I Admit It: I Was an Ignorant Civilian


It’s no secret that I love the movies. And up until a few weeks ago, on the list of movies I loved was Black Hawk. Down.

It was the first time I had watched it as a military spouse with a few deployment cycles under my belt. As a civilian, when I watched that movie I felt an immense sense of pride for our military. My best friend (now husband) was a soldier and he was a good guy that I’d known since childhood.

So I felt I could relate pretty well as a civilian to his military life.

I was in awe of what these soldiers overcame in the movie. It made me feel good and safe and proud to be an American. As a creative non-fiction writer, I appreciated the details of this true story, the great dialogue, the emotional arch of it, the character development, and the horizontal and vertical plot (as my graduate professor and mentor, Sue William Silverman, would say).

But then I walked away from this “entertaining tale” and forgot all about how it made me feel and what I saw. It became a distant memory and I only remembered that it was good and had a great plot.

Alas, I was a stupid, ignorant civilian.

Minutes into watching the movie as a military spouse however, my stomach was twisted up in knots. My pulse was racing and I was really uncomfortable. I couldn’t place the weird sensation and it grew harder to watch the movie. Less than an hour into it, I grew physically ill (unbeknown to my husband who was also watching it). I faked needing a restroom break.  I realized watching it as a MilSpouse was harder because my husband served in these wars and it could have been him. How did I not see this when he was just my-best-friend-who-was-a-soldier-fighting-in-a-distant-war?

When I returned from the bathroom, his face was tense. Turns out he had not only worked (in other capacities) with the deceased soldiers portrayed in the movie, but he knew them by name and rank, and knew others who knew and had worked with them, as well. Tears streamed down my face as he spoke about them and his experience (well, at least what he could tell me about it). It seemed as if the air grew thinner in the living room. This was real, too real and too close to home. He was so somber.

By the end of the movie, I remembered a few things: why I didn’t watch war movies while he was deployed, and how fortunate I was to have him home, safe and sound. Some indeed gave all so others like him could survive. The family and friends of these brave soldiers paid the ultimate price. And every day, they are faced with that knowledge and live a new reality without their loved one.

How could I be so clueless? This wasn’t a damn movie, this was someone’s life.

This was the life of another MilSpouse, someone else in my community that is as brave and courageous and admirable as his or her servicemember. The pain and fear, joy and sorrow of each deployment? These MilSpouses felt it too. How different the movie seemed now through the eyes of someone who knows military life intimately.

Needless to say, I can’t watch it anymore.

But I realized one more thing, too.

I’m so grateful and want to say "thank you."

Thank you to all the military spouses out there who gave up their husbands and wives for our freedom, for my freedom, for the freedom of my child; thank you for showing us how to live in a different, new way with those who has passed; thank you for showing me how to put one foot in front of the other and move forward with life after tragedy.

Thank you for reminding me to be proud, that I love and am loved by an amazing individual who fights a fight many are not willing to stand up for. Thank you for writing about your experiences, for helping to shape military legislation, for being my voice. Thank you for your service at home -- during peace and in combat.

I honor you with this open letter -- whomever and wherever you are, I hold you in the highest esteem. And, I apologize. I apologize for taking you for granted and liking this “story” that has been your life.

I dedicate this space to you. To all of the wives, husbands, children, families and friends of the fallen, thank you. Again. And again.


An enlightened MilSpouse

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