I am essentially Hannah Montana.
No, I don’t sing. Or dance. Or have a country singer as a father. But I do live a bit of a dual life.
You see, by day, I am an average person: working a 9-5 job at a non-profit, living in a smallish town, spending as much time as I can on my passions and with family and friends. But by night, I’m a military spouse whose husband is gone frequently. Not “away for a week in Chicago at a business expo” gone, but “away for 4-6 months at a time in a war zone” gone.
And that blows people’s minds.
“Wait, he’s deployed? I thought we were getting out of Iraq/Afghanistan/any other country.”
“He’s gone again? Didn’t he just get back not that long ago?”
“Well, will there ever be a point in time when he doesn’t have to deploy?”
As I straddle the line between the civilian and military worlds every single day, I’ve heard all of the above on a pretty regular basis. When I see the shock in my civilian coworkers’ eyes, I realize that there is a huge divide between my two worlds. That divide saddens me as a military spouse, but as someone with a 100% civilian life prior to meeting my husband, I totally get it!
People who aren’t military don’t understand the military and are oftentimes very confused when confronted with that lifestyle, especially the nature, frequency and continued intensity of military deployments. So it’s the job of those of us connected to the military to try and narrow that knowledge gap whenever possible. It does us good, it does them good and it does the entire country good when these two groups have a greater understanding of the realities of each other’s lives.
Let’s narrow that gap. Let’s educate our neighbors, our coworkers and our families on just what life in the military is like, for service members and their families. Look for ways to start that conversation: civilians, talk to military families around you and military families, talk to the civilians in your life. In honor of National Day of the Deployed, I’m starting that conversation here today.
Every day, there are thousands of military personnel deployed around the world, whether or not people realize it. And trust me when I say that a lot of civilians don’t realize it.
We live in a world that, despite all the ways there are to connect, seems to favor being as disconnected from others as possible. There is no concerted effort supporting the military the way there was when our grandparents and great-grandparents were young. Deploying troops aren’t given a big sendoff or a heroes’ homecoming in the general community the way they were 70 or 80 years ago. People aren’t sacrificing meat and stockings to ensure that the “boys” overseas have food and parachutes.
From the comfort of our sofas and behind our iPhone screens, we can easily pretend that men and women in uniform are all at home. We pretend because it’s easier than confronting the truth and dealing with the uncomfortable reality that men and women are dying for our freedom every single day.
They are still out there: in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Niger, in Syria, the list goes on and on. Even if you have unliked it on Facebook, the war is still going on, 16 years after 9/11. And frankly, I’m not sure any of us really see a realistic end in sight. And as disheartening as that is, I think every person connected to the military recognizes that even if terrorism disappeared as we know it tomorrow, the deployments would not stop. It’s so important to remember that deployments aren’t just to the deserts of the Middle East: Japan, Germany and South Korea (just to name a few) all have large numbers of deployed troops housed within their borders. Deployments are still happening; they won’t stop happening.
So on the National Day of the Deployed, I have two messages for people reading this blog:
To my military-affiliated readers, especially the military spouses: I am with you. I see your struggles and your exhaustion. I FEEL those same struggles. I understand your tears. I’ve cried them too. Know that I have your back every single day, no matter which hat I’m wearing. We are going to get through this by relying on each other, by tapping into the kick-ass team we are. Please, reach out to me if you need help or resources or just a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. You are not alone.
To my civilian readers: please, don’t forget about us. Military families are all around you, even if you don’t live on or near a military installation. Our children go to the same schools yours do. We work and shop at the same places you do. We live in your neighborhoods. Even though your local news may not talk about us every day, we are still fighting, abroad and at home. We all have stories, skills and struggles that aren’t that far off from your own. Begin that conversation with us; we welcome it!
For everyone reading this blog: today, and always, remember all who are deployed. Say a prayer, pause to reflect on how lucky you are they exist or just flat out thank them.
You can learn more about the National Day of the Deployed here.
Learn how you can better support military spouses in your community.