It is a brave and often reckless feat to lay challenge to the military community.
No matter the call or reason, when push comes to shove, we band together and lay waste to anyone who would stand in our way. Be it on the battlefield or in efforts to support a good cause, no one can match our vigor or dedication.
Dare to challenge our way of life or suggest our benefits aren’t rightfully deserved and we circle the wagons into an impenetrable fortress.
It is one that I am thankful for because I know that my community has my back.
Which is why it is so disheartening to see a lack of this unity when it comes time to protect and defend a member of our community from each other.
We’ve all seen it. The online interactions that start out as some innocuous discussion about some aspect of our lifestyle that quickly devolves into drama. Accusations of “wearing your spouse’s rank” or the dignity destroying “dependa” comments soon follow. Or maybe you’ve heard the whispered snarky comments and seen the subtle shunning of that one spouse at a unit function.
The military community is an incredible dichotomy of the American public, so conflict of some kind is, perhaps, inevitable.
We come from every state and territory, every faith, every race and creed. But what should set us apart is our ability to appreciate and respect those differences. No matter which uniform your spouse puts on every day, respect is part of the core set of values that govern his or her actions.
Of respect, the Army says:
“Treat people as they should be treated.”
The Marines include “to respect human dignity; and to have respect and concern for each other” as a defining factor in its core value of honor.
The Navy require sailors to “show respect toward all people, regardless of race, religion, or gender.”
And the Air Force demands that those who serve in its ranks “have respect for the beliefs, authority and worth of others.”
And while as military spouses we don’t take an oath to serve and are not bound by the rules and regulations that govern those who do, we can choose to adopt some of those driving principles.
We can choose to rise above and acknowledge that while we all experience the pains of PCSes and deployments, all must navigate Tricare rules and on-post housing regulations, a great many other aspects of our life are vastly different. And those differences should be celebrated and appreciated instead of singled out or ridiculed.
My challenge to my fellow military spouses is this:
If you find yourself engaged in one of those conversations where you are tempted to draw a line and put someone down, I challenge you to stop and consider that on any given day, you could find yourself on the other side of those comments. That the spouse you are whispering about may end up being the only familiar face at your next duty station. That it is easy to judge another’s actions, but worth the effort to learn what drives actions we cannot understand. That careless words intended to inflict harm to another speaks volumes about your own self worth and will do little to help another military spouse learn and grow.
And if you witness this kind of behavior, I challenge you to take a stand and call it out. Bullying, hazing and disrespect for a person’s self worth and dignity has no place in our community.
That instead of joining in, I challenge you to rise above and extend a hand or an olive branch.
Endeavor to welcome your fellow spouse into your community, be a resource and a friend. Prove by example that we are not a community driven by drama and cattiness.
I challenge you to hold yourself to the same standards of respect that your service member subscribes to and earn respect by giving it.