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.

Taking a beating…


Mommy and Daddy are fighting again.

It started as a normal enough fight, one about money. It’s always about money.

But then it got ugly. They started yelling, and threatening. Little Brother and Little Sister happened to be nearby. Daddy grabbed them and held a knife to their throats. Daddy threatened to cut them, to cut off the blood and oxygen their bodies need to survive. Not one to be swayed by manipulation, Mommy called Daddy’s bluff, saying, “Go ahead. I don’t care. You want to kill them? Fine. By. Me.”

Little Brother screamed, terrified. Little Sister’s eyes grew wide, showing her feelings of betrayal. These were their parents. The people they trusted. The people who were supposed to look out for them. The kids had done nothing wrong. The money problems weren’t their fault. They had simply been going about life, doing exactly what they were supposed to do, only to be caught in their parents’ unthinking, unconscionable crossfire.


And this, my friends, is how sequestration looks to those of us in the military community, and to any others who stand to be a big losers if nothing is done by Friday. It’s an imperfect metaphor, of course. It doesn’t even take into account all that members of the military have sacrificed for the nation during the past 11 years, sacrifices one would hope would elicit more — not less — concern.

The White House and Congress, or simply the two political parties, depending on how you think about it, are the parents — the people my community relies upon to provide what we need to sustain, quite literally, our very lives. And now, in their bickering, they’re holding us hostage, each hoping the other will blink before one of them slips up and kills US.

In 2011 the President, frustrated by a Congress that wouldn’t work with him, proposed this horrible idea of sequestration, thinking that surely Congress would never let it get that bad. And Congress, betting that the President wouldn’t let it get that bad, either, voted to approve it, the Budget Control Act of 2011. It was a nothing more than a political game; a do-you-still-beat-your-wife-question in the form of a Congressional Act. And so now here were are. The people who can actually do something to stop the looming disaster, won’t calm down and reason with each other. Worse, they’ve all shown that they’re willing to let innocent people pay for their mistakes.

But back to the metaphor, what do you think will happen when the fight is over? Do you think the kids will ever trust the parents again?

And now that we in the military community know that our leaders — ALL OF THEM — are perfectly willing to hold us hostage in order to win nothing more than political points, we can never again trust their intentions. This game of chicken has already done irreparable damage to the relationship between the military and our political leaders.

If this were a real family, and not simply an analogy, police officers and social workers would be called in because we, the responsible adults, would recognize that these parents are absolutely unqualified, and far too selfish, to be in charge of anything.

Missing (in)Action

Yes – this is for real. Today, one day before Valentine’s Day, the House Armed Services Committee invited the Pentagon’s top brass on a date to talk about sequestration — and then stood them up. (This was what the room looked like at about two hours into the meeting, toward the end. The screenshots were taken 5 minutes apart at 1:30. ) I can’t quite make out who the Representatives  there are —the ones who where there for their own freakin’ meeting, mind you — and I don’t really want to give them too much praise for simply doing their jobs (but, hey, good on ya’!), but I can tell you that the wall of uniforms in the top pic? Yeah, those guys — they definitely had better things to do.
(I mean, really, what was going on in DC today that was 1) so pressing that all of these Representatives couldn’t be at their own meeting, but 2) not pressing enough to require the presence of any of these military commanders? Maybe Beyonce was in town…)
***UPDATE- My good friend Ellery, who has been working in Washington politics for many years now, tells me that these pictures were taken around the same time the Majority called a vote on the House floor. In other words, the seats were empty because the Representatives had gone to vote. Fair enough. The vote, in case you are wondering, was “To amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to clarify that houses of worship are eligible for certain disaster relief and emergency assistance on terms equal to other eligible private nonprofit facilities, and for other purposes.”
So, yeah, that’s totally pressing… Totally worth blowing off the heads of every branch of the military right before Congress’ lack of action decimates the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, even as we are still dealing with terrorism and nuclear threats.
[bangs her head against the wall]
Here’s a list of some of the people who should never be allowed the privilege of (not) serving their constituents again:

Members of the Committee

For the 113th Congress, the House Armed Services Committee will be led by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) with Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) serving as the Ranking Member.  The following members will serve on the Committee:

Updated: January 9, 2013