A few weeks ago, I was on a flight when I struck up a conversation with the lady sitting next to me. She was really nice, and conversation came easy. When I told her I was a military spouse, she looked at me a little hesitantly. I could tell she wanted to choose her words very carefully. Then it came:
Has he been……over there?
I knew exactly where "over there" was, but I wanted to make a point, which I did.
Yes, you know, Iraq.
Oh, no. No, he hasn’t been to Iraq yet. He’s been to Afghanistan and another Middle-Eastern country, though.
I could see the relief on her face, and I didn’t really like it, either. Because it made me realize how uninformed the general public is about what our spouses do, where they serve and how they serve. It’s not her fault, really. Today, most people equate service with Iraq because that’s what gets all the play in the press, but boy is that short-sighted. So, I took the opportunity to explain this to her. Nicely, of course. And when I was done, I think she understood my point.
Oddly, or maybe not, I felt more uptight when my husband was in the Middle East (before 9/11) than I did when he was in Afghanistan (after 9/11). That’s because when he was in Afghanistan, he had hundreds and thousands of people around him who had his back. When he was deployed to the other region, he didn’t have that. He had a small group of joint service members around him and he was, I believed, a sitting duck should someone start trouble. In fact, only two weeks after he redeployed, there was a terrorist incident.
Last week, my girlfriend found out that her husband will be deploying for frequent, yet very brief, stints to another region of the world. Technically, I suppose they’re considered TDY trips. The places he will go give her the heebie-jeebies. They are places that you only hear of when bad things happen, and bad things have happened there quite frequently. And like my husband several years ago, her husband won’t be surrounded by troops who move, live and operate en mass. I understand that fear. Yes, the military takes great precautions with all their personnel no matter where they’re sent, but that’s not always comforting when you aren’t surrounded by thousands of spouses whose deployment experience mirrors yours, in at least some ways. I’m sure Special Forces spouses can relate to this. After all, some of them don’t even know where their spouse is half of the time.
This isn’t a post about Iraq verses other locales. The work of our spouses is valuable no matter where it’s performed. It was just interesting to link the conversation I had with the lady on the plane to my friend’s current situation. And the link boiled down to this – it’s a dangerous world. And missions occur all across the globe. And families still worry and deal with separations. And a deployment is a deployment is a deployment in some ways, but not in others.