Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Military Mom, Part Two

NOTE:  This is second in a series of sporadic posts about this military thing happening in our family. How many military mom posts will there be?  No clue.  But more than two. 

Don't call them part-time soldiers, weekend warriors, pseudo-military, or any other "funny" nickname you've heard.  Just don't.  There is no such thing as part-time military.  They are not "just the National Guard" or "only the Reserves."  They are soldiers.  Completely, totally, 100%.

When I was a young adult, people could join the military and spend their entire commitment never going into battle.  The kids who join today are pretty much guaranteed they will see action. They know it, and they join anyway.

We know a soldier in the National Guard.  He has a young family and a full-time job.  He had a plan when he joined, and he wanted to serve his country in the process.    So he joined the National Guard and left for his training shortly after finding out his wife was pregnant with their first child.  While he was gone, his wife experienced some complications with her pregnancy and eventually ended up on bed rest.  He missed all of that.  Then he missed the birth of his child. And now he has orders to deploy overseas and will miss the first and probably the second birthdays of his child.  Part time commitment?  Absolutely not.

Our oldest son is in the Army Reserves.  He also had a plan when he joined, and he wanted to serve his country in the process. When he came home from training, he attended his Drill weekends at his post as well as worked as much as possible doing contract labor.  It's not easy finding a job when potential employers know you will more than likely be leaving--sometimes, with hardly any notice at all.

To make a long story short, Spencer's unit was given less than 48 hours notice to deploy as part of a humanitarian/peacekeeping mission to a country devastated by an earthquake.  (It takes me longer than 48 hours to get ready to go to Dale's parents' house for the weekend.)  Spencer's unit had less than that amount of time to prepare to leave for 6 months.  And take everything they thought they would need (how much toilet paper would you pack for six months?).  And say goodbye to their families.  And resign from jobs.  And one guy even had to cancel his wedding plans and do a hurry-up ceremony in front of a Justice of the Peace.  And by the way, these soldiers also spent numerous hours at the post packing up stuff for the unit.  It wasn't just their own stuff they had to do.

Spencer is single and was, at that time, still living at home.  He had no lease to break.  He didn't have a career.  He didn't have a wife or children or even a dog.  Yet we scrambled to get everything done. We went shopping for his stuff.  We packed his foot locker, got his laundry caught up, and even had some family and dear friends over for a good-bye dinner.  Other members of his unit had to say goodbye to small children or seriously ill parents.  One guy had to resign from a job he had just landed after months of unemployment. 

Still, they left.  They travelled to another post to join with soldiers from other units.  One week into their preparations, they received orders to stand down.  One week after that, they came home.  They had to again find jobs and places to live and try to resume their lives here.   When they deploy overseas next year, they will do it all over again--say goodbye to children and spouses, resign from jobs, put their stuff in storage, sell their vehicles, hug their parents.  Part-time commitment?  Absolutely not.

Don't get me wrong.  These soldiers are fully educated when they join.  They know they are giving over control of their lives for the years of their contract.  They know they will be called upon at any time to protect and defend the people of the United States in whatever way deemed necessary by the powers that be.  It's what they are trained to do. 

And you know what?  They'll do it even if you don't support them.  They'll do it even if you don't agree with what they are doing.  They will do it even if you disrespect the flag they so dearly love.  They'll even protect and defend your right to do so.

Does that sound like a part time commitment to you?  I don't see how it could.  In our experience, there's no such thing as part time military.