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August 07, 2008

Rantings of a Cranky Marine Wife

Dear sweet Christ on a skateboard, someone fetch me a tisane for my nerves. They're at it again.

You know, the Agony Aunties:

An Air Force wife said she had to give up her job when her husband deployed because she couldn’t find child care.

There have been many days when the Editorial Staff might have contemplated slitting our wrists, but for the thought that hope is on the way. We hear tell that come the Revolution under an Obama administration affordable, safe and sanitary child care will drop gently from fluffy little clouds, much like manna from the heavens, rescuing arithmetically challenged military spouses everywhere from the tragic realization that after paying for gas, clothing, Longaberger basket binges, lunch, taxes and other expenses their net take home pay asymptotically approaches el numero Zed. This is a gender-sensitive way of saying that when you do the math, working starts to look a lot more like a hobby than a necessity.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the fact that deployed service members receive numerous allowances and tax breaks for serving in a war zone (for those of you at home without a calculator, this means that when a service member deploys, their pay goes up... way up) this woman's tragic plight must indisputably be reckoned a "cost of war". And we haven't even begun to tally up the psychic toll imposed by deplorable tactics like deployment rebates on credit card interest charges. Yes, I realize this is unconscionable. The Unit and I were forced to endure a 4% interest rate for an entire year during his deployment. At the end of our tour, without so much as a by-your-leave, our credit card provider gave us every cent of the interest we paid back! They claimed this was a "thank you for having served!. Bastards. When even corporations conspire to victimize military families, it is clear urgent Executive branch action is needed.

A Marine wife, a former executive, said she home-schools her children because she couldn’t find a public or private school that could meet her children’s needs.

Well there you have it: the Ensmartening Effect. We military wives can learn so much from our obviously smarter peers. I, too, home schooled my fetuses when we were stationed at Parris Island, SC. I give this woman full marks for shrewdly realizing that, though both public and private schools already exist to serve her children, somewhere along the line it became the duty of her fellow citizens to bridge the gap between her expectations and whatever schools are already funded by the American taxpayer.

That big red mark on my forehead is me, realizing [WHAP!!!] it was never my job to figure out a way to get my sons the specialized education I wanted for them. Like an idiot, I thought this was part of living in a free society - the idea that I and my fellow citizens were free to take advantage of what was available in the public sector, and if any of us wanted something different, we were free to seek it -- it on our own.

And I did.

A Navy wife described the pressures of taking care of her husband’s father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, while also caring for her infant and her teenager — all while her husband was deployed.

If only her husband weren't deployed! He could stay home from work, receive his full paycheck anyway, and help take care of Dad and the kids! This is just another tragic cost of war, and just another example of how the military mistreats its employees. Lord knows, a civilian would not have to work all day, just to receive a day's wages. George W. Bush and his cronies have much to answer for.

Why, just listen to the authentic voices of these brave military spice... spouses. Apparently, these problems are indicative of an "epidemic of suffering" in the armed forces. Thank God the Obama campaign has its finger on the pulse of the military commune community:

The intensive 1½-hour session “touched the tip of the iceberg,” said Amanda McBreen, wife of a Marine lieutenant colonel who is in the process of moving to the Norfolk area from Parris Island, S.C.

“It’s an honor that someone in an influential position like Mrs. Obama would care enough to listen to what I have to say,” said McBreen, one of the spouses who participated in the roundtable. “I don’t wear my husband’s rank, so to be asked to have an opinion is quite an honor. I’ve spent 18 years following my husband and being told what to do without someone ever asking me how I feel about that.”

Obama said the issues that have been raised to her at Norfolk, Bragg and Campbell run the gamut from the need for more affordable child care to the challenges spouses face in cobbling together careers through many reassignment moves to concerns about the quality of education for their children.

“The mental health stresses appear to be higher for people who are active and in the midst of deployment,” she said in an interview with Military Times following the roundtable. “The stress is just so much more powerful. But the issues are the same. It’s just how far on the brink someone is.”

She said there should be more services to help families deal with this, and she noted that her husband, if elected, has said he would seek to provide more support for military families, including counseling.

If the Obama administration wants to make a real difference in the lives of military women, he might consider attempting to do something about the pressing problem of conjugal unpleasantness.

This beastliness be stopped. And in our time, too.

Posted by Cassandra at August 7, 2008 08:49 AM

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She had to give up her job (marginal benefits in pay and so forth) to take care of her own child?
The poor thing. How inconvenient for her.

Give me strength. Or a clue bat.

Now: A formal announcement: As of the 12th of August, the Engineer will be officially Not Working For A Check any more. He will be retired.
Fully. We managed to do this by saving our money, getting out of debt and working our butts off. For the past seven years, I made food from scratch as much as possible, learned about gardening, cut off what we couldn't afford (although our son's needs made getting rid of the idiot box easier) and put that money to a nest egg. We have one house to sell. For some strange cockamamie reason, he wants to be a full time dad.

Go figure.

Posted by: Cricket at August 7, 2008 12:54 PM

People really need to think about whether having children is worth all this unpleasantness. A 10th or 12th trimester abortion might be more convenient.

Posted by: Pile On at August 7, 2008 12:56 PM

Through my research, I have found that it is the 70th trimester that gives the most trouble, buuuut, with lots of patience and keeping the lines of communication open, that urge to knock them into next week passes.

Posted by: Cricket at August 7, 2008 01:05 PM

My goodness, where in the name of the Messiah and Most Merciful, did you find this terrible video. It looks like it was made before the time of modern humans. Plus, the archives from which it needs to be retrieved must be under the most disgusting and musty site, covered in cobwebs, etc.... Not only all that, but there's something terribly Un-American about the characters represented in this video. This never would have happened in this man's Army. Perhaps if I could only watch the whole thing in one sitting, my opinion would be different. Pity!

Posted by: DougW at August 7, 2008 01:15 PM

My goodness, where in the name of the Messiah and Most Merciful, did you find this terrible video. It looks like it was made before the time of modern humans. Plus, the archives from which it needs to be retrieved must be under the most disgusting, vile, and musty site, covered in cobwebs, etc.... Not only all that, but there's something terribly Un-American about the characters represented in this video. This never would have happened in this man's Army. Perhaps if I could only watch the whole thing in one sitting, my opinion would be different. Pity!

Posted by: DougW at August 7, 2008 01:16 PM

Your credit card company paid you back the interest on your card?

Excuse me, I think I need to go lie down. At least, I will if I can manage to stay on the bed once I climb up where it's hanging from the ceiling.

Posted by: Grim at August 7, 2008 01:20 PM

I sympathize with these Army wives - my stepson, the SSgt, (now frolicking about the woods in a training exercize before being sent on holiday to a somewhat hazardous area far from here), is married to one.

The trick is, that like Cass & Co, you cope. These are the women who were never promised a rose garden. Yes, it's hard, and I'm glad I don't have to do it.

Not too long ago, several generations of women (and their men) grew up on the Plains, where life was hardly a bed of roses. They set the standard for stamina and endurance.

We could use a little of that strength today.

In the meantime, I think I've heard that an Army wife isn't a lone stranger - surely she has support groups on and off base?

Posted by: ZZMike at August 7, 2008 01:28 PM

"If the Obama administration wants to make a real difference in the lives of military women, he might consider attempting to do something about the pressing problem of conjugal unpleasantness."

This is not isolated to the military, or even the colonies... If Monsieur Obama is elected leader of the free world, perhaps he might find a way to bring some hope, if not help, to those in such desperate need across the pond.

Posted by: Benson at August 7, 2008 01:29 PM

This is most likely lese majeste--but I can't find much sympathy.

(caveat--I'm setting aside the stress of having a spouse in a war zone. These comments do not apply to that.)

One brother-in-law worked for a company that started out in Danbury Ct, moved operations to Kalamazoo MI, closed there after five years and moved to Dexter MI, then after ONE year closed those and offered jobs back at Kalamazoo. Little offered in way of help to move, find housing, etc. Limited science field, finally found a new job with another company BASED in MI.

One brother-in-law also moved from Maryland to Germany to Arizona to Florida in about the same amount of time but his company did the moving and offered housing assistance. When one job site proved not to his family's liking he was able to move to another, albeit after a few months wait, retaining same pay and seniority. Last job was planned where he intended to retire, got a new job using degree earned (and used education benefit) while doing first job.

Which one was civilian and which one was military? The civilian wife and kids suffered just as much disruption as the military set--I see no real reason to favor one over the other based on those criteria. There ARE real stresses and special conditions that go with military life--but what's been cited by these wives are not unique to the military.

These kinds of comments are not going to garner much sympathy out here in civvie land. We also cope with schools, careers and child care, widows and divorcees also have to cope alone, etc, etc. etc. I'm all for supporting our military families--but this kind of stuff is what many, many people need help with. Even the education...I've seen some military arguing for resumption of base schools because the local schools aren't 'good' enough. Good way to win friends and influence people--tell the community around you that their schools aren't good enough and demand tax dollars for a better school their kids can't attend!

I truly do understand that the military life can be difficult, that there are special demands on those who choose that career, and that society should support those who do. But the issues raised in articles like this are not going to make that case.

Posted by: Maggie100 at August 7, 2008 01:30 PM

Grim, when the Engineer was deployed, not only did the Evil Engulf & Devour Corp. LOWER my interest rates (as did the mortgage company on our house), they waived late fees and penalties, and if I was late, they didn't charge me a gazillion dollars to do a check by phone.

Of course, this has to do with Customer Relations and us Spreading The Word about how wonderful we had been treated by the EE&G.

Posted by: Cricket at August 7, 2008 01:31 PM

Maggie, you said it well. Cops have it rough too, because they are on the front lines of evil all the time. They finally get to stand down after putting it on the line for years.

The military is seen as a microcosm because of the commonality of the problems, not the unique position of being in the armed forces. We're just more visible, is all.

Posted by: Cricket at August 7, 2008 01:36 PM

Maggie, I completely agree with you.

Yes, some military wives have it rough. But so do many civilians. And what people don't take into account is that expectations have a lot to do with whether you are happy in life. And you know what? It's an inverse relationship - the people who expect everything to be handed to them end up miserable. Those who have realistic expectations manage to be happy no matter where they are, and no matter what ups and downs come their way. They realize that when the bad times come, they only make you appreciate the good times more, and also often they draw people together. So you can bitch and moan, or you can find the silver lining.

And there is usually a silver lining. Trust me on this one. And some people always manage to find the bitter in the sweet.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 7, 2008 01:51 PM

Well, my credit card company is always nice to me, but that's because over ten years we've racked up tens of thousands of dollars in charges and then paid them off again, never late. I currently have a zero balance, which they don't love; but they do love my history with them. Given my low debt load (currently, just my wife and my remaining student loans) and excellent history of repayment, I'm close to ideal as a candidate.

That said, while they have occasionally cut my interest rate at my demand, never once did they offer to go as low as 4%; and never, ever did they offer to pay me anything back. Not one nickle, not ever.

That's just astonishing to me.

Posted by: Grim at August 7, 2008 02:02 PM

While all the military spouses quoted in that article seem like career whiners, I am most offended by the Marine wife's comments.

If you have an opinion, you're wearing your husband's rank?

"I’ve spent 18 years following my husband and being told what to do without someone ever asking me how I feel about that.”

All I can say to Mrs. McBreen is:
You've made military spouses sound like sister brides at one of those polygamist ranches ..
Beyotch, puhlease....

Posted by: Semper Fi Wife at August 7, 2008 02:22 PM

I found that comment rather interesting.

My husband has been in for 27 years. So, about 10 years longer than hers. (we are going on 28 here). In all that time, I can't recall too many times when anyone (including him) has told me what to do.

There have been many times when I have felt there were things that I "ought" to do. And I did them. But that was my choice. At that time, many other wives "chose" not to do these things. I'd say on average many more wives chose NOT to do these things, than did them. There have been geo bachelors because their wives "chose" not to move with them.

And stay at home Moms who "chose" to not to work.

And career women who "chose" not to stay at home with their kids.

I am so tired of hearing people whine about being "forced" to do things. We always have choices. We many not care for some of the tradeoffs involved.

We may find the alternatives unpalatable. But we have choices. I have never had a gun to my head. So do not talk to me about being forced, and don't talk to me about your feelings either, because your feelings really don't enter into the decision making process. They are interesting, but honestly. Who cares? I don't "feel" happy about moving, but if you don't move your husband doesn't get promoted. This is the career he chose. I knew that when I married him. If you don't like that, get a divorce. No one forced you to marry a Marine.

Stop being such a wench.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 7, 2008 02:45 PM

And by the way, my husband wasn't even a Marine when I married him, so that wasn't even part of the bargain for me. And I dealt. So I have no sympathy twice over.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 7, 2008 02:46 PM

Grim, FWIW, it was astonishing to me, too.

I am still in shock. That is why I find idiotic rants like this article even more offensive. The amount of pandering this country has done to the military during this war approaches the colossal at times. We are blessed, many times over.

However, it is also indisputably true that we as a nation will never truly understand the cost of war until we can finally view the bloody faces and bulging intestines of our brave, murdering troops as they gasp out their dying breaths, live and in color, online. Just ask Clark Hoyt.

Posted by: Wizened and Stiffened, Thereby at August 7, 2008 02:50 PM

The thing I found interesting is that Michele Obama seems to always find people in misery everywhere she goes.

That's quite a coincidence. Oh wait a minute I forgot Bush is still in office so America is a terrible place.

Posted by: Allen at August 7, 2008 02:56 PM

Birds of a feather Allen.

Posted by: bt_what-me-worry_hun at August 7, 2008 03:15 PM

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me.
Think I'll eat some woooorrrms.

For the love of God, grow a pair, put your big girl panties on and stop bitching!!!

Like I've said before - bitter or better. Pick a stinking vowel.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at August 7, 2008 03:34 PM

Michelle Obama is an ungrateful whiner.
The first time in her life she was proud of America was when her husband was on the campaign trail?
What about her costly education at Harvard? Was that about affirmative action or her own hard work? To be fair, equal parts of both? She has a law degree from an institution whose yearly tuition is more than most people make in several years, and she has always been ashamed of America?

No wonder the whiners seek her out. She couldn't find her silver lining if it bit her on the butt.

Grim, do you use USAA for banking? If you don't, big boo boo on your part. I switched my credit card over to them and they dropped the interest down to 7%. Bank of America was the monkey on my back for about two years.

We had them because they have a local branch.
However, our son had a decent sum deposited, and when they pulled a right stupid stunt on us, we pulled his account.

The stunt? On Fridays, they have 'extended hours' to accomodate working people. (peasants)
IF you make a payment to your credit card AFTER 2 pm on that Friday, it will not post until MONDAY.
Even though the bank has extended hours. Which means, it will generate a late charge if it due say, over the weekend. They have 'extended hours' on Saturdays, and the same rule applies.

We made the mistake of making a payment to our card on a Friday before a three day weekend. Our payment was due that Monday, but because of the bank holiday, it was posted on Tuesday. 38.00 for a late charge.

We disputed it and got our money back, using the fact that SINCE they were already OPEN they could process it to post on time, since they didn't have to send to a processing center.

I did threaten the manager with writing to Clark Howard over it. Then the death blow. We paid off our card a month later. I trotted into the bank. Spoke with a customer service rep. Got a payoff figger from their bosses. WROTE IT DOWN.
Wrote out the check. A week later, verified the check cleared, and they had their money and we had a zero balance on the account.

Two weeks after that, we get a statement from them. According to the accounting trolls, we owed them 6.95 in interest on a zero balance.

I.don't.think.so. We fought that one too and they took it off.

You have to hustle sometimes, to get your breaks and perks, but well, it is character building stuff, and in a perverse sort of a way, it was
a good thing to teach the children on how to dispute and resolve a conflict.

That is what I do when things get sour is try to learn from it.

Posted by: Cricket at August 7, 2008 03:36 PM

Oddly enough, this kind of article worries me too. There are some real problems that should be addressed: the VA system, medical care for active duty and dependents, substandard housing--I'm sure everyone here could come up with some. But if these are the kinds of complaints that get publicity it's going to be harder to get support for the problem areas that really do need to be addressed.

My sister was in the AF for a couple of tours; she came home from Crete when she was 7 months pregant. The medical center on base here told her that they didn't have an open appt for another 8 weeks.


I certainly hope medical care is better now but that's the kind of issue I want to know more about, not the kind in the article.

Posted by: Maggie100 at August 7, 2008 04:03 PM

Grim, do you use USAA for banking?

Um... no. :) I really should.

Posted by: Grim at August 7, 2008 06:44 PM

Check them out. You won't regret it if you switch.

Posted by: Cricket at August 7, 2008 07:54 PM

Cass is so funny when she is like this.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 7, 2008 08:04 PM

Posted by: Fatima at August 7, 2008 09:22 PM

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

Here's to all of us slow learners.

Posted by: spd rdr at August 7, 2008 11:27 PM

Sensing...same idiot women...who would call the quarterdeck and ask for their husband by first name and cuss you out when you didn't know who he was.... (oddly, mostly officers and chiefs)

Posted by: Foxfier at August 8, 2008 12:11 AM

"Women Know Your Place"

On top. In control.


Posted by: DL Sly at August 8, 2008 01:02 AM

Women Know Your Place

And after we're done on top, make sure you shower.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at August 8, 2008 02:46 AM

weren't those a hoot?

When we were in Germany, I never called the orderly room or went in unless I had to get money at the AE bank. Even then, I avoided that area because they were a bunch of smelly guys.

However, I had to fill out some paperwork and didn't have a clipboard or a table at the PAC office, so I went down the hall to the OR and asked the NCOIC if I could sit at their table and fill it out. He said that was cool.

I think some wives do more harm than good. While I definitely think there are some things I don't like about the Marine Corps, I have tremendous respect for them as a group and how they take care of each other and the families. It is instilled from day one, it seems, and every friend I ever had whose father was a Marine, was always to me, the epitome of what a real friend was all about.

Even the MC wives were kewl. Some Army wives, if they were like that, were just the best buds you could ever have. I looked to those ladies whose
behavior I admired and strove to be like them.

Posted by: Cricket at August 8, 2008 08:52 AM

I think it's disguisting the way people are demeaning military spouses. Yes, our husbands signed up to protect their country. Their pay is poor and the hours are long. Just because they are not deployed does not mean they are not working 12-15 hour days! I am proud to be a Marine Wife and we have been through several deployments. Until you have actually lived through a deployment how dare someone try to demean the sacrifices that solider and his loved ones left behind has made! It's not for the faint of heart, and maybe that's why some of you can degrade our military as you poke fun at the daily obsticles that we must over come. I am proud of my husband and I will continue to serve my country by supporting my Marine. Semper Fi

Posted by: Proud USMC Wife at August 27, 2008 04:21 PM

Until you have actually lived through a deployment how dare someone try to demean the sacrifices that solider and his loved ones left behind has made!


In 27 years, 3 one year unaccompanied hitches (1 in Iraq). Countless shorter deployments. 27 years of 12-15 days.

Hopefully you'll let me know when I've racked up enough deployment time (in your expert judgment) to comment.

And by the way, the pay is not poor (whether you're enlisted or an officer). They've been doing studies as long as I can remember that show the pay for comparable jobs is actually quite competitive. There is always some whiner who starts ranting on about how the military "games" these numbers by adding in the tax advantage and liberal benefits (like health care you don't pay for - how many civilians get that?).

Anyone who thinks for one second that civilians don't tally up all these things when computing the value of their total compensation isn't playing with a full deck. Either that, or their just innumerate.

Posted by: Cassandra, Another Proud USMC "Wife" at August 27, 2008 04:51 PM