I just received an email from a civilian in response to my post below. I started to simply update the post, but then decided it would be best to devote an entire post to this email. I also thought I would get this post up now in case other civilians are reading, and have the same questions/concerns (sorry to hog the blog today).
Mrs. X had questions, and I assured her you would have answers. With the permission of Mrs. X, I'm publishing her email.
I am not a Military Wife, but I do read the SpouseBuzz blog. I am involved in Soldiers Angels, anysoldier.com etc in my support of the soldiers at war.
I tell you all of that b/c I do not want to be confused with the woman that emailed you after your "Wacky Civilians" post. I am sincere in asking my questions. Not being sarcastic or flippant in the least.
What is the best way for a civilian to respond to a military family? We have quite a few military families in our church. 2 men just returned from a 15 month deployment in Iraq . I know I have been guilty of saying to the wives that I don't know how they do it b/c I go crazy when my hubby is gone for a few days. However, I did say that I admire and respect them too. Now, I wonder if that is the wrong thing to say (not the admire and respect part, I'm sure they are okay, if not a little embarrassed with that).
Honestly, I just want to express my respect for their family and what they do for this country without offending them in some way. It feels like a tightrope and I guess what one woman would like hearing another wouldn't. But there has to be some things I can say that would be basically appropriate for most! LOL
It's like when my sister went through fertility issues. No matter what I said it was wrong~mostly b/c I am as fertile as a rabbit. She just wanted me to shut up and listen.
So, am I making any sense here? LOL I guess my main question is: what is the best thing to say/do when dealing with military families to express my support and respect?
I loved this email. First of all, I assured Mrs. X that nine times out of ten, military spouses will not take offense to civilians who engage us, no matter what they say (within reason). Even when they say, "I could never do what you do," we know better. We know that most of them could -- and would -- be able to function. After all, most of us were civilians before we were military spouses.
I was reminded of the time that I said something to a foreigner, something which was completely innocent, but later I learned it was a cultural no-no in his culture. He was gracious and didn't miss a step, and I'm sure he understood my intention wasn't to offend. Of course, later that evening, he belched loudly right in the middle of dinner. Something I wouldn't have done, but something that is a compliment to the chef elsewhere. I still laugh about that, and I'm sure he still laughs about my comment. So you see, there's nothing wrong with laughing about these things. It's all in good, not malicious, humor. Where would we be without humor?
I hope that civilians like Mrs. X aren't afraid to approach military families for fear of offending. The examples we've touched on here at SpouseBUZZ are humorous, and rare, and many times, we see the benefit to being asked questions. It gives us a chance to educate civilians about what our lives are really like, and that's an opportunity I love to take advantage of.
I suggested two things to Mrs. X. First, I suggested that she and her church plan a special function or dinner for the military families in their church. It's always lovely to have people go out of their way to thank us. I also told her that telling military families how much they are admired, along with a simple thank you, can go a long, long way. And, there is nothing wrong with saying, "I couldn't do what you do." I doubt most people would take that the wrong way. The point in my post was that rarely does anyone say they would want to trade lives with me, they usually just focus on the bitter part of this bittersweet life, but it's nice to hear someone go for the sweet part.
Mrs. X made my day - she cares about us.
So, what advice would you give Mrs. X on how she can best show her appreciation for military families?