Over the years, I’ve written frequently about the war in Iraq and, less frequently, about the war in Afghanistan. The role of our soldiers in these places is often on my mind. As we sit, nearly eight years since the attacks on the US, it’s been awhile since the blog noted their situation. Our military personnel are often sent back to war zones they’ve deployed to once or more already. What’s also occurring is that back home, we all hear less and less about them, even as our soldiers’ lives become more and more synonymous with these endless wars.
The families of the soldiers are similarly neglected in our popular culture. Perhaps due in part to the nature of the all volunteer military, the majority of Americans don’t feel the impact of soldiers’ continued deployments. This is not true of their families, who are now often beleaguered and many stretched thin financially as they endure long periods when their loved ones are at risk in far away places.
I’d like to recommend two sources of information about families and the soldiers they support, as well as a piece of work that is still in-progress. The first is a blog, well written by two journalists who happen also to be the halves of a military couple. Their blog, Here and Far, comes from a uniquely interesting perspective on the experience of soldiers and their loved ones. The “far” part of the couple, Matt Mabe, is a West Point-educated soldier who went on to journalism school after two tours of duty in the Army, started his career as a reporter, and was recently called back to Afghanistan. His partner, Molly Birnbaum, also a journalist, writes back from “near” here in New York City or wherever her work takes her.
I also suggest readers check out a wonderful documentary film called “The Way We Get By.” It focuses on three aging greeters of the troops, who welcome them back from overseas at the airport in Bangor, ME, where an enormous number of the flights bound from Iraq and Afghanistan first arrive in the States. The film doesn’t begin in the lives of the troops’ families, focusing instead on these three Bangor residents who take it upon themselves to get up at all hours to greet our soldiers with a smile, some treats, and the potential to make a free cell phone call to their families at home. I won’t spoil the film for you, but it does convey a good idea of what military families go through.
Finally, I’d like to make a plug for a friend’s film-in-progress, “Flat Daddy.” This documentary will be expressly about military families. It takes its name from the life-size two dimensional photographic images of the same name that have become popular avatars for the daddy (or mommy) who is serving abroad. Using the visual theme of the images with which these families fill the void left by a loved one’s deployment, this film is studying the lasting impact of the wars on their lives. There is a trailer on the film’s website. Anyone wishing to follow the film’s progress or to make a contribution to its non-profit sponsor can do so as well.
(Bill Kavanagh cross-posts at Buck Naked Politics.)