~A Veteran~

A veteran - whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for an amount of "Up to and including my life". That is honor, and there are far too many people in this country who no longer understand it. - Author Unknown

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Army Wives verses Hollywood

I have been engaged in watching the Lifetime Channel Army wives series. I am noticing that it is a drama written with very few points of reference as to the lives of Army wives in general. First issue, is the wife who decides to be a surrogate for another couple for cash because her family is strapped financially. I have been in the military family for over 25 years and never once knew of a wife who handled financial strains in this manner. There may have been ONE somewhere...but not that I have heard of. So this storyline is bogus in my personal opinion.
Then we have the Post Commanders wife. She is someone I can get behind because she is caring and REAL. Not the typical Officer's wife. The typical officer's wife would be her Nemesis that is played by an older woman with red hair and a snobby attitude. (forgive me if I don't have the character names available)
Then there are the busy-body wives. Lifetime got that part right. Those women are the majority. It pains me to say that, but it is true. If a soldiers wife does not work, or have hobbies to keep her busy, they become local drama queens, always meandering on someone Else's business.
There is the humble simple wife. She is married to a soldier, has a few children, works, and does not care for the drama of the Base and basically ignores the busy-bodies. This is the army wife who knows who she is, knows who her husband is, and remain proud and diligent to stand beside her soldier through all that life throws their way. This is a true rendering of a military wife.
Then there is the battered wife. In this series, the child is the one battering instead of the husband. This does happen, and it is unfortunate. It shows that even though you raise your children respectfully, sometimes they make rotten choices and do horrible things anyway. This wife is quiet, soft spoken, and has a hidden strength that only shows in times of turmoil. Strangely enough, on this program, her husband comes up MIA or KIA, the end results will not be broad casted until next week's episode.
Finally a view from the opposite side of the fence. A female soldier with the husband being the civilian/dependant. If they wanted to play it correctly, he would not be a doctor, but a lessor career. Naturally for hype purposes he is a doctor. It would be more real-to-life if he were a factory worker, machinist, or administrative office type.
Over all, I am watching this program to see if any of it mirrors real life in the military. I am not terribly disappointed, but I am not impressed yet either. Time will tell.

Other program series I have watched include: "Over There". I found this series to be quite interesting, and found myself glued to it every week. However, since I do not know what it is like to be a soldier, it could have been completely incorrect and I would never know it. I can say however, it did touch on several issues soldier have to deal with. It was a good series.

Another series I watched was "American Soldier" on CMT. I only watched it to poke fun at the General who played himself. That arrogant so-n-so was true in facto to what I saw. It was actually a pretty funny comedy, should have been played on Comedy Central instead. The wives were NOT I repeat NOT the norm of a military wife. And thank goodness that General does NOT represent the outstanding GOOD generals of our Military.

Those are my personal opinions. I will finish watching Army Wives, and report back my final conclusions.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Provoking thoughts about our "Financial" Nation

Recently I was discussing the financial woes of our Nation with a special mentor of mine.
She sent me a very thought provoking statement.

"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits to the public from the treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse, to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship."

"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:

1. From bondage to spiritual faith;

2. From spiritual faith to great courage;

3. From courage to liberty;

4. From liberty to abundance;

5. From abundance to complacency;

6. From complacency to apathy;

7. From apathy to dependence;

8. From dependence back into bondage

So how far away are we from bondage? If our Nation truly follows the 8-step process here, we are currently at step "7". We are becoming dependant upon others, our government, and the political heads to "provide" for us.

Why do I say that? Well lets put it in current perspective.

How many people can you think of, that are currently on the system of State Welfare? Not the gross national number. People you know personally. Now how many people do you know that have minimum wage jobs? Now how many do you know that are blue-collar workers? How about upper management? How about Military? How about Civilian workers for the Military? How many CEO's do you know? How many upper elites do you know, perhaps in Hollywood, or some sports player, or a multi-millionaire? The numbers decrease don't they. They do for me.

Everyday, I meet more people who are on some type of "hand-out" lifestyle than I ever thought possible! Perhaps it is not welfare, but in a sense it really is. They have no "income" because they are not producing a product or providing a service of any kind. Sure, you can say that eventually a service or product will be provided, but I mean at this very moment. The "cash cow" doesn't happen until later down the road. This will only happen IF there is a steady supple of charity/welfare given to sustain a person.

So take for instance an inventor. I know an inventor. He has an unconventional job. He invents things. However, during the "thinking stages" and development stages he is not getting paid a salary to be an inventor. His "cash cow" only comes after he sells the invention for production by some big company. Until then, he is a "starving artist" who invents neat things.

Then you have artists. This is of course where the "starving artists" phrase comes from. They are truly starving. Some days they eat, sometimes not because that apartment rent has come due. Or perhaps the utility bill. Cash cow! Sold a few paintings and poems. However, this funding is used to further the artistry, and more "charitable donations/welfare" is needed.

Do you realize, if a person is smart enough, they can network with a multitude of businesses and people, and private organizations and basically LIVE off the sweat of others for several years! It is true.

So eventually the question is "when it enough, enough?" I haven't found an answer to that yet. If you give a person a million dollars to develop the plan, wont they need funds to make the plan a reality? So that means a million dollars is not "enough". Say you offer 3 million.
Now you hear that widgets are needed in addition to complete the plan.
Widgets were not considered, because the plan worked around not having them, but now they are vital. So widgets must be included.
Where is the funding for the widgets? Widgets will cost another million. Not the widgets themselves, but the means to travel to a foreign country where widgets are sold at a cheaper price, so more can be gotten just in case the plan needs extra. So now travel, widgets, and extra widgets are all complete.
Now it is time to sell the plan to a big company so they can have the model, blue-prints, and the right amount of widgets.
However, in order to get the plan out there to big companies, the plan has to have advertising. More money. Add another 2 million for advertising.
Big companies want the plan! Three companies are competing against each other trying to out-bid each other! Your plan is now worth 5 million dollars to the big corps!
CASH COW! You sell, you get 5 million. Good job.
You have managed to live off the generosity of others, other peoples sweat equity from their own earnings, you've considered it "owed" and "your " money, paid your own personal bills, gotten some neat kickbacks and toys, developed and created a plan that sold for 5 million, and you walk to the bank to cash that check, because you earned it! Or did you?

This is one reason why I say, we as a country, are at step-7. Dependency. Dependence on the generosity of others, whoever "others" may be.

In all of this funding gathering, does the inventor ever feel like they are taking advantage of the generosity of the people who donate? Or do they feel like they have done so much for society, that this funding is owed to them somehow? Good questions, but hard to answer.

I refer back to a wonderful quote by Abraham Lincoln, " You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."
So my views then, because I agree with Mr. Lincoln, is that first you should try everything in your power and ability to provide for your needs yourself. Then, after you have exhausted all means of sweat equity in yourself, you may pursue additional help, but only to the tune of which you make a promise, nothing more. In other terms, if you need exactly "X" to make something happen, do not ask for "X, Y, Z".
This is basic greed and laziness.
It means your not willing to put into your own plans, what you expect others to put into your plans.
Ergo, greed.
Thoughts to ponder....

The Hours before Departure

The media, Hollywood, and movie makers have tried time and time again to invoke with scenes in a movie, how a soldiers spouse feels those last few hours before the soldier leaves on that plane. From my personal point of view, they haven't even gotten close yet. I suppose it would be hard to express with a movie script, the gut-wrenching, whirling mind and thoughts that occurs. Your body stands there, numb, thoughts are difficult to formulate except the ever present "this is it" that runs stomping through your mind. Your sweaty, nervous, sad, angry, extremely upset, and need to hold your soldier as tight as possible. You stand there, listening to his voice, barley able to understand what he is saying, listening to his heart beat, absorbing his breath, trying to "take in" every bit of him.
We do this, because time is the enemy. Time tends to erase the sounds, smells, and remembered touches shared as it presses forward. Usually you have a tee shirt left behind to snuggle with at night, or he will send you one upon request, even though he thinks it's weird. But we NEED this. It helps us cope, while simultaneously making our hearts ache.
Standing there that last hour is the hardest physically as well. Everything aches. Your hands, feet, legs, chest, arms, even your eyelids and eyebrows. The ache stems from the core of your body. This pain has no measure, because its simply to enormous.

Here is an idea, but honestly, unless you have dealt with it, it may mean nothing to you.

The EXACT feelings when you have those LAST hours with your husband, before you watch him board the plane. Standing there on the tarmac, in a crowd of soldiers and families, knowing time is ticking away before you hear a loud voice say "times up please leave the area". You stand there clutching his hand, holding him close, never knowing if that will be the last time you see him face to face, but having to push away that fear, push away all the terrible feelings that crop up, trying to fight back tears and stand strong with him. Sometimes to hide those tears you shove your face deep into his chest so no-one can see, including him, because for his sake and your own, your a "pretender", until you can maintain again and pull back to stare at him, memorizing every inch of his face that is already ingrained in your brain. So if anyone ever wonders what it feels like, or ever asks you what soldier's wives have told you about those defining moments, this is the explanation.

Santana "Hold On"

Don't rush me
just this once
I want to make this moment last
Slow down the pace, there's no hurry
I can't let another pass by me again
Let me be the one to say when I've had enough

Just let me
close my eyes,
memorize The way things are this minute
So when you're gone
I can go on
If memory can hold within it what I'm feeling
Should time try fading or stealing something away

Hold on,
nothings the same
Tell me why I feel this way
Life wouldn't be worth living without you
All along I've been the pretender
But now that's gone forever
Nobody's ever loved me like you do
Nobody's broken through

Got to concentrate,
find a way Every last detail
Don't wanna lose what's going down
I want to remember everything I'm feeling
Should time try fading or stealing something away

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Background Opinions

I am the wife of a United States Infantry Soldier, currently serving with the National Guard for deployment to Iraq for a second tour of duty.

During my husband’s first deployment, I was Coordinator/Chairperson of the Family Support Group (FSG) for our Unit. Our FSG worked diligently to provide supplies for the Unit as well as hygiene, footwear, toys, candies and a much needed wheelchair for a small Iraqi boy who dragged himself upon the ground for life.

During my time as the Coordinator, I learned quickly that many Foundations and supporters of Troops are unfortunately bogged down with red-tape when it comes to donating funds, services, or time. Often times Board Members took months if not longer to make simple decisions, while the FSG and soldiers waited for the outcome. Board members could not agree on standards and methods of delivery. I realized that making decisions by committee results in mediocrity.

When my husband returned from Iraq, he went through a period of what is commonly referred to now as PTSD. Other soldier’s within the Unit also exhibited these signs. Some soldier’s would visit their local family doctor to get assistance. Often time’s civilian doctors do not understand the signs of PTSD for soldiers, and these soldier’s were managed with medications used for standard depression. Other soldier’s veered away from the medication option and found their answers at the bottom of a bottle. Many more decided to do nothing, and still have issues today. A fractional splinter group of soldier’s decided to get together once a week and sit and talk with each other about their experiences.

Over the past two years, I have been digging deep into the needs of our military. We all know what has happened recently with Walter Reed Medical Center. That is but the tip of the iceberg of issues. Soldiers do not want career repercussions when it comes to mental or physical health. They will first and foremost stand strong and say “nothing is wrong”. This is part of their conditioning, but also their pride in being a soldier. The Nation expects them to be ever vigilant and a sign of strength, and they hold themselves to that standard as well. To offer assistance is considered a “stab”, so assistance has to be worked around in a different way. I have the distinct opportunity to be on a personal level to understanding and figuring out how to develop and apply this assistance.

It is now 2007. It has been 4 years since 9/11, and 4 years since the US Military deployed to Iraq to begin ridding the world of terrorist who want nothing more than the complete annihilation of Americans and anyone they view as a threat. Terrorists are not in business to reform Americans. They do not want our opinion, a democracy, or working governments run for the people by the people. That is considered silly westerners philosophy. Dictatorship, regime control, and genocide are really all they know. Changing the status quo is not acceptable.

So our soldier’s make the sacrifice to go stand against terrorists, against regime control, and against the death and destruction of a people who just want to go to bed at night without mortars sounding in the background, or waking up dead. When the American soldier’s return home, they are disheveled, and their thoughts are plagued with atrocities we will never understand because we as Americans do not have to set foot upon foreign soil to see for ourselves.

Soldiers are not in the military for the benefits or income. The health benefits of welfare recipients are far better than that of Tri Care. The income of a regular soldier often times doesn’t even cover monthly expenses. Many soldiers are forced to apply and qualify for state assistance food programs just because of this. Yet the military family will prevail regardless. Survival is paramount, complaining is optional.

Before this deployment developed, I worked diligently for hours a day, in a regular job, regular meetings to attend, and a regular home life filled with normal tasks. Now I find myself able to multi-task daily household issues, while simultaneously talking care of my children’s needs, filing forms, writing proposals, conference calls, and 10 months of reaching out to Corporations and Foundations who support the military, the disabled, the elderly, and the children of our Nation. The only distraction I suffer from is the impending DOOM of my husband’s presence in a War zone. It is a feeling of despair and cool throbbing headaches that ruin an otherwise nice day of “business”. It is the slow creeping feeling of being completely scared for him as well, which tries to invade my working thoughts, and push back progress.

We as a society do not TRUST each other anymore. There is no simple conversation and done deal, or firm handshake, and it’s better than written in stone. We don’t have that willingness to accept that a person will be completely HONEST with us, and offer us a good deal. There is no possibility of a promise that will not be broken, or a promise that will come to fruition. Yet here I am that exact type of person, who still believes in the goodness of man. I still believe.

I have faith that my husband will return home to me this time without “winning” a purple heart again, and I have faith that there really is support for our troops out there somewhere, waiting with their finger on the “yes we can and will” button.