I have always loved a good historical fiction book, especially those set during the World War II era. I cannot begin to tell you how many WWII era books I have read. I’ve been reading them for as long as I can remember. I was especially drawn to this genre of book while my husband was stationed in Afghanistan and I can only explain my infatuation with these books as the ideal I was hoping for. Don’t get me wrong, I do not want another World War. What I want is the sense of community that seems prevalent in all the WWII books I’ve read.
Displaced people, orphaned children, victory gardens, gas rations, everybody was on the same team. Everybody had a part in the military community. And it’s simply not that way today.
As of today we have been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for 15 years. Fifteen years. And unless you are a service member, a military family, or work for a government contractor, the chances of this 15 year war affecting your daily life is slim to none.
As a military spouse I long for the “one team, one fight mentality” to be present in America again. Perhaps if this were the greater population’s mentality military families wouldn’t seem like such an oddity in civilian communities. Perhaps if this were the mentality then it wouldn’t seem like military service and war happen in a vacuum.
We military families are not super human. We have no capes or magical powers. We are simply people who live a lifestyle that less than one percent of the American population live.
I wrote the above words three and half years ago after I was interviewed for a Veteran’s Day Parade special, yet today these thoughts and ideas are at the forefront of my mind. This idea of one team one fight not only apply to the war effort but also to the general support of service members and families who work despite not receiving a paycheck today.
There is a lot of talk and many ideas swirling around individual service member’s fiscal responsibility or lack thereof, and while I agree that being financially conservative is an excellent idea, the practice of that in real time is much more difficult.
Before we cast too many stones in the Coast Guard’s direction let’s take into consideration a few things: When you live a life of constant uncertainty, financial planning can be difficult. I know this idea to be true because my family struggles with it all the time.
Over the course of our 10 years of marriage my husband has advanced in rank 4 times, also over that same time period I stopped working at my full time job for the overall good of our family. We gave up an entire salary for the emotional stability of our children. Recently, I have started 2 work-from-home jobs and a part time substitute job to help our family get on track financially, all of this after 8 years of unemployment.
During that same time period my husband deployed twice and we moved twice. Each move requires thousands of dollars in the bank because the onus of the financial burden of moving falls on the service member first and at a later date we are reimbursed in parts, by different entities depending on the type and length of move.
Our first out of state move coincided with the government shutdown of 2013. For us that meant $5,000 of moving expenses that went unpaid to us for several months. Our paperwork, having been submitted prior to the shutdown, had to be uncovered from the bottom of the stack after the government reopened. $5,000…that’s a whole paycheck.
In addition to moving expenses like hotel rooms, gas, moving crews, etc., comes the inevitable housing challenge. We have yet to live in a home that housed all of our belongings like the last house did. In fact, when we moved to Connecticut, the movers finished for the day leaving our bed standing upright in the den-it wouldn’t clear the stairwell overhang. Though we had saved money for our move, we hadn’t factored in money for a new bed that would fit up the stairs.
These things are easy to spot as places of financial issue that may be of concern when a paycheck doesn’t come through. The other things are harder to spot because they are often fraught with high emotion. There are things we have spent money on because it may be the only we have the opportunity to do so.
In March 2013, my husband was granted R&R leave from Afghanistan and when he arrived on American soil, we took our family to Disney World.
Why? Because we may not have another chance to go as a family of 4.
True? Also yes.
We are fortunate that my husband did return home from Afghanistan deployment later that year. But the uncertainty of his return led us to take a trip that our family would have as fun and happy memories should the outcome be different.
Today the only thing that separates me from my Coast Guard friends are the words that come after “The Department.” The Department of Defense paid their bills today. The Department of Homeland Security did not.
It has given me great pause as I’ve read and digested the messages swirling around the news and internet. It could just as easily been my family that is being told we should live differently, or find a babysitting job, or better yet hold a yard sale to hold us over until the government reopens. And I’m not ok with that messaging. We are not super human. We don’t wear capes or have magical powers. Though we appear resilient and strong we simply cannot run on empty forever.
One team, one fight. I long for this to be true. And just for today I’m going to believe it can be. By being super humans to the humans around us who need our help.
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Thank you so much.