12 July 2011

"A Normal Job"

The NY Times has a column from a military spouse whose friends don't understand her lifestyle.

It never occurred to me that my lifestyle was a foreign concept to civilians until a conversation I shared with a nonmilitary friend during my husband’s second combat deployment. After asking the usual questions about how he was doing and how long he’d been gone, she startled me with this one: “So how long after he returns home can he get out?”

“Get out of the military?” I asked, somewhat confused.

“Of course,” she continued, somewhat confused herself. “Doesn’t he want a normal job? Don’t you want him to have a normal job?”

I offered a feeble attempt at explaining that my husband had no intention of leaving the military anytime in the near future and that I wholeheartedly supported his career despite the hardships. But as her eyes glazed over and her attention waned, I felt my words were falling on deaf ears. That’s when I realized how wide the chasm was between civilian and military communities. If a close friend, someone who has an emotional connection to a service member, isn’t able to comprehend our lifestyle, then how can I expect the general public to understand?

Two things:

1. "a normal job" - oy! Really? A "normal" job? What's really a problem here is that so many Americans are perfectly happy to offload the military "job" to someone else. It's bad enough the military isn't considered a perfectly normal choice for someone to make. One of the biggest problems we have in the military is that we've raised multiple generations who think it's a perfectly respectable thing to not serve their country, in the military, police, fire department, EMT, or some other form of government service. Any conversation that includes the line "Don’t you want him to have a normal job?” should be met with a retort of "Why would you want to do something extraordinary? We are."

2. This divide has gone on for a loooooong time. As an Army brat, I grew up explaining to folks that we loved growing up in the Army, and their eyes glazed over. My mom spent years explaining that moving around every so often was perfectly fine by us. Once I graduated college, I had to spend years justifying to people why I was in the Army. They didn't get that it was something important, and meaningful, and worthwhile. And until they join, they never will.

By: Brant

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