June 9, 2005

The Irony of Protecting a Democracy

I did not grow up in a Democratic republic. I have immense respect and admirations for the men and women who serve our country in the Armed Services, especially those active duty military, but also for the reserves. The great irony is that those who serve and protect the rights and privileges that the United States of America hold so dear do not actually live under them. They live their lives in an Authoritarian Society, not a democratic one. Recently I've been reading a book which discusses this very issue at great length - though I have a vastly different view than the author. She seems to believe that this is a great tragedy and imposition to the rights of the individuals who join the armed services. I would live in great fear of a military that did not give up many of those freedoms in protecting them.

The military is a career that is not 9-5. You are never really "off-duty." It pervades all aspects of your life. When you join up, your spouse and children join up. Most civilians have a hard time understanding just how much the military runs your life, to them you go to work, you go home. Two very different parts of your life. This just isn't so in the military world. You must be ready at a moment's notice - it is even more pronounced if you actually live on base and are surrounded by it all the time, but even living off base there is a different reality of life.

During the fall of my senior year in high school, my father was told we would be getting orders soon and moving. My father asked me exactly when would I be able to leave (a rare question but in light of it being my senior year and GPAs at risk, it had to be considered). I told him I could not go before the end of the first semester - because of how GPAs are considered for college admissions. So our orders were cut and he began making frequent visits to his next post in anticipation of the transfer. While on TDY during October, he received a call from a General at Hanscom (Boston). He flew home the next day, and had two days before he had to report to the base for duty. Because of the nature of the position, he couldn't even come back on weekends, though his Thanksgiving leave was already approved so he did get to come home for that. I didn't realize how strange that was to people until I mentioned something to one of my teachers and my peers couldn't understand it. Why didn't He just say it was a bad time, or maybe take the next job.

You see, the success of the military family is dependent upon its flexibility. When you get a call, an order, a transfer, you go. The family must cope and come along. I think this is one of the things that puts so much stress on military marriages. I've seen many fall apart at the seems because the non-military spouse can't understand the demands upon the military spouse and is constantly resentful of the mandates the military puts upon their spouse, their children and themselves and jealous of the response the military spouse gives to such orders.

There are many ways to cope.... Having never known anything else, and being very proud of the "sacrifices" that my family made because it was military, I learned to take it in stride. I learned to see moving as a privilege that allowed me to interact with many different cultures even within the United States. They were opportunities to leave behind that which you didn't like about yourself and improve who you were because your new acquaintances didn't carry around prior prejudices against who you had been (unless it was a propensity to dislike the military in general).

I learned to become adaptable, to force myself (I am actually extremely shy and self-conscious) to talk to strangers and meet new people, regularly. It's not just a mask you wear, though it is at times, but you begin to be molded to what your circumstances demand of you. Like bootcamp, you become someone you aren't naturally, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I have learned to apply some of this to my walk with Jesus Christ. You see, as I read scripture and I see things in there that I am not yet. I have learned that if I begin to put them on - test them out, walk in them, as I wear the kindness that Christ calls us to (and the Holy Spirit enables us to exhibit) it becomes more a natural reaction to my surroundings. At first its a bit awkward and unnatural, but as I learn to give Christ a little more of my life (my attitudes) here and there, He molds my heart to His and changes me from within.

So very much of our lives has a great deal to do with perspective, but that, I think is another entry for another time.

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