"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Monday, January 2, 2012

No Comparison

I have many friends whose spouses or significant others leave for a week or two at a time for work - maybe a month even. Amazingly, perhaps, it truly, truly doesn't bother me when they talk about how much they miss him/her, or when they count down the days on Facebook to when they arrive back home, or talk about how hard it is to sleep alone (okay, that one bugs me a bit). I know so many times some of us would jump on them with, "try doing it for 12 months" or "seriously, a week? You are 'dying' after a week?"

I don't think any of us have a right to do that. 

The life we live - the challenges and separations that we face daily - do not give us the right to take from someone else's sadness or longing. We do not get to compare our realities, to line up their separation against ours and say how dare they complain. That isn't ours to take from. We live very different lives.

That may take Grace - especially six months into a deployment, when you are beyond exhausted, beyond lonely, and beyond thinking you can hang on for another six. It may take everything you've got to not think less of someone for having a rough time in a situation you may see as trivial. Missing someone is missing someone; loving someone is loving someone.

But for as graceful as we may try to be in these moments - while we try our best to not compare or contrast our lifestyle with someone who doesn't live it - it is the moments when someone, for goodness only knows what reason, tries to compare their life to ours.

We have all been there. Over and over and over again.

When we tell our friend of a deployment approaching, or a stranger finds out our spouse is overseas, or when a friend of a friend of an acquaintance at some party seems to believe that she can "relate" because her boyfriend goes on week-long hunting trips and leaves her behind a few times a season.

Okay, deep breath.

I am a talker. I will talk to just about anyone.

It's not always a good thing.

like to get to know new people, to hear their stories. In a conversation with a new person I am always going to try to find some common ground - something we can both agree on, or have been through, or have an interest in. So to a point, I get it. People don't know what they are saying. They are trying to let us know that they can feel how we are feeling. That they can sympathize. I truly believe that a person's heart is in the right place when they say certain things. People do not think before they speak - or they honestly think that making their life similar to ours provides comfort and understanding.

It doesn't.

"Oh your husband is deployed? I know how you feel, my husband travels for business all the time."

"Ugh! You have to tell him goodbye? I know just how you feel, my boyfriend goes to grad school an hour away. I only get to see him on weekends. I hate telling him goodbye on Sunday!"


A twelve-month deployment - or any deployment, really - is not the same as your significant other going on a business trip for any period of time.

Watching the father of your children kissing them goodbye, having him kiss you goodbye, knowing that that may never, never happen again is in no way in the simplest universe the same as telling a boyfriend goodbye for the week while he goes to school.

A COMBAT deployment - where you live every single moment of e-v-e-r-y single day praying that no one knocks on your door, wondering if the baby you are holding will get to meet his father, wondering what happens if the love of your life - a strong, able-bodied man - calls you to tell you he has lost his legs, or if you are told that you need your passports ready to go because they are flying you to Germany because they don't think he will make it to the states for you to say good-bye, living a year fearing the phone, losing your breath any time someone rings your doorbell - in no way equates to a business trip, no matter how long.

My husband spent nearly twelve months LIVING with Afghans, in an Afghan facility, outnumbered beyond imagination. I lived in fear every day that someone would turn on him. That he would walk through a door and would be shot, or stabbed, or blown up before he had time to think. It gave me nightmares. It nearly drove me insane at times.

That is not the same as a business trip, or a hunting trip, or your significant other going on vacation without you.

You can feel for us. You can respect us. You can empathize with how hard this life must be. You can pray for us. You can squeeze our hands. You can even give us your tears.

But unless you have lived it, you cannot relate to us. You cannot compare.

To do so belittles the sacrifice of the military family. Belittles what we face - day in and day out. Belittles the very real fear of losing your spouse.

The two are not the same. It doesn't help us to say they are. There just is no comparison.


  1. Thank you for this. I tend to get overly annoyed when people try to compare business trips with a deployment, and I often make sarcastic (and sometimes rude) comments to them when they make the comparison. I need to remind myself that their heart IS in the right place.

    The comparisons bother me so much that I'm careful to try to not compare my husband's deployment with those of our friends. Yes, he's deployed for a year to Afghanistan, and there is always the risk when one is in a war zone, but he's on brigade staff, and works on signal equipment. He occasionally travels to other FOBs to train people and fix equipment, And there are rocket attacks that send him to a bunker pretty regularly, but he's pretty much safely in an office all day. That doesn't compare to those like your husband who face actual combat, or at least the very real threat of it, every single day of the deployment. And while I can probably understand the fear more than someone who has not had a spouse deployed, I also acknowledge that I can't completely relate to what the spouses of those who are in the thick of the fight go through, and it would trivialize their experience if I tried.

  2. Agreed. Hearing people say this at first drove me nuts, but I held my tongue. Then I realized that I probably would have done the same thing years ago before my husband joined the Army. It would never have been meant out of disrespect, but more out of a lack of knowledge and trying to say something to help, not realizing the comment would do more harm than help. Thankfully I never did say anything like that to a military spouse, but I can see how easily it could be said. Now, having the knowledge that I do, I hold my tongue and do my best to smile and nod. I try to hold my head high and hope that they just mean well and don't really understand. And they never will until they stand in our shoes. Like you said, this is where Grace comes in.
    Well said, thank you for posting this!

  3. My husband and I say all the time "It's all relative." So I totally agree with Brandi above. Army doesn't know what it is to be Air Force or Marines or Navy or visa versa. You don't know what it is to be in another person's shoes...ever. Empathy is all we have... that and a good hug.

  4. So true and well said my friend!!!

  5. I am so thankful I have stumbled upon your blog tonight, I'm a 19 year old military girlfriend waiting for my better half to come home. Thankfully at the moment he is not away on a combat operation instead teaching new recruits at the other side of Britain. You have made a excellent point here and although he has done himself 10 tours of Afghan and Iraq in his career so far 2013 will be the first tour I have had to cope with since we moved in together. I truly believe blogs like yours are going to keep me going through the good times and bad, and for that I thank you. I shall be putting your blog button on my own blog, I hope you don't mind!

    All the best and take care


  6. I soo agree. My husband was in Afghan when our daughter was born not breathing and didn't make it. He came home for the funeral and had to go back in 3 weeks. Being a solider's wife is not easy but I am very proud of him and stand beside him.

    1. You have my deepest sympathy for the loss of your baby. I am so very sorry for your loss and forgoing through that without your husband. My heart and prayers are with you! So many prayers.

      -Megan @tlas


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