On My Own and Losing Heart

10 Apr
deployment family picture

Thoughts from a military spouse on the home-front:
A few weeks ago I attended a Ball benefitting the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. In his remarks to the audience, General Amos (the Commandant of the Marine Corps) discussed how he remembers living paycheck-paycheck as a young 2ndLt and chastened the audience to put themselves in the shoes of young enlisted families whose paychecks are much lower. His remarks went on to discuss how families, who even with the best budgeting, can still have unexpected needs that arise that they are financially unable to meet on their own. Of course his comments were geared towards raising funds for NMCRS but they are accurate all of the time.

My husband is a Marine. And after 18 years of service we are able to meet all of our financial needs and even save for retirement and set more aside for our kids to go to college. But when my husband deploys, or is away for training/classes/conferences or other duty, or when he is called in to create a response plan for another global crisis I have to figure out how to balance all of the things that he does for our family with all of the things I do. Do I hire someone to mow our lawn and take care of the “handyman” items that arise, do I pay someone to help with light house-cleaning, and do I fork-over even more for more childcare so I can still balance home and work and maybe even get a minute to myself? If I choose to pay for these things, what am I going to sacrifice in return? Or should I just suck it up and do everything on my own?

I have been on my own for 8 out of the past 12 years. On my own I have mowed the lawn(s), cleaned the house(s), unclogged toilets, fixed garbage disposals, and patched drywall. On my own I have kissed skinned knees, read bedtime stories, and raised 2 children. On my own I have started a business and worked into the wee hours of the morning to get it all done. I have done all of this so that we could save for retirement and college, I have done this so that we could travel to visit with family, I have done this so that we could take a vacation, I have done this so that we could own our own small piece of the country that my husband has fought for.

I have done this with discipline, and integrity, and pride in my role as a military spouse.

As a military spouse I have also participated in family readiness and resiliency programs. I have volunteered for different military family organizations. I have built my global network of friends. But at the end of the day I am still on my own.

On my own I watch the news after the kids are in bed so they won’t hear about the attacks near the compound where my husband is working. On my own I mourn for the friends we have lost and guiltily thank God that I am preparing meals for others and not thanking them for preparing them for me. On my own I clean my house after storms and disasters so that my husband can help with humanitarian relief efforts for others who have lost everything. On my own I raise kids to know and love Daddy even though he has been away for over half of their lives. On my own I write love notes to my husband and read those that he has sent me from thousands of miles away. On my own I hold my family together because one day we will be.

I believe in my husband. I believe in the job he does. I believe in his oath. I also believe in our love, partnership, and family. And I believe that my husband is better able to serve because of our support.

But then I listen to lawmakers bicker over how much my husband is paid for his service. I read articles from military leaders that talk about how they have to choose between salary and safety. And I watch as programs that support military families are stripped away.

And then I find out that my husband has been extended in his time away from us because drawdowns mean fewer people to do the job. And as I review our family budget I realize that the reduction in our housing allowance means I have to reduce our retirement contributions. And when I call my local base to see if there is a support group for families like mine I find that there is nothing to support Geographic Bachelor and Individual Augment families. And so on my own I feel the impact of all the decisions about manpower and salary and benefits.

We are told that tough choices need to be made. We are told that training and equipment are so costly that salaries need to be cut. We are told that less pay equals better discipline. But we are also told that families matter, that Marines can’t do their jobs without support on the home-front.

Well I am the home-front and I have been carrying the load for a long time. I have been strong and resilient. I have been disciplined and compassionate. I have done everything required of me, and more. But I am tired and I am now also disheartened.

7 Responses to “On My Own and Losing Heart”

  1. carl hoffman April 11, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    We see and hear daily about the many trips taken by our elected. We give billions to other nations, we give and give again the tax dollars paid to study why a cow farts. We purchase a camel for 400.000 to show we are not bias. Yet we call upon the ones who protect us to take less. We never hear of welfare being cut, but military pay and SS are fair game. Yet our elected are under paid they say. They retire with full pay for a few years of service, most worth a lot more then when they entered public office with medical for life after having stripped away the written agreement for the military. It is an absolute disgrace how we have treated the military the last few years. We ask them to go and fight and they do, we asked them to help other nations in distress they do it. Then we tell them to forget what we promise you we need to cut back, so we can have more ourselves. All real America citizens should be ashamed, write or E mail your elected and vote with knowledge in every election.

    • Alia Reese April 11, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

      Carl – there is an alliance of veteran, and military family advocacy groups called KeepYourPromise that has been working to educate the public and elected officials on issues pertaining to military compensation and benefits. They are not a lobby. It is a collection of non-profits, businesses, and bloggers that are using their collective voices to push out accurate information to the public and to encourage public participation with elected officials. Their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/KeepYourPromise/551621371594210 and you can follow them on Twitter using #keepyourpromise.
      Best,
      Alia

  2. Torie April 24, 2014 at 7:50 am #

    On my own … I manage sports events, I cheer our kids on, I see the awards, I watch them develop. On my own … I get the car serviced, pay all of the bills, DEAL WITH TRICARE, learn that my child has a possibly life- threatening heart condition. On my own … I celebrate Christmas, New Years, Spring Break, birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.

    I could go on and on. I hear what you are saying and feel the same way. I am tired, so very tired!

  3. Tammy Hendren April 24, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    I want to thank you for your perfect description of how so many military families feel. I am a military wife and a military mother, aunt and sister. With so many of the men in our family serving, there is always someone deployed, transitioning home, or relocating. The stress on our families is enormous. We don’t mind the sacrifice, but we DO mind doing it and feeling like we don’t matter. My husband is quick to recognize the part I play in his service, but it often feels like the political leaders in our country do not. My husband is a State Senator as well as a National guardsman. I am most often proud of his active duty military service and frustrated with his political role. It is so hard to make a difference. In our last session in Arkansas, through the efforts of my husband, they were able to exempt Arkansans serving in the military from paying state taxes while living out of state in active duty service. It will go a little way to help our serving men and women. We have to find those in federal offices who can make a difference and make our voices heard. I am fairly new to “Keep your Promises” but I think they are doing a wonderful job of shedding light on this issue.

  4. Maggie L April 24, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    I have been a military spouse and a military member, in that order. I feel for each family that suffers through deployment and have lived on both sides of the military and civilian fences. I think there is a misconception that others on the civilian side have it any better. If you do a side by side comparison of military families vs civilian families you will find that there are still the separations due to work obligations, financial obligations, and household items to be done. The difference in the military is that you have a job that guarantee’s a paycheck, health and dental insurance and are payed enough to feed and cloth your children without the worry of cutbacks and making decisions on whether to cloth yourself or buy something your children need. As a civilian you do not have that luxury and all of that time that you spent in service, well when you complete a resume try to get that to translate into a civilian job to pay as much as you received in the military. I know this will not be a popular comment, but you chose to sign a contract and if you are married to a military member, you chose to do so. Times are hard whether your are in or out of the military. If you don’t like your situation then change it!!!! You nor your spouse signed a 20 year contract.

  5. Veterans Party of America April 24, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    All the while politicians are spending tax money like crazy, cutting into our military families along with the pay for those medically retired from service due to wounds sustained in combat.

    No more. The Veterans Party of America has formed just 4 months ago (December 19, 2013) and is already the fastest growing political party in America. Active in 46 states, DC, registering voters in California, and candidates in 3 states while interviewing 2 more.

    We will take office and prevail. We will bring solutions, not excuses.

    www veteranspartyofamerica.org

  6. Mary April 24, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    Thank you for so eloquently stating what I have been feeling for years. Alone I gave birth to a child in a new town, alone I took that child to appointments and scheduled surgery, alone I dealt with the movers when that child was a year old, alone I held that child through storms and sickness and heartbreak, alone I moved more times but with two children, I was alone when family members died, I was alone when I got the news about medical issues my children and I had and I did all these things and more alone so he could serve. I am so tired of hearing that budgets have to be cut and the military is on the receiving end of these cuts. Our country cuts the benefits of those who were willing to sacrifice their lives and their families’ lives without a second thought. It is time that this ends and we honor those who serve.

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