We are beginning to pack up our first home as we get ready to travel to Georgia for school and then Korea for two years. As we started sorting piles for Georgia, Korea, storage and donation, it struck me that most civilian couples can go years without delving into the deep abyss that is the storage closet.
Military families are a different breed. I sometimes refer to myself as a gypsy, packing up our possessions and traveling to the next place unsure of what I will be doing for a living or what will be there to meet us when we arrive.
Marc and my yearly purge of forgotten clothing and unused gifts helps remind us where our values lie. Our value is not in the television that will be put into storage for two years, the house that was painstakingly decorated sitting barren except for furniture indents on the carpet or even the proudly purchased dining room set that is headed to storage due to weight limits.
Our values lie in the possessions and people we bring with us in our travels, our memories in the form of photographs, our history through inherited heirlooms and our family.
All the other items that may be distractions are thrown away, lost or discovered in a box years after they are forgotten.
While going through our closet, I found Marc’s Army Values card from basic training and was surprised at how many of these fit not only Soldiers but their family members. Although I don’t always live by the values like I should, I think it is important to remember loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage and how we as family members can embody these core values.
Spouses show loyalty by staying with their Soldier despite countless 24-hour shifts of staff duty, long days in the field and deployments. They stay because they promised they would and do their best to respect that promise.
They show loyalty by accepting the mobile lifestyle, the plans that could change at three o’clock in the morning and the missed holidays without too much complaint or urging a change in career.
Loved ones have the duty to support their Soldier, whether it is making lunch at four o’clock in the morning, encouraging them through a difficult school, writing a weekly letter to deployed loved ones or giving them time to relax after a long day in the field before handing them a to-do list.
Family members show respect by understanding the duties and commitment of the Soldier and not asking the Soldier to do what he cannot deliver such as asking them to leave the Army immediately. They learn the Army culture and use that knowledge to set a good example for others.
A military family continually places the Army and the Soldier above their own career, their friends and their dream house with little complaint because they know their Soldier needs support and company more than the spouse or children need to stay behind to enjoy their material items.
They wait for their Soldier when they are deployed, even if it means taking on the Soldier’s household jobs and having little time to rest or spend time with others.
Families honor their Soldier by trying their best to live by the values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity and personal courage. Although they may not always say the right words or do the right action, they understand the Army values and the importance of following them for the sake of their Soldier and their relationship with that Soldier.
Significant others embody integrity by following the rules of the Army. They make sure not to overspend and that the house can always pass a random inspection. They do what they can to not ruin the Soldier’s career or chance at promotion.
Of all the values, I feel the spouse most embodies the characteristic of personal courage. Marrying a Soldier, especially in a time of war, takes personal courage. The nuclear family must learn to adapt quickly to their surroundings with little time for worry or anxiety. They begin their to-do lists, pack their survival kits, welcome the movers and do whatever they can to make the move as easy as they can. At the new duty station, they join groups and get involved as soon as possible despite the newness of the post.
Families send their wives, husbands, children, mothers and fathers off to Iraq with their full support because they know the Soldier must go.
Values not mandated
The values we follow as a Soldier’s support team are not Army-mandated like they are for Soldiers. We do not have a card telling us how to act and how to stand behind our Soldiers. Most of us do not have them memorized or even realize what we do follows an Army standard.
As I continue to stack our possessions into piles, I remember these values and that I, too, have a job to do for the military and I will try my best to support my Soldier and stay “Army Strong.”
(Editor’s note: Jennifer Lindquest is a military spouse who wrote a column, Military Mrs., for the “Fort Still Cannoneer” when her husband was assigned to the Oklahoma installation. Her articles will occasionally appear in “The Fort Huachuca Scout.”)