Bitter, Party of One


I don’t blog much anymore. That’s not an accident or an oversight. There’s a three-syllable reason for it: I’m-bit-ter.

I started blogging about military family life way back in 2006. This little blog turned 7 last month and, like most 7-year-olds, simple words are no longer enough. I’ve written hundreds of unchallenging, light-hearted posts about the oh-so-funny aspects of military life: the acronyms, how civilians don’t ‘get’ us, the Murphy’s Law-stuff that happens during a deployment. These posts were fun to write and, I’m told, fun to read.

But a funny thing happened on the way to my husband’s 9th deployment: it all stopped being funny.

Sure, it was cute and fresh in the early days of my military marriage, which also happened to be the early days of this, the longest war in our nation’s history. But it stopped being cute when the number of my friends now permanently residing in Arlington kept growing. The amusement disappeared when prosthetics became a common sight. It stopped being fresh when I realized that I don’t know most of the other wives anymore because so many of them are the second — or third — wives. It stopped being amusing when the children in my community — kids who have sacrificed their very childhoods for this once-great nation — couldn’t get the resources they need to keep up, and it seemed that America was demanding they sacrifice their future potential, too.

I can actually mark the exact moment when the novelty wore off, when I began to really doubt my choice to participate in this challenging lifestyle. It wasn’t during yet-another memorial service, yet-another deployment, or while attempting to talk yet-another military wife out of suicide. For me, the novelty wore off in March 2011, when it looked certain that service members would not receive paychecks because of a likely government shut-down. I remember standing in the checkout at the Commissary and seeing a story in the Army Times by the cash register about what soldiers could do to survive at home if and when they didn’t get paid. The betrayal was standing there with me, beside me, as real and as palpable as an impatient shopper.  That’s when I realized that America doesn’t — pardon my language — give one flying fuck about us. And that’s when every difficult aspect of military life began to seem not like a gift I was happily giving to a grateful nation, but like another piece of me that was being gobbled up by an entitled, enabled, ungrateful, addicted monster.

Since March 2011 it’s only gotten worse. My military community has been kept dangling over a fiery lake of burning threats by Congressional leaders and a President more concerned with defeating the other party than with upholding the sacred agreement they entered into with the greatest group of patriots this nation has ever known.  They throw us scraps in the form of speeches and do-nothing committees, but we know better now: We are soldiers in the hands of an angry government. Except — except it’s all a game to our political leaders, and we are the pawns — the disabled, disaffected and increasingly divorced pawns.

As I wrote to my Congressman a few months ago when Congress sat back and allowed our nation to careen into Sequestration: “Military life is hard, but we signed up for ‘hard.’ It’s challenging, but we signed up for ‘challenging’ … We accept all of these hardships and challenges willingly. What we did not sign up for was our nation breaking its promises to active duty, veterans and military families in the name of politics. These cuts will not be ‘painful’ as you say. They will be MURDER.”

My niece graduates from high school this week and in the coming years several of my nephews will, too. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I would encourage any of them to join the military lifestyle, as either service members or as spouses. A few years ago I would have said, unequivocally, yes. Even as two wars waged, casualties mounted and the fighting seemed endless. Even as I, literally, wore holes in my funeral dresses — it was a lifestyle I would have recommended. Because it was worth it. The mission was worth it and the other people in the military community were — and are — worth it.

But the nation? Not so much. Not anymore.

So here it is now, Memorial Day weekend, those three days each year devoted to grilling, parties, furniture sales and, oh yeah, dead troops. I’ll be thinking about all the incredible people I’ve known who rucked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, knowing that the sacrifices they made — the ultimate sacrifices — were absolutely worth it for the mission and for those on their lefts and their rights. But worth it for the country? Not even close. This country didn’t deserve them.

51 thoughts on “Bitter, Party of One

  1. Bravo! Well stated, though still undersrated in terms of “punctuated emphasis,” shall we say.

    I lived through the ME GENERATION [see, but fighting my way though GENERATION ME [see and,9171,2143001,00.html%5D.

    As always, thank Bobby for us, accept our virtual hugs for the family, and a bear hug and shoulder for you.

    It’s a hell of a disaster the railroad has on its hands, but one I started seeing in the way things were changing within DoD back in the 80s when I was serving.

    • Welcome to Vietnam, er, I mean post 9/11. Same ‘ol, same ‘ol. Nothing new under the sun.

      • Scott – early in my blogging days I would occasionally get comments from Vietnam vets or their wives, usually something to the effect of “you just wait, the support will disappear and they’ll sell you all out just like they did us.” I would respond with something to the effect of, “it’s so horrible how you all were treated, thank God people are different now.”
        Sadly, those Vietnam vets were right.

        • Isn’t that a crying shame. Until everyone’s got some skin in the game it isn’t going to change.

  2. Thanks for the strong, needed words. Your honesty is commended. Most importantly your sacrifice is much appreciated. Blessings to you, your husband, and everyone else affected by the uncaring and unthinking politicians.

    (USN 1973-1982)

  3. Well my sister, I am virtually hugging you and I understand. Yesterday we went to the USASOC program and listened somberly as taps was played. We have been here too many times for too many lives. My three blue stars on my flag stayed cobalt, and I am forever grateful, but the stress of having a family member in every battalion of 7th group, gone at one time, was the moment I could no longer maintain ‘the smile’ of pride. We have watched families be terminated by a bullet and some by divorce papers. Not only did society get burned out by the continuation of war, but our families did too. The ones who are supposed to “keep the home fires burning.” After the most recent deployment, I said, I am done. I cannot physically do this any longer. And so with slight regret, my husband declined to be looked at for SGM after we patched our marriage together, again, as he attended USASMA. And then the VIED that changed him, forever. My husband left fairly healthy and came home a shell of his former self, but with no outside signs. Now, two years and a medical retirement later, we will both say, “No the blood money, the devil’s money was NOT worth it.” Those 6 years destroyed our marriage, ripped apart our family, and permanently altered his health. And I, who was once the champion for Special Forces, turned into a bitter, hateful, angry spouse. And I grieve for the proud cheerful wife and mother I once was. But yesterday, at the Memorial Event, I remembered who I am, who I AM. I am the wife of a Special Forces soldier and I will be proud of the accomplishments that he has made, and I have made. I am an example of a spouse who stuck it out during horrible events, death, life, sin, exhaustion, and loneliness. And, I am still here. We are still here Rebekah Gleaves Sanderlin – and as I passed the baton to my daughter, my heart cries. But, it swells too, because we are the glue. The glue that gets old and dries up and barely keeps things sticking together, but the residue is there. The WILL of that glue is still there! You, me, the other “seasoned” wives, are here to be the Titus2 women to those young wives who, like us at one time, are full of spirit and enthusiasm and vigor, because one day, they will need us to help in their moment of despair. They will need us to be there, to tell the stories, of how our marriages fell apart due to the team antics, the affairs, the drinking, the outrageous spending, the gambling, the gaming, the PTSD, the anger, the rage…. whatever it might be, to tell these young women that they too, can and WILL get through this. We are the ones who watched and helped our husbands go from the Q course to the Golf Course. Being spirited young fighting bucks to mature men in collared shirts, chasing a ball, telling their war stories and how things have changed. And, they are still here. You and I are still here to be the examples of sustainment and durability. How we were there when they needed us, cried when they’d leave us, and have open arms when they return to us, all the while standing tall with our Mona Lisa smiles, while falling apart inside…………. and then, as my Grandmother told me, how to hug a pillow, how to cry into a pillow, and how to punch a pillow when your husband goes back to war…. again.

    • Oh, God, Kristine. So, so, true. Big hugs, friend. You made it to the other side. Maybe not with all the pieces you had when you started, but, by God, you made it.

      • When there was the “oh no we might not get paid!” My sister’s response was “Now you get to see how the rest of the country feels!”

        WOW! Thanks sis! Such compassion and empathy. Geez.

  4. Thank you. I will share and print for reading at the BBQ/Pool party on Monday.
    Thank you all.
    And I’m sorry. I see it too.

  5. VERY WELL SAID!!! I don’t even begin to understand the sacrifices that military families make but I totally agree that our government does NOT give a “flying fuck” about this nation. I am so sorry you and your family have to endure the torture that you go thru. I do appreciate your sacrifices and your service to keep us free! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  6. Awww I am saddened to read this. I hear your pain and I feel it. I am an unmarried Air Force BRAT. Being the child of military parents was enough to let me know I did not want to join. Mostly because I am just not the physical type and did not want to go through basic training.

    Still I hate to think people are getting fed up with the nation. There is still no other place I would rather live and for now unless we move we are the nation. Not all of us are ungrateful or undeserving.

  7. So, you blog but what are you doing about it? There are plenty of ways other than complaining. If your going to bitch then be an activist and not just an ignorant blogger.

    • She is NOT an Ignorant blogger. She has spoken up at events, been on nationwide TV, the local news, the MSM. I hate it when people make a quick assumption and tell you what you are doing wrong before they even know what you have done, or so it seems.

      Many of us have ‘done something other than complain or bitch’ but it only goes so far. So you have to seek out who has some umf behind them – like the Green Beret Foundation, Give an Hour or NMFA or now, the NRA and the SOS.

      Try making suggestions to commands or units and see how far it goes.

    • Proud Vet, haven’t you ever heard, “The pen is mightier than the sword?” I’m a vet too, 74-77, a long time ago. My brothers were i ‘Nam, then, and I hd the experience of having to listen to my brother scream in his sleep for years after he came home, after kids at school had mocked me for defending the war and called them “baby killers.” Now, I hear soldeirs called, “hired murderers”, and I had to listen to a pompous ass in another vet group mock another vet for speaking of patriotism and honor. We are in a natio being run by blithering idiots, financed by maniacs, and infested by fanatics who want to kill all of us. And the biggest idiot of them all, the one put there by fraud, deceit and morons, is doing all he can to destroy the greatest military on the face on the earth, so t won’t be able to rise up and defeat him and his socialist friends. I read today about a program he started called “Vigilant Eagle”, targeting military people critical of the government. If I were in the military today, I would take my oath seriously, and defend the constitution, and think about saving what was left of the military–and our-nation–before it was too late. There are plenty of retired military out here who would be only too glad to help. When I read what these families are gong through, what these soldeirs are suffering, it tears my heart out, because I know that what is trying to replace our Republic is nothing but poverty and slavery, and the end of any kind of liberty for any of us.

    • At least she is getting the word out about what is going on. Those of us in non-military families simply don’t know about this and now we can act by writing congresspeople and telling others.

      I’d like to know what YOU are doing about it, rather than criticizing others.

    • Maybe blogging is part of how she deals with it. I don’t see how her post made her “an ignorant blogger” at all. It made me remember why my husband left the Marine Corps 4 yrs ago after 13 yrs, 8 deployments, 4 kids, multiple dead friends and neighbors, several injuries, more combat medals than I can count, debilitating PTSD, and an almost broken marriage. Our 17 yr old son has been considering joining and we used to encourage him, but not any more. It isn’t worth it. And as far as her “bitching” in her post, I say bitch away. It always made me feel better.

  8. First of all, thank you and your family SO much for your service to our country. There are plenty of us who truly do appreciate what you do for us, even if the government does not,
    I only know some of what goes on in the Military from my friend Amanda and for what I hear from my son, who’s tour is up in June – and he will not be signing up again because of the lies that he was told to sign up in the first place,
    I’m so sorry that so much has gone on during your time in, but remember, we DO love you and care for you and will always support you and appreciate all you do.
    Please know that as we celebrate this holiday weekend, we will be remembering all who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. God bless and keep your husband safe, and be with you and the rest of your family always.

  9. Rebekah,

    I am so sorry for what you are going through and I completely understand. As a Vietnam vet I understand a country that does not appreciate the sacrifices made and politicians to whom you are only a pawn in a game. And as the father of a daughter who is career Army it concerns me greatly that this attitude is so prevalent. Too many today have no idea what it takes to be military and too many don’t care. And as for our political class, they seem to care about nothing but themselves and couldn’t care less that they don’t know what you are going through.

    But there are still many that do care and will fight for you. I am one and know others like myself. There are still some that understand and want you to know we appreciate you beyond what words can express and stand with you and will do whatever we can to make sure you are well taken care of. You are not alone, even though you may feel like it. I care and I thank you and your family for all you have done for my family.

    • Thank you, Rich, and also many thanks to everyone who has written to express their appreciation for those who serve. I do know that there are many wonderful Americans who do not take the sacrifices made by those in the military community for granted, and I apologize if I painted with too broad a brush. I also know that all of you wonderful people out there get frustrated by the same things I’m seeing and want those things to change. Short of an all-out revolt (which I am NOT in favor of), it seems we are limited in our ability to enact that change — our options are just to make our voices heard and to vote, both of which are pretty frustrating. But we do have the internet, and that makes it easy to contact our representatives and to find an audience for our voices. If we all get and stay loud then, at some point, they’ll have to listen — right?

  10. Very well said, Rebekah. I have followed your blogs for many years now. I have walked in your footsteps and hoped things would have changed from past war experiences. Yes, they support the troops when it is in their best interest. After 27 years we finally retired. I use the “we” for I served along side him with Love and Support and Support for our Brigade and their Families. Now that we have been retired for almost 2 years I get to watch and experience how little they do care.
    With the dwindling of Tricare for retiress. Being forced into mail-order pharmacy (that has issues have being able to meet the demands) and I am sure I do not have to mention VA Disability. I applaud your honesty, and devotion to your family and our Country. Thank you for Speaking Truth!!

  11. Bravo!! Well said, I’m not a military wife, but I take notice to the realities of our country and how much the so called government takes care of its own,… Please. It’s a disgrace. I pray for our soldiers and there families.. God bless you all

  12. You perfectly articulated a sentiment that has long rested in my soul. I am not a military wife, but my Dad proudly served for 20 years(he followed his fathers footsteps who proudly served for 25+ years). I grew up on base and saw first hand how little people cared about military families, and i was bitter for a very long time. My dad once told me almost exactly what you stated. You don’t do it for the nation, you do it for your family and the guy standing next to you and his family. Because family is what counts. I am sending you lots of hugs and I pray that the bitterness subsides. Sending you and yours love and prayers.

  13. I think it interesting that someone remarked that this woman is ignorant, when in fact she is completely the opposite. Not being from a military family myself, she provides us with an insight into a world I only hear of from a largely sanitized media. Putting a face on the pain our veterans are feeling is so important, seeing as the “outside” citizenry is asked to sacrifice so little in regards to day to day life while we waged two wars (as opposed to earlier ground wars, WWII and the like). I believe many civilians (myself included) have very little in way of a touchstone to measure or understand the true cost of war. That is the only way I can attempt to understand why this country treats it’s vets the way it does. I am so so sorry, but my apologies do little in way of alleviating the outrageous treatment. You have inspired me to write my representatives in Congress. Thank you.

    • Nikki, the insults are easily hurled by people like the supposed “proud vet”, but they are just the un-informed, ill-informed, and un-caring. No idea how it stumbling upon the post, but it smells like a troll.

      Thank your dad for me, his service, please.

  14. I understand what you are saying here, and I even agree 100% with it. I also believe that if a person is unhappy with their life or the situation they are in, they should enact changes to their life or the situation. Sorry, but no one drafted anyone here nor forced them to continue beyond the initial obligation. If at some point the military life was becoming too much to bear, you and your husband should have left the life and entered back into the civilian world. I really have a problem with people thinking that the world/country/anyone “owes” them something. Our country really does not “owe” us (military) anything. Even though our country and the people in our country should be thankful that people exist that are willing to sacrifice much or all for their country, that gratitude is still not mandatory nor should it even be expected. You chose the life you wanted to live and being bitter about the outcome has nothing to do with others, but rather has to do with your own beliefs, expectations, and limitations. Not everyone is made for a lifelong military career or marriage, and not everyone should pursue it.

    • I agree with you in principle, but my circumstances – like those of many in the military now – don’t exactly mesh with this ‘love it or leave’ philosophy. (Also, this philosophy completely ignores the obligation the civilian society DOES have to those who protect them. What would happen if everyone who wasn’t blissfully happy 100% of the time just opted out?… And wouldn’t it be irresponsible to simply quit when the going got rough? I believe each of us — whatever course of life we’ve chosen — have a responsibility to try to make things better for those who come after us…) Anyway, my husband was under stop-loss orders when we married, so getting out was not an option for him then. He stayed under stop-loss orders until just a couple of years ago, at which point he had more than 15 years of service. So, though he *could* have gotten out then, it would have been insane for us to have chosen that considering that with less than 5 more years of service he’d be eligible for a pension and retirement benefits. (though both of those are now things that Congress is attempting to alter and renege — hence the frustration.) Moreover, the problems I have with the military life have very little to do with the military itself and much more to do with our culture, so I’m not sure that getting out would even do much good. As you can probably tell, these are all things I’ve spent a great deal of time batting around. I do love the military lifestyle and I am extremely grateful for the people I have met because of it and the opportunity I’ve had to be part of something bigger than myself, and -yes- to pursue something more substantial and meaningful than simple personal happiness.

    • To me that is the POINT Armywife.. If someone were drafted into the military these things could be expected.. BUT the fact is some of us STAND UP to protect without being asked.
      We do not do it to enrich ourselves, we do not do it for the amazing riches, or educational benefits, or some deep rooted blood lust. We do it because no one else will.
      I hardly think that those that serve are asking much from the country they protect. I do not think asking for the same respect, and consideration you give to someone who refused to serve is too much.
      At the end of my eight years of service in the Army I expected the educational benefits that I PAID for to be there WHEN I wanted them. Imagine my surprise when I discovered they were not available. To add insult to injury neither was an economy or a country that appreciated my sacrifice.

  15. 10yr* Army wife, how can you say that you agree with what Rebekah is saying then in the same paragraph tell her that our government doesn’t “owe” her or any “people” anything!!!! As an 18+ military wife of a 27 yr combat veteran my family has sacrificed most of the time willingly (crappy pay, over 13, yes 13+ deployments since 911 alone, countless missed birthdays, anniversarys, weddings, funerals, plays etc…) we choose this life and we could have left it years ago to have normal schedules and hell of a lot better paychecks, so you are right about that to.
    We don’t and shouldn’t “expect” any pats on the back (but they sure are nice once in a while) but we DAMN SURE deserve the benefits that were promised to our spouses and our families for our “contribution” to our country.

  16. Rebekah,
    I have read your columns over the years. As a contractor who works with the Army, I have seen the sacrifices and hardship my partners in green and blue have encountered since the Gulf War. You guys are amazing and it amazes me even more how our “leaders” in congress don’t seem to get it. Please keep writing. I have already written my representatives about the upcoming sequestration and how it will not only affect our military and their families but the communities who support them.
    Take care,

    Michelle Butzgy

    • Thank you, Michelle, for reading all these years and for contacting your representatives. And thank you for all that you do for our nation, as well. I think it’s a testament to how much respect service members and their families have for contractors and DOD civilians that many of us were to first to cry out when the budget cuts were announced, knowing that those cuts would hit you all first.

  17. You don’t feel this anger by yourself. There are a great many of us who get exactly what you’re talking about. I feel almost guilty that my own family hasn’t sacrificed more (only 2 deployments, Air Force and a husband who came home intact in both mind and body, our marriage survives as well) and the fact that I feel guilty about such a thing is wrong in itself. So much suffering and civilians just don’t get it. I’ve tried in my own way to explain but the anger in your post explains it so much better. Thank you for writing this. I don’t feel any less guilty but maybe, just maybe some civilians will read your post and feel that they are partly to blame as well. At the end of the day, our politicians answer to us and only we can change the system. Military families are not enough to fight this alone. We need help.

  18. Rebekah, Thank you so much for voicing the opinions of so many. I wanted to let you know that my husband (currently deployed for the 7th time since 9/11) read it and loved it. He also messaged me to say “thank you” for sticking with him through all of this. What some people don’t understand is that, Yes- this is what they “signed up for”, as unhappy as they may sometimes be; many soldiers stick it out for the sake of their families. The Army has been our source of financial security and a means to provide for our daughter- to ensure her future. That’s wonderful. At the same time, it has caused my husband to be what he terms “an internet father” – struggling to help raise a 15 year old from 6,000 miles away. 10yr*Army wife, getting out would be the “cowards way” for so many soldiers who have to struggle each day watching their children grow up in pictures and working to stay a part of their lives. My husband’s decision to stay in for so long was not based on his own happiness, or mine for that matter. His decision is and was based solely on the fact that this was his way to provide for his wife and daughter, ensure she goes to college, secure our future with retirement, continue to get medical benefits…and PAY THE DAMN MORTGAGE! Getting out if your not happy? We married heroes…who do the job. Some for the love of the country. Some for the love of their families. They don’t quit when the going gets rough…but we damn sure have a right to voice an opinion when we are the legs they stand on…and they won’t even provide us some shoes. My husband’s decision to stay in was not one of honor and yet it really was.

  19. I agree a 100%. I’m a German woman married to an American soldier and that can be hard since I look at a lot of things differently than how the Army and the American government would like me to. All I can say is: no government and no president is worth it for my husband or any other brave young man/woman to die. No money can ever make it worth it. Instead of going out to fight wars we should all concentrate on finding ways to better ourselves and our countries and to make sure we can defend ourselves when somebody is out to get us. Yes, I’m proud of my husband and yes, I support him no matter what, but supporting the mission while dealing with how we are being treated and everything else that comes with it is hard.

  20. Rebekah, I’m sorry you don’t feel appreciated. I’m even sorrier that I think you’re right. Our military isn’t appreciated, at least NOT TO THE EXTENT they deserve. But the truth is, unless you have lived this military life, unless you have known the sacrifices that go with it, PEOPLE JUST DON’T GET IT. It was not until I fell in love with an Air Force pilot that I really began to think about what it would be like if he were called to war….. what it is like for the wives, for the children. It wasn’t that I’m not a caring person, it’s just that this was never my life. Fortunately, I met him as he was getting ready to retire.
    My mom’s best friend’s son, Freddie, was KIA in Vietnam. He died just 2 weeks before he was to meet his wife in Hawaii for R&R and see his infant son, Paul, for the first time. I was just a kid, but I will always remember answering the phone when they called to say that Freddie was dead. To this day (45 years later) I still tear up when I think of Freddie. I thank you for writing this blog. And though mear words can never be enough, “THANK YOU” for all that you have sacrificed being married to a military man, and “Thank You” to your husband, as well.

  21. THAT!!!!!! OMG that was about as eloquent as you could be on the subject. It has nothing to do with the wars we are fighting either, it is the manner in which we engage in the conflict.
    The fact that every single one of our citizens not in the military, or related to a servicemember can tune out and not sacrifice a thing. There is no shared pain… We should all suffer when we make the decision to go to war.. We should conduct ourselves in a manner that will end the conflict as quickly as possible. It should be painful enough that we pause long and hard before we engage in another conflict…

  22. If I may, it is not the nation which has failed you. Rather, politicians and other leaders have failed you and the country they are supposed to serve. Regardless, I’m sorry you feel abandoned and betrayed; I appreciate your sacrifice.

  23. Rebekah – I am so sorry for your anguish…Your endless losses, your endless challenges, your endless sacrifice.
    Please know that it is not “the nation” that doesn’t care – it is the government. long ago “That government of the people, by the people, for the people…” has long since perished from the earth. You are absolutely correct to say that “Congressional leaders and a President [are] more concerned with defeating the other party than with upholding the sacred agreement they entered into with the greatest group of patriots this nation has ever known.” Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are not the only group betrayed. To in the civilian sector are also feeling the sting of the government’s battle of egos. However, as a military family, you are in an especially difficult position. Your husband, as so many others, have taken an oath to “…obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” I am a veteran of the U. S. Navy. My father was U. S. Army as are both of my brothers and was my son. I hated that Reagan chose to violate the War Powers Act which resulted in the loss of 241 Marines. I hated that George Bush delayed a cease fire during Desert Storm that resulted in 17 additional airmen and soldiers being killed by a scud missile. You know, I’m sure, that these losses feel like the loss of a brother or a sister. But I stood by my word – my oath – because in the end, I am not responsible for their actions, only my own.
    I have long ago lost faith in our government’s ability to see past their own personal agendas. Our government isn’t our nation. Our nation appreciates your husband’s service and your sacrifice. Our nation still believes in that Constitution that he has sworn to uphold and protect. Your bitterness is completely understandable and warranted. I pray though, that you will not let it consume you. Thank you for your family’s sacrifice.

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