There has been a lot of talk in the military spouse blogging community over the past 24 hours. As a former Army National Guard spouse/current Army Reserve spouse, I felt as if some of my blogging friends wondered what my thoughts were on a particular blog post that was solely written, in my opinion, to ruffle feathers. Other blogs have linked to the post- I will not be doing so. Some reacted to this post with anger. Some felt sorry for the writer. A few even defended her.
Here is my thought: we are used to being misunderstood.
Before my brother and husband were in the Army National Guard, I knew almost nothing about the Guard. I was vaguely aware of them being called out to help in a local snowstorm, but that's about it. Just like most Americans who aren't connected with the military, it all seemed a bit hazy to me.
When I became a part of this life/culture/whatever it's called, I began getting a lot of questions. More than questions though, I got a lot of assumptions about my brother and husband. Either they don't deploy (not even stateside), or they don't deploy anywhere dangerous like Afghanistan, or they're not gone long when they do. It's one weekend a month and two weeks a year and that's it. I've heard the term "playing soldier" so much it's nauseating. I don't blame those people for the not-knowing, when I was in their shoes not so long ago.
But the great majority of active duty spouses- including so many of my wonderful blogging friends- realize that those things simply aren't true. National Guard and Reserves are soldiers- of course they are. When you sign on the dotted line to put your life in harm's way for the sake of the country, that is a soldier. My husband and brother are no less veterans/soldiers because of any title that came after "Army"- they are two infantrymen who went through basic training just like everyone else, lived in a plywood bedroom in Afghanistan for a year while being away from everyone they loved, listened to the sounds of constant explosions and gunfire, drove in the same humvees dodging roadside bombs, and came home to face the same demons so many soldiers do. They wore the same uniform. They fired the same weapons. They did the same things. They made the same sacrifices. Their families made the same sacrifices, too.
There is a difference between misunderstanding and attacking. Many people don't understand military life, and even less understand the National Guard and Reserve. That's just the way it is, and I can't fault them for it. We are used to a lack of understanding, and we are used to a lack of support. It's one of the unique challenges to being a non-active duty spouse. However, I whole-heartily disagree with someone saying that they are not soldiers. I feel it's not only incorrect and naive, but it's incredibly hurtful. Our sacrifices are just as great, so to say that someone who risked everything, came home with a physical injury or PTSD, or didn't come home at all is not a soldier? To say that their spouses are not "real Army wives"? Shame on you.
If your husband or wife signed on that line, you're a military spouse, plain and simple. No one is more of an Army wife than someone else. We're not in junior high, and it's not a competition. But please don't belittle the service of my husband, my brother, and all the other brave men and women who have served, fought, and even died in the National Guard and Reserve. Don't belittle the families that waited for them at home.
I was humbled to see the responses of so many of my friends. I felt like they had stood up for me personally. It means a lot knowing they recognize the truth, and that they acknowledge my husband as a soldier. I think that's the biggest key. Strip me of my "Army wife" title, that's fine- just don't disrespect so many people who have given so much.
I joined this blogging community and ended up finding a sort of blogger FRG. I can go to these girls with my questions, my frustrations, and everything else related to Army life, and they will understand. Because we don't live on a base, and because we aren't immersed in everything Army, I always know that I can log onto this computer and be in the company of people who know- of people who go through the same things I do. Of military spouses. Of Army wives.