I was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1959. That’s 52 years ago this past January. I had been overseas in Germany for two years during a peacetime period through the draft. My experiences were not the same as they are now during a period of war in either Iraq, Afghanistan, or maybe now in Libya. I have come to know some things personally through a young person of our acquaintance whose spouse in now deployed in Afghanistan.
Besides the new acronyms and divisions within the Army, there are many new things that are beyond my experiences. The need for new soldiers, on a consistent level, is the primary goal of the military. Because there is no draft, the Army, especially, has to offer incentives to young people to join. During a lack of jobs for young people, these incentives make for an attractive lure for the post high school young people.
As college becomes increasingly expensive, the military is seen as a refuge for unemployed youth at a stage of their lives when they do not know what is in store for them in the job market. The Army offers training, structure and a steady paycheck. In return, the kids have to serve at the pleasure of them military and be deployed to dangerous areas in the Middle East.
Some of these youngsters are married with children. Their wives, mostly in their late teens and early 20’s have had no experience living by themselves. Many went from their parent’s homes directly into marriage and then a military life. That life may include living on a post, or in a town or city that is completely unfamiliar to them. They have only the same situated women to be friends with.
The Army has created helping organizations on post that try and take care of these young women (I am not familiar with what happens to the spouses of women in the military who have children). There are so many things with which these young women are not familiar- insurance, powers of attorney, taxes, benefits and so on. These military organizations make sure that these folks are taken care of, if they know that there is a problem.
Communications between spouses is a sometime thing. Although there may be Skype or email, or voice communications, there are still times when everything is silent. If the soldiers are in areas where they are not allowed to communicate, the people at home are at wit’s end.
With the occurrence of negative happenings- wounding, death, or lost in combat, these friendship organizations may be the first to report to the families. In any case, most of the spouses are pretty much alone in their terrible circumstance. The friendship organizations try and help out as much as they can.
The soldiers remain at the front lines for long periods of time. They sometimes are brought back for a little while to spend some time with their families. The leaving takes place once again with all the accompanying sadness. When a soldier comes back with a wound or an injury, their spouses, once again, are in an unfamiliar situation. They must now deal with the medical end of things and that is totally new to them.
With a younger aged Army and spouses with very little life experience, the military must provide services that it never had to in the past. It is certainly a difficult job. We should be thankful that it is there for the families.