I’ve been told that the word “civilian” can be used to describe people who have had no military experience. I also know, that by that definition I fall into the category of civilian. However, I feel that if people are put into categories or given labels, then mine is a little different because I am a military spouse.
But recently I was told I was “that civilian.”
That didn’t sit well with me.
I think some veterans, including my husband, have had experiences with folks such as civilians with no military experience (but perhaps a love of country) who mean well, but in the absence of understanding may say or do something that can be hurtful or leave a veteran scratching their head in confusion.
It is hard to understand the veteran experience at times. We cannot expect folks who are not living the military experience (currently serving or retired) to understand. This lack of understanding is sometimes called the military-civilian divide or gap.
I think that most people truly appreciate what our service members and families go through. I think that there is a great deal of support from many grateful Americans. There are still common misconceptions, though.
I admit, my feelings were hurt. This man is more than likely unaware of what a day in our life is like. This man is probably unaware of the sleepless nights, the nights where I wake up to a husband who has had a nightmare and is sweating like he just ran a marathon. I doubt this man understands the daily stressors of my husband’s job, life with a service dog, and simply working on facing PTSD head on. I wonder if this man appreciates the sacrifices that my husband has gone through, and I wonder if he understands the stress and strain that can fall on military families.
Because if he did, I don’t think I would have been lumped into a category that was described as a group of people who just don’t care, who don’t want to understand. I also don’t think that this man would have said “them people don’t care and won’t care” right in front of me–knowing a little bit of our story. Because I care.
Trust me when I say I get it in my own way.
I care. I want to understand. I have had educational moments from books and real life experiences.
I get it when my husband needs space and needs to be away from people because it is just too overwhelming.
I get it when my husband can’t watch a documentary about war because it might be a trigger. So, in my own time, I’ll watch it to understand his experiences.
I get it when my husband relives moments of war repeatedly. I get that only because I chose to educate myself on how to understand nightmares, flashbacks, and the horrors of PTSD.
Forgive me if I have trouble for being “that civilian” because I am not.
My husband chose the life of the military…but that doesn’t mean that he knew what he would be getting into at times. No one can understand the life and culture of the military unless they have been in it, or unless they chose to educate themselves about it. We can use support of our family and friends through the ups and downs, and thankfully we have had that. However, there are some military families that do not have that love and support.
Soldiers are in the Army. Marines are in the Marine Corps. Airmen are in the Air Force and Coasties are in the Coast Guard. Sailors are in the Navy. All military members are not soldiers, it is not that they would be ashamed to be called soldier, but they are incredibly proud of their individual branches of service. Military members really appreciate it when civilians get this terminology correct.
Veterans and their families appreciate those who offer support, encouragement, and gratitude. I know I am grateful (as is Sam) for the kind words of encouragement we’ve received, the thoughtful questions, and wanting to know more about what we experience in a day to day life with Memphis. I am so thankful for the opportunity to write for you all and share our thoughts, feelings, ups, downs, highs, lows…it is an honor.
So, if someone ever tells you, or you hear someone say that “civilians don’t get it, don’t care, and don’t want to know” I hope that you have the feeling of that’s not me like I did—I hope you take the time to understand our veterans and their experiences. I hope that you support our veterans, troops, and their families. You may never know how much your warm thoughts, kind words, support, encouragement, thoughts and prayers can be.