Twenty Questions


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

About the Author

The New Normal
The New "Normal" (aka Kris) is an Army National Guard wife of 6 years, married for 12 years, momma to two fantastic kiddos and caretaker of the household zoo. While not juggling the house, a full-time job, chauffeur duties and the kids increasingly busy social lives, she enjoys running, reading and sewing. She continues to navigate the ever-changing life with the National Guard, having survived her husband's first deployment without pulling all her hair out. Now the family gears up for her husband's second deployment that is quickly approaching. With training missions filing up the remaining weeks before they say "see you later" once again, the family works hard between school, work and activities to stop and enjoy every minute they have left together. The New "Normal" blogs about daily life and the craziness of military life over at her personal blog - The New "Normal" - attempting to make sense of the insanity with a bit of humor.
  • Michele

    Oh, I could have written this, word for word! The one that really gets me is “he’s done? he’s getting out now, right?” As if his military service, his JOB, was forced labor and he was just waiting for the first opportunity to jump ship. Who walks up to a civilian tax after a particularly rough job situation and says “so, you’re going to quit your job now, right?” The other one that irritates me is “The kids must really be sad/miss him/be scared.” and it’s usually said right in front of the kids. And it’s always random acquaintances who ask these things, not family or close friends really. And that is really the draw back of being guard. When I go to school or the grocery or doctors I am likely one of only a very few military families that people will ever meet face to face.

    I don’t know if I have the same generous spirit. I don’t find the questions well meaning, nor do I think they want to learn. They want to make us cry. I’m convinced of that. They want to see me crumble into tears and tell them how very very horrible it all is, so that they can pat me on the back and say “well, call if you need anything.” The whole military/deployment concept is SO foreign to most civilians that they feel this crazy need to (as George Carlin once said, upon pulling up to a road accident ) “bring the bodies a little closer!” It’s somehow this weird thrill for them to see pain and agony. They don’t want to know the pain of sitting in the ER with your critically ill child hoping upon all hope that your husband can get back in time in case something bad happens. They don’t know what it’s like to tell your husband via skype that his grandfather has passed away(or his parent or his dog or his sibling) . They can’t understand what it’s like for a child to have her father not only miss her 6th grade graduation (for AT) but also her 8th grade graduation and High School graduation for deployment. So when they ask, “do your kids miss him?” That’s just a dumb question that doesn’t really deserve a real answer. So I give them the rah rah version. “we’re doing fine, we’re coping, it goes by fast, we find a way to manage, can’t complain because he loves his job so much!”

    Now, can someone come help me rake these leaves? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

  • mlynne

    I have found that the same question can be asked by different people with one person being curious and supportive while the other person asks from a judgmental position. We are not in a military community so I’ve been asked all of these questions. I hate it when people respond to his upcoming deployment with an “I’m so sorry” as if he’s died. However, my “favorite” question is does he feel guilty, yet, for leaving you to deal with all of this extra work on your own?

  • My husband is in the reserves and volunteered for his last deployment. I got a lot of “how could you let him?” And a lot of “I wish I could take a break from my husband.” Kind of frustrating but I tried to laugh it off. And as mlynne said, people saying “I’m so sorry.” I just responded and said, don’t be, he wanted to go. lol That usually ended it. :)

    • Michele

      That’s such a hard situation because people just don’t understand!

  • Petra

    It’s not so much the questions that bug me, it’s the running commentary. Things like “I know JUST how you feel, my husband has been on 3 business trips in the last 2 months!” and “well, you KNeW what you two were getting into!” and the likes. I refuse to talk politics with any of our relatives, not his, not mine, even if some want to drag me into it. Other than the obvious “duh!-questions” I don’t mind people asking though, at least they show an interest. :)

  • Michele

    May I ask why my comments are no longer being posted?

    • Andi

      Michele – Not sure why some of your comments were flagged for moderation, but it appears they are all posting now. Sorry for the inconvenience. Our spam filter can be very tight sometimes. We were not intentionally hiding your comments.

      • Michele

        Thank you. :) I try to play nice with others and I always share the toys, so please don’t make me have another time out. Or at least give me a juice box if you do. :)

        • Courtney

          Depends what kind of juice.

  • Fabulous post! I love your point of view on this.

  • Amy_B

    Has anyone heard this: “did he kill anyone?”

    That completely freaks me out. I usually respond with “we don’t discuss such things” (actually we do) or “you will have to ask him about that”.

    • Petra

      That is the morbid fascination of rubberneckers right there. They wanna know, so they can be appalled and fascinated at the same time. Ugh!

  • You’re right on. Many of us have wanted to get the real story of military family life across to the 99% of the people in America who have no idea. That’s why I finally finished MOVE–AND OTHER FOUR-LETTER WORDS, in order to tell that story. Not only should civilian families know but those who are new to the military and struggling with it as most of us do, need to realize they can learn to handle it. I hated the Air Force because my husband was gone so much but finally learned from other wives who had been there, done that.