I’ve never lied about who I am, or who I am married to. On my blog and in my various author bios across the web, I clearly state that I’m married to a Reservist. The trouble is that, for whatever reason, many don’t count my husband as being in the military, nor me as counting as a military spouse.
I have written about some of the road blocks we encounter as a military family and often discuss the misconceptions about our life. I have, however, never really written about the big, giant, glaringly obvious thing that stares me in the face each day. We are excluded. We aren’t just overlooked or forgotten, we are purposefully and directly excluded by groups who claim to want to help Service Members.
This is something I have discussed at length in private with friends of other Reservists or National Guardsmen, and I have even talked about it with my friends who are married to Active Duty Service Members. The trouble is that somewhere down the line, it was deemed acceptable to exclude us, and no one has managed to change that.
We live in a time where everyone is fighting to be heard, advocating for one group or another, but even those people and groups tend to disregard Reserve families. I have been blatantly denied inclusion because my husband is a Reservist. It hurts every time, no matter how often it has happened.
I refuse to believe or accept that a man who has pledged eleven years of his life to the Marine Corps, who has deployed to combat zones multiple times and who lives his life as a Marine first, American second, and husband third, can be regarded as anything but a patriotic member of our Armed Forces. Yet there are those who will tell you that he doesn’t count as a Veteran. There are those who will call him a “Weekend Warrior,” who will say that I am not a TRUE military spouse, and that we do not count as a military family.
I recently read an article on the website of a group claiming to be in support of “Veteran” owned businesses and a resource for those Veterans. But the article began, “Welcome Active Duty Veterans and Military Spouses.” Apparently, according to their definition, you only count as a Veteran if you served in the Active Duty side of the military.
So I ask you this, the next time you are face to face with a Reservist and their family, could you say to them that you feel they don’t count? Can you tell a group of Service Members who log the same amount of drill hours and training hours in “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” with the hard work and dedication it takes to do so doesn’t qualify them as service members in your book?
Can you tell the family they leave behind on deployment, who misses their spouse when their anniversary rolls around, the birth of their child is coming, or any other major special event is on the way, that they don’t count as a military family because their spouse isn’t a member of the “real” military? Can you look me in the face and tell me that when my husband is called away in the middle of the night to aide a subordinate in his unit for some reason or another, or he has to abandon me in an ER to tend to military duty, that I am not a military spouse, even though I live a life where the military always comes first?
What is your definition of a Veteran? What is your definition of a military spouse? Or a Service Member, or military family?
We do not all PCS every few years. We do not all have the same benefits, we don’t all qualify for Tricare, or even get included in events for the military and their families. But being excluded doesn’t make me any less a military spouse, nor my husband any less a Marine. It doesn’t negate his duty to his country for which he serves with pride.
I am disappointed in the idea that a nation which prides itself in the inclusion of everyone so readily excludes a key group of those who are sworn to protect this great country. I am hurt when a friend emails me to say that she tried to put together care packages for Military Spouse Appreciation Day, but was told by those donating items that Reserve and NG spouses didn’t count and weren’t to be included. I am saddened that I have encountered so many who are so ready to thank a Service Member, as long as they are not a Reservist or National Guardsmen.
When it comes down to it, we are not so different. When my husband puts on the same uniform that his Active Duty counterparts wear, no one stops to clarify that he isn’t a “weekend warrior” before shaking his hand and thanking him for his service.
The dictionary defines “veteran” as being someone who has served in the armed forces. The VFW only requires that you show proof of orders of your service in a foreign war before allowing membership. So what is your definition? Because, so far, many people feel very comfortable telling me that my husband doesn‘t count.