22 April 2010

Not in Front of the Kids, Please

A couple of weeks ago, the very same medical soldier who, back in 2008, inadvertently announced the deployment to my wife passed me as I was on the way into pick up my kids from daycare. She wasn't in uniform, but I was.

"Hey, you got called up!" she said brightly.

I wish I had been quick enough to say, "not in front of the kids." I know she didn't mean anything by it--in fact, she was probably trying to be supportive--but Household-6 and I haven't even started talking about the deployment with 5-year-old Lena and 3-year-old Rain. Lucky for me, I was on my way into the daycare center, not out of it, and didn't yet have the kids in tow.

Later that week, I asked around the Tactical Operations Center ("TOC"). Apparently, my near-miss at daycare is a little more common than I would've thought. A couple of TOC-dads reported similar experience. One of our sergeants major described how, prior to a 2007 deployment, he'd been greeted by a good friend at the grocery store. The friend spilled the proverbial milk. Or let the deployment cat out of the grocery bag. Whatever.

The sergeant major hadn't told his kids yet, either.

So here's a new rule of thumb, for you true patriots and well-wishers everywhere: It's more than OK to say "thanks for your service." It's great to say "I like your uniform." If a soldier's kids are within earshot, however, don't wander off into the conversational minefield of "deployment" or "Iraq" or "Afghanistan." If the soldier brings it up him- or herself, then OK. Otherwise, mum's the word.

Trust me on this one. Loose lips rock the family boat.

I didn't feel any better when I saw my medical-soldier colleague that same week. Leaving the daycare again, one of her children was in the throes of a Chernobyl-class meltdown. I tried not to make eye-contact, because I've been there once or twice myself. I don't like feeling other peoples' pity. Or judgment. Or even sympathy. I fugured she might be the same.

"Hey," she called out after me. "Does your unit have any more slots open for the deployment?" It was a joke, I know, a nod to the idea that ducking bullets downrange was somehow preferable to the occasional slings-and-arrows of outraged children.

The smile I tried to flash, I fear, turned out more of a grimace.

1 comment:

  1. So tell her to shutit. Don't care about the rank. Family first.


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