What Was I Thinking?

I would like to think of myself as a mature adult, seemingly intelligent and capable of logical thought, a good father and husband with a solid marriage.  However, one may question my self-perception after this last week.  Despite appearing in newspapers, magazines, and on CNN for husband’s of female soldiers support, I to became a casualty spouse this last week.  Though I hang my head in shame, it opened my eyes to many things, and I saw many of the winged demons that contribute to a 53% divorce rate among deployed female soldiers. 

My story begins with not having heard from Grey Eagle over a period of time.  My email went unanswered, and only a couple of quick 5 minute phone calls assured me that no physical harm had come upon her.  But the lack of communication was unusual and I was slightly concerned for her stress level and emotional health.  Anyone who has been a long time reader of the website will have noticed that the lighthearted humorist approach that she took a year ago has long given way to a more dark, and deep reflections sometimes in her posts over the these months of her deployment.  Well, in addition to my other projects I also do some volunteer work here on post.  One day I mentioned that I had not heard from my wife in a long period of time, I guess hoping to hear some gossip like they are super busy with operations and missions right now, and was suddenly surrounded by four female spouses of deployed soldiers.  Sorrow and grief was cast upon me at the demise of my marriage, and was consoled through statements such as “you know this happens and is to be expected of female soldiers.  With so many male soldiers over there it is just a matter of time”.  I brushed away their comments with “no way, you don’t know my wife, there is a more logical reason.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, Grey Eagle is no saint, she has a better chance of being accepted as a Coyote Ugly bartender than as a nun, even in the most liberal of parishes.  But, her marriage and her family is something because of her past is something she cherishes very deeply.  So I dismiss this “support” as the mere attempt to gossip and gather the wagons in a circle to protect another spouse from the destructive powers of the female soldier. 

So a couple of days later I go to the bank.  While there I learn that my Power of Attorney (POA) has been revoked.  I am told by the cashier to see the bank representative.  I am steaming that the bank has managed to screw up my account as I am waiting.  Finally it is my turn, and the female representative tells me I will need to return with my POA, because this action was taken by my wife, and could only have been done so through their legal department generally in response to a soldier filing for divorce (they said it keeps the spouse from having access to the account when they receive the paperwork for the divorce).  The representative told me that this common and if I bring in my divorce papers when I get them and my POA then I can establish my own account and probably seek to renew my access to the current, at least long enough to transfer funds to the new account if needed.  I leave the bank in shock and dismay.  Suddenly the conversation I had a couple of days earlier with the woman I volunteer work with began to take on a new light.  I was falling into the spouse trap!  It is too late to locate my POA and return to the bank, so instead I fire off emails to Grey Eagle questioning what I had been told.  But they went unanswered that day.  The spouses in my neighborhood were standing outside discussing who they thought was having sex with who this week, which should have been my first clue to keep my mouth shut.  But in my despair, I had a sudden brain fart, and begin to explain the events of the week.  I had woman offering to assist me in packing our belongs and taking the boys and moving back home.  I was under a barrage of stories of female soldiers they had “heard” doing this and that and was lectured that I should have known this was going to happen and been prepared for it.  For the next 24 hours I had my yard mowed, food brought over, and woman acknowledging my boys as they came home from school.  A neighborhood “representative” sat in my living room outlining my options and pledging assistant to “get back” at my wife when my youngest son came home.  Again in a case of stupidity I sent him upstairs rather than throwing her out, so as not to overhear anything. 

Finally I have a few brief minutes with Grey Eagle in a chat online.  She says she is very busy at the moment and was not very talkative, but did say that she had done nothing to the account and had no clue as to what was going on.  That was all that was said, and then there was a period of no communication again.  The same bank representative that I had visited with before again gave me the same speech in a follow-up visit, but I was missing one document of my POA that granted me total financial access to everything.  So I return to look for it, but am mentally and emotionally exhausted by the week.  Now I am not ready to toss in the towel at this and accept the belief that this isn’t just some huge mistake.  So I do not wish to turn to my family or friends in fear that it may tarnish her image with them, and someone may even actually believe it.  So I turn to the online support groups that are listed by the Army.  They give me all sorts of information on how to contact Grey Eagle’s commander, file a complaint, and my legal avenues.  I am just wanting someone to tell me “Hey, don’t listen to everyone, I am sure there is a perfectly good explanation for this”, but I never got that. 

Finally a couple of days ago, I had enough.  I was prepared to just shut things down and actually began to contemplate that there may be some truth behind all that I was being told, and that I was just being naive.  Frustrated and not caring anymore I called my father, and talked to our mutual best friend a cavalry soldier who if anything he has no diplomacy or tact and shoots straight from the hip.  Both said, “pull your head out”.  “There is a war on…hello… and this is the Army…. This is not a social club and your wife isn’t on a cruise…. And I hate to be the one to tell you this but there are wounded soldiers out there, many who are grateful that your wife is not on the computer emailing you but in the clinic doing her job…. So go out get a couple of beers….get over yourself and take care of the boys….”  The men’s philosophy of life.  And it is exactly what I need to hear.  Later that day as fate would have it, Grey Eagle called and we got to talk for like an hour and I discovered that their workload is greater than the hours built into a day.  That there were many times she wanted to write, but would have to give up an hour of her 3-4 hour sleep time and just couldn’t get out of bed.  In addition, I returned to the bank.  This time the usual representative I was seeing wasn’t there, so I had to see the vice president instead.  He looks up things, makes a phone call and says “we are changing over to a new computer program and there isn’t a line on this new program for the POA’s like on the old program, but if you look at the bottom of the screen it says “999” which means indefinite, and should be a clue to the other bank employees that you still have access to the account.  “I am sorry for the miscommunication, this isn’t the first time this has happened.”  I will post a memo and you shouldn’t have a problem in the future.  “What!!” “That’s it!” “Your people made the assumption that since my wife is a female soldier that divorce would have been the only option here and not even taken the 3 minutes it took you to investigate and find out the answer”.  “The problems created more than just difficulties in my bank account, and all you guys got is I’m sorry”.

The reply…. “happens all the time…welcome to the Army gossip support group”.

Now I have to wonder how much of what I endured plays a factor in the 53% divorce rate of deployed female soldiers.   

I need a support group that mixes Jim Belushi with Jeff Foxworthy. 

Balding Eagle 

 


17 Responses to “What Was I Thinking?”

  1. Amy Says:

    How sad that everyone assumes female military personnel are just out to get their hands on someone else’s man. I’ve heard stories about military wives being less-than-pleasant to female soldiers for no other reason than that they don’t like having a woman working with their husband! What century do they think this is? I’m sure that 53% has more to do with the suspiscions of the husbands than any unfortunate behavior on the part of the wives.

  2. Val Florez Says:

    I’m sorry that you had to go thru that ordeal. It seems to me that
    those wives have nothing better to do than feed the fire in these
    types of cases. I myself was in the military and was never really
    able to relate to the wives of other male soldiers. Just their
    insecurity showing. You know your wife and trust in her so try not
    to listen to what everyone else says. As your friend and father both
    said, this is war, there is usually a good reason why she can’t
    contact you.

  3. Aniki Says:

    Sounds typical of the “Cackling Hens” aka tradition military wives. I try to keep a decent level of morale like both of you, but often enough the people (army families, civilian employees, senior NCO types especially) seem to be some of the greatest contributors to low morale, divorces, seperations and just plain idiotic behavior in the United States Army.

    I stopped listening to my wife’sa NCO support channel and Chain of command two years ago when the battalion commander lied to me about a rediness issue and the battalion CSM backed up the lie. I stopped listening to most other spouses when they wanted to turn the neighborhoods into something out of a lame reality TV series. When you have been seperated for over a year and you have a year left to go your mind wanders, you stew, you hear about all the crap that goes on down range and if you are like me you have seen it first hand. Don’t let the craziness get to you. Relax, have a shot of rum and than laugh at the idiots around you. Nothing as amusing some days as the weakness of inferiors and the ineptitude of those around you.

    I know, I’m cynical, cruel and well sometimes just plain mean. 10 years around this life does that to a person though.

  4. FVK Says:

    These wives need a new hobby. As for the bank employees, what a bunch of insensitiveJERKS. I do like your idea about Belushi and Foxworthy, though. Hang in there, Balding Eagle!

  5. BloodSpite Says:

    Good to know that everything worked out for the better in the end. Keep your chin up and your back straight. Its a hard ride but you can do it!

    We got your back in the meantime

  6. Mom PJ Says:

    And so…….no matter where your wife or husband are…at work, at war, at play
    there will always be those who feel the need to stoke the fires of discontent…
    no matter the emotional cost of their prey. You see my friend, it is common
    nature to try to fix things…especially when your own nest is in disarray.

    Just chalk it up to being part of the intrigue..hahahah and have another shot of
    rum.

  7. airforcebrat2 Says:

    Ladies, If you automatically assume that a female soldier is more likely to mess around than her male counterparts…………….you may be a redneck! Hang in there balding eagle, there are bunches of us routing for you and your wife/soldier.

  8. Zumina Says:

    Hang in there! I am the wife of one of the soldiers in 426C (my husband works with grey eagle often) and I have heard a hundred rumors too and other wives speculations. All I do is my Mona Lisa smile and let them rant away. I trust my husband, I have enough worries and responsibilities of my own. I know the stresses of those type of rumors and in the end I simply remember where my trust and faith is at. I think the overall stress completely disrupts proper brain functioning….which is why I sit back, drink a beer, and keep my quite, simple faith. I guess what I am trying to say is that type of misunderstanding happens a lot, but like the days until our spouses come home, it will pass. The next Bass Ale I crack open, will have its first toast to y’all!

  9. Beth Says:

    Balding Eagle, I was in the military for 11 years, and I can tell you definitively that this kind of stupid chatter and backstabbing happens ALL THE TIME. I even worked in an office job in the Air Force where there were a lot of women, and STILL there were wives who acted like bitches. Military women always have the nastiest things said about them–we’re always accused of whoring around, stealing husbands or boyfriends, whatever. It simply doesn’t work that way, and most of us who have been around a while are keenly aware of that kind of talk and go out of our way to avoid such accusations. (Again, I’m not in any more, but I was in long enough.)

    I’m sure you are disheartened by the lack of communication, but your father and your friend are right. She may also find it hard to talk because it’s easier to be aloof when you have no choice but to be away. Just a thought, anyway.

    I have to wonder about the wives that glom onto you as soon as they think there’s an “in,” as though they think you’re available now. What about their own marriages? They need to be a little more supportive of their own husbands and stop feeding others’ fears. Bitches.

    God bless you for being there for Grey Eagle!

  10. Luv2Box Says:

    I believe the 53% divorce rate is for the military overall, not just for female officers. Still, I am glad all worked out well for you. She’s got a tough job and not only needs your support, but ours as well. I hope she knows how much she is admired and respected for the things she does to keep us safe!

  11. Balding Eagle Says:

    I could stand corrected. I obtained the figures from CNN when I was on thier show. They cited that the overall military divorce rate among all deployed soldiers as 57% and that the divorce rate among deployed female soldiers was 53%.  But since I did not go any further in verifying those figures I could very well stand corrected.

    Thank you every one for your support on this post.  My purpose was to show that even though I am working hard at setting up support groups and should be more aware of these things, anyone can fall victim to the destructive nature of rumor and gossip during the difficult times of deployment.  Awareness of the destructive power that one’s words and insenstivity can have is key to being a more supportive community and demonstrates the need for a true support network.  As I cited I even went outside the local community to the Army’s own support service which really did nothing to promote the stability of the marriage during those difficult days. 

    I have been married to Grey Eagle for a decade, and the strength of our marriage public.  Can you imagine how this week might have played out to a younger couple who have been married for a much shorter period of time? 

  12. AirborneVet Says:

    When I was married to my first husband- who was in Field Arty- that was all the wives did. Gossip! Every time he came back from the field or wherever, he accused me of having sex with the guys that stayed behind. I never did. He always told me he heard it from somebody else’s wife- someone I usually didn’t even know. Notice I said he was my first husband, meaning he is now my EX!

  13. Joe Says:

    My son, a cav tanker, and I were talking about the FRG one day a while back and he summed it up beautifully. “Dad it’s like high school, you work in one so you that what they say is all B S, right!” Then he continued on the mission.

    You had a heck of a lousy week, I’m glad its come round right. As the weeks and months of the deployment roll by you do get “punchy” from time to time. I know I did. I’d say Zumina’s got “the right of it”, trust and simple faith. Here’s to you both, True Hearts!

  14. Brian Says:

    Hang in there Balding Eagle. You have my unqualified
    support and admiration for all the work you do. I wanted
    to let you know that I am linking several posts on Friday.

  15. AnnaB Says:

    I became so engaged with you and your family throuh this post - I think this reminded me that not only do our troops need support but so do their families at home. I know your wife appreciates your love and support - that is what they all need most right now. Being a soldier is one of the hardest jobs in America but they do it bravely and non-selfishly. Thank you for reminding us that the families as well as the soldiers need our support during this War.

  16. DavidS Says:

    Don’t know what your situation is, Bald Eagle, but the sort of gossip and attitudes you described are some of the reasons we always live off-post.

    We just arrived in Columbus, GA so my wife can attend a year-long school, and we’re living about 10 minutes from post - still have easy access for everything (Commissary, PX, hospital, etc.), but without all the potential BS.

    My wife and I have been separated because of military duty for extended periods of time as well; twice for more than six months. She wasn’t in a war zone, so my experience was vastly different than yours; she was, however, spending all day every day surrounded by male officers without me to come home to at the end of the day. At the time, I was in law enforcement working evening and night shifts, so we didn’t get to talk much either.

    From those experiences, I can offer a couple of suggestions/ reminders.

    1) I took the time to write her a letter every day - even if it was only a paragraph. She rarely had time to write back, but she did (eventually) get my letters. E-mails and Instant Messaging are great, but I believe the good old-fashioned, handwritten letter in an envelope with a stamp on it is still the most personal and powerful way to do it. It’s something tangible from you that she can hold, smell, and carry around with her.

    2) I know you know this, but never ever fall into the trap of assuming the worst. Keep faith in the bond that you share with Grey Eagle. If you don’t have signed divorce papers in your hand, then it’s all worry for nothing.

    3) Accountability - going to your friend for his feedback/ counsel was a very smart move. In my opinion, all husbands - whether or not they are married to a soldier - should secure one or two “mentors” who they respect and trust and can talk openly with about anything. This is especially important when we are forced to be away from our wives for long periods of time. We need wise, preferably married men (who’ve been there and done that)who can help us stay on the straight-and-narrow in regards to our actions and our attitudes.

    At any rate, it sounds like you recovered well, and I thank you for sharing your experience with the rest of us. It’s good to be reminded that there are other husbands out there who are going through similar or even more difficult trials.

  17. Chris B. Says:

    Balding eagle,
    Isn’t life with a deployed spouse just great? Don’t worry about all the stupid things people say. I’m a wife to a deployed soldier and people say insinsitive stuff to me quite a bit. My Husband is SF and is gone alot, when people start talking about how can I stand it. Well I just tell them that “someones gotta do it and since my husband is brave enough to fight for this country then I will be strong enough to back him up.” My daughter has taken on a pretty good one that has brought people to tears. People will ask her how she is doing with her daddy gone and she will tell them “I’m doing just fine because he is keeping me safe.” From the mouths of babes. Well anyway keep your chin up and don’t let things get to yah, it’s not worth the energy.

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