I used to date a guy who said I talked about the military too much. “The Army is just a job. It’s not your life,” he said. My first reaction was to be offended, but I apologized instead because that’s what I do.
After some time though, I realized I am upset and embarrassed with myself for apologizing back then because – I am not sorry, at all. Let me explain.
First of all, you should know that I am not some super Soldier. There are much more impressive, hard-core heros out there. I don’t know every regulation, so you won’t hear me quoting them. I probably don’t have my dress uniform aligned to the exact micromillimeter and degree of those regulations either. I can’t repel from a helicopter to descend onto the front lines. And, I have fortunately never had to kill anything but a target nor earn a purple heart. On the other hand, I do love my country. I wear my uniform with pride and try to honor it with my actions, even when I am not wearing it. My heart tugs at the National Anthem as I remember those who fought and died for it. I have deployed to three different countries where I felt like I did make a difference, however small. So overall, I think I am a typical average Soldier. I am not elite, but I am certainly not the bottom of the barrel either.
My first experience with the Army was when I was 18. I married my high school sweetheart who joined the Army. As a young couple, we moved to Germany, his first duty station. After that, we spent the next two decades moving around the bases in the United States. About half way through those 22 years, I became a Soldier myself when I joined the Army Reserve. So, I can say I have a unique perspective. I know what it is like to be the spouse sitting home worried about their deployed Soldier. I also know what it is like to be the one overseas serving. I have felt the pain on both sides of that fence.
As Reservist, I can have a civilian job too. For most of my life, I worked in several different jobs since I had to follow my active duty Soldier spouse around. I did everything from being a tired waitress to a stressed out retail manager to a blissfully happy photographer. Upon redeploying from my last deployment though, I was offered a government civilian job with the Army. As much as I adored my full time photography gig, I could not refuse the stability and pay that the federal government job offered (especially since I was now divorced and on my own). So, now that means I have two Army jobs. I just get to wear girly clothes at one of them. Either way though, every day is mostly consumed with Army stuff.
After that complaint, I did dutifully try to not speak about Army stuff as much. It was nearly impossible though. I would start sentences and then stop realizing it was Army related. Eventually, I just felt like I had nothing to say. How do you not talk about something that has been such a huge part of your life? I couldn’t, and that was just one of the reasons for the failure of that relationship.
That experience taught me a lesson though. I learned to love me for who I am. I am a Soldier and I can’t change it – nor do I want too. The Army has not been just a job. It has been part of my past, my roots. It has taught me values, appreciation, patience, courtesy, empathy, history, honor, courage, and respect. I have traveled the world in the uniform. I have made friends for life. Trying to remove that “job” would be like removing water from my body. They cannot be separated without killing me. The Army has been part of my past. It stays a part of my daily activities. And, I imagine, it will be a part of my future for awhile more.
I guess the bottom line is, I can no longer try to transform myself into what others want me to be. I have to be me and be proud of it. Like most people, I am a work in progress as I alway try to grow and improve. I want to be a better person and make a difference in the world. I just can’t do that if I have to hid a part of who I am. Therefore, part of me is a Soldier, and I am not sorry.
This was inspired by the Writing Challenge ~ Digging for Roots.