One Last Thanks to War’s Domestic Heroes

November 25, 2009 at 4:16 am (Uncategorized)

The opportunity to blog, read articles, and read other peoples’ blogs over the past few months opened my mind to many of the unnoticed and unrecognized struggles that families of soldiers face. While I understood that having a loved one overseas was not an easy thing to deal with, I did not understand the complex emotions involved in this separation. Throughout my blog I talked about many struggles the soldiers’ families go through, but a few main topics stand out. Amongst these topics are deployment and its effect on families as well as the significance of e-mail and letter exchanges between soldiers and their families.

Throughout the semester I blogged numerous times about the effect of deployment on families. Whether this deployment results in hurried marriages, the absence of a father for his child’s birth, or simply saying goodbye to kids and wives in order to fight overseas, it is never an easy departure. After reading personal stories, whether in articles or blogs, I now understand these families’ pain better. With this sense of empathy, I question, are enough services provided to families of soldier’s to work through this difficult time in their lives? These men and women, wait at home, wondering and worrying about how their loved one is doing overseas. At the same time, wives and children continue on with their lives and give up the opportunity to share experiences with their soldiers.

So, again, I ask myself, does society provide enough services to these men and women to help them get through their loved one’s deployment. In a sense, I believe society does. Communication is not cut off between families and their soldiers, and in some cases they talk on a daily basis. Still, like stated in a blog that I read, there is still a longing for human contact. Communication is made available for some units and numerous services are provided to families of soldiers back at home. These services include support groups, aid groups for soldiers, and so on. But, the more I listen to the voices of family members, the more obvious it becomes; although services and aid are provided to these family members, only one cure exists, and that is to have their soldier back. Thus, the only solution to this pain and longing is the return of soldiers.

The war in Iraq has been going on for about 8 years now. I remember the beginning of it when I was in 7th grade. I am now a senior in college and still, troops occupy the deserts of the Middle East. I know I sound a bit like a beauty queen trying the win my crown, but I wish that one day world peace could be obtained. Unrealistic right? While we live in a world of violence, hatred and war, I have not lost complete faith in the human race. The same species that created war, also created things such as the Red Cross, Make a Wish Foundation, and dare I say Extreme Home Makeover. Therefore, humans are capable of goodness and compassion for one another. Just think about it, if people took all of their negative energy and channeled it into positive energy, imagine the goodness that would exist in this world. I know that this is a rather optimistic and somewhat naive way of thinking, but in a world of pessimism, someone needs to stay optimistic.

 Therefore, blogging about the effect of war on families gave me a new perspective on war struggles that I never had. These people are soldiers who sacrifice, fight, and give the most precious gift to their countries. While many wish for world peace, the truth remains that we currently live in a state of war and violence. So, as long as war exists and people continue to fight with one another, remember those domestic soldiers sitting at home waiting for their soldier to return. They are the heroes behind the scene whom sacrifice their love and comfort for thier country.

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Home for the Holidays?

November 22, 2009 at 7:19 pm (Uncategorized)

Tis the season to be jolly, or so many will say; but families of soldiers across the country wish that their sons, daughters, wives, sisters, husbands, brothers, mothers, or fathers, were home for the holidays.  While many soldiers remain stationed in Iraq during the holiday season, some efforts were made to reunite troops with their families.  Specifically, Sidney and Shaefer Peterson joyfully embraced their father upon his return to the states for the holidays.  Shaefer states,

“It makes me very happy because its dangerous over there and we only got to talk to him once and a while, so it was hard to know what was going on and if he was even there.”

Sidney and Shaefer were given the ultimate gift this Christmas season, and that was to see their father after a year of separation. 

While the holiday season will be filled with joy and family for the Peterson this year, other families across the country will have an empty seat at the table.  In Vera Brittain’s memoir, Testament of Youth, she tells her story about  the her experience with losing Roland on Christmas day.  Expecting to see Roland and spend Christmas day with him, she was torn when she heard news of his death.  She explains this phone call when she writes,

“I dashed joyously into the corridor.  But the message was not from Roland but from Clare;  it was not to say that he had arrived home that morning, but to tell me that he had died of wounds at a Casualty Clearing Station on December 23rd” (236).

Roland died two days before Christmas, and while Roland lie dead, Brittain waited for that phone telling of his return.

I think that Vera Brittain’s story and the Peterson’s story can be seen similarly.  While the outcome was completely different, they both struggled and wished for the same things, and that was to have their soldier home for Christmas.  With the holiday season approaching and reminders of Christmas everywhere, I can’t help but empathize with the families of soldiers.  What is meant to be a celebration or family and love, is  instead a reminder of pain and longing for many families across America.  Some of these families have a soldier fighting overseas while others lost a soldier in combat.  Whatever the case may be, their soliders’ are not home for the holidays.  Too often society gets caught up in the excitement and stimulation of the holiday season.  Still, it is important to remember the soldiers in families who are separated during this time.  While cases like the Peterson’s are heartwarming and joyful, they are rare, and there are more soldiers separated then reunited.  Therefore, just continue to remember the hearts  and minds of the soldiers and families who are not together this time of year.  Their sacrifice cannot go unnoticed.  

“Soldiers Return to Nothwoods”

By:  Elizabeth Fay

no date

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How Times have changed

November 14, 2009 at 11:40 pm (Uncategorized)

Women played a crucial part in war efforts throughout histoey.  As wives and mothers, they offered moral support to the men in their lives.  At the same time, in cases like WWII, the majority of the work force was made up of women while their  husbands were away at war.  While women played a large role in every war ranging from WWI to Vietnam, they never held the title of a soldier.  For American women, the Iraqi war was the first war that they were allowed to fight.  This holds the same truth for Iraqi women.  A recent article form the New York Times talks about the emergence of women into the armed forces in Iraq.  The article states,

“As one, the stony faces broke into a free-for-all of kisses, hugs and tears on Monday as the 50 women who called themselves the Lioness group became the first female graduates of Iraq’s  police officer training academy.”

The article goes on to state,

“The job of officer in the national police force is among the highest paying available in Iraq, but also one of the most dangerous; officers and trainees are favorite targets of insurgents.”

It is just not in America that women are fighting as soldiers.  Over the past 100 years, the roles of women in the army have drastically changed.  Women have gone from supporting soldiers from home to fighting right beside their brothers, husbands, and sons. 

As I read through this article about Iraqi women and their presence in the military, I thought back to some of the women that I’ve read about in my Literature of war and peace class.  Specifically, I throught back to these women and their roles in various wars.  The first women that I thought about was Vera Brittain.  In  her memoir, Testament of Youth, she describes her role as a nurse during WWI.  Along with Vera Brittain, in the from of letters, women express their jobs during World War II in the book, Since you Went Away.  Specifically, a woman named Polly form Pensacola states,

“You are now the Husband of a career woman– just call be your little ship yard babe” (147).

After reading several accounts from women’s experiences in past wars, and listening to current stories about women soldiers, it is easy to see how the roles of women in the military have changed over time.  Still, I would like to take this topic a step further, and question, how does womens’  involvement in war effect families waiting at home?  What if both parents are fighting overseas?  What effect does this have on children?  Or, throughout history we have read and heard about how women dealt with their husbands fighting overseas, is this experience the same for men?  I think that it is great that women are involved if armed forces.  To be a good soldier is not determined by gender, but instead by personal strength.  Still, I think that with women  and men fighting overseas, families are effected differently.  I just don’t know how yet, and I don’t think that anyone else knows either This is a new thing for American’s and other countries alike, and I think it will be interested to see how women’s direct involvement in the war changes how the war impacts soldier’s families. 

 Women Ascend to Iraq’s Elite Police Officer Corps

By:  John Leland

9, November, 2009

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One Last Memory

November 5, 2009 at 2:22 am (Uncategorized)

Currently, in my Literature of War and Peace class, I am reading several letters written by wives and children of  WWII soldiers.  It amazes me the power that a letter can hold.  Whether the letter is a simple recollection of the day, or is a documentation of love and passion, it contains symbolic meaning, personality, and truth.  Specifically, after searching through my google news feeds, I came across an NPR podcast that talks about the significance of a soldier’s last letter home.  The podcast goes on to interview a man named Bill Couturié.  Mr. Couturie created a film from a collection of letters written by soldiers fighting in Afghanistan.  Specifically, the film exposes viewers to these soldeirs’ final letters and the families’ reaction to them.  When asked to explain why he chose to create this film, Couturie states,

“I have a soft spot in my heart for letters and I feel the pain from this war is not being felt in this country.”

He goes on to explain that Americans distance themselves from the war, and unless they are directly connected, they don’t concern themselves with it.  Therefore, Bill attempts to portray this emotion from the last letters written by American soldiers.  He does not send a political message or preach to his audience, Couturie simply has family members read the letters, and lets the soldiers tell the story.

As I listened to this NPR podcast I was moved by the purpose and reality of the stories.  At the same time, I found myself comparing the letters read in the podcast with the letters from a book I am reading entitled, Since you Went Away.  Since you Went Away is a collection of letters written during WWII.  Particularly, I think that the letters written by Natalie Mirenda to her husband, compliments this NPR podcast.  Throughout Natalie’s letters there is a consistent tone of urgency and fear.  It is almost as if she knows that something is wrong and that her husband is in trouble.  With each letter that she writes him, her desperation increases.  In one of her final letters to her husband she writes,

“Oh, Frank take care of yourself.  You know you catch cold easily.  Take care of yourself also as we need you home so much……..”(247)

Frank never made it home. 

It as almost as if soldiers and their families have a nasty sense about when things are going bad.  This is illustrated through the desperate tones in letters from family members, or sometimes through “open just in case” letters that soldiers send home.  To imagine having to write a final letter saying everything that I feel and think is sickening.  It’s almost as if these soldiers are summing up their lives, declaring their love, and helping their families face the future, in a two page letter.  On the flip side, family members, who try to keep negativity quieted, are faced with the challenge of writing a letter knowing that it might be the last time they communicate.  Still, a letter is all they have. 

The more I blog about military families, and the more stories that I read, the more emotional I become.  Before I took this class I was one of the millions of Americans who knew about the war but felt disconnected from it.  Now after reading blogs, keeping up on current events, and listening to these last letters, I am personally involved.  While I do not know the pain that these families feel, I know one thing is certain, it is not easy. To imagine reading that last letter, knowing that was the last memory, the last moment of communication, and the last feeling of hope, is enough to make me appreciate and salute the families of American soldiers.

“Families Share Soldiers ‘Last Letters Home'”

By:  Michele Morris

1, November, 2004

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Fast forwarding Through Life

October 28, 2009 at 5:53 pm (Uncategorized)

In life, there remains nothing more selfless, romantic, or compelling than the commitment of marriage.  The promise to love someone, no matter what situation, and support that person through thick and thin, holds virtue and unconditional love.  Therefore, upon saying the two words “I do”, two people in a sense become part of one another.  Thus, one may argue that marriage is one of the most important decisions that a person must make throughout his or her lifetime.  With that in mind, imagine for a second having to make that decision in 90 minutes.

As I searched through my google reader feeds, I came across and article entitled “They do— In a Hurry.”  The article told the story of a young couple engaged to be married.  While the couple was engaged, they had yet to set a date for their wedding.  That was until Cory (the soon to be husband) got news of his deployment.  With no exaggeration, Cory and Brittney had to decide that day, if that wanted to get married before Cory was deployed  For both practical and romantic reasons, the couple married.  With a baby on the way, and deployment just around the corner, Cory fears that he will not be around for the birth of his child.  He states,

“My deployment comes really close to her due date,” he said. I may miss it. I may have to hear about it from a phone call.”

Speedy weddings, like Cory’s and Brittney’s wedding, are common for military couples.  In Vera Brittain’s memoir, Testament of Youth, she writes about couples hurrying to get married before deployment.  She writes,

“One or two Buxton girls were hurriedly married to officers summoned to unknown destinations” (96).

The truth of the matter is, that no matter what time period, whether WWI in which Brittain writes, or the current story of Brittney and Cory, war generates hurried marriages and forces people to fast forward through their lives.

As I read and thought about both of these accounts, I tried to but myself in the minds of these men and women.  I imagined myself engaged to the man I loved, but expecting a long engagement.  But then, due to deployment, I am forced with the decision of whether or not to have a hurried marriage.  Then I asked myself, how would I feel in a situation like this?  Overwhelmed by the countless emotions that crossed my mind, I think I would feel incomplete and worried.  For one, the wedding, something most girls dream about all their lives, is rushed.  At the same time, because I expected a long engagment, I don’t think I would be emotionally prepared.  While a commitment was made, not concrete plans were set.  It is almost as if these men and women are hurrying their lives along, with no other choice.  Their lack of control and sudden decision may effect thier emotions.  Along with the consequecne of rushing life, I’m sure these women are overwhelmed with worry.  Their new husbands are deployed soon after the wedding and their future is unknown.  What should be the beginning of a life together could possible be the end.  To carry that idea and worry with each passing day is torture.  Still, it happens.  Deployment and marriage correlate with each other and couples live wondering if it is the beginning or the end.

They do— In a Hurry

By: Daniel Barlow

18, October, 2009

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October 28, 2009 at 4:56 pm (Uncategorized)

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The truth behind a smile

October 15, 2009 at 12:13 am (Uncategorized)

Typically, when people discuss war and fighting, little attention is given to the children and families living within the war zone.  Often times, American’s fail to recognize the struggles that these people go through and the compromises that they make.  Just imagine raising and supporting a family in the midst of violence.  At the same time, sometimes, fathers and brothers are not around because they are fighting.  As I read the article Children in a War Zone, this issue became more apparent to me.  The article argues that life for children living in the middle of war and conflict is not all that bad.  The article states,

“Using a combination of verbal and nonverbal communication, many times Soldiers are able to interact with the children, and both the Soldiers and children walk away with a friendly smile.

‘I do not believe these kids know any different environment to live in.  They have been brought up hearing the explosions, gun fire and emergency service sirens,’ said Taulman.”

The article argues that children living in the war zone are not dramatically effected by the violence in their community.  Having grown up in a war zone, these children see war as a normal part of their lives.

I think this is a very radical statement to make.  As I read this article I thought back to a Holocaust documentary by Alfred Hitchcock.  At the beginning of the documentary, Hitchcock shows men, women, and children at the concentration camp smiling and waving.  When looking at this image one may infer that these people were well taken care of and content with their situation.  Well, most people know better than this.  Despite what this one image portrays, life in the concentration camps were horrible beyond explanation.  Just because on the the surface things seemed fine, did not mean that they actually were.

This video ties back to the article about children living in the war zone.  The article infers that despite the violence children are happy and excited that American soldiers are there.  I mean they are always smiling so they must be happy… right?  With all due respect, I feel the need to challenge this idea.  Just think about it.  These children live in a community where war and violence consume their homes and neighborhoods.  To hear gun fires and bombs while in school or eating dinner is nothing unusual.  At the same time, their fathers and brothers are away fighting in this violence.  They see first hand the enviroment that they family members are fighting in.  Therefore, to suggest that these children are happy and content with the violence in their community is absurd.  Just like in the Holocaust video, a smile does not always mean a smile.  To understand this means to understand what happens behind the scenes.  Therefore, despite what is shown on the surface, there is nothing comforting about having war in ones backyard.

Children in a War Zone

by: Stg Liesl Marelli

14, October, 2009

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Emptiness, Lonliness, Pain…………Depolyment

October 7, 2009 at 11:44 pm (Uncategorized)

While the families of soldiers face many struggles when their loved ones fight overseas, I can’t help but imagine the pain that developes on the day of deployment.  To physically let go of that loved one invites extreme pain and helplessness.  Fortunetley, military officials and personal recognize the sacrifice the soldiers’ families make by letting go.  Specifically, in Texas, the national guard and families of soldiers came together for a send off ceremony.  The wives and children of soldiers watched as their husbands and fathers stepped on a plane that would separate them for the next 6 months to a year.  A commander explains his appreciation for these families whe he states,

“Saturday’s event was about recognizing the families and community members that support them.”

The article goes on to explain,

“There was particular praise for the Family Readiness Group, which helps soldiers’ spouses cope with deployment issues. ‘If they’re having a rough time emotionally we go and help. The other day I ended up going to help a lady pack up her house. It’s just simple little things that make a huge difference.'”

The commander, along with many others believe that this Family Readiness Group makes deployment easier for the soldiers and their families. 

While I read this article, I began thinking about a play that I read in my Literature of War and Peace class. The play is called The Ghosts May Laugh.  At the very beginning of Act II, the character Jones describes the day that he departed for the war.  He illustrates the separation between him and his wife when he states,

“It was only as we were heading out of the gate and over a small hill that she broke, and began running towards us, trying to catch up. She stumbled and fell over, I saw it but I couldn’t do anything” (50)

This small quote creates vivid illustration about the helplessness that many soldiers’ families may feel when their loves one gets deploy.  On top of that, I can’t even imagine the pain that Jones felt watching his wife fall to the ground and not being there to help her.  A distance was created between the two and it was out of their control. 

Therefore, when I read this article I began to apply this scenario to soldiers today.  No matter what war, no matter what time period, the feeling remains the same.  It is a feeling of helplessness, loss of control, and emptiness.  Therefore, it comforted me to read that there are organizations available to help families during the time of deployment.  I have no doubt they are helpful and offer a support network for soldiers’ families.  And while this is true, there still lingers a pain that no person or support group can cut through.  Like I’ve said numerous times before, these families make a sacrifice to their country beyond understanding, and it is the job of citizens to support them through this time of separation.

Families Honor Troops in Send-Off Ceremony

News 8 Austin Staff

4, October, 2009

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A longing for Human Contact

September 30, 2009 at 11:27 pm (Uncategorized)

Communication between soldiers and their families continues to change and evolve as time goes on.  Before the 21st century, letters remained the only way to communicate with a loved one fighting overseas.  Now, thanks to the internet, families and friends communicate with their loved ones daily through e-mail exchange.  Stephanie, the wife of a soldier fighting overseas, explains this luxury in her blog.  She writes,

“DH finally made it to his final destination and it looks like he will have reasonably good internet access, which helps immensely. I hoped and wished for connectivity like this during the last two deployments and it never happened, even when it was possible for others around him. When I had convinced myself that we weren’t going to have it, didn’t need it, would be fine without it, he drops it in my lap. My cheeks hurt from grinning after that conversation.”

Unlike WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and many other wars, Stephanie talks to her husband on a daily basis through the internet.  In less than ten minutes she can write a letter, send it, and her husband can read it.

As I read Stephanie’s blog I immediately thought back to the story Trestament of Youth, by: Vera Brittain.  Unlike Stephanie and her husband, Vera ‘s and Roland’s communication was very limited.  They usually communicated through letters which took a great deal of time to be sent.  In fact, Vera writes about how much they cherished these letters and their limited amount of communication when she states,

“And then somehow, we found ourselves suddenly admitting that each has kept the others’ letters right from the beginning.”

Communication between Vera and Roland was so rare that they held on to these letters as a reminder of each other.

While soldier’s families today have the opportunity to talk to their loved ones overseas more frequently, I still believe that an unbearable division lies between them and their soldier.  Sure, through internet, families talk to soldiers on a weekly or sometimes daily basis, but  true human to human connection lacks.  Stephanie states this beautifully in her blog when she writes,

“One of the things I find myself missing most right now is simple human contact.”

I honestly believe this one line sums up the sense of longing and loneliness that many family members feel when their soldier fights overseas.  Although e-mail exchanges and sometimes even letters close some distance between a soldier and his/her family, the significance of and desire for human contact cannot be portrayed through and e-mail exchange.  Therefore, I think that it is important for people to always have this in the back of their mind.  No matter how often soldiers can communicate back home with their families, putting distance between them remains an almost unbearable sacrifice.  Thus, when we watch the news and give honor to our troops, don’t forget to give a silent thanks for the families of each soldier waiting at home for thier loved one to return.

Stephanie

“Two Down”

28, August, 2009

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An all too Rare Welcome Home

September 24, 2009 at 12:09 am (Uncategorized)

As I searched through different articles on my RSS feed about military families, several compelling and interesting articles showed up.  While I scrolled through a diverse group of articles, every so often I came across articles such as “Soldiers Return”, or “Families Welcome Home soldiers”.  These articles immediately caught my attention.  Specifically an article entitled “Families Welcoming Home Troops”, stood out to me.

While short in length, and lacking descripiton, this article indiscreetly explains the joy that comes with a soldier returning home.  Specifically, this article talks about the return of soldiers from Afghanistan.  The article states,

“The 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, flew back to Wiltshire last night after a six-month deployment during the conflict’s ‘bloodiest summer.'”

Along with this list of returning troops, the article lists additional soldiers that were welcomed home by their families and friends.  While these soldiers fought during one of the most dangerous tours, they have returned home and spend time with their friends and familly once again.

While reading this article, I thought to myself, “What a nice and compelling ending for these people.”  So often the tabloids in the news are very negative and the positive is rarely portrayed.  We constantly hear of soldiers dying and rarely hear of troops returning home.  And, once this thought crossed my mind I knew there was no going back. I immediatley switched from optimism to pessimism, or shall a say reality.  Too often, this dramatic welcoming and joyis occasions does not occur for soldiers and their families.  Instead of opening the door to their loved ones, families see a man in uniform at their door to deliver the news. 

 I am still reading the book Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain, and the more I read this article the more I reflect on the death of her love, Roland.  Expecting a phone call from Roland declaring that he is home to see her, she instead gets a call from his sister saying that Roland is dead.  In reaction to this devastating news, Brittain states,

“Like a slaughtered animal that still twists after life has been extinguished, I go on mechanically worrying because his channel-crossing must have been so rough”(239.).

Through this one line, the reader is able to pick up Vera’s depression and agony.  And, I don’t think that it would be far fetched to suggest that Vera is not alone in these feelings.  Anyone who has lost someone in battle has this feeling of emptiness.  Just imagine, a person that you love so much you would give your life for, going off to war and never returning.  Unfortunetaley this is an all too common story.  And, while some people rejoice in the return of their loved ones from war, some people never have that opportunity.  Instead, their last memory is a phone call or uniformed man at the door telling them their loved one has died.

“Families Welcome Returning Troops”

By:  James Woodward

21, September 2009

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