"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.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What I Wish My Civilian Friends Would Ask Me ... and What I Wish They Wouldn't

I get questions now and then about "how do you handle when someone says this", or "how do you stay calm when someone asks that".

I hear a lot about military spouses not having much understanding from their civilian friends and family. Unfortunately, I think very often military spouses think they have to choose between the two.

I just don't think that's the case. I think how we share this life with those outside of it has everything to do with how much they understand it. We can't ask a civilian friend to understand what we are facing or do face or have faced. That isn't fair to the friend. But we can open up, and show patience, and invite them to learn about the path we walk.

I have had such good civilian friends who have taken the time to ask the right questions and have also taken the time to read here so that they know what to not ask. These are a few of those things put in one place.


Don't ask me if I'm scared my husband won't come home. 
I have sat beside my husband as he discussed his own funeral. I know who he wants as pallbearers. I know the songs. I know the scriptures. I know how he wants to be buried.

Every time our servicemen and women board those planes, we are terrified. What they do is beyond dangerous. Soldiers die in training exercises and in war. We don't need to be reminded.

Of course I'm scared my husband won't come home. We all are. Combat or not. Army or Marines or Air Force or Navy. We are all scared.

 Don't ask me about politics.
Don't ask me what myself or my husband thinks of our president, former president, policies, cuts, anything. And, please, don't ever ask him. One of the most shocking things I have learned in this life is that some of our service members choose not to vote. I'm not saying that I do or do not agree with that but the reasoning is that they vow to defend this nation under the order of whomever this nation's people choose to elect. Whomever. 
Please don't ask me. I hate when people ask me.

Don't tell me how much you hate war. 
I don't want to hear how much you hate the war or how awful it is for us. Don't tell me it was all about oil or any other insensitive comment like that. My husband chose this. And chose it again. And again. He believes in his duty, his job, his purpose. I don't have any desire to hear anyone belittle that.

Please don't compare.

I think this is a bit of a balancing act. I have learned that some friends don't think they can tell me whatever is going on in their lives because it can't possibly "be as hard". But every one of us has a battle we are facing. Every one of us has a great challenge at one point or another in our life. Please don't ever think you can't include me in working through a hardship, or venting, or asking for prayers. That isn't what I am talking about. 

What I mean is, please don't say that you can understand how a military spouse must be feeling with a husband with boots on the ground in a war zone because your significant other travels for business a lot.
That. isn't. (and will never be). the. same. thing. 

I promise you the conversation will stop. I may even turn around and walk away. Not because I am trying to be rude, but because I am trying with everything in me to not be.

Don't tell us the war is over.
Just Don't.  

Don't tell us they won't deploy because "they are all coming home". It's an insult for anyone to tell us they know better because they "watch the news". We live this life day in and day out. It isn't just a headline or a sub-line or a news-blurb or a talking-point. This is our life. And we know better than you.

Don't ask me if I am scared of my husband.
Don't dare ask me if I am scared to have him around our children. War didn't make him a monster. He fights for these kids. He does what he does for his family.
Do not ever imply otherwise.

Ask me what my favorite part is about this life. 
Ask me where we find joy. Ask me what I am most proud of.
Ask me how you can help.
Ask if you can send anything forward. Ask how we're doing and listen.

Don't think you can't talk to me because you suddenly think you don't know how to.
Don't talk to me about the military if you don't feel comfortable. Ask me if you can come for a visit. Check in. Ask me how the weather is but please keep talking.

Know that "planning" has a different meaning for us.
Our calendars are always fluid. We can't commit to a date six months down the road and sometimes not even six days. Hell! sometimes not six hours. It isn't that we don't want to be at/in your wedding, or that family vacation, or that high-school reunion. 
We want to be part of it all.
Don't think we aren't trying. Don't think we aren't wanting to give a definite yes or no. Don't think we don't value your time and commitment and coordination. We just can't promise anything - ever.
But, please, don't stop asking and inviting. Because someday we are going to be able to make it. Sometime we are going to be able to be there. Please don't cut us out just because we have such a hard time fitting in.

We want to be part of your lives. We want you to be part of ours. If you can, come visit. We'd love to show you our world. We'd love for you to come to a welcome home - for any soldier. They are incredible to see. We'd love to show our pride and our joy and our strength. We'd love to walk through the cemetery with you and sit in silence and pray and remember our fallen.

We'd love your support, your understanding, your prayers. 
We'd love to have a conversation about what this life is and even what it isn't.
We'd love to have you as a part of the journey. 

For more insight into this life read:
 Promises - A Soldier's Promise & An Army Wife's Promise


  1. "Don't tell us the war is over", I about lost it when my father in law said that.

    1. I have heard this from a fellow Army spouse and had to use every ounce of strength just to politely end a conversation and never talk about "military" with her.

  2. I love this. Everything I want people to know, here it is. Thanks for writing this.

  3. Such a great thing to write! Years ago my mother-in-law (who was a hospice nurse) an article about what NOT to say when talking with the relatives of a just-deceased family member. I found that so valuable, and this, I believe, is also very valuable. Thanks for sharing your insight....and NO, I COULD NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ALL ARE GOING THROUGH. God bless our soldiers, their families and God bless America!

  4. Don't ask me if I miss him, don't ask if I am excited about him coming home. Please don't ask me WHEN he's coming home, because I can't tell you. Most of the time people ask me when he's coming home every time I see them, it is obvious you didn't remember what I said the last time I answered that question.

    1. Love this...I get tired of saying its G14 classified! Every function when is he coming, when will he be here. Do you miss him ah hello duh! I guess its something we have to deal with huh? love your post.

  5. The only good thing about any of this........is the fact that there are AMERICANS out there that still believe in our country, for the reasons we were built it, for the reasons AMERICANS have always stuck together. OUR FREEDOM, ONE NATION, UNDER GOD!!! LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!!!!!!! GOD BLESS EVERY SOLDIER AND EVERY SOLDIER'S FAMILY. and GOD..........be with us ALL

  6. You are an inspiration and I love your blogs.

  7. I have always had great respect for the military. My granddaughter gave me a lot of insight on being a military spouse. We must remember to thank the spouses, as well, for their service and sacrifices as well. Bless them all!

  8. I try not to ask the wrong questions, I love my son so much that I worry about him day and nite. Everyday, I say my prayers for him while he is in Alfgh. Also, I pray for his wife and family to be safe and the children understand why daddy has not come home from work for over a month. As some say it is a job, to my son it is more than a job. Since he was a young boy he wanted to be in the Army and fight for his Country. He felt it is duty to protect his wife and children's future. I aam very proud of my son. I PRAY THAT GOD WILL GIVE HIS BLESSING TO EVERY SOLIDER MEN AND WOMEN IN ALL BRANCHES OF SERVICES WHOM ARE FIGHTING FOR OUR FREEDOM!!! ALSO I PRAY FOR ALL THEIR FAMILIES. I WOULD LIKE TO THANK MY SON'S WONDERFUL WIFE TRACI FOR BEING THERE HEART AND SOUL FOR MY SON. HE HAS BEEN BLESSED TO HAVE A WIFE SUCH AS SHE. AGAIN, THANK ALL OF YOU AND MAY GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. How beautiful...........My sentiments exactly..........God Bless all our soldiers and their wonderful families. I salute you all!!! God Bless America!

  9. Also, don't askme if he's killed anyone.

  10. Also, don't ask me if he's killed anyone.

    Excellent post!

  11. Well done. I'm an Army brat and Army retired. Civilians are clueless, and so it shall be forever more. Please don't thank me for my service. I chose to serve. The best way to thank me is to enlist.

  12. Thank you for sharing this. I saw the link on my Mom's facebook and decided to read. From my perspective as an Army brat this is a good way to explain to my family, friends, and co-workers what I feel comfortable with. My Dad retired and then went back in from the Civil service side. I still get asked all of these questions and my Dad is still sent dangerous places. I will love and support him forever and honor the fact that he taught me that we always look out for our soldiers and their families.

  13. Great blog; well put.

  14. Very well put. I am now an Army wife and mom, is there any thing like this for the mom side? I can not say how often I get asked "how I could let my son choose to be a soldier and not try to stop it" gets to me. He is deploying again and this time his dad is staying home. I know I am not the only Army wife and mom with both currently serving, but sometimes it seems that way.

  15. As a civilian, I understand there are facets and aspects to military life I will never understand or appreciate. That being said, this article affirms for me that I'm pretty sure there's a certain amount of smugness that goes along with the military, especially among spouses. I have a few friends who are married to the military and they all treat me with a certain amount of disdain, as if my attempts to connect and be supportive are all in vain, since I don't have a husband who puts his life on the line. I can't talk to them, because no matter what problems I'm having in my life, theirs is always worse and they let me know that. But, of course, you can't tell anyone this because then you're just an unsupportive, ignorant civilian. Why is that fair?

    1. I don't know if you will read this or not but I sure hope so! Let me first say that I am so sorry that that has been your experience. I think that too often some military spouses believe that their civilian friends "just can't" understand so they don't make any effort or see things any other way. That isn't right, in my opinion. Let me also so that I think you are right. I think there can be a "smugness" as you put it. Too often it is the military SPOUSES that draw a line between civilian and military. They can be harsh at times. I have no doubt that you have had that very experience and I am so sorry for that.

      The comment you made above about not being able to talk out your problems and challenges with your friends is something I talked about above and have written about before. I don't think we get to use the "trump card" as I call it. So many times I have heard comments like "well, at least your husband doesn't go to war" or "nobody's shooting at YOU" spoken to a civilian friend who was just trying to share a struggle with their friend. It makes me incredibly frustrated when military spouses use the trump card. Beyond frustrated. THAT is what breaks down communication and relationships and that is what draws the line, creates the barrier between civilian and military. It isn't right and it isn't fair to you. We ALL have struggles, we ALL have pain and sadness and times when we need support from our friends - ALL of them.

      Again, I am so sorry that this has been your experience. I have seen it too often and it saddens me greatly. Please don't think we are all like that. We aren't. I spend much of my time trying to bridge the gap, trying to help newer spouses understand that THEY have a responsibility to communicate and understand and to be patient.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and taking the time to comment. I hope you will take my words for what they are - a true apology for what you have experienced. I hope you a better experience comes your way :)

    2. As a Married Service member I am always amazed at how hurtful some individuals can be. It's like "TO LOVE A SOLDIER" said, this type of action breaks down communication. I am sorry for your experience but know that the MAJORITY want to help and not tear down. We want to support our communtites and help all to understand what can be understood.

  16. Thank you for writing out these guidelines. They are very helpful to those of us who aren't in your shoes. God bless you, your family, and most especially your husband and his fellow soldiers/sailors/airmen.

  17. I have served in the Army for 18 years, upon reading this and other blogs you have done I felt overwhelmed by joy. I have now posted this to my own facebook page and refer most questions to this blog. Keep up the good work.

  18. My husband and I have two grandsons in the Army, presently. My husband served in the Army reserves and our youngest son served in the Marines. We are proud supporters of the Armed services and those who serve. We also have several nieces and nephews serving now and retired. They all need our support even after they are discharged. They have done and seen things human beings shouldn'
    t have to. Support your soldiers with prayer.

  19. Im learning the life of a military relationship. I had to learn a lot of this on my own, sometimes the hard way. I also just wrote on my blog my experiences on what I think it takes to be in a good or successful military relationship based on what I have learned. I had my a friend read it and they said the same goes for normal relationships but I beg to differ and I think you did an outstanding job letting them know that yes there is a huge difference between a normal and military relationship and life in general! thank you.

  20. As an Army Mom of a deployed soldier please don't tell me it's killing you for your kid be two hours away at college, summer camp, or their senior cruise unless you would like to lace up my combat boots.

    1. Why does your hurt matter more than theirs? Why is it more important?


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