- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I joined the Army a year ago at the age of 35. Like many people in America, I had been given a pink slip and laid off. There were no other jobs in Ohio. The economy was poor, and I said to myself, “Uncle Sam wanted me.” I also thought Uncle Sam could help me. I joined to provide a better life for my wife and three children.

Now, I’m road marching 20 miles at one time with a 50-pound rucksack on my back. I’m working more hours than I’ve ever worked before, and I’m getting ready to go off and fight a war that I don’t believe in. I’m even taking orders from 22-year-olds. My feet and my back are killing me, and I’m grouchy because I don’t get enough sleep. What’s wrong with this picture?

My wife was very ill and was so sick she could not take care of our home and our children. I asked to be released from work for a couple of days so I could stay home and nurse my wife back to health. I was denied this privilege and ended up getting an Article 15, with a forfeiture of pay - $150 for two months because I cussed out my commander.

Ms. Vicki, the Army has everything all wrong; family should come first, not the Army. How am I supposed to go off and fight for my country when my own family is not in order?

- Fairness Needed

Dear Fairness,

I hope you realize you wrote this letter to an Army spouse. There have been many times I had a family emergency that I had to solve on my own. I’ve also been sick and had many illnesses and I had to nurse myself back to health without my husband’s help.

I know many military spouses who’ve given birth without the presence of their husbands. They have packed homes and moved to another location and set up a new household, enrolled children in schools, registered vehicles. You name it and we’ve done it - all without our husbands.

Now, I empathize with your wife, but this is something she will have to get used to right now. You must realize that you will take orders from anyone who outranks you. Age doesn’t matter. You joined the Army to provide a better life for your family.

Your commander has the authority to give you an Article 15 and take pay - pay that your family needs. In other words, you have to be compliant and start keeping your mouth closed. With age comes wisdom, and you must show some. I don’t know how much time you enlisted for, but trust me, you belong to Uncle Sam for the duration of that enlistment. I’m sure you took a bonus when you enlisted and now the money is gone and you are facing the real world of a soldier.

Now is not the time to cry and whimper. You have to man up. Start putting a plan of action in place for your family. Visit the Army Community Service at your local base. They have many services and programs there for you and your family that will help sustain you and your family with Army life and through deployments. I regret if this sounds calloused, but its the truth. Take care of yourself and your family.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I hope you can agree that I am ready to try marriage. I think marriage will be good for me. Im always the third wheel, and Im tired of it. I accompany my friends on their dates, and I hang out with my married friends, too. I’m the bridesmaid and never the bride.

I was invited to be a bridesmaid for one of my sorority sisters next month, and I declined. Well, I lied. Since I’m in the Air Force, I told her I would be out of the country for military training. I cannot attend someone else’s wedding.

I’ve been dating someone for a little over a year now. He wants to marry me and has asked me at least three times. I think I love him, but I am not in love with him. However, I want to learn and grow to love him.

Is anything wrong with this, Ms. Vicki? Do you think I should give marriage a try? If I put my mind to it, I’m sure I could do the housewife thing. It’s not like I want to retire from the Army or anything.

- Ready to Try Marriage

Dear Marriage,

You sound like you want to “try marriage” like you are trying a new dessert or something: I think Ill try a slice of key lime pie; no, wait a minute, I think chocolate sounds better. You cannot take this approach with marriage.

Furthermore, from your report you’re not sure you love this guy and youre not in love with him. You want to marry him only because your friends are getting married and you are getting tired of being a bridesmaid. This is no reason to consider marriage.

You are in the Air Force, and I think this is a good thing. I applaud you for serving your country, but please don’t get impulsive and marry the first person who proposes to you when you know he is not the man of your dreams. You deserve better and he does too. In the meantime, I think you should learn a lot more about who you really are. One day, Mr. Right will come along, and I think you need to be ready when he comes.

A wedding is different from a marriage. The wedding lasts only about an hour, but a marriage takes much longer to build.

Keep working on improving your life by exploring and finding out who you really are. Start at the bookstores; there are tons of self-help materials for you to read.

Hang in there, and don’t get impulsive on this issue.

Reader responses to previous questions:

• Ms. Vicki, I disagree with you on your advice to the writer who has a 60-year-old mother who is acting like a teenager and leaving her husband home while she parties and rides motorcycles. So what if she lost weight? She didnt have to lose her morals, too. She needs to come to herself and realize her place is home with her husband. The nerve of you for implying she has a right to have fun. She doesnt and her children should get her a mental evaluation because she has lost her mind.

• Hello Ms. Vicki. Im commenting on the mother who wrote you about the children and teachers who are making fun of her sons teeth. You made it appear to be the parents’ fault. Its not their fault; its the fault of others who are making fun of this boy and tormenting him. Even if his parents have dental insurance, it wont cover every procedure. Whats wrong with this mother telling her son that God made him like he is. Its true, isnt it? Who do you believe in Ms. Vicki?

• Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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