I recently traveled across the country, just my daughter and I, as my husband is currently deployed. On one leg of our trip, I flew with an airline that charges civilians for bags. Having flown with them before, I walked up to the ticket counter, showed my military ID, and promptly heard, “Checking one bag? That will be $25.” I questioned the agent, saying I had flown just a few months ago and was not charged for my bag because I was military. She told me that no, I was not military, that my spouse was military and therefore his bags would be free but mine were not unless I had his orders.
Seriously, lady? Because I don’t make sacrifices while he’s gone? Because I don’t “serve” myself? Let’s see you do what I do every day and then we can talk more about how I’m “not military.” I was mad. In my eyes, our family is active duty, not just my husband. I ultimately walked away $25 poorer but with a thought brewing in my mind. As a whole, do service members and their families feel entitled to special privileges or discounts simply because we serve?
My family and I live on a large base and many of the businesses here cater to military, so I’ve become accustomed to receiving military discounts almost everywhere. I recognize that it is my husband who puts his life on the line, not me. It is he who signed his name on that dotted line. But didn’t I also volunteer for this job? Didn’t I also sign my name, knowing full well that many days of our marriage would be spent apart or that I might live my life as a widow one day?
To me, having a spouse in the military is not his job, it’s our life. So shouldn’t we all be recognized by these businesses? Don’t get me wrong-if the airline didn’t offer free bags to military at all I wouldn’t have blinked an eye. But as I sat waiting to board the plane because this airline also doesn’t allow people with small children to board first (that is a story for another time),another thought crossed my mind: Why should I even expect anything from them? Shouldn’t I be grateful that at least they are recognizing our Armed Forces in one way or another? Personally, I look favorably upon businesses that give military discounts to service members and their families. It’s not only because I save money but also because it is nice to know that people in the civilian world still recognize the sacrifice our families make during what has seemingly become an invisible war. I will frequent those shops more often, even if their products cost more than the competitors. I get a feeling of camaraderie and pride when giving these companies my business because I’m recognized for the sacrifice my family makes every day, and that is a good feeling.
As the wife of a Marine and the sister of a soldier, I am blatantly aware of the sacrifices the members of our Armed Services make. But after being in the thick of this war for 10 years, I feel as though we (i.e., military families) are no longer humbled by the fact that businesses are willing to give us discounts or special privileges. We expect it, because for the past 10 years the country has been supporting us through the war. We expect it because it is what we have come to know.
So what happens when the war is over? When everyone returns home and we are no longer faced with deployments or stories of men making the ultimate sacrifice for their country? Will the country forget about us? Maybe, maybe not. Either way I don’t think it matters. Who cares if we no longer get 10% off our car wash or a free soda with our burrito? All that matters is that we do this job honorably and faithfully.