Over the past few months, I’ve seen several posts of “Things Not to Say to a Military Wife”. Most of them, if not all, have to do with spouses dealing with deployment. The responses are mostly sarcastic, some are witty, and a few are really funny. My favorite is the idea to respond to a comment of, “F*ck the troops.” with a Ring-Girl-esque whisper of “Seven days.” The list below is the questions I’ve seen most often. The answers in italics are the ones listed in the original article, which I found here.
1. “Aren’t you afraid that he’ll be killed?”
This one comes in at number one on the “duh” list for every military wife. Of course we’re afraid. We’re terrified. The thought always lingers in the backs of our minds — but thanks, brilliant, you just brought it back to the front. Maybe next you can go ask someone with cancer if they’re scared of dying.
2. “I don’t know how you manage. I don’t think I could do it.”
This is intended to be a compliment, but it’s just a little annoying. Here’s why: It’s not like all of us military wives have been dreaming since childhood of the day we’d get to be anxious single moms who carry cellphones with us to the bathroom and in the shower. We’re not made of some mysterious matter that makes us more capable; we just got asked to take on a challenging job. So, we rose to the challenge and found the strength to make sacrifices.
3. “At least he’s not in Iraq.”
This is the number one most annoying comment for those whose husbands are in Afghanistan. What do they think is happening in Afghanistan? An international game of golf? Guys are fighting and dying over there.
4. “Do you think he’ll get to come home for Christmas / anniversary / birthday / birth of a child / wedding / family reunion, etc.?”
Don’t you watch the news? No! They don’t get to come home for any of these things. Please don’t ask again.
5. “What are you going to do to keep yourself busy while he’s gone?”
Short answer: try to keep my sanity. Maybe there’s a military wife out there who gets bored when her husband leaves, but I have yet to meet her. For the rest of us, those with and without children, we find ourselves having to be two people. That keeps us plenty busy. We do get lonely, but we don’t get bored, and drinking massive amounts of wine always helps keep me busy.
6. “How much longer does he have until he can get out?”
This one is annoying to many of us whether our husbands are deployed or not. Many of our husbands aren’t counting down the days until they “can” get out. Many of them keep signing back up again and again because they actually love what they do or they VOLUNTEER AGAIN and AGAIN to go back to Iraq because there is work that needs to be done.
7. “This deployment shouldn’t be so bad, now that you’re used to it.”
Sure, we do learn coping skills, and it’s true the more deployments you’ve gone through, the easier dealing with it becomes. And we figure out ways to make life go smoother while the guys are gone. But it never gets “easy” and the bullets and bombs don’t skip over our guys just because they’ve been there before. The worry never goes away.
8. “My husband had to go to Europe for business once for three weeks. I totally know what you’re going through.”
This one is similar to number two. Do not equate your husband’s three-week trip to London/Omaha/Tokyo/etc. with a 12–15-month or more deployment to a war zone. Aside from the obvious time difference, nobody shot at your husband or tried to blow him up with an IED (improvised explosive device), your husband could call home pretty much any time he wanted to, he flew comfortably on a commercial plane, slept between crisp white sheets and ate well, paying for everything with an expense account. There is no comparison. We do not feel bonded to you in the slightest because of this comment and, if anything, we probably resent you a bit for it. Comparing a 12-month combat deployment to a business trip is like comparing a Ford Taurus with a Mercedes convertible.
9. “Wow, you must miss him.”
This one also gets another big “duh”. Of course we miss our men. There are some wives who do not, and they’re now divorced.
10. “Where is he exactly? Where is that?”
I don’t expect non-military folks to be able to find Anbar Province on a map, but they should know by now that it’s in Iraq. Likewise, know that Kabul and Kandahar are in Afghanistan. Know that Muqtada al Sadr is the insurgent leader of the Mahdi Army in Iraq and that Sadr City is his home area. Know that Iran is a major threat to our country and that it is located between Afghanistan and Iraq. Our country has been at war in Afghanistan for nine years and at war in Iraq for seven years. These basic facts are not secrets, they’re on the news every night and in the papers every day — and on maps everywhere.
11. “Well, he signed up for it, so it’s his own fault whatever happens over there.”
Yes, he did sign up. Each and every day he protects your right to make stupid, ignorant comments like that. He didn’t sign up and ask to be hit by anything — he signed up to protect his country. Oh, and by the way, he asked me to tell you that “You’re welcome.” He’s still fighting for your freedom.
12. “Don’t you miss sex? I couldn’t do it!”
Hmmm. Seriously … military spouses learn quickly that our relationships must be founded on something greater than sex. We learn to appreciate the important things, like simply hearing their voices, seeing their faces, being able to have dinner together every night. And the hard truth is, most relationships probably couldn’t withstand 12 months of sex deprivation.
13. “Well, in my opinion …”
Stop right there. I didn’t ask for your personal political opinions. Hey, I love a heated political debate, but not in the grocery store, not in Jamba Juice, not at Nordstrom, not in a restaurant when I’m out with my girls trying to forget the war, and CERTAINLY NOT AT WORK. We tell co-workers about deployments so when we have to spend lunch hours running our butts off doing errands and taking care of the house, dog and kids, they have an understanding. We do not tell co-workers and colleagues because we are inviting them to ramble about politics or because we so eagerly want to hear how much they hate the president. Especially while we’re trying to heat up our Lean Cuisine in the crappy office microwave.
Last but not least …
14. “Oh, that’s horrible … I’m so sorry!”
He’s doing his job and he’s tough. Don’t be sorry. Be appreciative and please take a moment out of your comfortable American lives to realize that our military fights the wars abroad so those wars stay abroad and you stay safe.
My problem with these posts is that, yes, some of the questions are ridiculous, (For the record, every wife misses her serviceman when he’s gone, and every wife is afraid he won’t come back.) but to me, unless the person asking is just a busybody, s/he is genuinely interested in your answers. They’re really just trying to understand. Now there are always those people who ask just to gossip or for the drama, but they don’t count. I personally have never been asked questions like the ones on the list, but from my experience, people are just generally curious about military life.
As for the comment of “I don’t know how you do it.”, I take that as the compliment it’s intended to be. Most days I don’t know how military wives do it either, and I am one. And someone who equates a deployment to their husband going away for business is just trying to empathize. I also don’t understand getting upset when someone doesn’t know where whatever place the serviceman happens to be is. Personally I had no idea Bahrain even existed until J was sent there, and it still takes me a minute to track it down (If you try to find it on Google maps, you have to zoom in…a lot! Look for Qatar first – although even that requires some zooming first.). I’m horrible at geography, so that really doesn’t offend me.
There are only two statements that would probably get my back up.
1. How much longer does he have until he can get out?
2. Well, he signed up for it, so it’s his own fault whatever happens over there.
The first is just a personal touchy subject. We’ve had a lot of long discussions over the past couple years about whether the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to being a Navy family. Yes, it’s a tough life, and yes, to be blunt, we have to put up with a lot of bullshit. But the Navy is giving J and our family opportunities we wouldn’t have otherwise. I never would’ve even considered moving all the way to Washington State if J hadn’t gotten stationed here, and even though I complain about the weather – a LOT, I love it here. Our children will live more places in the next decade than I’ve lived in my lifetime up to this point. That can be seen as both a negative and a positive – I choose positive. J, too, has had the opportunity to travel to amazing places and continues to have the opportunity with this deployment.
We are a part of a unique community that creates bonds like very few can, and we are taken care of in ways that make our lives a lot easier. J is doing a job he loves enough to want to make a career of it, and if we play our cards right, he could retire permanently at the age of 38. Separations are extremely difficult, but in the face of deployment, very little else seems like an epic deal.
As for the fact that J signed up for this, yes, he did. There is no draft, and military service is not mandatory. Every sailor, soldier, Marine, airmen and member of the Coast Guard chose to put on a uniform, but they don’t make the choice to go to war (at least most of them don’t). They make the choice in spite of the strong probability of going to war. They have a sense of honor and duty that calls them to serve despite the potential hardships they may encounter, and I really don’t think that should be looked down on. I could never do it, and I don’t think the majority of other Americans could either.
Aaaaaand I’m stepping off my soapbox. Have a good weekend, y’all!