This isn't really a traditional writing related blog, but I think the subject is important, especially as the country observes Veteran's Day. As a military spouse for the past seven years, I've often been asked questions about military life, and how civilians can show true appreciation to service members. I'll try to shed some light on both those topics today, a day when the nation remembers those who've served, and those who sacrifice every day to protect the freedoms we hold dear, .
What is military life like? . The biggest sacrifice a military family makes is stability. Not just in the sense that you can be shipped 4,000 miles away from everything you've ever known with only two months notice, like my family recently was. I'm talking about the little things...the daily sense that as an adult in a free country, you can do whatever you want, when you want to. That's just not the case for us. I haven't planned a vacation in years; after so many ruined trips, you sort of give up. Even a dinner reservation is a stretch, because the Army has a pesky way of assigning my husband to some extraneous duty on the very night I'd planned to enjoy a meal out. These are basic things that most people take for granted. I never have any assurance my husband can be with me, from doctor's appointments for our son to emergency situations, everything has to be cleared through his chain of command. It's admittedly maddening.
If it seems like I'm complaining, I am, and I've got a right. I feel the need to paint a realistic picture of what the day to day is like for us, because those outside the base gate often don't understand. There are also some good things- the sense of doing something immensely important, the health care benefits, and the sense of camaraderie with other military families. Some days the scale tips in the favor of the good things, and some days it doesn't. The point is that it doesn't matter how I feel about it, military life in unpredictable, and it's the adaptability of the military family that allows our men and women in uniform to do their jobs efficiently.
So, what can the average citizen do to make us feel appreciated? Good question. Business owners should offer a military discount whenever possible; you'd be surprised how little our spouses are paid to dodge bullets. Much like police, firefighters, and teachers, military members are among the most essential employees in this country, because what they do preserves and protects the American way of life. Lobbying to your senator/representative for improved military benefits is also a good way to show you care. Support military charities, such as the Fisher House, Armed Services YMCA, and the USO. Display your flags and yellow ribbons with pride. Offer to babysit, or do laundry for a harried military spouse. And when you see a uniformed service member, out with their spouse and children, why not offer them your heartfelt thanks to them all?
Because when Mom or Dad serves, the whole family does, too.