University Of Maryland University College
ENGLISH 101 Term I, Intruduction To Writing
"UNCLE SAM'S FAMILY"
By: (Cristian, Daniel, Naomi, and Jerri)
Thursday, Aug 25, 2005
In the United States, probably more so than any other country, people from all walks of life are constantly being thrown together. This is further magnified when it comes to our U.S. military families. In this essay we will examine, loosely and generally; military families. We recognize that military families exist in many different variations; we will only, however, examine the one we believe to be most common which consists of: the active duty member, the spouse (which, for the purpose of this essay, we will referred to as the "dependent wife"), and the children, commonly referred to as the "military brats".
THE member: I joined the military (the Marines, more specifically) primarily for five reasons: to earn an honest and respectable living while furthering my education, to become independent, to face and overcome new challenges, to help my family as well as to make them proud, and, of course, to meet hot chicks around the world...no, I mean to travel and get to experience different cultures. The good news is that I have and continue to accomplish these goals but it has not been what you might call a "walk in the park".
As a young Private through the rank of Lance Corporal (third rank up the Marine Corps enlisted rank structure), I did pretty much what most young Marines do: lots of partying and drinking. Thankfully, I had something that always kept me from loosing control of my life...my First Sergeant, just kidding, it was my family. It was my mother, my father, brothers and sisters. I felt my family needed someone "steady", someone they could look at and say things like, "There is one of the few that has chosen something good for his life". I felt the need to be the one, the ambitious, the risk taker, the one that "knew what he had to do", the one with determination and selflessness. I believe that, one way or another; most of the young adults that join the military have at least some of these motivations in common.
If you stick around and grow in the military community, so do the challenges. Promotions mean a bit more money and a lot more responsibilities as well as headaches. Gradually, one also gets more and more control over his or her career path. For instance, you must understand and keep up to date your records, schedule training and meet the deadlines, maintain standards of physical training and testing as well as swimming qualification, complete professional military instructions (in class and/or correspondence), plan for your next duty assignment and deployments, going bald, etc. Eventually, you meet that special person; you get married to live happily ever after…and the real fun begins.
Now, as the head household, you must consider more than yourself and your family back home. Everything that happens with you and your career directly affects your own family. Questions will arise, such as: should we reside on base or off base? When and where will your next permanent change of station take place? Are you and your family receiving the pay and allowances you rate? If your status changes, is it reflected on your records? How will it affect you and your family? There is more: what kind of health care is available? Do you require special health care in your family? Is it available where you are going? Of course, there are the kids and problems in school, which the dad advises: "I told you, don't beat on the captain's kid unless he looks at you funny, son", should you move to another military occupational specialty that is better on your family (is it good for your career advancement?). And last but certainly not least: deployments. Going on deployments can involve feelings of anxiety, fear, uncertainty, family conflicts. During the deployments: you can find yourself missing your "little brats". You must also make sure everything is in order at home while focusing on your mission (very exciting). Coming back from deployment you must meet your spouse for the first time, again. I would compare this to a "computer meeting its software upgrade" -"hi, I know the 1.0 version of you from before I left; how about this 2.0 version upgrade, is it new and improve? Let's get to know each other a little better, shall we". If you ask me, the reasons why a person decides to stay in the military far exceed the reasons why one would join; it is just too much "fun".
The Dependent Wife "Syndrome": As the spouse of a military member, I have lost my identity. Everything I do or need to do is based off of my husband's social security number. If I need to make a doctor's appointment - I have to give my husbands last four. If I make a purchase on base and write a check, all information on that check must pertain to the military member. I'll tell you a little story. Some time ago, while my husband was TAD or Temporary Additional Duty, I found out that I couldn't pay our internet, cable, or insurance bill without a power of attorney. Go figure….I guess a Dependent Wife's money isn't good enough unless the military member says so. In this case, it is fine with me; it translates into more money in my pocket! And then, out of nowhere, I stumbled on a ray of hope. When I registered for this English class, the UMUC rep asked for a social security number. Naturally, I quickly rattled for my husband's SSN. After pulling up the number, the rep looked at me and stated, "No Jerri, I need your social".
The Military Brat: Relocating is always a big event for mom and dad, and so it is for the "military brat". On one hand, the child gets to travel around from a very young age, experience many different cultures and even languages, which can be a positive influence on his or her future. On the other hand, relocating can also mean struggles to fit in to the new environment. Making new friends is not always easy or fun. For instance, picture a young child born and raised in northern California, then suddenly whisked away to the very culturally and economically different area of southern Illinois. This child, by no fault of his own, would then have to throw away, and in a sense, unlearn almost all of the cultural growth he has experienced in California to adjust to this new and different environment in Illinois in order to attempt not becoming a social outcast in the eyes of his peers. At the same time, however, a "military child" who does not experience various types of cultures at a young stage of development, could then become used to a cultural lifestyle or set of morals that are not necessarily best for later experiences in a military lifestyle. This is a fate that a child is forced into based on the sole fact that the military has deemed it necessary for his parents to move constantly. The child has no say weather or not he is a "Military Brat". In my opinion, this is completely unfair to an innocent young being that, due to no fault of his or hers, was born into this situation. At the same time, of course, "fetuses" have no say as to what situation they are born into, they just have to "play the cards they are dealt". The detrimental or positive effects to this child's cultural and personal development are determined by how the child reacts to these various situations. Another issue to consider every time a "military brat" relocates is: how the academic requirements of his or her present school would defer from the next. However, one can say, after going through it, a child becomes strongerto deal with future readjustments in life. When the child grows up to be independent, they may find the difficulties of adjusting to new environments not as difficult as others who may not have had these experiences earlier in their lives. There is no doubt that life for a child in the military can be positive as well negative, that is life. Ultimately, it is "THE member" and the "Dependent wife" to get educated and recognize, analyze and address this situations and particular challenges their "military brats" are exposed to.
It would take a very thick book just to mention all the advantages and challenges inherent to military life. In general, I believe military families deal with such a spectrum of issues that seem trivial and routine to its members but when one steps out and takes a good look at it from a sane person's point of view, it is probably best to just take it a day at a time and keep marching.