Commentary: For military spouses glass is more than half full
February 4, 2010
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Being associated with the Army doesn't make you a victim. Whenever we get into a "glass half empty" sort of mood, we should remember that.
It is common to read how hard it is to be a military spouse - about the sacrifices forced on those who stay at home when Soldiers deploy. But that doesn't present the whole picture. It isn't that some spouses don't face difficulties; it isn't that some don't make sacrifices; but military spouses shouldn't be viewed as powerless victims.
I recall setting up a telephone interview with a civilian reporter a few years ago. The reporter was doing a story about how military families dealt with having their Soldiers deployed to a combat theater. The wife of a command sergeant major volunteered to answer the reporter's questions.
From the start, the interview didn't go the way the reporter seemed to expect it to. When asked what the greatest challenges were with having her husband deployed, the long-time Army wife could only observe that she and the children missed him. When the reporter attempted to suggest other factors that might be causing problems - finances' home repairs' misbehaving children' repairs on the car' - she got nowhere. The Army spouse knew how to take care of most things that came up around the home.
If anything happened she needed help with, she pointed out, the Army community always provided someone with an answer. As to the children, well they missed their dad, but they were well-behaved, bright kids who devoted their energies to all sorts of activities. They just wished it was easier to tell their dad what was going on.
In a tone that smacked of desperation, the reporter tried another tack.
"But aren't you worried that your husband will be injured in combat'" she asked.
The spouse admitted that she felt some worry, of course. But, she said, she knew that her husband was very good at his job and that his Soldiers were very well trained.
"I feel sorry for anyone who tries to give them a problem," the wife said.
The reporter gave up. She was looking for suffering, worry, pathos - and all she could find was competence, confidence and a cheerful outlook.
Now, a sergeant major's wife might not represent the average Army spouse. But I think she was a lot closer to the norm than the public image of the poor, lonely spouses, abandoned by their Soldiers, left to face daunting challenges in an uncaring and hostile world.
Army spouses do sometimes face tough situations. The Army has done a pretty good job of giving them the tools to get through them, however.
There is nothing sad about being married to a Soldier. The vast majority of Army spouses know what they are facing ... and they face it. If you marry a Soldier, you know what you are getting yourself in for. And for the most part, it's pretty good.
We should all keep that in mind, and remember that, when it comes to living with the Army, the glass is a good deal more than half full.
David W. Kuhns Sr. is a retired Army sergeant major and editor of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Northwest Guardian.