Personal Thoughts from Overseas: Government Shutdown

AFN shutdownIt seems that every year, weeks before October 1st, the threat of a government shutdown looms and military families are left hanging and wondering what if. These threats have happened time and time again throughout the past few years. And with a resolved budget and barely any repercussions, as a military spouse I feel as though our Congress has been crying wolf every time. However, this year the threat has become real. It’s October of 2013 and our government has seen its first partial shutdown in 17 years.

In the past the pressure of a government shutdown brought out the dreadful question of whether our service members would be paid, leaving many military families troubled and afraid. This year, thankfully, a law has been signed to make sure our active duty military still receive their paychecks in the event of a shutdown. And if I were still living in the States, this would be enough for me to stay calm and not have much to worry over. However, I currently live in Okinawa, Japan. And as I am sure many of you can imagine the idea of a government shutdown while we are living overseas, relying on our government to take care of us as their pseudo ambassadors is a bit concerning.

Here in Okinawa we depend heavily on our military programs. Most of us never asked to be stationed overseas and expect our government to assist us with the adjustments of living in a foreign country. Many of us solely shop at commissaries and exchanges, take part in family programs and use multiple different resources to fill the void of home. The threat of having any of those options taken from us can affect our lives on this island. As of right now our commissaries will stay open, and most of our centers will only see modified schedules. However, multiple family programs will cease and the support from most of our DoD employees have been suspended, to include our Family Readiness Officers. And the comfort of being connected to home through the use of AFN (American Forces Network) has been postponed until further notice. The only channel AFN is providing those stationed overseas at this moment is the news.

For me and my husband, our lives here in Okinawa will be just fine. Personally, we will not see much of a change. My husband will still carry out exercises and receive a scheduled paycheck on time from our government. And as for the small effects we have seen so far on our base, it is unfortunate and could have the potential to interfere with a lot of lives on the island. Nevertheless, for now it seems we’ll be all right here on Okinawa.  We have adapted to living a lifestyle where we can adjust and overcome just about anything, and this applies to a government shutdown as well. However, living overseas and witnessing our government close its doors brings fourth some additional concerns.

The fact we are reliant on our government, a government that is currently in a partial shutdown, doesn’t sit well with me at all. In fact I feel a bit uneasy. While my husband is abiding by his orders and has moved his family to a foreign country, our government has been waging in its own battle against each other and has failed to do their job. How can I feel safe under the control of a system that is presently broken? Currently Okinawa is in the path of a severe tropical storm that is expected to intensify in the coming days. With news of a government shutdown it feels unusual to have your own government not recognize the potential destruction their service members and now suspended employees may feel. It’s actually quite alarming. There is no cozy feeling living overseas, relying on a damaged government to support your family. And that is the real fear I believe many of us are feeling.

I’ve joked many times in the past month saying, “Tis the season for a threat of a government shutdown.” Now that the threat has become a reality I can only be thankful that the government was smart enough to recognize their active duty members. And as a military spouse I have to respect the fact my husband joined the service selflessly. I just wish our elected officials could act just as selfless and be able to put comfort in those who rely on their support, especially those who are currently stationed overseas.


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