Veteran’s Day, Communication & Suicide

I wrote an article for Veteran’s Day for Military Press.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

Communicate with your Veteran before it’s too late!

Have you ever thought about what it’s like in combat? For a second let’s imagine what it might have been like for your spouse in the sandbox, constantly in a heightened state of fear for his life. As things are just getting back to normal around here, Veteran’s Day next week may bring up some of those same mixed feelings.

Typical Duck Dynasty loving Americans don’t realize what we go through, let alone what our spouses choose to go through. I think many fail to realize that everyone who’s gone to combat comes home with some sort of extra baggage. Mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically — if they even come home at all. It’s not all civilians’ faults though because it’s either not a part of their lives or it’s just out of sight and out of mind. I understand we’re a very small percentage of Americans but the more Americans know, care and understand, the less all of our Veterans and service members will feel isolated and misunderstood.

What always gets me is the statistic that 22 Veterans a day commit suicide. That adds up to more deaths from suicide than were killed in action in the current war. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. Even more astonishing, according to CNN, is that the numbers are underreported due to Veterans not registering with the VA and states not turning in accurate numbers because of lack of information. The numbers are mainly for older Veterans. Apparently 30% of the OIF & OEF service members have considered taking their own lives and 45% said they know a service member who has attempted suicide.

Steel Magnolias, I encourage you all to teach your children about Veterans Day and educate them on how things used to be and why we should cherish and respect not only our elders but especially the Veterans. Volunteer and speak up so that we do not let the cycle of unknowing civilians continue. Always try to keep positive communication going with your spouse not only for your marriage and yourself but also the well-being of your family. So many of our marriages end up in the drain because of things that are out of our control but there are many wives who don’t get to make this point or celebrate holidays with their husbands anymore and only get to visit them at national cemeteries.

Don’t let them stuff down their feelings and suck it up living in horrid silence alone. Please don’t wait until it’s too late to try and communicate. If you need a push start don’t be afraid to contact FOCUS, a local therapist, find a couples retreat or even simply go run errands together, hold hands and keep that constant feeling of support and openness there.

Don’t forget yourself in all of this. Have a glass of wine with a fellow spouse occasionally. As Steel Magnolias we have the strength to be the spouse, cheerleader, researcher, mother and health advocate these men need but the only way to prevent all of this is to simply talk.

Dramatic Auditions: the line starts over there.

Sadly those who most need to apply this will believe it applies to everyone else.  I saw this constantly in the family readiness groups, and now watch it transpire daily with the families of wounded warriors.  Unless you are auditioning for Jerry Springer….

Don’t make drama.  Seriously.  No one else has time for it and you aren’t making yourself look good by bashing anyone else or having a public display of dysfunction.

We have all been wronged.  Deal with it.  If it is a criminal problem, use the proper authorities to take care of it.  Otherwise start acting like an adult and get on with life.  You are going to do stupid things.  Yes, I said it: you WILL screw up.  Intentionally, unintentionally, directly, indirectly, you will do things you regret.  …and so will everyone else.

Think about it.  When you accidentally turn in front of traffic you feel bad, but if someone else does, they surely meant to cut you off, right?  If Linda ignored you at the last family readiness meeting, it must have been because she was mad at you, right?  (Never mind that she was just diagnosed with a frightening medical condition…)

My point is that if you don’t know what is happening, don’t create a reason.  Sometimes people do things that are irritating, stupid, or downright cruel.  If it is something you can work out without causing yourself more harm, then do it.  If it is something inexcusable or something that you cannot get passed, move on.  Don’t keep living it.

If whatever is happening is intentional, do your best to move on or extricate yourself from the situation, and then get on with life.  In the scheme of life it really doesn’t matter that Linda made snarky comments about your hair, or that Enda intentionally stole your assigned parking space.

Deployments come and rumors start.  Joan’s husband might be sleeping with the neighbor’s goat, but is that your business?  Edna might just be a horrible person, but does telling everyone about it make her less horrible?  If the rumors are about you, live so that no one believes them: don’t compromise yourself.  (The only exception to this is if you legitimately suspect there is a crime such as child or domestic abuse, in which case, please report it to the authorities, see that there is follow-up, and then keep your mouth shut.)

Either fix it or leave it, but engaging other people, and causing more stress for yourself is not a resolution.  You cannot “win” at drama.  Proving you are right is not helpful if you injure yourself or others along the way.  I see a lot of wives who want to “prove” they are right by getting everyone on their “side”.  Ladies, we are not in middle school, and this is not a popularity contest.  Take care of yourself, and let everyone else worry about their own issues.

Dress Code and Marine Corps Events…

Oh it’s that time again ladies…..our superbowl, our Golden Globe Awards, Our CMA’s…let the hairspray and spanx hold on tight here we GO!

First of all did you know on base there is a civilian dress code?  I KNOW scandalous!  I would’ve never thought in this day and age grown adults would need to know how to dress appropriately while walking into the grocery store aka commissary but I’ll roll with it.  Did you know? Your Marine is responsible for your actions, attire and lack of attire at events whether you are on or off base & whether you’re married or ‘just friends’.  We’ll go with the rule of thumb:  If it’s written in here it’s because it’s been done before & to what extent the backlash of the attire categories varies from command to command & will never truly be known but can range from simple razzing and stares all night to being asked to leave an event with a formal follow-up meeting afterwards.  This is simply to inform those who are not aware not condemn but I never said it wasn’t entertaining. 😛

Hopefully you like going to events.  Hopefully you’re a semi-modest, rule follower.  Since there are plenty of events & rules to go along with those events in this Marine Corps lifestyle.  There will be events for you and your husband, just your husband or just you are invited to for many reasons it could be for the entire unit, battalion, a base function, a personal or private ceremony or an organization event. Whether it is announced through email, a flyer or in a formal mailed invitation make sure you look at the desired clothing attire on the invitation. If it is not written specifically call the hostess, event organizer, FRA (Family Readiness Assistant) or FRO for more detailed information. The Marines will know what to wear because their command will tell them more than once. There are a few options for the women though.  Here we go:

Formal Attire aka Marine Corps Ball: ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY WITHOUT EQUIVICATION FORMAL MEANS  Tea, Ankle or Floor length Formal Evening Gowns ONLY!  Don’t be ‘THAT GIRL’.  If you are you are forewarned you may be asked to leave and at the bare minimum will be made fun of & always thought of like that by your peers, your husbands co-workers and bosses.  There is always at least one at every formal event.  This isn’t Amish life so steer clear from making anything yourself.  This also isn’t the Victorian era, flapper era, or your wedding.  As cool as they are it’s probably not a good idea: mini-skirts, nip slip dresses, combo-red, white and blue dresses, too tight dresses, high slits, dresses that require pasties, only have strips of fabric covering your ta-ta’s or would require baby powder before you ‘slip it on’.  Combat boots are optional.  No seriously, leave those at home.  You’re not going to a biker bar or to the field.  We all want to be comfortable but theres a line between sliding off your heels under the table and being disrespectful of the occasion.

Please rememer we are a part of the few, the proud, the Marines not in a costume contest or a group member of the Pussycat Dolls, Jersey Shore, Toddler’s & Tiaras, Kardashians, the Real Housewives or an extra on Magic Mike or Striptease think about not only yourself but your husband when choosing attire for a formal function.

Good dress…BUT…ummmm Okayyy

Combat Boots & RIPPED Crocheted panty hose

Change of Command/Retirement Ceremonies:Attire for Ladies: Dress  although I’ve seen more Business Casual

California Casual: Consists of Skirt, Khakis, Shorts or Nice Jeans (no ripped, torn or faded items)

Conservative Casual/Business Casual Attire for Ladies: Crisp Pants, Skirt and Modest Blouse

Depending on where you’re stationed will dictate the above information and can vary from time zone to time zone. Unless it is 120* do not wear a mini-skirt to a formal event; not only is it against the rules and inappropriate but some senior Marines and wives may call your date/husband out in front of everyone or off to the side and get in trouble because of something that could have been avoided by following the rules.

Other expectations include:

Make sure that you “repondez s’il vous plait” or RSVP meaning, “please respond” so that the hostess will know how many to account for regarding seating and food. You wouldn’t want to throw a party at your house and invite 40 and only 10 RSVP so you cook for 10 but 50 ends up at your house. So out of good manners and respect for the hostess and command please RSVP!

Another big thing at Marine Corps functions is to show up on time. Generally this means 15 minutes before the actual start time to get situated in the room, say your hello’s and find your seat.  If you’re late to a Mess Night or something similar you may not be allowed in until a break & then have to pay a fine of some sort.

Expect to socialize in one way or another.  Do NOT have your cell phone on and if it has to be on for emergencies please put it on vibrate. They typically remind you before any ceremony to turn it off out of respect for others. You do not want to be the one whose phone rings an inappropriate or loud ringtone during colors or other sacred ceremony. You’re husband/date will NOT be very happy with you.

Also, when the flag is passing, the National Anthem or Marine Corps Hymn is playing or the Pledge of Allegiance is being said as the spouse or parent of a Marine, it is customary to stand as well and place your hand over your heart.

Most importantly just have fun & take pictures!  🙂

Things to NEVER ask a Marine Wife…

 -Author Unknown; found floating around on the internet…awesome though & I added some of my own quick wit to some of these
Things to NEVER ask a Marine Wife…
1. “Aren’t you afraid that he’ll be hurt?” (This one ranks in at number one on the “duh and NO SHIT” list. Of course we’re afraid. We’re terrified. The thought always lingers at the backs of our minds —but thanks alot. brilliant, you just brought it back to the front. Maybe next you can go ask someone with cancer if they’re scared of dying.)
2. “I don’t know how you manage. I don’t think I could do it.” (This is intended to be a compliment. Though, its just a little annoying. Here’s why: it’s not like all of us military wives have been dreaming since childhood of the day we’d get to be anxious single moms who carry cell phones with us to the bathroom and in the shower. We’re not made of some mysterious matter that makes us more capable, we just got asked to take on a challenging job. So we rose to the challenge and found the strength to make sacrifices.)
3. “At least he’s not in Iraq.” (This is the number one most annoying comment for those whose husbands are in Afghanistan. What do they think is happening in Afghanistan? An international game of golf? )
4. “Do you think he’ll get to come home for Christmas/Mothers Day/anniversary/birthday/birth of a child/wedding/family reunion, etc?” (Don’t you watch the news? No! They don’t get to come home for any of these things. There are no personal time off days, sick days, or any civilian things like that. He cant call in to work. Please don’t ask again.)
5. “What are you going to do to keep yourself busy while he’s gone?” (Short answer: Try to keep my sanity. Maybe there’s a military wife out there who gets bored when her husband leaves. For the rest of us, those with and without children, we find ourselves having to be two people. That keeps us plenty busy. We do get lonely, but we don’t get bored, and drinking massive amounts of wine always helps keep me busy.)
6. “How much longer does he have until he can get out?” (This one is annoying to many of us whether our husbands are deployed or not. Many of our husbands AREN’T counting down the days until they “can” get out. Many of them keep signing back up again and again because they actually love what they do or they VOLUNTEER AGAIN and AGAIN to go back to Afghanistan b/c there is work that needs to be done.)
7. “This deployment shouldn’t be so bad, now that you’re used to it.” (We do learn coping skills. We figure out ways to make life go smoother while the guys are gone. But it never gets “easy” and the bullets and bombs don’t skip over our guys just because they’ve been there before. The worry never goes away.)
8. “My husband had to go to Europe for business once for three weeks. I totally know what you’re going through.” (This one is similar to number two. Do not equate your husband’s three week trip to London/Omaha/Tokyo/etc. with a 6-15 month or more deployment to a war zone. Aside from the obvious time difference, nobody shot at your husband, your husband could call home pretty much any time he wanted to, and he flew comfortably on a commercial plane. We do not feel bonded to you in the slightest because of this comment and, if anything, we probably resent you a bit for it. Comparing a 12 month combat deployment to a few weeks business trip is like comparing a Hyundai Excel with a Mercedes convertible.)
9. “Wow you must miss him?” (This one also gets another big “duh”. Of course we miss our men. There are some wives who do not and they’re now divorced.)
10. “Where is he exactly? Where is that?” (I don’t expect non-military folks to be able to find Anbar Province on a map, but they should know by now that it’s in Iraq. Likewise, know that Kabul and Kandahar are in Afghanistan. Know that Muqtada al Sadr is the insurgent leader of the Mahdi Army in Iraq and that Sadr City is his home area. Know that Iran is a major threat to our country and that it is located between Afghanistan and Iraq. Our country has been at war in Afghanistan for seven years and at war in Iraq for five years. These basic facts are not secrets, they’re on the news every night and in the papers every day —and on maps everywhere.)
11. “Well, he signed up for it, so it’s his own fault whatever happens over there.” (Yes, ignorant, he did sign up. Each and every day he protects your right to make stupid comments like that. He didn’t sign up and ask to be hit by anything, he signed up to protect his country. Oh, and by the way, he asked me to tell you that “You’re welcome.” He’s still fighting for your freedom.)
12. “Don’t you miss sex! I couldn’t do it!” (hmmm, no I don’t miss sex. I’m a robot. seriously…military spouses learn quickly that our relationships must be founded on something greater than sex. We learn to appreciate the important things, like simply hearing their voices, seeing their faces, being able to have dinner together every night. And the hard truth is, most relationships probably couldn’t withstand 12 months of sex deprivation.)
13. “Well in my opinion…..” (Stop right there. I didn’t ask for you your personal or political opinions. Unless you’ve walked in my husbands shoes or my own you have no idea how we live or feel…keep it to yourselfCivilians have no idea on this subject so try not to interject your thoughts and opinions into my life.  The negative and emotional comments are counterproductive so don’t even say them!)
Last, but not least….
14. “OH, that’s horrible…I’m so sorry!” (He’s doing his job and he’s a complete bad ass. Don’t be sorry. Be appreciative and please take a moment out of your comfortable American lives to realize that our Marines/soldiers/airmen/sailors fight the wars abroad so those wars stay abroad.)
If you want to say anything, say thank you. After all, we are sexually deprived for your freedom 🙂