Suffering from Support Services Envy: National Guard Life Reality
National Guard/Reserve

Suffering from Support Services Envy: National Guard Life Reality

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Photo credit: By USDAgov [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
It may not be a technical medical condition, but the side effects are real, make no mistake. As the spouse of a National Guard service member, it is a condition I have been faced with and felt frequently. There are times when I feel awful about it, selfish and ashamed that these feelings could have their way with me. But, it’s hard for a person to know how they will react until they feel utterly alone.

The HUN’s guest writer, Randi Cairns, recently addressed some of the side effects of “choosing” this life. Recounting almost verbatim many of my own feelings, Cairns story only goes to show that this life is far more common than it seems. Going from Active Guard Reserve to a somewhat “traditional” status is a difficult transition. We live the life of an active duty family, to a certain extent, and then are suddenly ripped from all the comfort (and apparent respect) of what that life brings. Sure, we have transitioned to a wonderful civilian career that is almost interchangeable with the military one, but it’s not the same.

What doesn’t help me is feeling like I have to constantly defend my status as a military spouse. I’ve seen this fight everywhere, be it online or in real life. Military spouses whose husbands or wives are in the National Guard or Reserves are always fighting a battle, unspoken or not. It doesn’t end with other military spouses and civilians though. We are fighting a battle against the military itself, and countless military support organizations whose sole purpose is to support service members and their families.

 

National Guard Life Reality…

Going from Active Guard Reserve to a somewhat “traditional” status is a difficult transition. We live the life of an active duty family, to a certain extent, and then are suddenly ripped from all the comfort (and apparent respect) of what that life brings.

 

When I took up the mantle of military spouse, I entered an active duty world of sorts. My husband donned his BDUs (yeah, who remembers those?) every day, went to work and did his job. We went through multiple activations, deployments, and countless extra-hours days. When I went to “base” however, there was no housing, no commissary, no exchange and no CDC. We never had a mom’s night out, reintegration programs, free Christmas Trees or baby showers. Our National Guard family did the best they could to support each other. It’s not an easy task when you are a small group, but you do what you can. We relied heavily on our surrounding community, like our church group.

Soldier Saying Goodbye: Photo by Reid Silverman
Soldier Saying Goodbye: Photo by Reid Silverman

The misnomer that all Guard and Reserve Families serve where they live is false. There are many that don’t, and for numerous reasons. We fell into that category, living about two hours from family for the majority of his career. Currently we reside on an entirely different coast. You might think, “Well, that’s what you signed up for. You could have chosen to live where your family was.” That’s true I guess, but it shouldn’t mean we don’t deserve support. Traditional Active Duty families also chose that life. For us, it was a matter of the type of career my husband wanted to go into. It simply wasn’t where we lived.

Now, here I sit in an area populated with several military bases, with service members and their families everywhere I look. Numerous support services and groups occupy this area. Yes, I can go to the Commissary, and the Exchange. If my husband gets activated or deployed over 90 days (which means he’s away from home for 90 days) I can get some special services and supports. Active duty families can get those same support services even if their service member comes home every night, without any restrictions on job type, rate of deployment or almost anything else.

I say all this not to be mean or hateful, and I realize that sometimes it can make me sound like a spoiled little two-year-old, crossing my arms and stomping my feet. I get it. But think of it from my perspective. What would make me think that you would give two hoots about me when my husband is gone (for only over 180 days if we are being honest) if you’d rather not deal with me at any other time? What makes the life of another service member more important when they aren’t activated or deployed? What if that Guardsman or Woman does the same job in the civilian world? What about if they do a more dangerous one? Do they deserve less respect or support for their families? What kind of precedent is being set and what are you telling these people with your indifference and inaction?

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3 thoughts on “Suffering from Support Services Envy: National Guard Life Reality”

  1. As a Reserve wife I get all of this! I am often amazed by people's misguided candor on this subject. We struggle with both the civilian job and military requirements. My husband can be gone for 2 weeks with his civilian employer and come home just in time for AT or vice versa. When he gets home from a year + deployment we get dropped into civilian life with little support for transitions either way. Thank you and Randi for this article.

  2. I've often wondered how the Guard/Reserve wives felt about their transitions. Thank you for bringing that to light. I think that when support the whole military family, as many organizations do, we support the soldiers, no matter what the status. I hope that by bringing this dilemma up to the forefront, we, as a military community can really embrace that not all our servicemembers and their families are just current active duty, but guardsmen/reservists as well, and be a more supportive of their needs.

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