CHAPTER 1: SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW YOUR SERVICE(WO)MAN?
According to a 2012 article found in the New York Times, a smaller share of Americans currently serve in the Armed Forces than at any other given point in time since World War II. This, in turn, has led to a growing gap between people in uniform and the civilian population. As the only remaining substantial connection that currently exists between the severely disconnected worlds of the military and the rest of the American society is the one found between military members and their civilian families and friends, it is imperative to strengthen this connection by promoting understanding. This book will provide you, the reader, with information needed to better comprehend your service(wo)man and his or her lifestyle.
It’s not very often that we are asked to explain the differences between the military and the civilian lifestyles. This, in turn, might imply that civilians are not aware that there are distinctions between these two worlds.
While most non-military family members and friends try very hard to be supportive, most are not fully aware of what and whom they are actually supporting, as they do not truly understand our way of life.
One of the reasons for this condition is the fact that it is virtually impossible to find information that specifically relates or pertains to the relationships held between military service members and their parents, parents-in-laws, siblings, friends, or any other civilians associated with them. There are heaps of websites and books that apply to and are meant for military spouses and children, yet nothing that promotes knowledge and information pertinent to service members’ other important individuals in their lives. This book is meant to remedy such an absence of resources.
It is my hope that with this book I will be able to advance and enhance the understanding of our way of life so that we, dear family and friends, are better able to understand and support each other, and rebuild bonds that might have been weakened or broken over the years.
Let me start by saying that I am not an expert on the U.S. military! I am really not the “hooah” kind of gal. I don’t know most of the acronyms used within the military. To be honest, I don’t even know the exact structure of our military. I have, however, been married to a serviceperson for many, many years. As such, what I do know is the life and experiences of a military spouse within a military lifestyle.
We love our non-military family members. We truly love them dearly. However, we can’t deny any longer that, over the years, we have grown further and further apart. It might not have been openly stated, but our families don’t really understand us and our lives any longer. And how could they? We constantly change (and are being changed) due to our experiences. After a while, it becomes easier to simply give up trying to explain your life. This, in turn, creates an ever expanding gap between civilians and the military. And, of course, our constant mobile lifestyle doesn’t help this dilemma.
Unfortunately, our civilian families’ and friends’ limited awareness and understanding of our military lifestyle isn’t just confined to our experienced hardships, such as frequent moves and deployments. Limited knowledge also contributes to the limited understanding of our personal triumphs within the military. Triumphs we feel at the end of a deployment, triumphs we feel when we receive a new assignment that our family wished for and worked toward, triumphs we experience when we advance in our careers, when we receive a good evaluation, when we are being selected for certain schools, or when we simply receive an award. However big or small those triumphs may be, they are triumphs nonetheless and can only be appropriately appreciated if their attainment is understood within its context. This is where this book comes in. This book is meant to explain our lives and illustrate our families’ experiences with our everyday existence and activities within the military. With this book, I am attempting to close the gap between our non-military family members and us, members of the military community, and bring families back together again.
What is life within the military like? How is a military family currently perceived? Many people believe and express that, in one way or another, it must be quite difficult to be a military family. Agreed. This statement, however, is usually followed by stating that we surely must have known what we were getting into, back when the military was so willingly joined. This particular perception couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Of course it is general knowledge that the military family will have to move around every few years. The fact that service members will have to deploy every now and then is well known, too. However, there are plenty of matters that one might not have considered simply because most don’t realize how encompassing the decision of joining the military truly is. While, for instance, most realize that the military more or less controls the serving member’s entire life, most do not know that this control essentially extends to the lives of the spouse and children as well. The lifestyle that comes with being in the military is an all-consuming force that does not concern itself with how any of its members might be affected by something like 6 moves in 7 years. It is a lifestyle in which every family member must sacrifice certain things to serve a purpose much larger than oneself. Even though the family unit is most important, all military families come to understand that there is a larger mission and purpose that everyone is striving toward together. But these are all concepts that are learned during the course of actually being a member of the military or part of the military community. This is knowledge and understanding acquired years after having first joined. Understanding is one thing, but it’s another experience entirely to live it.
Only after having experienced multiple moves, do military families know and understand what it is like to start life afresh all over again in new places without knowing anyone. Only after having experienced multi-month-long deployments, do military families understand the challenges of being apart from each other for months at a time. And only after having lived within the military community for some time do military families know what it is like to feel isolated from, and like a stranger within the civilian world. So, while we might have had some idea about what military life would or might be like, nobody can truly comprehend until it is actually experienced.
In spite of this reality, however, many civilians continue to believe that we knew what to expect when we first associated ourselves with the military. Many believe that military life can be known without the actual experience of it. As such, we might not have the power to change how a military family’s challenges are perceived and understood within the civilian world. This book, however, is an attempt to bring our military family lifestyle a bit closer to our extended families and very own circles of friends within the civilian world so as to bring civilian and military families back together again.
Let’s get reacquainted.
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Genre – Military Family
Rating – G
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