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Why Black Friday Behavior At The Commissary?

Since the government shutdown began this month, my Facebook feed has been flooded with cheap dinner ideas and news of big box stores offering deals to the military.

I heard horrific accounts of the scene at our local commissary when it opened to sell off perishable items in light of the unknown end to its closure. Our own community members were stealing carts from each other, re-enacting scenes from Black Friday sales gone bad, and truly on an every-man-for-himself-type mission ... to buy groceries.

We have been stationed in Hawaii. I understand the outrageous cost of a gallon of milk on the island. What I don’t get is how we can become so fixated on one minor inconvenience we forget to be grateful that our service members are still going to work and receiving paychecks.

Why are we acting like this? Is it (a.) we are so individualistic we forget others are in worse predicaments (such as the federal employees not going to work, not being paid and not being offered deals and discounts)?

Is it (b.) we have a sense of entitlement?

Or, is it (c.) we often become so comfortable with the military way of life we are more dependent on certain aspects of it than we realize?

I choose (c.). Servicemembers and their families are some of the most generous people ever. They have dedicated their lives to defending our country. I don’t know anyone within the military community who expects special treatment or privileges because of military affiliation; however, I do know that I have been guilty of (c.).

Our last assignment was unique. My husband was the only active duty service member on the base. In addition to having no soldiers, there was no commissary, no PX, no post gas station, no clinic providing family care, no Tricare office, well, you get it.

We weren’t just living off post with a full-service post and many other military friends nearby. We were fish out of water; otherwise know as military folks in the civilian world.

I realized that many of our benefits were things I took for granted. I believed I was independent and adventurous but realized I WAS dependent on certain comforts and lived in a bit of a bubble.

Choose a doctor? We’ve always been assigned a primary care manager.

Do the bulk of my grocery shoppingwhere? Any grocery shopping outside of the commissary was for novelty items or due to sheer desperation (What? It’s 9:30pm and we have snack duty for the 9:00am soccer game, TOMORROW?!?!)

We initially missed the instant camaraderie in the civilian community. There were no meals on our doorstep and play dates for our kids before even crossing the threshold of our new home.

However, those did come and with them came friendships, bonds and support as strong as any military community of which we’ve been privileged to be a part.

Our friends were 100 percent civilian, unless you count the one who grew up as a Navy brat. It was a great life lesson for us all. They learned that constant change and a seemingly unstable life are not just okay but actually exciting and fulfilling. We all learned that many military versus civilian stereotypes are unjustified, and my family learned that the military takes really good care of us.

Many of our friends were self-employed. The cost of insurance, high co-pays and vulnerability of their income due to the economy was shocking. They were in awe of Tricare covering our son’s tonsillectomy IN FULL down to the $12.00 office visit charge. Better yet, we were covered IN FULL for emergency and acute care visits. I soon got over my menial woes of having to compare grocery stores to figure out what would replace the commissary.

Civilians play Bunco, have bonfires, and help raise each other’s kids. They even “Boo” each other for Halloween! Let’s remember not to shut ourselves off from the “civilian world” but to embrace it just as it has embraced us over the past decade.

Mona Dexter is an Army spouse of 19 years and a mom of 3 boys. She has a background in higher education student affairs and instruction and community service focusing on volunteer coordination, fundraising and event planning. She currently resides in the Richmond, VA area. 

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