Military Family Values

9 years ago

Last month I received an e-mail from an old friend of mine who recently discovered my liberal blog. It blew me away. (And I use it here with her permission.)

Here’s what it said:

I have to say since the reunion I read your blog everyday. I'm fascinated on how the other side lives. The civilian side that is~ there is no worry about war, when is daddy coming home from Iraq or is he going to make it home this time around, or how can I do this single parent thing again just so he can defend our freedom. Not to mention making it through another memorial service where during role call I break out into tears for my husband's mentor and fellow soldier. It's just a totally different life but one I take pride in.

At this point, I’m feeling pretty bad about complaining about my civilian job. But it goes on … and in my mind, gets worse.

I can appreciate your liberalism but I have to stay conservative in protection of my family. I tell my family Republicans give us raises and weapons and Democrats typically don't. I do enjoy reading about the debate though.

I remember in the Clinton era not getting a pay raise, not being able to train because there was no money. We were celebrating when Bush became president because I knew there was going to be money coming our way, housing would improve, new equipment, etc. We were going to get pay raises finally that made a difference.

At this point, I was beside myself with confusion. Is this the way it is? At work, I have a large poster that details where every cent of Bush’s last budget went. Over half of it went to “military spending.” That infuriated me, but never once did it occur to me in my furor that “military spending” translates into pay raises and housing for enlisted men and women, not just military contracts. When I think “military spending,” I think “Halliburton contracts.”

And all of the sudden, I was conflicted.

Because this is the way I thought it was.

That 2008 raise would be the start of a five-year plan likely to be approved by lawmakers for pay raises through 2012 that are one-half percentage point above average hikes in the private sector. This would bind the Bush administration and whatever administration follows it to a course of increasing the competitiveness of military raises and reducing the perceived gap between military and civilian pay from today’s 3.9 percent to about 1.4 percent by 2012.

The Bush White House has openly opposed the bigger raises, but congressional aides who will work on the compromise defense bill said lawmakers are unmoved.

So I wrote her back.

I think this makes an excellent humanizing point - regardless of our political leanings, only a cad wouldn't feel for what you guys have to go through on a daily basis. So many times we get caught up in just the politics, but every decision has ramifications. I tend to get angry (from my perspective) that so many are being put in harm's way for reasons with which I don't agree, but it is good to remember that those who serve perhaps wouldn't agree with me.

Then I decided to see how other military families feel. Do they think Republicans are the only people who care about them? Do they support the war? According to USA Today, they are conflicted, too.

Military families are more supportive of the war than Americans without immediate family members in the military, the polls show. Among Americans without military relatives, 59% say the invasion was a mistake, compared with 49% of immediate family members.

Here’s a perspective from Darla:

A year can change a lot of things. We're comfortably unpacked in this old house. I've rearranged the furniture more times than I can remember. I've tripled my yarn collection. We've added our rottie Sue back into our home. I got this fun laptop and tumbled headfirst into this blog world. We've embarked into the mysterious world of infertility testing and the complications of trying to schedule little things like HSG's and pelvic ultrasounds and blood testings with incredibly irregular menstrual cycles. Mr. D has changed occupations from Survival instructor to hip deep in snow as a Dirt Boy and snow plow equipment operator. I had a short sabbatical as a SAHW and than rejoined the working world. We even had a very fun full-military family Thanksgiving dinner. And, yes, I even gave up my grudging anger and resentment with the military ... mostly.

I don’t have anger and resentment for the military. I have anger and resentment for those who decide when to use the military and where. I think the people who decide have a little different experience in life than the soldiers and their families.

"I'm definitely listening to who is saying what," Belinda Larmore said as she sat in the Killeen Mall food court for lunch with her husband, Mike, an Army captain just back from a rotation in Iraq.

Ms. Larmore, 36, a mother of three, ages 5 to 19, grew up in a Republican family and has usually voted that way.

But in the 2008 national election, she is looking over the field carefully for a candidate – Democrat or Republican – who grasps the complex challenges facing a military stretched to the limit, fighting a war "with no end in sight."

She wants to hear candidates address the issues directly affecting the military, such as multiple combat tours and rotations extended beyond the usual 12 months.

"Show me any politician who would be away from his family that long," Ms. Larmore said as her husband sat silently across from her. Capt. Larmore declined to be interviewed but said he generally supported his wife's views.

Is there a difference between supporting the soldiers and supporting the war? I think there is. I just don’t know what to do about it. I'm not sure politicians of either party do, either.

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