Not the Same

Memes like this are everywhere on my FB feed right now, comparing the separation of immigrant children from their parents at our borders to families being separated due to military service.

I’m not really going to talk about what’s happening at the border. I’m not. It’s a horrible, inhumane thing and there has got to be a better way.

No. What I want to talk is this meme and the others like it I’ve seen on FB this past week. Do you how many friends and even family I’ve been tempted to block because of these memes?

Seriously. It’s very eye-opening to see how truly ignorant people I thought to intelligent actually are. At least as far as military families are concerned.

I’ll start by clarifying – my husband retired after twenty years in the US Navy back in 2014. As a family, we were stationed in Italy, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia.

On his own, he went to Guam, Peurto Rico, Bahrain, Kuwait, and four tours to Afghanistan.

Four. In the space of eight years. One of which he was barely home long enough to unpack and reacclimate to life with us before they shipped him off again.

I feel I can say this with some authority on the basis of experience…

What’s happening at the US southern border is NOT the same as what a military family goes through.

It’s not.

There may be similarities because parents and kids are being separated, but that’s where the similarities end.

Not further comparison. Not one.

First of all, the military family knows this will happen. Their parents (or kids) aren’t being ripped from their arms. Often, they have advanced warning of separations. Deployments have scheduled dates, which yes, may be moved up or pushed back, but you still have time to be prepared to say your good-byes. You still have time to make sure everything is in order. You also have a general idea, most of the time, when the deployment is ending. When you can, if God willing your military man/woman doesn’t get killed, expect their return. Something to plan for.

These kids at the border? Aren’t getting any such assurances. No one told them that big, scary strangers were going to drag their parents off or put them in cages. No one is telling them when or how they can see their parents again. They’re frightened and have no comfort.

But the separated military family does. Yes, they are afraid for their deployed parent, but they have the hope, the belief, that all will be well. And when they fear, when worries get the best of them, the military offers supposed groups and therapy to help them through it.

I know, because I’ve been there.

Secondly – when you chose to join the military, deployment and separation are facts of Life. Expected. You get married fully knowing your Navy guy (or Army, or Air Force, or Marine) is going to ship out sooner or later. Maybe you get to go with them like I did when we were in Italy, but a lot of the time, you don’t. You get used to it, after a while. Yes, you miss them. Yes, it would be better if they were home, but you learn to do things on your own, so you tell them over FaceTime that you fixed the sink by yourself or planted the entire garden… Just to see the pride in their eyes because you were handling things. Because while you’re worrying about them, they’re also worrying about you and how things are holding up (or falling apart) at home. And they want to see that you’re holding up, not falling apart.

I used to say to my kids, it’s us against the world. Because Daddy was gone and it was. Through four back to back deployments in Afghanistan.

But we never complained because it was something he chose as his career, something I knew when I married him could happen. Something his children knew was a part of “Daddy’s work.”

These families at the border? This is NOT a part of their work. They didn’t choose this. No one is supporting them through this.

It’s NOT the same.

Because those kids are alone and no one is FaceTiming them to tell them how proud they are and “we’ll be back soon.”

It’s not the same.

Thirdly, or maybe this is still a part of #2, but — no one is forcing the military member.

Sorry, but they’re not. No one took them off the streets on their eighteenth birthday and dragged them into a recruiting office and held a gun to their heads with the threat of “join or die.”

They signed up for many reasons, usually their own personal ones, but not because they were forced.

It was a choice. A conscious decision. Made by a young person legally old enough to be called an adult. And every so many years, that same young person has the choice to “re-up” as we call it, and sign on for another few years. It’s always a choice. They could do or be anything else if they wanted to, but they chose to be military.

And yes, it’s a hard life. It’s a dangerous life. They could kiss you goodbye, get on a bus or a plane or a boat, and never come back. Or they could come back injured, crippled, and so changed by PTSD that you barely recognize them as the person you loved.

But it was a choice they made. And somewhere along the way, they were made aware of and accepted the dangers.

Of their choice.

I love my husband. I supported him through twenty years in the Navy. I FaceTimed and sent care packages and letters. I gave up a career of my own to make sure his children had one parent at home for them, to be a stable constant in their lives and thank goodness the military pay was generous enough to make that possible. (It didn’t use to be.)

I’ve supported him through his retirement and leaving the Navy, and everything else and respected that it was his choice.

Which leads me to my fourth point in all of this – I was there for my kids.

In most military families, the children being separated will still have knew parent at home to look after them. They don’t have to lose both parents at the same time.

Those kids at the order aren’t able to keep one parent with them. Their not.

And finally… For the love of God and all that’s Holy, please people quit comparing the experienced of the military and their families to everything and anything.

Every time you share one of these memes, you devalue what we as military families go through and equally devalue what our Military Member sacrificed for our nation and it’s freedoms. You think you’re supporting us by trotting us out as the be all and end all trump card in any hot-button issue- but you’re NOT. This is not patriotism. It’s blind party line bullshit and its insulting.

My husband served this nation under three different presidents. Republican and Democrat alike. He served to protect and defend everyone. Not one party or the other. Not just the politicians, but the little people, too.

Using our ordeal, our life history, to support your one-sided, party blinded beliefs, whatever they are, is quite frankly, an insult to what he did. What our friends did.

You want to support the military? Don’t post stupid memes.

Go out and volunteer. Pack care packages for deployed members. Meet with separated families. Take the wife shopping. Bring the kids a toy, or some clothing, or take them all out for ice cream. Become a part of military family’s life. Pray with them. Listen to their worries and troubles, help reassure their fears. Raise money for the widows whose spouses did not return. Go to a VA hospital and visit with the patients there. Make them a part of your life.

Feel their sacrifices in your very soul.

And then you’ll know why trotting us out in these memes are hurtful.

Because they didn’t serve, and we their families didn’t suffer and sacrifice, to be used against our fellow people. Yes, our issues matter but NEVER expense of other issues facing our nation. Whether you like it or not, all the issues need to be addressed. Whether it’s those children at the border, the water in Flint, Michigan, universal health care, or anything else. Add veterans rights to the list and demand they all get equal time.

That’s how you honor my family’s sacrifice.

That’s how you honor my husband’s twenty years of service.

That’s how you make America great. Or at least better.

Don’t use us to isolate and devalue someone else. Don’t use us to devalue our fellow service members.

Just… Don’t

2 thoughts on “Not the Same

    1. Thanks. I really have tried to remain silent but I think those recent round of memes were ‘it’ for me. This is the kind of stuff I hate about social media. How easily a picture and a sentiment can be shared without people realizing who it impacts or what it really means. I do still strongly support boir veterans and active duty military, but those memes do not. And I hate that they used to support whatever issue someone wants to discredit.

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