October 06, 2006

Posting date: 10/8/06
SGT Allen
Stationed in: Washington, D.C.
Milblog url:
E-mail: [email protected]

This Doonesbury series is the kind of shit that pisses me off.

And it's sad because what I thought was just a team problem is apparently so widespread that it has become a comic. I remember one of the briefings that we received when coming back stateside. It was, "Don't try to compare who has had a more difficult time." And in a way he is right. Each person has a different opinion as to what "difficult" is. And from my lane I think it is the Soldier. So here it goes (you all have just lost five minutes of your day):

The Soldier volunteered for the job. There is an official contract that says the Army owns their ass for X number of years. So it's no surprise when Uncle Sam comes to collect. The Soldier's commitment to his job, his country, and his mission is paramount to everything. There is nothing more important than what he is doing. Most people live their day at the risk of losing only money or their time. A Soldier lives his day to ready to lose his life. Do you really want to distract him? If you do, then you are a murderer. That goes for spouses that want to divorce service members in theater.

I've seen the people that have been "distance abused." Spouses and significant others don't relate to what the Soldier is going through. They want the text message, phone calls, digital pictures, letters, and hell some probably even want sky writing. They think that just because it is available, then the Soldier should jump through every hoop there is to meet their expectations.

Scenario: Female wants to talk at 6:00 pm because that is when she gets off work. Okay, now add eight time zones, and it's 2:00 am Iraq time. The Soldier may have to wait 30 minutes to an hour to get on the computer because of the lines, the people that refuse to get off them, the net going down, the MWR getting mortared, or the net being so damn slow that you can't get to your email in the time allotted. All just to hear about how you are doing fine and you have "met a lot of nice people at work." The other popular conversation is about money. One person is spending more than another. I'm here to tell you folks, living in the desert isn't cheap. Everybody and their brother wants you to send them something Hajji-ish. You buy DVDs to pass the time. You buy your own food so you don't have to walk a mile to the DEFAC when you come off mission. You buy your own gear because the old gear sucks, is inadequate, or breaks.

So I have done a lot of bitching. I am just trying to put a fine point on these comics, because they are true. And you can retract and pull back and say, "I never would have thought" or "Who would do such a thing" but the fact is it does happen. And it happens a lot. Personally I think if you take out the IMs and go back to getting a letter once every three months, people would be grateful for that. People really need to ease up on Soldiers and let them do their jobs. Killing people is what Soldiers do. Very simple. Let Uncle Sam have his killers. And when he is done being a Soldier he can come back and be whatever it is that you want him to be.

So let me boil it down. You don't want your husband to be a killer when he is with you. So why would you want him to be a husband when he is supposed to be a killer. Because if he is, then he won't be for long. The only thing he will be is filling for an aluminum box.


Yes. I agree with you all the way. You are doing your job. Continue to do it as best as you can. You are my kinda hero. Boo-Ya!

I agree. The military should go back a few decades in the communication technology they provide to the troops, for exactly the reasons you state. Have some rules like "Only one mail call per week", and "Only 'snail mail' allowed". It could certainly be an unwelcome distraction, no doubt, to have such instantaneous communications available. Soldiers should be comforted by messages from home, not distracted by them.

I was also a volunteer - I did my 10 years, between the wars, and having actually read the contract I signed, can state that, unless the forms have been drastically (and unconstitutionally) changed, the military does not "own your ass." True, we in uniform give up a lot of rights and privileges when we serve, but those who pay attention know that soldiers in the U.S. are not serfs or servants or slaves, and not only have the right, but have the duty to ensure that the generals and admirals do not go too far. They have the right and responsibility not to follow illegal orders, for instance, though I can understand how the brass does not let that information get too widespread.

Right on. Same stuff happened during Gulf War 1.0, although we had to resort to telephones and letters. When I hear stateside military spouses (male OR female) whining about how hard they have it and how they worry, I just want to slap them. Not just slap them silly, I want to slap them into the next continent.

Sgt. Allen's words are harsh, but have the ring of truth to them. My husband is retired from the military and agrees as well. War brings hardships to everyone, regardless of our place in it. But those of us at home need to be extremely conscious of what it takes for a soldier to survive. Well said!

"You buy your own gear because the old gear sucks, is inadequate, or breaks."???

That is un-fricking-believable. That makes me so angry, I don't even know where to begin.

Is there any way to send contributions somewhere to get decent gear for you guys?...Seriously.

I hear you soldier. One thing I have to say is this. You either love what you do or you dont. I for one love serving my country, I for one love defending it. As a sailor, I am not put here to question ANY policy, only follow it. I love what I do. Also, war is not prevalent only to "battlefields". The common man at home faces death on a day to day basis also. The child raised in the ghetto (which is a war zone) faces death day to day, with nothing to fight for, nothing to stand up for.

Believe in what you do Soldier, for life goes on.

Love what you do or leave it.

Do the deed!

You are so on the money w/this!

I get a phone call once a week, and we talk about home and what we can about his life in Iraq. There's not much he can say, and in his voice I hear his mood and his tiredness. It's hard going from being able to talk a hundred times a day and getting opinions on everything to one phone call a week and maybe a letter if he has time. I think any spouse that is ignorant enough to say there's life besides the war to their spouse who is fighting so there is no war on our soil is not deserving of a spouse who serves their country. Yes I know it isn't easy raising a family alone. I know it's hard making decisions on your own after being able to make them together. Being obstinate about when your spouse calls or IMs you is also ignorant. I work 12-14 hour shifts myself. My fiance who is in Iraq works, if he's lucky, a 12-hour shift. He calls me at 1am his time, 5pm my time right now. I would never get upset with him if he didn't call or if he called me at 5am or 4am our time. My point is, no, life stateside isn't easy without your spouse, but life in a war zone is definitely harder than what we have. Stress is high. If you lose it don't ever be too proud to apologize to your spouse. We need support and our loved ones also need support to no end. They didn't ask for what they are doing, they are doing what they have to do. Yes, they voluntered knowing someday maybe they would be in a war zone, but when you hook up with military person you should always have it in the back of your mind that they may wind up in a war zone. God bless.

I really felt compelled to answer this blog. I hope that you will read it and really think about what I'm trying to say. The cartoon is sad and pathetic; no argument there. As an Army wife, I've known plenty of "whiney wives" that bitch about every little thing to their soldier in theatre and demand to know when they are coming home to "fix" everything. That's sad. Communication is definitely a two-way street and any briefing you get that says DON'T COMPARE YOUR TIME APART is dead on!!! My husband has served two full tours in Iraq so far, so I feel I have earned the right to speak on this!! Yes you guys (and gals) are serving far from home, in a dangerous war zone. That is stressful. Got it - no arguments. But just because we are stateside doesn't make it automatically "easier" or "less stressful". Being the only "It" person when you're married, for extended periods of time (LIKE A YEAR!!) is plenty stressful too. A home to run, 3 kids to raise, a business, bills, taxes, etc etc etc - ALONE - is plenty stressful as well. Then add the worry of not knowing where your loved one is, what they're doing, how their spirits are holding up, if they'll be extended (again) can seem an endless agony of worry and "non-information". At least you guys know what's going on, and let me assure you - our imagination is plenty bad enough!!! You focus on yourselves and your mission. An important, but narrow focus. My husband has been home nearly a year and he still has what I call that narrow focus - on himself. His equipment is squared away. Paperwork and personnel file updated regularly. Top scores on every PT test and eval. Great. Just remember two things: Everyone involved in this makes a sacrifice - and everyone makes a difference!!! And yes, there actually is a life going on outside of the Middle East; one that you will be a part of too, God willing, so try not to knock those of us trying to live it!

I'm stunned. I had three uncles who fought in World War II and have read all their letters from the front. The letters reflect their fears, their desire to fight well, and their gratitude to their families. There is no mention of needing to buy gifts, replace their own equipment (!) or fix problems at home. In fairness to our military families today, however, I don't think they get the support they need from the rest of us -- or even the awareness that there is a war going on and their loved ones are in it. When my uncles were at war, everyone knew it, banded around, listened to the news, sent care packages, and helped the families. Today, unless we have a relative in Iraq or Afghanistan, we hardly pay attention. The effect, of course, has been to depoliticize these wars -- keep attention off of them and cast the burden on just a few. It is painful to watch as these young families struggle, pretty much alone, to survive.

The time difference is awful in any degree. I've had serious sleep problems due to an ex who was a night owl and took night shifts and ONLY seemed to come alive when I was on my way to bed. We broke up. When he was aboard, we also had the same time schedule problem, only much worse.
So this point, I can empathize with you completely. If he had been at ALL willing to use e-mail instead of AIM for most of his contacts from aboard, that would have helped so much.

It's not about technology, it's about using it appropriately and giving each other due respect. Virtual communication can be addicting in part because it's not completely satisfying.

I will admit that I did not have to fight a war at the same time nor will I ever (4-F big time), but I had to deal with considerable work stress and a worsening chronic illness that forced me to need extra sleep in order to function at all at that time, so yeah, it hurt to have those kinds of expectations.

Jeannie has her points. I think Steve Irwin's wife Terry Irwin said it best-- she said she could never sit at home worrying about her husband if he was a policeman, whatever. She had to be out there with him, to know the risks, to understand, so she wouldn't worry.

The fact is worrying doesn't really help anybody, especially if it's about "what if he doesn't survive?". The minute he is sent to Iraq you need to be focusing on that real possibility as a possible given-- get the household affairs in order so you can run things yourself without assistance. Yes, when the soldier comes back, it will be a very strange and different household. But it would be changed anyway because he himself is changed. It's sad, but it can be easier to proceed as is, without putting life on hold indefinitely for his help, his input, etc.

I had an uncle come back from Korea after only 5 months-- pneumonia, only to be divorced because "she couldn't deal with the stress."

And yes, as Jeannie says, it takes a while for a soldier to integrate back to the family and stop being in "work mode" 24/7.

I'm so glad someone finally put it so bluntly!! HOOAH!!!!!!!

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