Life for Military Families After 10 Years at War

Image via Laurie White, with permission

Two weeks ago, we passed a milestone.  It has now been ten years since the war in Afghanistan started. It’s been a momentous ten years — years of multiple deployments, sleepless nights, life- altering experiences that have shaped the new generation of military families. We have seen our divorce rates climb, we have watched our children require more and more counseling, we have heard terrifying stories from our friends and fellow military spouses of the spiraling depression and dark thoughts of suicide that they feel. The cries for help on Facebook, the e-mails to our blog sites telling us they cannot go on, or pouring out their stories of their children are depressed, showing self harming behaviors, even attempted suicides; the palpable pain weighs on many of us.

The perception of my community has been a series of stereotypes. We are either the stalwart helpmeet who wears a constant smile, along with her pearls and white gloves, perfectly coiffed and attending every luncheon; or a frowzy housewife in stained sweatpants, curlers and fuzzy slippers at the Big Box store; or a constant fixture at the off post bar, trolling for the next one.

I think the phrase “none of the above” pertains to 99% of the actual military spouses. There may be one or two of these stereotypes running around somewhere other than the fictional “Fort Marshall” as seen on the Lifetime TV programm Army Wives.

Who are we, really? We are your sisters, brothers, your nieces or nephews, your best friend from college, your brother-in-law, your neighbor down the street. We are the nurse at your doctor’s office, we are the doctor who treats your children, we are your daughter’s ballet teacher, your son’s piano teacher; we are the cop or the firefighter, the mayor, the plumber, the mechanic at your local car repair shop. We are the less than 1% of the population of the United States of America. We are an Iowa farm girl, New York fashionista, Kansas graduate student or Massachusetts stay at home mom, native born or immigrant. The one thing we all are — military family members.

We have weathered many storms, waved goodbye too many times and learned exactly how many cookies can fill a flat rate box shipping to a unit downrange. We have learned a new vocabulary; we have made friends, battle buddies that hold our hands and give us a shoulder to cry on; we have learned what we are capable of. We are strong, but can always use a helping hand. We are resilient (though many are tired of that word). We are used to bouncing back, we are used to standing on our own; we are used to this “new normal.”

Guest Contributor Karen Francis, a writer at Care2.com, has been an Army spouse since the mid-1970s.  After two tours in Germany, her husband left the Active Army and joined the National Guard after moving to Minnesota. Many years later, their son joined the Army National Guard,  and after 9/11, he served one tour in Iraq (2003 -04) with the 1st Armored Division before leaving the Army.  After 9/11/01, her husband went to Bosnia as a peacekeeper with the Minnesota Guard, and then followed that with a  22-month deployment to Iraq.  After returning from that deployment,  he went Active Army in 2007 and was assigned to a base in Northern Virginia.  After a year, he deployed again to Iraq, and is currently serving in Afghanistan.   She is a writer for diverse sites on military family issues; a consultant on military spouse issues with various groups; a volunteers with military assistance groups and has contributed to others by lobbying Congress on military family matters.  She’s a proud grandmother of a little girl, currently a psychology student studying for her Social Work degree in order to work with military families, and runs her own business as a Virtual Assistant.

Jon Stewart, Sanctuary, Animals, racism
Where the Wild Places Are: Jon Stewart Has the Right Idea
Hillary Clinton likability, Hillary likable enough, Donald Trump, 2016 presidential campaign
Hillary Has to be The Girlfriend, but “The Donald” Can be The Grinch
E.L. Doctorow, George W. Bush
In Praise Of E.L. Doctorow: The Man Who Looked Into GWB’s Eyes and Saw Nothing
Google fiber, high speed internet
I’m Dreaming of an Ultra-Fast Christmas … in July
passing as white, passing as black, Rachel Dolezal, white woman identifying as black
Little White Lies: Can You Choose Your Race?
Hillary Clinton likability, Hillary likable enough, Donald Trump, 2016 presidential campaign
Hillary Has to be The Girlfriend, but “The Donald” Can be The Grinch
E.L. Doctorow, George W. Bush
In Praise Of E.L. Doctorow: The Man Who Looked Into GWB’s Eyes and Saw Nothing
Sandra Bland, Officer Encinia, Sandra Bland traffic stop, Sandra Bland death, racism in America, police violence, police brutality
Sandra Bland Committed the Crime of Arrogance
BlogHer BlackLivesMatter
BlogHer Nails What Netroots Nation Fails: #BlackLivesMatter
Hillary Clinton likability, Hillary likable enough, Donald Trump, 2016 presidential campaign
Hillary Has to be The Girlfriend, but “The Donald” Can be The Grinch
E.L. Doctorow, George W. Bush
In Praise Of E.L. Doctorow: The Man Who Looked Into GWB’s Eyes and Saw Nothing
Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter book, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, naming a child for a president
We Named Our Son After Jimmy Carter
Jon Stewart, Sanctuary, Animals, racism
Where the Wild Places Are: Jon Stewart Has the Right Idea
Hillary Clinton likability, Hillary likable enough, Donald Trump, 2016 presidential campaign
Hillary Has to be The Girlfriend, but “The Donald” Can be The Grinch
E.L. Doctorow, George W. Bush
In Praise Of E.L. Doctorow: The Man Who Looked Into GWB’s Eyes and Saw Nothing
dying friends, friendship and death, denial about friend's death
Could I Have Been a Better Friend at the End?
dying friends, friendship and death, denial about friend's death
Could I Have Been a Better Friend at the End?
women's lives, planning for the unexpected, Chinese adoption
Cushioning My Landing: When Emotions Collide with Rationality
11069864_385264318326651_7985163416737673298_n
A New York City Feminist on the Camino de Santiago
white people talking about race
Just a White Girl From the Suburbs
marriage equality and Supreme Court, history of gay rights in America
Let’s Celebrate the Supreme Court Decision on Marriage Equality, But Let’s Not Forget the History That Got Us Here
Magic Mike XXL, women's erotica, Women's sex lives, women's fantasies, male gaze, female gaze, feminist and Magic Mike
Magic Mike XXL: Male Strippers, Women’s Fantasies and Why We Should Stop Judging Each Other
National Kissing Day
The Science of Kissing
women's viagra, Viagra, Flibanserin, sexual arousal, women's desire, sex after menopause
That “Little Pink Pill” Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Get our new weekly email
Broadly Speaking

featuring our best words for the week + an exclusive longread