Monday, May 26, 2008

Thoughts on Memorial Day

I'm not a fan of fact, I'm not a fan of any kind of fights. Anytime I've witnessed others fighting, I become ill as my stomach turns somersaults and my head feels faint. I just don't like the idea, or the results, of harming another person.

I do realize, at times, that it happens. Perhaps it has even been unavoidable. I don't claim to be a history buff, but I know the U.S. tried very hard to stay out of World Wars I and II, only to be sucked in after an attack. If I recall correctly, it was the sinking of the Lusitania that drew us into the first world war, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor that dragged us into the second. After offenses like those, what else could we do but fight? Opinions differ about our present war, but that's beside the point.

I just LOVE me some military women! I don't know what it is about the uniform, which makes a hot woman even hotter! In fact, I've done all branches except for the Air Force and the Coast Guard. Hahaha! I guess this makes me military by association. But, these days, and for the past nearly two years, there's a certain sergeant who's had my attention...and eventually became the woman I know I was meant to live my life with.

I always support the troops whether I agree with war or not. Though some troops volunteer to go to war, most are sent there. It's part of what they agreed to when they signed up for the armed forces. Sure, many join for the college fund, for the experience, or like Kristin, because they were in a "I don't know what to do with myself and I'm going to show myself I can do this" phase, and were searching for something. Very rarely does one sign up because they love fighting wars. However, the probability of being sent to war is rather high these days.

For those readers who have been in the military, or like me, are a "military spouse," you know that these soldiers are owned by the government. They go where the military sends them. Yeah, you can have some say in the matter, from time to time. For example, Kristin volunteered to go to Korea (as our friendship was budding, before we got together...gosh, I remember feeling crushed when she told me she did this), because it allowed her to choose to return to the post she was stationed before leaving (meaning she will be near me again). Also, it allowed her to avoid the nearly involuntary deployment to Iraq. So, sometimes, there is a choice, but overall there is not. For example, they took her leave from her (because they said they were short-staffed), and she cannot come home for Pride. She also found out there is the possibility of being extended in Korea, and there's also a chance they won't follow through with her choice of returning to her previous post. So, she has very little control until she gets out in 2009. However, should they determine they can't afford to lose her, OR if within 3 or so years they decide they need her back, she will have no choice but to drop what she's doing and return. So...ultimately, the Army has her life for quite a while.

Alright, so ANY soldier makes a sacrifice for our country, even if they aren't at war. There is a personal sacrifice on the soldier and the soldier's loved ones. Now, let's take it a step further. I read with interest, some interviews on some older African-American gentlemen. They spoke of how Memorial Day is personal for them...something they celebrate in their own heads...but nothing they care to partake in. These men were from the segregation generation, and they spoke of how their units were not afforded the same "luxuries" as the white units. Though I don't recall specifically what the differences were, I remember thinking, "Gosh, that's not fair at all!" I remembered thinking how dare the government expect these men to fight for our freedom only to be denied civil liberties and equal rights back home.

And then I thought some more...we currently have many gays in the military. Some are fine with their lack of rights. They have no problem living in the closet, keeping it all to themselves. For those with families, though, it's been quite an issue. For others, though, like Kristin, this IS a problem. And, I'll tell you why it didn't really hit her until she had a family.

When she first joined the Army, she actually ended a relationship over "Don't ask, don't tell." Fast forward to a couple of years later, and then I came into the picture. This is when her lack of equal rights really hit her and she determined she'd no longer be swayed by them. She even came out to her commander while stationed in GA, but he said he didn't care. Upon arriving in Korea, and going to briefing after briefing where they've discussed allowing families to accompany their soldiers, it bothered her. She would ask in her mind, "What about my family?"

Aside from the fact that she's underpaid at the single rate, that it's on me to furnish all the medical coverage for myself and the kids...aside from all the financial aspects, which is okay, because I'm I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T, do ya know what I mean? (Haha, does anybody actually know this song?) Anyway, aside from all this, we've come across other complications along the way. First of all, should the Army decide to change her post (after Korea), it will mean nothing to them that they are taking her away from me and the kids. If we were straight, though, they would just move us as well. Also, when I visited her in Korea, I had to go through a comprehensive check-in and check-out process everytime we came on and off post. Had I been a straight military spouse, though, I'd have my own ID card. In fact, I could have rode the shuttle directly in from the airport...for free! Of course, the former issue is much larger than the latter...but it's just things that we encounter day-by-day. It has really put our relationship to a major test. We both have tendencies to run from relationships (actually, she runs and I just push them to leave me...great combo, right?), so even with the complications, the fact that we still talk numerous times everyday and intend to have a life together says a lot. We know we have something that we only share with each other...and though this is conceited, we feel we have something unexplainable a lot of couples don't. That might just be our bias, but it's how we feel.'s been nearly 8 months, and on some days, I still cry just as hard as I did the day she left. Yeah, I'm one of those pitiful emotional types. Haha. You know, I even had the privilege of visiting her, and it didn't seem to make the distance any easier. This wasn't one of those "love and lose" relationships...this is the real deal. So...yeah, I have to admit, everything feels incomplete without her. No, I don't sit and mope. I can't just stop living. I get out, have fun, and spend time with the kids and with friends. Yet, there's nothing I do that wouldn't be better if she were here with us. Sometimes, we call and text while I'm out and about to help her stay engaged. Yeah...that's been our version of spending time together for the past 8 months.

As I get pitiful about my personal experience as a military "spouse," I have to scold myself, too. I know how bad it feels today, thinking we have over 4 months left...thinking about the missed birthdays, doing Pride without her, etc. But, here on Memorial Day, I think, "Gosh Brandi, you are such a loser. Some people will never get to see their soldier again."

I guess that really puts it in perspective for me.

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