Thursday, July 11, 2013

Military and Good byes

Yesterday I wrote a post about how hard all the good byes can be in the military.

I received two (very nice by the way) comments disagreeing a bit with my perspective on saying good bye and the nature of the military life. They were comments from military brats, and both these gals were encouraging me to see this as more of an adventure instead of looking at the difficult aspects of the military.

MtnGrl wrote:

I was a kid raised by a father in the Navy. I remember the moves, good byes, and the adventures. I think you need to change your thinking - you aren't necessarily telling your friends good bye "forever" - you never know when you will meet up again. It has been unbelievable to me how frequently my family stays in touch/visits with people from those "good old days." Plus, when you travel, you never know - your friends might be in that state/country. Your kids and you will be sad to say good bye, but that doesn't mean that when JB joins civilian life, you will never have to say good bye to someone again! Plus, there are TONS of perks to being a military family (just my opinion!)....

The other anonymous commenter wrote:

I'm with MtnGirl, I LOVED being a military "brat" and moving every 2 or 3 years. I love the adventure of discovering a new place or country, meeting new people, and rediscovering old friends in a new country. I would recommend it for anyone! To me, the perks far outway the disadvantage.

I agree with a lot of what these gals said. I specifically agree with the following points:
  • You aren't saying good bye forever.
  • You never know when you will meet up again.
  • When you travel, you can reunite with these old friends.
  • You can meet tons of new people.
  • You will have to say good bye in civilian life as well.
  • Discovering a new place and adventure is exciting.
However, I disagree in regards to the following points:
  • I would recommend (this life) for anyone.
  • The perks outweigh the disadvantages.
While this life we are living is full of adventure and at times very exciting, this nature of military life is emotionally difficult. (My husband is a physician who sees the emotional side effects that moving so frequently can produce.)

I also think that some people handle this life better than others.

While I do not know either of these gals personally, I would imagine that they are both outgoing people who made friends fairly easily. But not everyone is like that. I have witnessed how hard this life can be for people who are a bit different, don't fit into a certain mold, or have difficulty making friends.

In addition, I definitely think that I must give myself permission and time to grieve the fact that this summer I will say good bye to a few people that have really touched my life. I have now lived in three different locations with Nick & Kristy (Eglin, Turkey, and here). Carla become a sister both in life and in the Lord during a very difficult time in my life. And they both live right around the corner from me! There are also a few other ladies (like Sonia) who I was just really getting to know when it became time to say good bye. Even if I am embracing this life, this is difficult.
I remember when I lived on Eglin AFB. I became good friends with a Colonel's wife and her family. She had been in the military both as a child and as a grown up. And yet, when it came time to say good bye, she chose to just not see me again during her last week on Base. "I hope you understand," she wrote to me later, "That avoiding the good bye was my way of coping." Here is a woman who has lived this life her whole life, and she was still grieving the abundance of good byes.

While civilian life does include partings, the extent to which they occur in the military life is obviously, drastically different. I think it is pretty safe to say that if I were living a civilian life, I wouldn't probably have to say good bye to two of our closest families at the exact same time. I also wouldn't be doing it while living in a foreign country.

An adventure? Absolutely.

Exciting? Sometimes.

Difficult? Yes.

And that is okay.

When I left Eglin, I left a fantastic group of women who supported me during residency. It hurt.

When I left Turkey, I left an incredible group of women who supported me during my years overseas. It stunk.

This time, I am not leaving. Instead, I am saying good bye while they are moving on to other adventures. This feels hard in a different way. I imagine it is coupled with pregnancy hormones and just not feeling great, but either way, this season is challenging me. I must allow myself to grieve that.

And to know that I'll be just fine.

I must also acknowledge that my kids are going to grieve. They should grieve losing four close friends at the same time. Will they be okay? Of course. Will they move on? Absolutely. Will they bounce back? For sure.

I'd love to keep the dialogue going on this. Anyone else want to chime in?


Anonymous said...

I didn't grow up military, in fact I never left my small town (other than college), but I love military life and would agree that advantages outweigh the bad. However, I also agree with you that it's not for everyone. I am outgoing and enjoy the idea of trying something new. I may not have as many friends here as I did in Turkey, but I look at it as a season. I grieve when I say goodbye, of course, but military wives are great about feeling connected no matter how long it's been. I've enjoyed that old friends introduce me to new ones via Facebook, and I love reunions.

I think it also makes a big difference if you enter in knowing you are only staying military for a short period. You tend to have your eye on the "prize" that way and focus more on the benefits of being done.

Is it easy? No, but we say we will keep going until we stop having fun. Even with goodbyes we are still feeling blessed to have met do many great people and to have traveled the world.


Ryan and Sarah said...

Leaving Turkey was absolutely gut wrenching for me. But I wouldn't trade the friendships for I do think the good outweighs the bad for me. Just my two cents.


Anonymous said...

I believe it's not for everyone. You seem to be a particularly melancholy, analyzing (in a great/funny way-rather than say you are sad, sick, happy or peaceful and why, you create a blog about what you've decided about something broadly w/all the backup reasons - mostly based on your emotions, your experience, your thoughts) very emotional person, who is also outgoing. So your points are absolutely valid for you, and others' are too - and as you say often, "and that's okay". Others are more easily (or work hard towards) embracing of the moments they live in. Traveling the world and always meeting new people with lots of perks and good pay in a contract would seem to many smart, hardworking people struggling for jobs in today's economy a sweet deal. Lonely people would rather say goodbye to forever friends they held close for a time than to feel so alone in general. Others are very peaceful alone. Seems to be a lot more about choices and deciding to be grateful and happy with the choices we make in this life. People who are different as you say having a harder time relating, signed up for it and maybe they chose the travel and all the military pay & perks as a good option than from feeling the exact same way in the busy non-community world of America. We're all so different - knowing ourselves well enough to make the best choices to live a fulfilling life within our capabilities and our willingness to stretch and grow are good tools to have whether it's "living" in Corporate America, Politics, Farming, etc. or the Military life. Each carries pros and cons. My thinking for me is that when I find the bad outweighing the good, it's time to make a different choice. Your friends find the military life with more pros than cons - you do not. It's those that live their lives as the victim, never owning that they're exactly where they are based on the choices they've made rather than making better choices or the decision to be @ peace within those parameters, that become the bitter elderly with a plethera of stories, ideas and thoughts about themselves (zzzzzzz) rather than about all the blessings of those experiences and people they were gifted to call friends.

MtnGirl said...

I guess one of my questions (not that you can do much about it now) is why did you/JB decide to enter the military then? I hope it wasn't just for the financial benefits to cover medical school (I don't mean this disrespectfully either). When my parents got married, they left their hometown, headed to California where my Dad left my Mom for months/maybe a year while he went out on the ship. Yep, I'm sure she would say it was hard, but she embraced that life. As a child of a military dad (career), I basically had no father for many years because he was off on a carrier, with his life on the line. I honestly don't remember "grieving" from good byes - it was sad, but I didn't mourn because I knew I'd see those friends again and pretty much have. Yes, you need to take care of your kids as they say good bye to their friends, but it's really not the end of the world. (maybe it is to a preschooler, but in the grand scheme of it, it's not!) As an adult, you can either maintain those relationships or say good bye, grieve and not ever see them again. Back when I was a kid and my parents were a young couple 100 years ago, there was no such thing as internet, email, texting, facebook, skype, etc. Nowadays there are so many opportunities to stay in touch - with military or civilian friends! With no risks, there are no rewards! By the way, I did not marry a military man, but I sure wish I had!

Wendi Kitsteiner said...

I don't actually thinking joining FOR the benefits is wrong. I would imagine most people will tell you that they joined for a combination of the perks AND the adventure. That's what we did. I don't regret joining. I don't regret being in the military. I am just with anonymous in saying that I am not sure I am cut out for all the good byes. I think it's okay to realize this isn't really FOR you --- that you just can't handle the lifestyle as well as you hoped you could. Or maybe just at this season (4 kids, missing America) you can't handle it.

Anonymous said...

To your comment: "While civilian life does include partings, the extent to which they occur in the military life is obviously, drastically different. I think it is pretty safe to say that if I were living a civilian life, I wouldn't probably have to say good bye to two of our closest families at the exact same time. I also wouldn't be doing it while living in a foreign country."- is probably unique to Military and Missionaries - @ the same time you have no idea that that's not true. Perspective is everything - I am aware of civilians who have experienced exactly that and much more, without a gaggle of children, being married to a Dr. or the security of all perks/pay their taxes pay for you to experience. In your grief, circumstances and youth, it's understandable your difficulty to imagine a broader perspective. At the same time, it is very good that you allow yourself to grieve w/o apology, while being sensitive to those less fortunate than you who have as much or more to grieve.

Wendi Kitsteiner said...


I am not sure if you realized what a "hard" remark the following is:

"In your grief, circumstances and youth, it's understandable your difficulty to imagine a broader perspective."

You then followed it up by saying "allow yourself to grieve without apology."

I believe I have a very broad perspective. I recognize, very readily, that this is but a tiny little thing in the broad spectrum of life and is very "first world" in problem. However, saying good bye is UNIVERSAL and to discuss it and dialogue about it is totally acceptable.

Anonymous said...

I apologize if you read that as "hard". It was very hard to read that you feel that in the military is is "obviously and drastically" different. But I chose to believe you would write something like that from a place of grief - and I appreciate that you say such things without apology, just being open about your feelings through this - still I'm sure you didn't realize how harsh and arrogant it came across upon first reading. I hope that you are being honest when you say "to discuss and dialogue about it is totally acceptable" - totally acceptable even when perspectives are very different.

Wendi Kitsteiner said...

Absolutely. Dialogue is very important!

I am saying that military life IS different than the general civilian population when it comes to saying good bye to people.

That is a general statement which can definitely not be true in some cases. But generally speaking, military life requires more good byes. Too many for me is my point. I just don't think I have that "umph" to keep doing it over and over again.

I am in no way comparing lives. There is NO WAY I, right now, can be a long-term missionary. That is a whole different level of good byes well beyond that of a military person.

I think it is VERY important that we are all allowed to grieve our individual sadnesses. There will ALWAYS be someone who has it worse than we do. And I do not consider what I am going through to really be an issue at all ... only a fact of where I currently am. I am grieving saying good bye to some good friends and not wanting them to go.

Mie said...

Hmmm - I appreciate the dialogue. I'm also not from or in a military family. I am, however, a foster parent who has said goodbye to 19 children I've spent at least some time raising (and I treat them and love them as "my own"). That and my sister's husband has been deployed several times. So, I do have some perspective.

What I'd say is the same thing that I say regarding foster care, and I do think it is a similar perspective. From a place of faith, whether something is hard or not doesn't or shouldn't wholly influence our decisions to engage or not. This life is not meant to be easy, nor is it meant purely for our pleasure (or pain), nor is our life our own. For that reason, having been handed the life of a foster parent (which, theoretically I could choose to disengage from because it IS hard and causes cost to our whole family), I choose to take the perspective that I live this life despite it being hard because God has called me here AND I will choose to rejoice in the refinement God is putting me through as we walk this walk. That refinement includes grieving when my kids leave (and learning to rely on God as my comfort), taking 6 young kids (6 and under) as a working mom (and learning to rely on God as my rest, prioritizing life the way He would with His help, and relying on him for all provision), and leaning on God's understanding rather than my own for all the crazy in this world of foster care and adoption. I could choose to walk away because it is hard, but I know without a doubt the refiner's fire has purified me (some) through this process, continues to purify me, and though my flesh wants to run at times my spirit is grateful.

Now - that is all about your perspecive which is where I believe MtnGirl has a huge point. That's also not to say you're not rejoicing in this journey and the refinement you could be experiencing but instead right now you're expressing the reaction of your flesh to the very real feelings you have that suck right now. You should give yourself permission to do that.

What I'd challenge you with (and all of us from a faith perspective) is to ensure you're making decisions based purely on where God wants you to be and try to embrace whatever comes with that plan, good and bad. Resist the urge to flee the life because it is hard. If God wants you to live this life (as a career or for a season) do it. If/when God wants for you to do something different, go that route (which, inevitably will lead to other change and sorrow to work through as well). Wendy - not that it matters what I think, but I'm confident that you and your family are considering your lives in a prayerful way. I guess I just needed to share my thoughts.

Heather said...

Wendi, I'm with you...PCSing (Permanent Change of Station) is hard. I miss my friends, I miss the kind of friendships I had with them. How each one is so special and unique to each person. Also, that specific time and place is special and it's hard to replicate. Life in Turkey was so very different than life, here in Alaska, is.

I also think it is much harder (for me) when you are the "last" to leave your friends. We have an unusual PCS time frame...where most people PCS in the summer ours is in the fall. I have moved before good friends and I felt that it was a little easier because I had that new adventure awaiting me. But, when your friends are leaving you, I think it's harder. You are in your day to day routine, nothing "new and exciting", but those people that were in your "day to day" now aren't there, it's just just fell left. You are the one walking by their old house, the one to tell your kids, "no, we can't go to that house, they don't live there anymore". You are the one not seeing your friend in all the familiar places.

Good-byes are hard and I like the idea of "see you later" much better. There is also that saying I'v heard and repeated many times..."It's a small Air Force". I like to hope and have faith that God will have our paths cross again.

TAV said...

While we were not "military," I lived the live of a foreign-service brat. Moving every 3 years while growing up was incredibly tough, and tough at the time for a late elementary school child and middle schooler. I have to admit that, at times, I hated the life that my parents chose for me. I've also moved every 3-4 years since, albeit not for military reasons. I am definitely introverted and have always been a bit cautious about new friendships, but know that you hold onto the really good people from wherever you are in life. No matter how/why you are moving, it's tough, but it really is something you, and your kids, will appreciate much, much later.

Kelly said...

Thanks for sharing your perspective. We are a military family on our first overseas tour and I can relate to many of your feelings!