Parents of the National Guard

August 17, 2008 · Filed Under Military Parents, National Guard Parents 

National Guard Parents – more on the invisible portion of the OnePercenters.

As a military parent, you become more and more aware of the gap between the military and the civilian worlds. Mostly, because you are trying to straddle it – and the gap grows and grows, as your child becomes a soldier, as they go for more training and become a Marine, as the ship farewells become a fact of life. But even in this little clan, there is a sub clan, that has a whole different and unique set of problems.

I write this, not only as the mom of a former soldier, but as the Army wife of a former National Guardsman. Our son was National Guard, then went Active (and is now out and dealing with the VA and all that fun [that’s a whole set of posts if you want them]) When my husband was deployed with the Guard to Iraq, many of the parents of the young soldiers in the Battalion were so lost, so full of questions, misconceptions and {some} anger.

At the last FRG meeting of our present Active Army unit, I was talking to a Major (National Guard) about to go downrange. He was musing on the fact that his child was in a school in which she was the only one who had a dad in the military. And I wondered how she is going to cope, although there are an awful lot of online aids for her, some chat rooms that are set up for these kids.

But that child’s grandparents? Where do they go? In our deployed National Guard situation, the FRGs were open to parents. But in our new duty station, at a recent briefing we held for some National Guardsmen that are attaching to our Active unit, the single young soldiers who were leaving didn’t want to come to listen/get information, because they didn’t “have anyone”. When I asked them, what about your mama, your dad, your grandmamma, they were stunned. For some reason, the impression is left with these young men and women that only wives and children are affected, only they are welcome to the briefings. I wanted so much to talk to their parents, to let them know they aren’t alone.

And that’s what one friend of mine told me – she was alone in her worry, her anger, her grief – surrounded by non military and in a situation she never thought she would be in. Her son was downrange with our NG unit, he’d only been Active for Basic and Advanced Training, and then came home and got on with his civilian life. Then activation, the usual mess with orders/pay, TriCare insurance for his spouse and baby {and yeah, all of them fouled up beyond all recognition}. Before she completely got a handle on it all, he was gone for training, then downrange. In that state, without a big base on it, the military is still a strange entity, a soldier in uniform in the grocery store is stared at, whispered about, little boys come up and ask if they killed anyone today. Her friends at work, at church, just didn’t know what to do, whether to say anything or keep silent and pretend, somehow, it all wasn’t happening.

We got her and more like her through it. Who was “we”? The more experienced wives, those for whom deployments weren’t something new, or those like me, who had been Active Army wives or Active Army parents. The lack of a place to go, to talk to others like her, was the catalyst for this site. This is where I ask for your help, your input. No, this isn’t Public TV or Radio pledge week (I do soooo hate that). It’s a request for your stories, your coping strategies. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, I have some great co-authors here as well. But it’s not about me, or Some Soldiers Mom, or Lela, or SemperFi Wife. It’s about you, the mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents – of a serving member of our military. The Blue Star banner in the window, cell phone toting, proud families of the Guard.

Are you a parent of a Guardsman/woman? Have they been activated? Let us know how you are coping, write a post and email it to me for uploading at parentszone@gmail.com. We only learn from each other, your experience or your questions, can help another MilParent.

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