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.