Why Does Getting Out Feel Like Quitting?

family waving goodbye to an airplane
(Tim Koster/DVIDS)

I think I'm a strong person. I'm an Army wife, after all, with a backbone forged in the fire of deployment, separations, solo birth and dramatic emotional burdens. That makes me strong, right? I don't give up. I don't give in. I push through when it's hard.

I am not a quitter.

Why does thinking about getting out of the military make me feel like a quitter?

My husband meant the military to be a career sort of thing. You get in, you do the hard work, you make the sacrifices and you stay in, stay giving until they simply won't let you anymore.

That's what the brave people do, I convinced myself. Even if it's stupid hard. Even if it rips your heart to shreds, destroys both you and your service member's mental and emotional health and tears apart your family, you don't get out. Getting out is for quitters. You do not quit.

Instead, you defend the lifestyle until you have nothing left with which to defend it. You say that you love it (and you do ... maybe). You convince yourself that you adore all the moves, love making new friends, live for the thrill of homecoming.

But I have started asking myself a new question: what if choosing to get out is brave in a way, too? What if, for us, continuing to serve is the coward's choice because we are making it out of fear? What if there is another option?

All of my married life has been spent in the military. All of my husband's adult life has been spent working for Uncle Sam. And although the trade-off is gut-wrenching stress, the consistency of the military is comforting in a way. Perhaps I've developed military life Stockholm syndrome -- I defend my captor because the other option is mental misery. "Bloom where you are planted" and all that.

I want to be a person who lives life bravely, who does things because the fact that they are a little hard makes them awesome. I want to look at my family and ask "is the military the right thing for us?" without feeling like the answer has to be "yes" because "no" isn't an option.

And more than anything I want to know that choosing a path other than military life doesn't mean I'm throwing in the towel halfway through the game.

Can getting out of the military be a choice for the brave and not a decision made by quitters? Can we pick a different life without wondering whether or not we are choosing a lesser one?

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