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August 05, 2006

Being a family member of a deployed soldier.

by Spc. Kristopher Joseph</p>

<p>October 12, 2004</p>

<p>A young 1st Armored Division family member tries some field gear on for size during the day-long welcome home celebration for V Corps' 1st Armored Division. The event took place in Wiesbaden, Germany, Oct. 7.

I've been off and on tracking some discussions of how, well, um, "weak and wimpy" some military family members perceive other military family members to be.

Whiny, bitchy, complaining. Wusses.

Many of those observations are spot on. But many of them also take on a tone of moral superiority I find grating. Really grating. Just as those people find the whining grating.

I've been on both sides of this. I've been the deployed service member. I've been the kid waiting for Dad to come home. I've done from within the military womb, so to speak, living in quarters on base - and I've done it isolated from all that, essentially living out on our own - and that during an increasingly unpopular war - Vietnam 68-69.

My parents decided that moving to Denver, so we'd be near the grandparents, would be a good idea while Dad was gone. Denver at that time did have Fitzimmons, the huge Army orthopaedic center, and Lowry AFB. But when you live off post, out on the other side of a large city, you might as well be alone. And the nature of how Vietnam was handled at that time, via individual replacements, vice unit rotations, meant that battalions like my father was commanding did *not* have an in-place family support structure. While all the soldiers were together, their families were scattered all across the country.

And even if you lived on base in quarters, you didn't necessarily know anyone else connected to the unit. Mom was the battalion commander's wife - and she knew not one other family member from the battalion. There were none in the area.

Mom had been an Army wife for 18 years. It was her second war. It was going to be Purple Hearts 3-7, and another medal for heroism (not always popular with the distaff side, given the kind of behavior represented...).

And ya know what? It was *hard* We got anonymous phone calls from a$$holes. We had The Telegram. Watching the news was difficult. For the most part I didn't have any trouble in school, but my sister, older than I and in the 9th grade, took some serious crap from kids who knew only what they got from the news and their parents and peers - and it was chic to be anti-military, so my sister was an easy target. Throw puberty on top of that fire, too.

I probably had it the easiest.

No, Mom didn't whine, though I know there were nights with tears, especially after one of those a$$hat phone calls. And the anxiety level crept up a *lot* during Tet '68.

Where am I going with this... well, my sense is the Regular Army is doing much better coping with this war than we did with Vietnam, when it comes to families.

I suspect the Guard is doing very well in some places, and not well in others, depending how well integrated the units are in their communities. And the Reserve... I suspect despite the best efforts of well intentioned people, the Reserve, due to it's scattered nature, is having the hardest time coping.

I guess I'm getting to this - many deployed family members, by nature, nurture, and location, are coping pretty well. Others, unprepared and more paralyzed by fear and confusion, are not handling it well. And it manifests as whining, griping, and anger. And if you've tried to negotiate TRICARE or the military bureaucracy from a position of knowledge... imagine how frustrating it must be to people dealing with it remotely, for the first time.

Okay. For those who are coping, and just can't figure out why others don't just "ruck up and soldier on"... get off your high horse and knuckle down and support these people in whatever way you can - but, geez, Louise, quit the farking sniping and griping from your end. It isn't helpful. It just makes others feel bad, and is a particularly venal form of bullying. If you've nothing to contribute - then don't. Tune it out, ruck up and soldier on yourself. But don't pile on. Skip the blog, dump/block the email.

Because *You* annoy the ones of us who *do* happen to be perfect, much more than the whiners... because I expect more from you.

Just sayin'