News isn’t just news to military families

By Anita Doberman: Columnist

This week, I was going to send off my column about humorous misadventures at a restaurant with some friends and a rather belligerent stranger who kept asking me if I could teach her Italian, when I watched President Bush’s speech, and decided I had a more pressing topic.

I have said in a previous column that I don’t discuss politics, and my reaction to the speech wasn’t directly about politics or my thoughts toward the president. His words stirred up many emotions for me because political decisions such as those announced Wednesday night carry consequences for everyone, but particularly for those directly connected to the military. It’s inevitable that I would have a strong reaction.

The first thought that went through my mind when the president declared he wanted to send additional troops to Iraq was not about the politics, or even about the large-scale implications of such a move on the war. My first thoughts were about the families listening to the president who couldn’t be detached from it all, people who knew they were essentially part of the news.

In the next few days, military wives, husbands and children will receive a phone call informing them of an upcoming deployment. Families receive these orders just as much as the deploying war fighters, and they will have to make enormous sacrifices with no guarantees. There will be the stress of preparing for a deployment, having to help children adjust to mom or dad being gone for long stretches of time, the constant worry that something may happen, the frustration of being alone and, of course, the many practical difficulties – major household appliances seem to sense deployments and time their malfunctions accordingly.

I remember when I used to be pleasantly uninvolved with the words coming from our elected leaders. Major speeches came and went, but how often did I see direct consequences in my own life? There were tax cuts and raises, and promises of new programs, but rarely news that mattered at the very moment it was announced.

Last night I was directly part of the news because I am a military wife. It seems strange, this many years on into a war and a husband’s deployments, that I would sense this so profoundly. And perhaps it’s a compliment to the president’s ability to talk in a personal way.

I was inspired to act, even in the small ways available to me. I resolved to be more supportive of others who have family members deployed and offer my friendship and a sympathetic ear.

Regardless of our thoughts about the war in Iraq, we can all do something to help the men and women in uniform and those back home. Because for military families, the “news” isn’t just words on a TV; it’s our lives.