Monday, February 4, 2008

Gold Star Wife? I Think Not, Says the Army

I just got done reading something that made me sick to my stomach. I was just trolling through some random blogs, linking through comments and what not because I'm bored and don't want to clean the house (duty day, need I say more?). I read a little in a blog written by a woman whose husband died two years ago before he was sent to Iraq, not while he was there. Although I'm not positive what happened because she never comes out and says (at least, not in the posts I read), but it seems to be directly related to his time TDY in the Army (he was a National Guardsman). Apparently, she was mailed an invitation to an all-expense paid retreat for "Gold Star Wives". She emailed them because she wanted to be sure it was meant for her because there seems to be some hierarchy of whether your soldier died in a combat zone or not. They wrote back with this. Um, say again? This whole controversy about who is a Gold Star wife and who isn't really makes me mad. Apparently, the people who make the rules don't have a clue what it's like to be married to someone in the military. It doesn't matter if they are in combat zone or not; that doesn't change a lot about the life. This woman deserves to be recognized as much as someone whose husband died in theatre. To be treated like this is very shameful of the Army (who really should know better, but is most likely counting dollars and not the human cost). This frustrates me partly because of my own experience with this obsession with combat zones and who is entitled to what. In the last few years, there have been a lot of charities that have sprung up with the goal of "supporting the troops". All of these, as far as I can tell, were born of good intentions. Many of them don't seem particularly useful, and I have to admit to laughing about them with Oliver because we know people who were over there, and it wasn't helpful. But, I do appreciate that people care enough to try to help. When I was pregnant with Wyatt, and we realized Oliver was going to be underway for the birth, we heard about a program that provides doulas for free to wives whose husbands would be deployed. I thought, fantastic! A few months before my due date, I sent away for the paperwork I would have to fill out to apply. All was good until I ran across this little phrase: Is your spouse deployed as a result of OIF or OEF? Well, no, he's not headed overseas or anything, and his deployment was considered "routine", so we didn't qualify for it. So just because my husband had to serve his country, but filled a different job that didn't directly relate to the mess in the Middle East, our sacrifices weren't important enough to warrant help. This kind of thinking disgusts me. Luckily for me, I have people in my life who really stepped up and helped me through that, but this woman should have been able to go to that retreat. Her husband is DEAD because he was called up and getting ready for a deployment to Iraq. He isn't dead because he had a heart attack or broke his neck skiing. Why must we qualify someone's sacrifice like this? The end result is the same - I had a baby alone, her husband isn't coming home, just like the "Gold Star Wives" or any other wife who was due during her husband's deployment to Iraq. So if you really want to "support the troops" people, how about you first figure out who these troops really are.