Army Life

March 18, 2009 at 8:43 AM 6 comments

Warning Long Post:

Like the rest of the United States, I always knew that members of the Armed Forces and their families made sacrifices to serve their country, but I didn’t realize the extent of what that meant until I lived it.

In terms of sacrifice, of course giving up one’s life on behalf of others is at the top of the list. It is the ultimate selfless act, and to those families who face that loss: Thank You. We Love You. We’ll pray for you.

But sacrifice in the military goes far beyond death on the battlefield… One of the challenges that Sarah and I have not had to face is that of a deployment. A single 12-month deployment is a lot to place on a family. It requires great stamina, commitment and dedication to keep a family together when dad or mom (or even both in some cases) have to go away for a year. I have seen families torn apart. I have seen marriages fall to pieces. Now multiply that times four or five. That is what many of us face… spending 4 out of our children’s first 7 years away. This is not what a family is meant to be.

Don’t stop there, consider that families are forced to pick up and move every 2 to 4 years. Children know no stability. Adults and children alike have no long term friends. You can’t live the American dream, settle down, buy a house, and raise a family. The military dictates where you will live, when you will live there, how long you will stay, and sometimes even the exact house or apartment you will live in. “But rent is free,” you might say. You are correct in that we don’t pay a monthly rent check, but we most certainly pay for it in other ways.

Now many people might think that being stationed overseas is a treat. You may think living in a location like Germany, the UK, Japan, or Korea is a blessing. People say things like “oh you are so lucky to be in Europe,” but many also don’t realize everything that means. Next time you hop in the car and drive to a friends house or to see your family remember that for those service-members stationed overseas, the trip to a friends house is 15 hours and the military decides when you can go. Now imagine not being near your friends and or family for 4 years.Next time you stop at your favorite restaurant, remember that for a service-member stationed overseas, we get a taste of home only once or twice a year. The conveniences of home just aren’t available to those of us stationed outside the US.  Not so much of a vacation.

Now imagine you are at work and your boss comes up and says I need you to go on a business trip for a week. You say, “I’m sorry but I can’t. My wife will be giving birth to our first child.” If he is reasonable, he tells you that he will find someone else to go or he will reschedule the trip. In the military they say “you have to go to the field next week for training.” You say, “I’m sorry but I can’t. My wife will be giving birth to our first child.” They say “too bad, you have to go or you can go to jail instead.” Members of the military don’t control their own lives. The military controls your life.

This is in no way meant to be taken as me whining about being in the military. I signed up, I have to deal with it. But, I wanted people to understand that just because we live in Europe, we are not on vacation. The military is hard, so hard that during the first three months of this year there were more suicides in the ranks than combat deaths. That’s not because the number of crazy people in the military is higher than that of the normal populace. Its because military leadership pushes hard. They push families in the military to the limit and often times beyond.

For Sarah and I we are doing our best to push through the tough stuff and look at the bright side of things but it is often overwhelming. The idea that we have a little over two years left is daunting right now. I look back and think about when I left Texas and it seems like so long ago, and now we have to do that length of time all over again.

The reason for writing all this was not to get you to feel sorry for us. We don’t intend this to be a request for pity. And, we don’t intend it to be a request for gratitude. We just want people to know what we are going through. The one thing that is a pet peeve though, is when people say “oh you must be having the the time of your life!” Nope… just having life. I work 5 days a week if not more. Traveling is EXPENSIVE over here. For Sarah and I to go away for the weekend is usually at least $1000… Stupid Euro exchange rate.

This turned into a much longer rant than I intended it to be, but I just really wanted people to know about life for us. Things aren’t always bad. There are certainly a lot of great things about our lives, but I wanted to take a moment to shine a light on the parts of our lives most people don’t get to see and that we don’t often talk about publicly. Maybe now you know us a little better.name

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Entry filed under: Our Goings On, Thoughts. Tags: , , , , , .

I Forgot the Words Y’all The Field

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Catherine  |  March 18, 2009 at 1:28 PM

    I’m sorry you guys are having a hard time. Being a way from home is hard, to say the least, and looking at how much further you have to go is daunting. We have 37 months to go. I know we are just accross the nation and not accross the world, but I think we have a small taste of what you are going through and it tastes bad. 🙂 The point you make about the military is exactly what Louie shared with you when you were thinking about signing. He said he is eternally greatful for the military but that it was not for him because you immediately sign over control of your own life. Ironically, we are now in a position where Louie is working 100+ hours a week, spending the night at the hospital every weekend and comes home only to eat and sleep. When we have our child, he is given a total of two days off. Fun! So we don’t really have control over our lives right now either. BUT, we chose this and we are committed so, we will give it our all and continue to count down the months… just like you guys. 🙂
    We love you both and support you and I think everyone is looking forward to the big “reunion” back in Texas. Can’t wait!!
    Love you,
    Catherine

    Reply
    • 2. jfowens  |  March 18, 2009 at 1:57 PM

      Thanks Sis. We really miss you guys too. Someday we will all be back home. We’ll have to start a babysitting co-op. If once a month we agree to have all the siblings kids over we could each get a date-night in almost once a week. (This is of course assuming that we all live in the same town and we all eventually have kids.) 🙂

      Reply
  • 3. Catherine  |  March 18, 2009 at 1:32 PM

    I guess I shouldn’t post comments first thing in the morning. Please forgive my spelling errors. I meant “across” not “accross” and “grateful” not “greatful.” Ughhhh! Don’t worry, I teach third grade. I only hold tomorrow’s leaders in my hands. Hmmmmm.

    Reply
    • 4. jfowens  |  March 18, 2009 at 2:00 PM

      I don’t think your class will be tomorrow’s leaders… KIDDING! 🙂 Love you!

      Reply
  • 5. purejoy  |  March 18, 2009 at 1:40 PM

    thanks john, for your (and many like you) sacrifice for our country. i think because the current government and the media are not big fans of the military (and i am so not sure what that is all about!) so the american people don’t get a chance to see the military in action, especially beyond what is going on in afghanistan or iraq. you bring the military’s sacrifices into light, and help us understand how y’all are real people, living real lives, just oftentimes not on your own terms.
    i wish you the best while you are over there in germany, making the sacrifices to keep us safe.
    we are at war, and yet you see nothing here about supporting our troops. pfsh! what in the world??

    Reply
    • 6. jfowens  |  March 18, 2009 at 1:58 PM

      You’re welcome. We appreciate the support. Not living life on your own terms is one of the biggest sacrifices that people don’t understand so thanks for recognizing that.

      Reply

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