For example...Andrea. Until I met her, I didn't know any real-life military wives. Nor did I know anyone in a bi-racial marriage. (What DOES this say about my homogenized, white-bread lifestyle? Not sure...) But Andrea writes so honestly and humorously about her life, that I feel a new connection to the US troops and an even greater appreciation for the families who support them.
Here are her thoughts on being a soldier's wife...
#1--Please tell us how you met your husband, your love story, and how his military background fits into the picture.
We knew each other several years ago, but were both married to other people. One night, sometime after my divorce, I was online with a mutual friend. She said, “Hey! Guess who I’m talking with right now?” I said, “Who?” She told me it was Skip, that he was in Iraq and that he was also divorced. I asked her to mention that I was in the same boat (only my boat wasn’t in Iraq) and see if he wanted to talk to me sometime. I will always be grateful to her, because as soon as we connected, we knew it was going somewhere serious. I drove to Ft. Leonard Wood to welcome him home from his deployment, and he proposed to me that night. We were married 2 months later.
#2--Have you ever experienced bigotry or prejudice being a bi-racial couple? Have your children? How do you respond?
The only time I can remember is when Mika was about 3. I was in a fabric store (which seems odd for me, come to think of it…) and the woman ringing us out asked if Mika was “all white.” I said, “Well, his backside is during the summer.”
Obviously missing the attempt at humor, she said, “I meant, is he biracial?” I responded that yes, he was. She said, “Wow. He’s so cute. I guess it’s not true what they say then.”I leaned in really close and said, “What is it, exactly, that they say?” She got a little flustered, and said, “Well, you know…” I got about as close as I could to her and whispered, “No, actually, I don’t, but why don’t you tell me.”
All she could say at that point was, “I’m sorry. Never mind.” I have no idea what “they say” and whether or not it applied to my child.
I think in this day and age, people are very accepting of mixed marriages. My husband actually pointed out that the military has a jump on interracial marriages. Because of the fact that we are stationed in so many places around the world, we have the opportunity to develop an appreciation for other cultures. We try to reflect that appreciation in our day to day lives.
#3--How does life in a military family differ from typical US family life?
#4--What are some of the benefits of this lifestyle? What are the drawbacks?
I’ll combine these two questions. Some things that are unique to the military family include frequent moves, difficult working hours, long separations, and often dangerous conditions. There are many families in the civilian world who face similar challenges as well, because of their particular profession. I think military families have an advantage, however, because we know it’s what we signed up for. We can’t just blame it on a bad boss, or look for a new job. We adapt to it because that’s our only option. If you go into it with a positive attitude, you will find all kinds of opportunities to make new friends, see new places, and challenge yourself.
#5--How do you cope with your husband's long absences? Is he often in danger? What are your support systems?
Long absences put a lot of strain on both the soldier and their family. The Army recognizes this, however, and over the past several years has developed fantastic support systems designed to assist military families. I’ve met many people who “don’t need” the “social” groups of the army, but when their husbands deploy, are suddenly floundering for information and support. I am a big advocate of involvement in the Family Readiness Group, which connects families to support systems available on their installation. It’s not just a social group, but a tool for helping your family succeed.
Any warzone is a dangerous place, and I am glad he’s home now. (Click here to read about one of Skip’s toughest experiences.)
When my husband is away for regular training, we manage it by texting, emailing and talking as often as possible. While he was deployed, the main thing I had to rely on was prayer. There is an amazing comfort to be found in the quiet whisperings of reassurance that come from a divine source.
#6--Do you feel the military is understood and supported by US society in general? What are some common misconceptions?
I will confess that I grew up thinking the military was for people who couldn’t do something better with their lives. You know, after you get your GED, you can maybe go into the Army… Thankfully that’s not the case, because who wants a bunch of idiots defending our country?
I think Americans, as a whole, tend to be emotionally manipulated by the media… and that influences their level of support. I get very aggravated with all of the movies and TV shows that have come out during this war in Iraq. I think they promote misconceptions and stereotypes. (Think of the drama “Army Wives” where everyone hangs out in bars, cheats on their spouse, goes to war, and dies.) The bottom line is money, and Hollywood is first in line to capitalize on a war.
Americans are good people, and most are affected in some way by this war. That said, I do feel there is a difference between supporting the troops and supporting the war. The troops are well-supported.
War is difficult. But if you really look at it, we lost about 6,600 troops on D-Day. That was in one day! Now, five years after going into Iraq, the casualties total around 4,000. We’ve come a long way since then and I feel it’s important for people to support the work our soldiers do. (For the record, I’m not looking to spark a pro-or-anti-war debate here. Be nice about the things you say on Gabi’s blog!)
#7--Have your experiences in the military or being part of an interracial family changed your political views in any way? Why or why not?
Yes… ironically, in a very bi-partisan way. The democrat in me screams out for less funding for the military, and more focus on social welfare. But being married to the military, I understand that the bread on my table comes from decent funding in that department. I also realize that it takes money to provide safe vehicles, gear and equipment for my husband. I don’t care what it costs, if it protects him, buy it. So I find myself seriously listening to Republican politicians, because they are the ones who will likely meet those needs. Skip said he’s going to enroll me in the Young Republicans … I told him not to make any hasty decisions just yet.
I love my husband, and I support his career choice. Do I want him going back to Iraq? There’s no way in hell. But joining the Army was his choice, marrying him was mine. Some days are harder than others, but we make it work.
Hooah, Andrea! Well said...
Andrea writes at If You Give a Mom a Moment. I highly recommend a visit. (And if she graces your blog with a comment...don't ever skip it, Andrea has raised blog-comments to an art form!)