I spent 11 years on active duty as an Army officer in the infantry and
Special Forces. We lived in Germany for 8 of those 11 years and I was
gone a great deal of the time although I never had an unaccompanied tour.
A number of consequences resulted from this split-family existence that
are not unique to military families.
I was very control oriented. That is what an officer does. Unfortunately
I treated my family as subordinates and had to *gain control* every time I
returned home. This resulted in tremendous upheaval in a system that work
just fine while I was away. Eventually I learned that the family could
manage just fine without me and that I needed to learn their system when I
was at home rather than imposing mine upon them each time.
My children (I have three) developed differently and my oldest was a
loner. He had trouble with relationships at every duty post and was a
frequent victim of other such children who had more aggressiveness (i.e.
My daughter became a more social person and always found one or two
friends at every posting. We also noticed that she eventually had a bevy
of little girlfriends and that that group seemed to revolve around her.
We would leave. she would be sad, she would do it all over again.
My youngest is now the first to know and know about all of our neighbors.
He is afraid of no one (which makes me a little nervous).
We left active duty 8 years ago. My kids are now 16, 14, and 10. We
processed through geaduate school and then began another split-family
existence as I left to find work while my wife also finished graduate
school. After about 3 months I received a commandment from my wife that
we WOULD live together effective immediately (no hanky-panky, just
difficulty being a single parent while in graduate school [which I can
fully understand]). Since then she has finished her degree and we have
worked for the same company for about 4 years. I left almost a year ago
(as part of our third layoff in as many years) to preserve my soul and
sanity. We are working for her to get out of there as as soon as
As we contemplated our future direction my older two came and told us that
they understood that we might have to leave but that they were the
happiest here that they had ever been. They had invested themselves in
their schools and their friends. They had roots for the first time. My
wife and I realized that we might need to make some changes in our career
plans in order to help our children be happy and to have satisfying
adolescence. Needless to say, this was a radical notion to us at the
This town is in the clutches of this one large employer. Each succeeding
layoff There is about to be number four) has taken a significant toll on
the life of this economy and community. For many years this employer was
THE place to go when graduating from HS and from college. This is no
longer the case. I have observed during our relatively short stay that,
as the uncertainty about employment in this town increases, the spirit of
community has also decreased. Fewer are getting involved and more and
more are leaving further eroding the tax/economic base in this area.
We made a conscious choice to stay here and find other livelihoods. This
has involved starting our own business instead of looking elsewhere within
the existing framework of the business community. Many others don't have
this option. Still others have no choice but to stay because they grew up
here and can't see life elsewhere in any way. The former group has to
endure the upheaval of leaving and resettling elsewhere. The latter group
has to endure the upheaval of a diminshed earning capacity and the stress
of changing economic means.
Yes, there have been many jobs created in the US and unemployment is at a
relatively low rate. Anyone can get a job here flipping hamburgers or
working at a convenience store. But this isn't enough to sustain a
lifestyle based on many times that level of income.
An interesting piece of evidence of the current situation ... housing here
is very expensive and, yet, you can't GIVE a house away in this town.
Just a few thoughts.
-- Clyde Howell The Howell Group Aiken , South Carolina, USA email@example.com
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