more difficult then. You've talked about deployment being like snowflakes, maybe wars are a bit like that too. Our servicemembers are deploying for shorter times and more often but that also means they are having to transition more often and maybe that is hard on the psyche. I don't know as I haven't had to do that. I've only had to be the one at home.
I can see where the chaplain was coming from about deployments and marital strength. Long separations DO put stresses on people and marriages. It isn't easy but, as you say, there are families out there coping and coping well. But I wonder if it's the separation that is the breaking point for some couples or the reintegration?

Posted by: Marine Wife at July 21, 2008 10:49 AM