Military life has always included unique challenges. Service members move frequently with their jobs, they deploy for months (sometimes years) at a time, their skill sets put them in varying degrees of danger, and the stressors that go along with service can be very different than those of many people in the civilian sector. The challenges of military life do not just stop with the person who is in uniform; spouses, children, parents, siblings and other extended family members can feel the weight of military life. This doesn’t mean that military life is without it’s advantages and blessings. Many military families will tell you that they appreciate all of the positive things they have gained over the years.
While it is not healthy to always focus on the negatives it can be helpful to acknowledge them, attempt to deal with how they make us feel or how they have changed our lives, and support one another through any tough times that might arise. It is one of the things that the military spouse community is known for: helping each other survive a lifestyle that can be both challenging and a huge blessing at the same time.
There is a desire, sometimes, to want the entire “civilian” community to “understand” or at the very least empathize with the life of the military members and their families. After all, the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform are made on behalf of all Americans… so shouldn’t they have at least a basic understanding of what military members go through to serve and protect us all?
I used to answer that question with an emphatic, “Yes!”
But now I am not so sure…
Before I go any further, let me address my use of the word “civilian” in this piece. Yes, I am a military spouse. Yes, I am referring to folks who are not part of a military family as “civilians”, and yes I know that upsets some people. In no way do I consider myself to be a military member. My husband puts on the uniform every day, not me. The rank is his, not mine. My use of the word “civilian” is simply a way to differentiate between two groups of people.
So, should we, as members of the military community expect “civilians” to try and understand the challenges and unique lifestyle of the military family?
I now answer that question a bit differently than I used to.
It is human nature to desire understanding of our circumstances, and military families are no exception. We all want to be around others who can empathize with what we may be going through. We all need someone to vent to when things are not going well, and someone to celebrate with when things are all falling into place.