Being a National Guard family has its benefits, such as being able to live where you want and not having to move as soon as you’ve just settled in to your new location. It also has its downfalls, like living states away from the closest real base and not being near other military families. But at the beginning of our life with the military, the thing that I found to be the most aggravating was the questions. Every conversation I had with family, friends and even perfect strangers felt like a round of 20 questions.
“Why would your husband want to join?” (Because he really likes eating food that’s been vacuum sealed in bags for months that can’t be identified save for the label on the outside while trying to keep the sand out of his mouth.)
“Is it hard?” (Umm…Which part?)
“Don’t you miss him?” (Would you miss half your heart if it were ripped apart from you?)
“Will he have to deploy?” (Nah…he’s just going to sit twiddling his thumbs while someone else goes.)
“How could you let him join when you have young children?” (And surprisingly I heard this one multiple times.)
I apologize for my sarcasm, but in the beginning the questions seemed so insensitive and naive that I tended to get defensive. At times it felt like every conversation where I mentioned my husband, the questions would begin. This happened so often that I stopped mentioning my husband and what he was doing. And I rarely talked about the impending deployment. It was just easier to avoid the frustration, although I wanted to be able to share how proud I was of my husband and his service.
Now with this deployment well underway and homecoming drawing closer with each passing day, I find that I have a very different attitude toward the questions. A co-worker whom I had not seen in a while asked if my husband was home yet. When I told her “no” she went on to ask more:
“Has it been hard having him away? I mean, I hate to say it, but I really like it when my husband goes out of town for a week or so.”
“Is he done after this? He did his time right, so he’s done?”
Normally these would have been questions that potentially would have had me turning on my heel and walking away. Yes, it’s been hard having him away from our family, but it makes us appreciate the time we do have together so much more than we did before. And yes, he will go back again. We don’t know where or when, but he will willingly go back when he is called. It’s what he loves and what he believes in.
This deployment has brought about a lot of changes in me, from being more independent to appreciating my husband so much more. But it has also made me more tolerant of the innocent questions from others. I’ve come to realize that most people ask me questions about my husband and our life in the military, not out of insensitivity or total ignorance, but because they are curious about our life and honestly want to learn more.
I also see myself in their questions. Before my husband joined the Army, I probably would have been asking these very same questions. I was clueless to the struggles, as well as the joys, that our military families face. Most civilians really have no idea what life with the military is really like, and will possibly never know if they don’t ask. So I’ve come to view these questions as an opportunity to educate the public as to what soldiers and their families go through, while deployed as well as at home. I answer every question asked as honestly as possible. I share with pride the job that my husband is doing and how our family is coping. I also share the struggles that we face. Through doing this, I’ve found very receptive listeners who are eager to learn, as well as to give a helping hand if needed. Granted, there are some out there who are in disagreement with role of the military and ask questions in a negative way, but those have been few and far between. I hope by answering questions and sharing our family’s experiences, that I can help others better understand the things that our military and their families deal with, both good and bad. And if I just one person is a little more aware, then I feel like I’ve done my job.
Do you sometimes feel like you get asked “20 questions” about military life? How do you handle these? What are some of the questions you’ve been asked by friends, family or strangers?
Photo Credit: Khanele