To Friends And Family Of Active Duty Military, Here Are Some Things You Should Know

To Friends And Family Of Active Duty Military,  Here Are Some Things You Should Know

In the 10 years I served in the Air Force, I have learned that there are some things your civilian friends and family will never understand, no matter how many times you explain the ways of the military to them.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

When I say I am in the military, please do not automatically assume it is Army!

I provide only love for the men and women who serve in every branch. It took courage and guts to raise our hands and promise to literally lay down our lives for our country. I will never take that away from any military member. And yes, us fellow military brethren do joke around about each other's branch, but please, when we say we are in the military, don't say, "Oh, so you're Army?"

I honestly get this question every time I say I served in the military...even after prefacing the fact that I am prior Air Force. We are not interchangeable, and I can attest that we all get tired of getting the same questions over and over again.

I love you Army!

No, I am not a pilot!  

I am just a lowly Security Forces member, but I cannot count on both hands how often I am asked if I can fly planes. Funny enough, I know a friend who did enlist, served his time in the Air Force and ended up following his life long dreams of becoming a pilot!

For me, however, that is not the case, nor has it ever been the case to fly.

I suppose each branch has its stereotype, and I understand I will have to take a deep breath the next time someone asks me if I am a pilot.

Have you committed murder?

Wow, that's a big one there. Have I what? There are some civilians who don't really dive deep into what the military does as a whole. They are happy to just associate the military with war, blood, death and gore.

The simple fact of the matter is this: not every person in the military is infantry. There are plenty of different career choices when you enlist/commission that does not have to involve the potential of taking another life. We have cooks, finance, medical, intel, public affairs and so much more when it comes to careers. So, no, not every service member has taken a life.

Also, please do not be so blunt and shout out if we committed murder when we tell you we were or are in the Armed Forces. The potential for the conversation to go south rises quickly with that one.

Oh, so you're home for the holidays...

When we go into the military, we sacrifice a lot. We end up leaving home, either living as far as west to east, north to south or even internationally. There are military bases everywhere. And one of the main reasons people join the military is the opportunity of travel. Specifically, paid for travel.

With that being the case, I can guarantee that when we decide to go home for the holidays, coming from all parts of the world, we are not keen on additional travel just to say hi to a family member or school buddy. Please be considerate of your service member, remember that they just paid hundreds to maybe thousands of dollars to visit home and think of driving up to see them instead of the other way around.

Especially when you realize how we are only allotted so many days of leave a year and most times, visit home every few years due to cost efficiency and work schedule.

The military is a 24/7 commitment and not every member has a traditional Monday to Friday 9-5 job with holidays off.

Being female means you can't serve

There was a time in our history when serving in the military was considered a man's job. Even now, with certain job applications, it requires for male applicants to indicate if they are signed up for involuntary draft in the case our country calls for it.

We have come a long way from the subservient female role and have been able to surpass multiple glass ceilings in many careers. There are jobs in the military that will state only male positions, but overall, females can join the military just as their male counterparts. Being female does not mean we are incapable of serving our country. It should even be looked upon as an attribute because of the cognitive element when it comes to men and women.

Being female is not a weakness or an excuse to not serve. I have served with many females that proved to be just as good or even better than the males in their career fields.

We are targets in our own country

Believe it or not, but there are people, citizens, that hate the military and will resort to violence when they see an opportunity to attack a military member.

When I was still serving, one of the briefs I would receive before turning in for the day/shift regarded avoiding going off base in our uniforms or blatantly showcasing our military background because of the activity taking place where our base was located.

At first, I was shocked that I needed to be wary in my own country...that was my naivety.

Even today, after being separated from the military, I avoid showing any military connection when traveling. You just never know who is watching and who is making you a target because of your connections.

During my brief stint with the California Highway Patrol, I learned this valuable nugget of information...or what is basic fact: We are a nexus. In this case, we are a nexus to the United States Military. Whatever we do, good or bad, it will never start with Mr or Misses, but prior insert military affiliation here member so and so.

I learned to always be wary of what I do and how I portray myself because of the simple fact that there will always be somebody watching, taking note and waiting for their cue to take action.

Violence isn't the answer

Along with assuming we all took a life at one point in our lives, it is also assumed that ALL military members are prone to violence or believe that the first step to any solution is violence. I cannot speak for all prior and currently serving members, but I can say for myself, that I do not agree with that and in my field, we were taught how to de-escalate a possible violent situation. The end goal was always compliance. I am sure if we took a poll, the majority of service members would vote to avoid going to war. Unfortunately, we do not have veto power on that decision.

Why put your family through that stress by deploying?

Well, for one, military members are not climbing over each other to deploy for 6 months to a year in a combat zone. We do not choose to deploy. No one wants to leave their families and loved ones behind while putting their lives on the line. It is an understanding of every member that we rose our right hands and swore to follow orders and lay our lives down. It is an unspoken agreement on our part, sitting in the back of our minds, that the potential for death is there. However, it is not something we look forward to doing. We do not enjoy the added stress on family members that deployment brings.

There are some things that we have come to accept while serving. One being the unpredictable lifestyle, the unforeseen twists and turns that come with raising your right hand. That also means the unwanted 6 months to 1 year deployment, separated from our loved ones.

Did you know anyone who's died?

Understand the blunt and very much, insensitive, question here. There are service members that have been fortunate enough to not lose a friend as a casualty of war and there are those who have.

No one, even civilians, wants to be reminded of the unbearable pain that comes with the lost of a loved one. It isn't a question that needs to be asked. If the member openly offers that information, that is up to them, but it is not an appropriate starter topic for many.

Be considerate of the pain the member may still be enduring. Let the member volunteer information at their own pace, not yours.

You don't look like you belong in the military

Wow. So, I assume there is a preconceived look that all military members share and that I must lack to be told this. This may be meant in a complimentary way, but take is not.

There are all types of personalities and looks in the military. We are one gargantuan melting pot with no one like the other.

Tell me, what look is expected for military members and non-military members? We can thank movies and television for the macho-man stereotype of what makes you the spitting image of military background. It isn't the discipline and professionalism that are obvious indicators, but apparently a look that we lack.

Things Not To Say To Someone In The Armed Forces

Deciding to join the military was a pivotal moment in my life. I know, if I had gone a different route, my life would not be how it is now. I am glad for the choice I made when I was 18. The experience I have gained is very much due to my military background and I would not change it if I could.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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