The more I get to know the military community around me, the more I see that there’s a significant divide between military and civilian families. To be clear, I myself am a civilian, but due to my significant other’s career, I live a military lifestyle. Like many others, I have adapted to this. Since I’ve seen both sides of these lifestyles, I understand them on a different level. But it’s hard to ignore the many misconceptions about military families (and the lifestyle as a whole) that are all around me. Here are the 10 misconceptions:
1. | We get things for free
Nothing in the military is “free”. Although there are many perks, such as housing, affordable health insurance, student loan repayment, VA loans etc., it all comes out of something. Many people see what we do get as a hand out. It’s NOT. It’s simply some of the great things that have been put in place to make this lifestyle a bit more manageable.
2. | We are rich/poor
The pay varies depending on MOS, rank, and location (deployed or not deployed), which is very similar to any job. If you get promoted, you get a raise, simple as that. After getting out of basic training, or returning from a long deployment, soldiers often have a lot of saved up money that they haven’t been able to spend. In some cases, they choose to buy a brand new car for their family, or go on a special trip. That doesn’t mean that they’re all of the sudden “rich” because they joined the military. Most of the time it just means they were forced to save their money. Military families get by in the same ways that other families do.
3. | We’re all “Housewives”
I hate that term. Some of us have a full blown career, some of us are in school, and some of us are still trying to figure it all out. Some of us even have the gift of being a stay at home parent. No matter what path you’re on, being part of a military family is not what determined that.
4. | Deployment is defined by homecoming
We all see the beautiful, heart-warming videos of military homecomings, and no matter who you are it’s hard not to cry happy tears for those people. But there’s so much more to the story than just the homecoming. I haven’t experienced a deployment yet, but as I prepare for the possibility of it happening, I’m very aware of the pain and frustration that comes with it. Homecoming is just a happy ending to a very scary, frustrating, sleepless experience.
5. | There’s no drama
Living a military lifestyle is not void of drama in any way. There will still be people who feel like they need to start petty rumors or label you and your family with dumb stereotypes. All we can do is keep these people from being involved in our daily life, and not engaging in all that nonsense.
6. | All military families/service members are good people
Sometimes this is a hard lesson to learn. The military is made up of many different types of people, both good and bad. They have taken an oath to their country, while their family has taken an oath to them. But that’s doesn’t mean that they’re all going to be the type of people you want to surround yourself with. Just like in any community, career, or environment, always use your good judgement.
7. | The actions/choices of a soldier’s family does not influence them or their career
A military career has the same foundation as any other career. It’s built up by the people in that service member’s life, including their family and loved ones. The actions of those people, and the influence that that could have on the service member can make or break their career. If they’re living a negative lifestyle, it can have a negative affect on their actions, behaviors, feelings, etc. in the very same way that it would for anyone else. Do they have a very different job than most? Absolutely. But we’re all human.
8. | We have a different set of rules
This can be rather double-sided. To be clear, we do not get more freedom than anyone else. We can’t “do whatever we want.” In many ways, we actually have more rules, especially if you live on a base or post. We have to be extremely careful of what we say and do in regards to our loved ones career. We have to stay familiar with OpSec (Operational Security) guidelines in order to protect our family, and our country. Social media has made these very tricky to follow, but you can always stay up to date on these rules and misconceptions about following operational security.
9. | Choosing to serve is a “last resort”
I’ll admit that for some people, they did swear into the military because they felt that they had no other options. But that doesn’t mean that they just toughed their way through it and never found any meaning or desire to serve. Sometimes the desire is there before swearing in, and sometimes they find that desire through their service. In our case, Kyle always wanted to serve. In doing so, he has found himself and his purpose. Everyone has a different story and a different reason for choosing their path, whether they’re military or civilian.
10. | We are all the same
The military is made up of so many different types of people, and with that, you get a whole bunch of different families. Sometimes it’s the wife that serves, or the daughter, or the son. Sometimes the whole darn family serves! So no, not every family has a wife at home waiting for their husband to return. Sometimes it’s the exact opposite. That’s why it’s so wonderful to meet new people in this community, and get to know the varying families that make up our military.
What are some misconceptions you have found in military life? Did you think any of these were true before?