Continuing our series on what military families wish civilians knew about military life, this week’s blog comes from Allison Mewes, a military wife and writer. Allison’s husband is a Sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve, currently serving in Iraq. Allison was kind enough to share an excerpt from her forthcoming book, Intro to Army Life: A handbook for spouses and significant others entering the Army lifestyle:
Before becoming a military spouse, I would tear up when watching the video montages of service members reuniting with their families after a deployment. But honestly, I have to admit my understanding of, and involvement with, the military lifestyle didn’t go much deeper than that. I didn’t know anyone who had served in the military, nor had I experienced the military lifestyle growing up. Now, being neck deep in military life, I realize it’s a big deal! Your life revolves around the military, and it can be tough, especially during deployments. If you love a soldier, there is no doubt that you’re nodding your head as you read this—you get it!
According to the 2010 Military Family Lifestyle Survey conducted by Blue Star Families, 92 percent of military family respondents felt that the general public did not truly understand or appreciate the sacrifices made by service members and their families. Now, we aren’t complaining about our military lifestyle. We have an enormous amount of pride for our soldiers and what they do, but civilian and military lifestyles are definitely different.
These are a few things I’d like nonmilitary families to know about the military lifestyle:
- Your husband being gone for one to two weeks on a business trip is not comparable to my husband being deployed for three to 12 months in a combat zone. Unless your husband has been in a combat zone, and you have to worry about his life on a daily basis, you simply can’t understand.
- It is hard to manage on your own when your spouse isn’t around. If your friend or family member is dealing with a deployment, he or she may act differently, as life stressors may drastically increase.
- Acknowledging the struggles military families are going through, as well as being there as a source of support to listen and help, is extremely valued and appreciated.
- Not many military spouses will ask for help, and they may be very reluctant to accept it. If you want to do something, don’t ask if they need anything—just do it! Military parents rarely get time alone; offer to babysit, and let your friend or family member have some “me time.”
- Don’t take it personally if a military spouse or significant other leaves your party early or ends a call with you when his or her spouse calls from Basic Training or overseas. Contact with our soldiers is so limited that we’ll most often drop everything (a phone call, a social engagement, a favorite TV show) just to hear his or her voice and know they’re alright.
- We don’t want to have a political debate over war just because our loved one serves in the military. We concentrate on the safety and well-being of our soldier, no matter what our political beliefs may be.
- The smallest gestures sometimes mean the most. Just asking how our soldier is doing means a lot to us, and it helps to know that they haven’t been forgotten while they’re away. Someone once asked me, “What does your husband need, and where can I send it?” That was one of the nicest things I experienced while he was deployed.
- Two weeks of leave seems like a long and short time to us during a deployment. It’s long since we haven’t seen our soldiers for anywhere from four to seven months, and it’s short because we know they’ll have to leave again soon so we have to cram one year into two weeks. It is hard to share our soldiers with everyone who wants to see them during the two weeks of the year they’re home. Please understand if we can’t fit everything in.
- Coming home from a deployment is an extreme adjustment for our soldiers. Understand that your friend or family member may act differently for a while, until they reintegrate back into society. Also, help be on the lookout for PTSD symptoms, such as drinking or drug problems, shame, despair, anger and violence.
- Some soldiers are career military men and women. They don’t necessary “get out” automatically after a deployment—their lives and careers are focused on serving our country. Now, that is something to be proud of!
Share your “What I Wish They Knew” tips and stories on Allison’s Intro to Army Life Facebook page: www.facebook.com/IntroToArmyLife