The argument has been argued, over and over again. The National Guard, are they really as important as the regular military? Usually these things pass through my brain without too much thought. However, a little while ago I was having a conversation with a fellow Guard spouse who had an upsetting encounter. While at an event with her family, military members were being recognized, and those that served were asked to stand. I’m sure we’ve all been witness to this kind of event. My husband, as amazing as I think he is, is quite modest. Sometimes he stands, sometimes he doesn’t. A lot of times he just doesn’t want the recognition. This friend’s husband is the same. After he didn’t stand a friend of the family said something to the effect of how it was probably a good thing he didn’t stand. He then made some off-color remark saying, “Thanks for putting on a uniform once a month to play around.” Naturally she was quite upset. Her husband, as most husbands would, just shrugged it off. He knows better and that’s all that matters.
Despite my best efforts I frequently get upset about things like this. My military life has been an interesting journey. We’ve been active duty the majority of my husband’s almost eleven year career. Active Guard Reserve and Traditional Guard are also a part of his military resume. Having experienced all these different types of military life I can say that I haven’t felt a whole heck of a difference. Most of that has to do with his line of work, civilian or military it’s all the same. I realize that may be somewhat unique to us.
The comments will probably never stop, nor will the playful bashing. Many will continue being uneducated, either because they don’t care or they just never thought about it. The point is that there is less and less that separates the National Guard population and the Active Duty population. From my personal experience I know that to be true. There are many non-deployable or rarely deploying Guard members, just as there are non-deployable and rarely deploying Active Duty members. Is the recruiter, drill instructor or finance person any less of a military member because they don’t deploy, but just happen to go to work in a uniform every day? If this person that had made the comment earlier said to an active duty member or spouse, “gee thanks for putting on that uniform every day to do paperwork or yell at some new recruit,” that probably wouldn’t have gone over so well.
From one perspective I could easily argue that it is harder to be a Guard member’s spouse, especially those that are full-time. If they don’t live near an active duty base, or even near where their spouse drills on the weekends, how are they supposed to get help or support? They don’t. At our last duty station, we happened to be attached to a Guard Air Wing in the middle of nowhere. The area had no housing, no commissary, no gym, no child care, no Operation Homefront, no USO. Experiencing deployments without any help, or special accommodations was really hard. I was just thankful to have a great church family and actual family only two hours away. Most of the large charity organizations won’t even acknowledge Guard members and their families for any special celebratory events unless their spouse is deployed. That’s not the case for active duty military, deployed or not, whether they are recruiters, finance or Military Police.
People feel like they can make flippant comments or do little “wink winks” while saying, “Oh he’s in the National Guard.” Even though the drawn down has and is coming, sequestration is looming, I find it hard to fathom life without active military somewhere in the world. The more often we try to stop the negative comments and attitudes amongst ourselves the better it will be and that will educate the civilian population as well.
I cherish my time as an Active Duty spouse, I miss seeing my husband in uniform every day, his dog tags and the gear. But now that I’ve lived in both worlds I can say confidently that for us not much changed. So now my job is to be aware of others, those that are like me and those that are not. Be grateful and thankful for all our service members. Spend time educating those who don’t understand.