Friday, April 13, 2007

Pentagon extends Army tours in Iraq

It is not often that you will find me addressing something that is political in nature. That is a subject that I try to stay away from simply because it annoys me more than it benefits me. That being said, I do vote and take part in the democratic process. However, I am a military spouse and I speak up when something happens in Washington that effects my life and my husband’s career. A friend of mine who is also a military spouse posted this bulletin on MySpace yesterday. I believe it says everything that all of us as spouses are feeling right now with the Pentagon’s announcement to extend the length of tours in Iraq. I want the war to end for reasons that are purely personal and selfish in nature. I don’t agree with the protestors or the politicans who want to end this. I don’t know if I think their arguments are valid. I simply know that I have watched my husband leave twice and everytime I fear he will not return. I know that I am preparing to go through this process all over again. Only this time he will be gone for a longer period of time. Some might say that three months isn’t a long time. My response to that would be try only seeing the person you love once in a 15 month period. My husband and I aren’t talking about it. I think we just don’t know what to say. There is nothing we can to so I guess you get to the point where you just don’t fight it anymore.

Something happened today that will affect my family, every person I see daily, and over 200,000 others. If you were watching the news channels about three hours after the stories were posted online around 8pm EDT, you would think we were all affected by Don Imus or even Sanjaya on American Idol. But you would be wrong. The defense secretary announced today that the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan were extended from 12 to 15 months. Maybe we missed it (we do live in Hawaii) but I doubt it. How in the world is it more important that one man made some sexist and racist remark about a basketball team and got fired? How is it more important that Sanjaya is still on American Idol? The fact is, it’s not more important, especially to the three proud Army wives sitting in my living room right now or to the countless others affected by this.Some people will say “It’s just three more months” and yes it is just three more months but put it into perspective. My husband will deploy at the end of this year, all we know is he won’t be here for Christmas. This means he won’t be here next Christmas either. In fact, the next time he will be home for Christmas our son (who is now four) will be seven years old. Fathers who missed the birth of their children could now also miss their child’s first birthday as well, like my friend Jason who is currently deployed.

I love that the plan says that the troops are guaranteed a year at home between deployments, as if it’s a favor to us. This doesn’t take away from the fact that they will be in Iraq or Afghanistan for longer than they are home. I’m sure it also doesn’t take into account that while they are home they are out in the field training for weeks or months at a time. Soldiers I know who are preparing to deploy later this year are spending at least one week in the field per month and will be going for desert training for two additional months. One week per month adds up to 12 weeks a year or three months, add in that additional two months and that’s five months of training. So, in the period of one year we will actually get to see our husbands a total of seven months. That doesn’t even take into account going to work every day, or the 24 hour shifts they pull for other duties.

I’m also happy they were so generous to pay everyone an additional $1000 per month for the extra time they’ll be deployed. If you calculate that out, it averages $1.38 per hour. If you worked at a job paying $6.15 an hour, you would make an extra $3.08 per hour for overtime. So someone who flips burgers or mops floors is paid more for time and a half than our troops who will be serving their country for an extra three months. Just imagine if someone paid you $3000 to miss three months of your child’s life, their first birthday, their high school graduation, your brother or sister’s wedding, your 5th or 25th wedding anniversary would it be worth it? Hardly.

In writing this I’m not looking for sympathy or words of encouragement. I want others to realize this is so important to so many people and affects so many lives and it is not okay. I’m not a protester or anti-war activist. I am a wife who is proud of her husband and what he does for his country. I am a wife who wants her husband home as much as possible to see his children grow up. I am a wife who thinks my husband and all the other soldiers have done their jobs and done it well and now it’s time for them to come home.

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