When it comes to media coverage of military families, I’ve grown cynical. The victimization of military families does not sit well with me and all too often, that’s how we’re portrayed. As victims. So when I found out that military families would be featured on Oprah today, I was prepared to sit through yet another show focused like a laser beam on the hardships of military life with not so much as a fleeting nod to the joy and pride that comes from serving one’s country, or serving on the homefront. Thankfully, I would be surprised.
The first half of the show was devoted to the stories of the family of a wounded warrior and a Gold Star Mother. Jenny Briest, the wife of Corey Briest, was particularly impressive. Despite the life-altering injury to her husband, she came across as a tower of strength and a force to be reckoned with. Each of the families showcased made me proud to be a military spouse. These stories deserve to be told and the public should be familiar with the horrors of war, but there are two sides to every story and the public should also be exposed to the quiet strength and pride of those who serve on the front lines, and on the homefront.
My long-standing desire when it comes to the coverage of military families is that those attempting to portray our lives do so wholly, and completely. The Easy Button is just that - Easy. And insulting. It’s no wonder that pity is the first emotion that springs to mind when many civilians think of military families. They’re constantly exposed to the risks, and not the rewards, of military service.
Oprah emphasized that the purpose of the show was to raise the consciousness of the American public as to the sacrafice of military families. First Lady Michelle Obama joined Oprah in the second half of the show. When Oprah asked Mrs. Obama what impressed her most about military families, she replied, “their strength, pride, courage,” and their “willingness to sacrifice without complaint.”
Oprah admitted that she didn’t know one person who was currently serving on the front lines. This is not a surprise. Most people don’t. And that’s okay. I’ve long wrestled with the conversation many of us have had about the disconnect between civilians and the military community. I’ve even, at times, thought that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t believe that civilians need to have a better understanding of our lives in order to appreciate our contributions because I simply think this an impossible goal. In fact, I’ve never believed that we, collectively speaking, seek appreciation. That aside, you can’t appreciate this life until you’ve lived it, no matter how hard you may try. Furthermore, the military families I know don’t expect anything from the general public in return for their service. There’s no sense of entitlement. Military families serve. That’s what they do.
Oprah talked to Mrs. Obama and Tom Brokaw about how people could help military families. They want to help, they just don’t know how. Personally, I think private charities and non-profits do a fantastic job in this regard, and again, most military families do not expect or demand help, but I liked the simplicity in Tom’s answer. He made the point that a simple knock on the door to ask if the spouse of a deployed service member needs help is a great step forward. Or shoveling a driveway. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the nicest things neighbors and friends have ever done for me are the seemingly small things, like shoveling my driveway and sidewalk or inviting me over to dinner or offering to take my dog when my husband was deployed and I had to go out of town on business. Small things that we do as human beings for one another, whether or not you’re a military family, matter.
I’m hard to please when it comes to media coverage of military life, but today I didn’t feel as if I had wasted another hour watching someone paint an utterly unrecognizable picture of my life for all the world to see. I wish this type of programming would become a trend, but as I said at the top, I’m cynical. Should we begin to see a sea change, it’s very late in the game. By my count, several years late. But I suppose better late than never.
Our sister site, CinCHouse has a review of the Oprah show.
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