How To Share a Soldier’s Life

“Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.” General Robert E. Lee

Salon.com is currently carrying a piece in its “Family” section entitled, “How to leave a soldier: The war on terror may be impossible to resolve. Ending my marriage was easy.” Personally I prefer Cassy Fiano’s response to it, How To Destroy A Soldier’s Life on Hot Air. I urge you to read the Cassy’s, it describes enough of the Salon putrescence without glorifying their website with another “hit.”

Even in peacetime the military life is somewhat out-of-the-ordinary. All the vets, spouses and parents here can attest to it. Frequent absences, horrendous hours, nearly adequate pay, and moving, sometimes half way around the world, every three or four years made military marriages challenging even before 9/11. A military marriage now looks back at the previous “frequent absences” with a longing for the good old days. I’ve heard military spouses say “He’s only going to be gone for 12 months, after that 15 month deployment, 12 is like a long weekend!” There’s a good bit of bravado in that and it certainly won’t hold up through those times that a check bounced, the LP tank for the heat ran dry or the days with a house full of sick children, but it is the public attitude of most of the military wives I know. I also know that attitude is as much for the spouse as it is for the public. It takes a strong man or woman to survive the certainty that comes creeping in the wee hours of the morning, the certainty that something bad has or is soon to happen. That creeping fear takes a toll after many a dark hour of fear and loneliness and winning that fight is harder than many of the fights their husbands endure.

While a leftist who deserted her warrior husband in the last war, for an avowed “Marxist”, and just now, 19 years later, comes out trying to garner fame from it may be a first, “Dear John” letters and the wives who write them is nothing new. DOD reported a 3.6% divorce rate for FY 2009, one full percentage point above the FY 2000 rate. The method the DOD uses to arrive at that figure is somewhat less than accurate; I would place it in the same category as a DKos poll or any kind of “Climate Science”. The number of married servicemen at the end of the year is subtracted from the reported number of married servicemen at the beginning of the year. This obviously leaves out those who leave the military and gives us no idea of the number of new servicemen who are married when they enter. Anecdotal evidence from many who work with Soldiers and their families puts the rate at “nearer double digits”.

Even if their anecdotal evidence is correct, that leaves us with the other 90% of military spouses who take their duty as seriously as their warrior husband takes his. They see their duty, a duty to their family, to their husband and their shared oath, as spoken in their vows. A duty each of them understands is every bit as solemn and important as their warrior’s oath to support and defend the Constitution.

Like the writer of the “Dear John” letter, these wives have been around since the days of Gilgamesh, unlike the writers of Dear John letters, these women have helped to found Nations, helped to protect Nations and helped to bring liberty to oppressed Nations. Unlike the cheap, tawdry “author” of “How to leave a soldier”, these women didn’t seek fame by their letter writing. If you want to know how to write to a Soldier, explore these links, not the selfish, strident “Me! Me! Me!” of the cheap w*#^e who is only capable of a Dear John letter.

”Dear Jim, you say you love me more and more every day. If possible, for my feeling read your own heart. You know they correspond and echo with yours. It seems as though I had lived years since first I saw you and years since I have see you last. How will the year ever pass? Time seems only to strengthen the love I bear for you, although you are absent in body, you may rest assured you are ever present in thought.” Florence Lee letter to her sweetheart Captain James A. Sayles, February 5, 1864

University of Washington, Civil War Letters Collection

Virginia Military Institute Civil War Letters, Diaries and Manuscripts

The Civil War Archive: Letters Home From the Civil War

PS. It was a common practice during the American Civil War for Soldiers and their sweethearts to turn a letter upside down and write a response in the unused space below the line. No one ever bothered to do that with a “Dear John” though I have heard a heart warming story about a boyfriend and a bowling bag.

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