Why this ambiguous title? Why not “Closing The Gap: Understanding Your SOLDIER,” for example?
Well, I have to admit that substituting the word “Serviceman” with “Soldier” would have made for a catchier title. But if I’d used the term “Soldier,” some Military Families might have been discouraged from reading this book, simply because they would have thought it only covered the Army and wouldn’t apply to THEIR branch, since the term “Soldier” is technically used to describe a service member within the Army only. But I wanted this book to appeal and apply to all families and friends of our service members out there, no matter what branch within our military. So that’s why I chose the more generic term “Serviceman.”
Was there a specific event, or series of events, in your life as a military spouse that made you realize this book was needed?
Most definitely. Many, really. And they pop up everywhere you go, if you pay attention to them.
Most of my civilian friends, for instance, are always amazed when they hear that our address has changed yet again. And then they usually ask, if we aren’t tired yet of all the moving around, and why we don’t just stay longer. Most believe that the frequency of our moves is dictated by the military family itself, rather than by the service member’s command.
Another very important reason that caused me to write this book was the fact that our civilian families and friends seemed to grow a bit resentful toward our chosen assignment locations over the past couple of years, simply because they don’t know what all plays into the decision-making process of the service member’s new duty station. Most assume that we get to choose where and whenever we want to move, which then causes them to believe that we voluntarily chose a place far away from them.
And then you always here questions like “So, when are you going to move again?” or “Where are you going to move to next?” Questions no one really knows the answers to, including ourselves. And that always seems so incomprehensible to people outside the military. The unpredictability of our lifestyle is simply beyond any of their own experiences that most civilians have a hard time imagining what our life really is like.
Was it difficult to get “outside” your military life to see the things that you needed to address, that civilians don’t understand?
Not really. I knew what needed to be addressed in order to help our civilian families and friends understand our way of life a bit better. I mean, civilians more or less ask the same questions all the time, like “When are you going to move again?” and “Where are you going to move next?” So I knew I had to include something about the moving process and the assignment process, to help them see how things really work.
What WAS difficult, however, was to think of some issues that NEEDED to be addressed, but are never asked about by outsiders, simply because they don’t know about those differences. You can’t ask questions about something if you’re not even aware of its existence.
For example, in my book I write that it’s not very often that we’re asked to explain the DIFFERENCES between the military and the civilian lifestyles; and that this, in turn, might imply that civilians are simply not aware that there are distinctions between these two worlds.
Most people outside the military, for example, don’t realize that over the years we have created something that is referred to as a Military Culture, in which we share common beliefs and behaviors.
Another example of an issue that needed to be addressed, but is almost never asked about is the wellbeing of a military family AFTER the service member returns home from a deployment. Most assume that once the family is reunited, the hardest part of the deployment process is over; whereas in reality, those that actually HAVE experienced a deployment know that that’s the time where most problems for a military family begin.
These are all important issues, yet, they never get asked about simply because outsiders don’t know about their existence. And that’s where my book comes in. To draw attention to those problems and concerns, so that they can be discussed and talked about.
What part of military life is the hardest for civilians to grasp? How do you think your book helps?
The hardest part of military life for civilians to grasp is probably all the issues associated with our constant moving; you know, issues of constantly having to say goodbye to your friends, of having to find new friends, of having to get accustomed to a new home, of having to find and get used to new schools as a military child, of having to find a new job as a spouse. For most civilians, moving is exciting, simply because they don’t do it as often as we do. Therefore, they tend to project this excitement onto OUR moves, not realizing that it gets really, really exhausting after a while of having to start a new life every 2 years or so.
To help civilians understand us better regarding the constant moving, I dedicated an entire chapter to it in my book. It breaks the moving process into 4 parts: Assignment, PCS Orders (or Permanent Change of Station Orders), Outprocessing, and the Actual Physical Move. This chapter also talks about our more personal challenges, such as how we try to reconnect socially, and how doing so is easier for some than for others.
Another very important issue that is very hard for civilians to understand is that military families actually feel like they are missing out on their non-military family members sometimes. You know, the regular contact with our immediate families. Many civilians are very lucky in that they have their families around them, and with them, which enables them to be able to count on their immediate and extended families’ support at ANY given point in time. Military families want the same. We, too, want to be close and connected to our parents and siblings.
And that is why I wrote this book. I am hoping that by laying out what I have been feeling over the course of all those years, I was able to bring our way of life a bit closer to all our loved one.
What responses have you had from readers whose eyes were opened to the realities of military life?
I’ve had such wonderful responses so far. The book was published right after our last move here to Tampa, so I didn’t really know anybody here outside of the military. So, I met this wonderful civilian woman, who had just moved to Tampa herself. After she heard that I wrote a book about military life, she was very eager to read it and later stated that she was so glad she did, mainly because it addressed so many issues that she would have never thought to ask about. Through the reading she became aware of our differences as well as our similarities. I am really good friends with her now, and I truly believe it’s because of this book. It laid out our way of life in such a way, that she could better relate to me and my family.
Another example is this very beautiful email I received from an aunt of someone in the military. And she basically thanked me for opening her eyes to all the issues a military family goes through during a deployment. Most Americans DO realize to some extent how hard it is to be separated from your loved ones, but can’t truly comprehend the DAILY challenges a service member and his or her family has to go through for such prolonged periods of time.
Of course, I’ve also received some emails from readers that are either military spouses or in the military themselves. I’ve actually gotten a lot of responses from foreign-born military spouses and also military widows, thanking me for having included them in the book and drawing some attention to their specific issues they have to face in the military.
This book has been very well received so far. And I’m hoping I’m able to reach many more, because I truly believe that it can help in closing this gap that currently exists between our military and civilian worlds.
For the first time, facts and common misconceptions about the Military Lifestyle have been accessibly presented and composed in a manner that specifically appeals to non-military friends and family members. This book is meant to apply to all families and friends of our service(wo)men of every branch within the military. It was written in order to make a positive difference by giving people within the civilian world the information they need to understand the experiences of and reconnect with those that protect their freedoms and rights. Stay close to your service members, for they truly need you.
Reviewed by “Circle of Moms” Top Military Bloggers:
“This resource is perfect for EVERYONE with ANY connection to the military community, and should be on everyone’s shelf!” – Judy Davis – TheDirectionDiva.com
“[This] book is absolutely brilliant!” – Cat Lang – NutsInANutshell.blogspot.com
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Genre – Military Family
Rating – G
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