Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: Standing By (Part 1)

Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War
Alison Buckholtz
c2009; 286 pages.

I found this book in a local bookstore right before I left to go back to Wisconsin for the wedding. It caught my eye because the author is the wife of a Navy aviator, living here in Anacortes! Her husband, Scott, is a CO (commanding officer) of a Prowler EA-6B jet squadron at the Whidbey base where NavyGuy does all of his training. Quite the small world, and I became really excited to read her story of her life here in Anacortes, with two young children, while her husband was deployed. Having a few other things to do during the month of May though, I didn't start reading it until the flight home this week.

And let's just say, that aside from unpacking and sleeping, I pretty much have done nothing else but read this book since we've arrived home. I think it was fitting that my first book as a Navy wife, was one written by a Navy wife that could literally be living down the street for me (no, I haven't Googled her or stalked her... yet). The book was fantastic, and I'd highly recommend it to other Navy wives. Even more so, I'd encourage people who know someone connected to the military to read it, as it gives a new perspective on what it means to be a military wife. As Buckholtz illustrates, there is no one "cookie-cutter" mold of a Navy wife.

Instead of giving an overview of her story, or doing a typical book review, I've simply decided to cull the quotations, paragraphs, or ideas Buckholtz wrote that struck a chord with me. Many of my friends and family struggle to understand how or why I've chosen to take this path - the rewarding and excruciating role of a Navy wife - and many of these sentiments will hopefully provide a bit of insight... (Where I felt so inclined, I've included comments afterwards in blue.)

But if it had been up to me - the person I used to be, that is - Scott never would have volunteered for military service.
We both recalled an admonition from a senior officer at a precommand tour training: "What you're about to go through can make you stronger if you have a good marriage, and if you don't... well, it just might break you." [As a newlywed of five days, this sent a chill through my spine, despite my confidence in our relationship.]
Since I married into the military, every soldier and sailor is my husband.
The Prowler community is small enough that aviators and their families are posted together many times during their careers. I finally understood why Scott never liked to say goodbye to his friends... "I'd spend all my time having goodbye lunches and goodbye dinners and promising to keep in touch, which would just be a lie," he explained once. "No one keeps in touch, but you always see each other again. You know you will, and you just pick up where you left off. It's great. You never get a chance to get tired of each other."... Staying connected to people from every phase of my life is important to me because it helps me feel like I accomplished something meaningful during those periods. So Scott's theory on friendship didn't resonante with any of the truths I held near and dear.

I understood then that I couldn't do what I admire and respect most about the Navy wives I know: I couldn't pretend I didn't mind that my husband was rarely around or that my kids weren't suffering. [I will probably suck at this too. Hence why we're still debating whether to wait until he's done with his Navy career to start adding to our family.]
The Navy intruded on our most personal decisions at every turn.

The complexity of being a military wife - following a spouse who rarely stays put, and parenting alone - sometimes forces the choice to stay home... Before I married into the military, I would have viewed these unemployed spouses far less sympathetically, as women who required someone else to take care of them. Little did I realize that military wives know better than most how to take care of themselves, their families, and anyone in need.

I draw the line at compulsory cheerfulness, though. "In a letter to your fiance or husband be careful not to unburden your soul or to write needlessly of unhappiness or misfortune," urge the authors of The Navy Wife; What She Ought to Know About the Customs of the Service and the Management of a Navy Household (1942). Many of my friends still practice this epistolary evasion so that their deployed husbands won't worry about the homefront... But I asked Scott before he left for each detachment and deployment how much he wanted to hear of our domestic dramas. "Tell me everything," he said each time. "I want to come home and pick up where we left off. Besides, if it would make you feel better to write to me about it, then I want you to feel better. It's the least I can do." [I feel this way, but I'm not sure where NavyGuy stands.]

It was my life because he was my life. [I haven't decided on this statement yet. Should he constitute "my life"? I don't know yet if that's the way I view a marriage...]

More to come tomorrow...


Anonymous,  May 28, 2009 at 10:48 PM  


I friended Bill for you on Facebook. I shall never okay any high school people though, don't worry.


Brooklet May 30, 2009 at 1:58 PM  

This is definitely a great was the first book our brand new spouse club book club read :-).

historygirlie May 31, 2009 at 7:45 AM  

fascinating book review....I bet that book made you think quite a bit! whew...heavy information!

I'll have to pick up that one this summer.

NatalieW June 1, 2009 at 11:19 AM  

Thanks for the review! We actually just read that book for the OSC book club on Whidbey. You should come to our next meeting!

Rearden June 1, 2009 at 10:14 PM  

I'm glad you liked the book. I think it's good for someone who might be marrying in to the military to read.

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