Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Supporting Soldiers

A while back I got a letter from a young woman who was seeing a naval officer. Never mind which navy. Come to think of it, readers from at least three countries seem to be seeing naval officers. Some of these naval officers seem to spend more time in helicopters than on actual boats, but that's naval life for you.

Anyway, this particular naval officer was about to disappear into a submarine for several months. And it is submarining tradition in that navy that submariners open up a care package from their wife or girlfriend back home halfway through their sojourn in the submarine. Guys who did not have a care package were mocked and pitied by the other men.

Now, my reader wanted to know if she could send along a care package with her submariner even though they had been dating for only a short time. She noticed that I am very down on women giving men stuff too soon. Germaine Greer and I agree that women-in-general have a teeny giving problem, particularly when we give to get love. So she (my reader, not Germaine Greer) wondered if she should send along the care package, and I said yes.

There are men, and then there are servicemen. There is peacetime, and there is war. I don't know if you've noticed this, but all the major English-speaking nations have been at war for a decade. Canadian, British, American and other soldiers are still in Afghanistan, for example. I personally do not know how Canadian or British soldiers in Afghanistan improve the national security of Canada or Britain, but for now that is beside the point. The point I am making is that there are a lot of young men and women who have given themselves to their countries to risk their lives for the lives and freedoms of others.

That strikes me as rather more important than worrying about looking too eager or about where this relationship is going to go.

Now, I don't want to get all romantic about the morals of soldiers and sailors, especially since older women have warned younger women against soldiers and sailors since time immemorial. But from what I hear, there are many decent young church-going guys in the military, such as make good boyfriends and husbands. So it is no surprise to me that numbers of you fall for them and hope they will fall for you too. I sympathize.

However, I think the worst time to worry about future romantic commitments is when a man has a previous commitment to H.M. the Queen or Uncle Sam. If you are friends with a soldier who is not an established boyfriend, then treat him like a good friend and worry about the romance when and if he gets back. Don't cut off a correspondence because you can't see a romance going anywhere; I understand guys live for letters from home. Don't refrain from sending a care package because it might look "too forward." Civilians aren't called to make much of a war effort these days; giving a boost in morale to a soldier of your country strikes me as the least a patriotic girl can do. And I'm just talking just correspondence and care packages here, got it?

My thinking here comes straight from 1918. In 1918 my American grandmother (my German-American grandmother, incidentally) kept up a correspondence with a young American soldier who was a complete stranger to her. All the girls she knew did. My grandmother didn't mention that she was only 14, and I believe tried to give the impression she was older. Anyway, the soldier was delighted by these letters, and looked forward to meeting my grandmother when he got back home, and said they would have themselves a time, etc. This may have led to interesting complications, but as a matter of fact it never came to that. I believe the soldier was killed.

Now, if in 1918 my 14 year old Catholic school-educated grandmother and her chums were all encouraged to write to servicemen who were complete strangers, it seems to me that young women who are actually seeing servicemen they know should be encouraged to stop worrying about who-gives-what-present-when and just support them.

However, what I know about the modern-day military of my own countries you could stuff in the left nostril of a bug and have room left over, so if there are any servicewomen--or even servicemen--out there who have insights to share on this topic, please write them in the combox.


chocolatelover said...

However, what I know about the modern-day military of my own countries you could stuff in the left nostril of a bug and have room left over, so if there are any servicewomen--or even servicemen--out there who have insights to share on this topic, please write them in the combox.

No insights of my own, just from those of servicemen whom I know: beware of the divorce rate. It's astronomically high, even among those in the military who aren't in the fighting force. (In America, the military is huge, and many people never see the front lines but are a part of it.)

By "beware the divorce rate," I mean a divorce rate upwards of 90% in some divisions.

No, being Catholic, Christian, evangelical, or traditional is not garlic before the divorce vampire. The big problem is that the military will move you every three (or so, depending on the division) years, send your hubby on travel for over half the year even when he is "home", etc.

So my advice to any nice girl looking for a permanent marriage: tread with caution. If he plans on making the military a lifetime career, send the CARE packages and then look elsewhere for a man.

MaryT said...

I have two Marine brothers. They and their friends are honorable, very decent, very courageous men.

And I know, beyond anything, that a care package, a letter, any small token can lift the spirits more than any of us could ever imagine.

amlovesmusic said...

I have friends who are officers in the army, and they have witnessed the divorce rate first hand. It seems to be due to both the travel, and the fact that many young soldiers get married right after basic training. They get married, then have to go off and spend 9 months overseas. When they come back, it's hard for them to adjust to 'married' life. Their family has consisted of their fellow soldiers, and they don't identify with the wife and sometimes new baby at home. Add to that mix the fact that they are barely 21, and there is a recipe for disaster.

I live near a large army base, and have suddenly met a bunch of single military men. I've almost been in a relationship with one, and might end up in a relationship with another one....I really must start putting my guard up, or else I will become like Lydia in Pride and Prejudice....smitten with soldiers!

Little Mary said...

Sounds okay to me, although long distance relationships always have to struggle with keeping things real... also, maybe when we are feeling gift-y, sending something to the troops might be an excellent use of that energy...

bolyongok said...

I liked this post, Auntie Seraphic! Having been there and done that, I can attest to how nice it is to get a care package from anybody at all, so I'm all for it. If you're worried about appearing too forward or too focused on your particular guy, you can ask him to ask his buddies if they have any requests too, so he can share the love! Anything really, packs of gum, nice soap, a crossword book, is greatly appreciated!

Seraphic said...

Dear me! The advice from readers so far appears to be 1) Yes, absolutely send your soldier pals care packages and 2) Don't marry soldiers, and least not when they are very young or enlisted men.

I think it a poor idea to marry a man under 24, no matter WHAT his profession, but I also think this depends on you, him and the culture you both grew up in.

Seraphic said...

Er, make that "at least not".