Military Manners

This is a military town. Roughly half the residents are active-duty military personnel. Military spouses, kids, and retirees make up a significant additional chunk. Someone at Walmart with shaggy hair or a beard triggers a double-take (Look! Someone who isn’t military! Get an autograph!). Artillery sings our bedtime lullaby, olive-green helicopters overhead drag me awake in the morning, and machine gun fire hammers through the air at lunch. I never thought I’d have a favorite explosion, but it turns out I rather like the sound of rockets.

Someone is always deploying, deployed, or just home from deployment. Many are on their third or fourth deployment. As we prayed in church for yet another friend heading out to Afghanistan this week, I realized there’s an important area of local life that Miss Manners doesn’t cover: Deployment farewells. It’s easy addressing the spouse left behind – ask her to dinner, see if she needs a hand around the house, mutually grump about the Army – but what do you say to someone who’s deploying?

“Have a good trip” doesn’t quite cut it. They’re heading to a war zone, not popping up to Delaware for a family reunion.

“Come home safe”/”Have a safe trip”/”Be safe” – because otherwise they’d be skipping through minefields picking daisies? It seems pointless rubbing in something they can’t control.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Lovely, it’s true, but not exactly something you spit out in an after-church chat with someone else’s husband.

“Enjoy yourself”, because who doesn’t love dust, mediocre food, and IEDs?

“Come home with your shield or on it.” Yeah…the Spartans were great at morale.

So far the best we’ve come up with is “Good Luck” and “We’ll be praying for you.” What do you use?


5 thoughts on “Military Manners

  1. Truly a tricky one. We got lots of “we’ll keep an eye on your wife” or “take care”.

    What I love are the people that say to the remaining spouse during deployment – “I don’t know how you cope – I would be worried all the time”. Um, well yes I am, but there is really no choice but to get on with things and make the best of it. It hardly helps the person away concentrate if they know you are fretting all the time.

    Like your analogies of military town life. We live on only a small base but you can always tell military people when you are out and about – short haircuts. And, the fact that DH and I can’t pop to the shops without bumping into one of his soldiers.

  2. Oh yes, the “we’ll look out for your wife” comments were much appreciated. “Take care” is a nice safe one too.

    You’re right that the comments others make are funny. It’s actually very nice being in such a heavily military area because deployment is the norm and my friends all “get” it. While traveling, I noticed that everyone starts off with a long sad stare and a “That must be SO hard for you” when they hear he’s deployed. They’re trying to be nice, but drowning in gushing sympathy gets old. You’re coping and just trying to get things done, and people keep approaching you with pitying deathbed manners!

  3. Sarah – Thanks for commenting on my blog. I’ve popped in on yours a few times before and have really enjoyed it. I have a couple of cousins who are in the service right now, and your writing really helps me understand what it’s like in their world, on base.

    I completely agree with you on the church puns, by the way. They are awful! My pastor likes to say that our just offers no gimmicks – just the Gospel.

    Now to my hats. I think it’s easier to start wearing hats to church in the summer time, because they are easier to find then, and a little more “normal”. You’ll get weird looks, but you’ll also get a lot of compliments. I have friends who are always telling my that they wish they could wear hats too. You’ll also have older people come up to you and tell you about how they (or their wives) used to wear such hats. People really do like them, but it does take a little bit of moxey to get past the stares the first couple of Sundays. Before long, though, everyone will adjust and no one will think twice about them. After a couple of years of hat wearing, I’m just the hat lady, and part of the furniture, if you will!


  4. Val – Thanks! I love that you’re now the “hat lady”. Maybe that’ll be me some day.

    Michelle – Since this is our first deployment, the feelings associated with watching other couples’ prepare for deployment caught me completely off guard. You’re right that it’s difficult to watch – I’ve needed the “walk away quickly” tactic myself since then.

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