We Got the Pink Slip – And We’re Okay

Getting through the pink-slip of military layoffs

Every time I see a story like this one about another service member getting pushed out and another family getting the pink slip, my stomach turns. Partially out of fear (because I know that sinking feeling all too well), but mostly out of solidarity, because eleven months ago, that was us.

Like people remember where they were when there was some major, newsworthy event, I can relive our pink slip moment in a heartbeat: it was an unusually hot fall day, my husband, newly home from Afghanistan, had just been promoted, I was nursing our nap-hating newborn while the AC struggled to bring the house to a cool 80 and wondering when this small tyrant would finally let me shower, and hubs called to say it was time to find a new career.

That’s how he put it. It wasn’t about a new job. It was time to find a new career.

I’m pretty sure I started just talking, trying to sound encouraging and “new start”-ish, but all around me I felt the bottom fall out. We had less than three months. We’d be filling out paperwork for our move (to where???) in less than two. We had seven weeks – no! six! – to figure out our whole lives.

Or rather, our whole lives, part two. That’s how he put it.

So we did. And it turned out okay. Let me say it again:

Things turned out okay.

It wasn’t that it wasn’t dicey – it was. Three days before we were about to list my mother’s house on our moving sheets, hubs got a new job. We moved to a cool city. He’s in the Reserves now and making a difference in our community, and he loves it. We’ve got a good life. In truth, it’s actually kind of a better life, although I feel weird saying that. But it really did turn out okay.

That’s mostly because of this one, simple truth, though:

When people tell you who they are, listen.

My dad says this CONSTANTLY. He said it about the mean girls in middle school, the guys I’d date later on, competitive coworkers and in just about every other context you can think of: “Kid,” he’ll still say, “When people tell you who they are, you’ve got to listen.”

I’m going to tell you the same thing. ¬†We’ve all been here for awhile, right? Those of us with families facing the axe, we’re not new to this. And as long as we’ve been here, hasn’t the military been telling us exactly who they are?

They take our partners for weeks and months at a time for training that in most logical ways wouldn’t necessitate crossing the country or leaving us behind right before a deployment. We cancel birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons. We reschedule weddings.

We think of ways to cast “daddy is in the field for a week” in a good light, even when we can’t think of any good reasons ourselves. (I’m always floored by weeks in the field right before deployment. Really? We don’t get him for the week before you leave for pre-deployment training, and then you’re gone for a month, and then I get you for *maybe* ten days before you’re gone for real? Really?)

But that’s the way it goes. That’s the military telling us who they are. And we all just kind of steel ourselves and get through it – because it’s not so bad when we’re not in it by ourselves. It’s not so bad when we’ve got each other. And we do. We lean on each other and support each other and get through all of it – with each other.

And that’s where the big secret to the pink slip is: The military being who they always told me they were – pink slip with NO BLIPS on a record and high marks instead? – okay. Crappy, but fine, I can’t say I’m totally shocked. But it’s feeling so alone in it that got me.

That’s where you come in. Because it’s not something we’re going through alone. There are a lot of us going through it together. We all know that pit-of-your-stomach feeling at this point, and many of us have gotten pink slips that days before were completely unimaginable.

Listen to the military when they tell you who they are.

And maybe more importantly, listen to me when I tell you who I am: I’m a military spouse, I’m part of your community, and I’m here for you.

The DOD may have issued your family that pink slip, but I sure as heck haven’t. And your fellow spouses? They haven’t, either. I know it, because they helped me through it. And we’re all here for you now. We’ve always told you who we are. We’re your friends, your family, and your community. We’ve got your six, your coffee, your glass of wine, and your kids for a few hours while you send out some resumes. We’re here for you. We’re always here for you. We’ve been telling you who we are for years and none of it changes now.

So listen to us, too.

About the Author

Raleigh Duttweiler
Raleigh Duttweiler is a writer and social media expert living just outside the gates of MacDill in sunny Saint Petersburg, Florida. A Marine Corps wife, she has navigated the stress of Active Duty moves, trainings, and deployments, and now that her family has transitioned to the Reserves, she's experiencing the "weekend warrior" side of military life. (NB: It's not quite as part-time as advertised.) When not writing about benefits and military families, Raleigh posts here about truly life-altering, important issues like What Not to Wear to a Military Ball (visible thongs), Military Halloween Costumes We Love to Hate (ones that generally resemble both military uniforms AND thongs), and how to pack awesome care packages. She is passionate about spouse employment, higher education, and helping families navigate the often-bumpy transition back into civilian life. Raleigh also manages the SpouseBUZZ and Military.com Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages, so be sure to say hi!
  • Erin

    There are many of us who have gone through it and it’s becoming more prevalent now. We are okay too. I think it’s so important to share these stories because it’s very scary. But it’s so true, we had so much support from our military friends. Not one turned their backs.

  • guest

    “When people tell you who they are, listen.” I have a saying similar to this. I like to say, when people show you who they are, believe them. =)

    This was a good read. My dh was kind of given the pink slip too but in the form of an MEB. He already had 20+ years in though so he was able to retire. I have to say, things are better today than when he was in. He’s well into his second career which started while he was technically still on AD. (terminal leave) We’re okay! And others can and will be too.

  • retusnnavywife

    Beautifully and considerately written. Wow!

  • ken

    Bless your hearts. As I read the story, I kept thinking about change and adaptation. Change is often caused by eternal forces, and adaptation is needed. Your story is poignant like PTSD survivor stories: I was here, I did this, now I am here. Best wishes to your family.

  • Raleigh Duttweiler

    Aw guys your comments really made me feel like I did a good thing in sharing our story. I just hope ONE person who needs to read this finds it and it helps. We’re here for you! For real!

    • Military Spouse

      I just have to say thank you so much for writing this, it actually make me choke up a wee bit just to know that there’s people out there. My hubby and I are currently in the trenches of this right now. We already had a plan to move back to where we just moved back to (literally, we rolled into town after driving about 2200 miles this past Saturday), but the one thing that is just not quite coming through yet is jobs. And on top of it all I have the personality type that is very stubborn about “not bothering anyone else with my problems”. So again, with all my heart: thank you. =o]

  • farmquilter

    Well written and great encouragement for all our military members who are facing a change they didn’t necessarily see coming. I am a mil-mom and I worry about the same thing happening to my daughter who wants to make the Army a career. She does have a Plan B for her life post active duty and that time-frame could be moved up if she gets a pink slip, but we both hope that doesn’t happen. It is nice to know that, in addition to her family, her military family will have her six!