Friday, February 10, 2012

A Difference of Opinion... I Guess

I debated long and hard before writing this post but just felt that I needed to share some of my experience as the wife of a National Guard Soldier in response to a blog post written by the spouse of an Active Duty Army Soldier stationed up in Vermont.

At some point today, this blogger removed all of her family pictures, previous posts and comments from her blog but not before I had a chance to read her post.

In a nutshell, she expressed her opinion that members of the National Guard were not real soldiers and their spouses should not call themselves Army wives. WHAT??? If it is still available, you're more than welcome to read her post here.

My husband has been a member of various units of the Army Reserves and the Army National Guard for the past 20 years. I've only been a part of it for the past 7 years but in those 7 years, I can tell you that I've learned that ANG Soldiers can be just as busy as their Active Duty counterparts.

For anyone who isn't aware, I'm about to shed some light on the life of a National Guard Soldier and their family. To preface, before I met Freddy, I had no idea what the National Guard even did.

Let's first discuss their minimum requirements: 1 weekend a month and 2 weeks a year. That doesn't sound like a lot right? Wrong. What they don't tell you is that weekend is many times a 4 day weekend where they send them to a base in a different state, which means they don't come home at night. And 2 weeks a year? That is just their annual training if it is stateside. Since we've been together, at least 4 times, my husband's AIT has been 3 weeks or more and twice it was in Germany. As a matter of fact, I found out I was pregnant the day my husbad left for Germany in 2010 and went through 3 1/2 weeks of horrible morning sickness by myself. Their annual AIT doesn't include the additional 2 - 3 week training courses they take throughout the year. In 2009, we had plane tickets to leave on a Thursday for the wedding reception that my family was hosting for us in Michigan. The Friday before, Freddy found out that he had to report to Fort Drum for a class on Sunday for the week. He drove the 8 hours to Fort Drum so that he would have his car to drive the 12 hours to Michigan in order to be there for our reception. He arrived at my mom's house at 7:00am Saturday morning. Sometimes I think it might be easier to handle a year long deployment versus 2 weeks away, a few months home, 2 weeks away, a few months home, but you learn to deal with it.

Now let's discuss their 1st obligation: One thing this blogger stated was true. The National Guard are state militia. They are responsible for protecting the state they are assigned to. This means assisting during natural disasters. Natural what? Yes, natural disasters in which you cannot plan for. In 2006, while Freddy was away at drill, our area was hit with a huge monsoon type rain storm. On Sunday night, the last day of his drill, he called and informed me that his unit had been activated to assist during the storm and that he didn't know when he was going to be home. He was gone for an additional week before they were released. In that time I had to deal with our landlord and a contractor on my own because our ceiling had started leaking during the storm. Does everyone remember Hurricane Irene this past August? Well, I do! After the storm started, Freddy got the call telling him that he had to leave his wife and his then 10 month old baby alone and report to his unit. He had to drive during the storm into the city to get to his unit and was gone for 4 days.

The day Freddy left for the hurricane...


...and the day he got home.


Now let's discuss their 2nd, but more common obligation: With the unrest in the Middle East, more and more Guard and Reservists are being deployed multiple times and working alongside Active Duty personnel. In 2008, over 3,000 members of the New Jersey National Guard were deployed to Iraq. According to the same article, 49% of National Guard members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have returned with mental health problems. That is almost 29% higher than their Active Duty counterparts.

Now let's discuss my role as the spouse of a National Guard Soldier: Most Active Duty Army wives that I'm aquainted with are stay at home moms. Believe me, I find absolutely nothing wrong with this and, given the opportunity, would love to be a stay at home mom. The life of an Active Duty spouse pretty much prevents her from holding down a permanent full time job. Now, I cannot speak for all Guard spouses, but in my case we have to be a double income family. I have a full time, and very demanding, job with a company that I've worked for in some capcity for the past 10 years. I work in the IT field which requires that, in addition to my 9-10 hour work day, there are many times that I need to work in the evening, overnight or on weekends. So, when my husband is gone for his monthly drills, yearly AIT, and various training classes, not only do I need to maintain our house, manage our 4 cats, and keep up with a very busy little toddler, I also have a responsibility to my work and employer. Needless to say, when Freddy was gone for 6 weeks last September helping another National Guard unit mobilize for deployment, I was freaking exhausted! He also missed Marshall's first steps. Oh yeah, and I had to pretty much plan our son's 1st birthday party on my own. Freddy got home the week before just in time to enjoy the party :)

We spent our 3rd wedding anniversary unpacking...


I don't even think I can address the blogger's comments about the conduct of a military spouse. I think I've heard about some pretty bad behavior by both Active Duty and Guard spouses :)

We have been lucky in that Freddy has not been deployed since 2004, but I know it kills him to see his friends continue to deploy over and over when he is all rested and reay to go. While I don't envy the constant deployments that Active Duty spouses have to deal with, I do envy the community and support on base they have. We live about an hour away from the nearest military base. There is really no National Guard Army wife community with Freddy's unit so when he's gone, I don't really have anyone who understands what it's like. When Marshall is old enough to attend school, chances are he will be one of the few, if not the only, military kid in his class.

When I became the wife of a National Guard Soldier, I never thought any differently about Active Duty Soldiers. To me, they are all a part of the same Army. The label on everyone's uniform says "U.S. Army". My husband was not born here, but the one reason he chose to become a citizen of this country was so that he could vote. The next thing he did was join ROTC in college. I have never met anyone who is more proud to be a part of the U.S. Army than my husband. Whenever they ask for volunteers for missions or to assist other units, he is always one of the first to volunteer. All he wants to do is lead and teach new privates to be the best Soldiers they can be. He knows almost all of the codes, patches, insignias and lives by the Army code even when not in uniform. When we were sight seeing in Washington, D.C. and visited Arlington cemetary the first thing he did was make sure they had the military flags hanging in the correct order. If you can't consider him a soldier then I don't know what one is.

All branches and divisions of our military have different roles and responsibilities. That does not make them any less of a Soldier than anyone in any other branch.

I think what bothered me the most about the blogger's post is how uneducated her opinions were as well as the comments made by her husband. I'm all for free speech, but you need to be able to back up your arguments and opinions. We all know there is definitely a rivalry between branches and divisions, but there is still a level of respect they have for each other. Never once have I seen any Active Duty personnel treat my husband any less of a soldier just because he is a part of the Guard. I still see lower ranking Active Duty Soldiers salute him per regulation.

Regardless of what a few people might think, I am still very proud to be an Army wife and especially enjoy the online Military Spouse blogging community that I've found.