Operation Iraqi Freedom has received a lot of media attention; some of it good, other times, very negative. It has affected many people across the world. We hear about the American families left behind who received new houses on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or protested the war after their loved ones died in combat.
We hear about the American and Iraqi soldiers themselves: saving children, abusing prisoners and, sometimes, those who don’t make it home.
The media tells of the Iraqi civilians and government officials forging towards democracy while barring obstacles every step of the way. But one group of individuals is seriously influenced by long deployments and equally overlooked: the military girlfriend and, in this war, the military boyfriend.
I am one of these military girlfriends. I’m safe in the United States while my boyfriend earns his combat patch overseas. Unlike family, I do not have the right to call my boyfriend’s unit and check on his well-being. Were we a married couple, my boyfriend would receive a significant pay increase and I could have his benefits.
Should something happen to my boyfriend while he is actively contributing to our generation’s war, I will not be notified. I do not have the right to be in his will, nor will I receive a single dollar from the automatic life insurance policy the military provides for soldiers in combat.
There are many of us: girlfriends writing letters while we should be taking notes in class, worrying that if our boyfriends haven’t called us this week, we might never hear their voices again.
But the impact goes a little deeper than that. Even though he’s not here, I still devote a large portion of my life to my boyfriend. Every week I ship him packages filled with energy bars, sweets, first aid supplies and anything that will remind him of the normalcy awaiting him at home. If he calls me – be it at three in the morning or in the middle of class – I jump to answer the phone immediately. While you’re sitting across a table from your loved one sharing a bottle of wine, I enjoy “dates” with my boyfriend through the marvels of instant messenger and a Web cam.
Talk about supporting my troops: I have spent more money on postage stamps during this deployment than every other year of my life combined. I send at least one letter every day to my boyfriend, encouraging him any way I can. When he’s scared or feels at his lowest, I boost his morale so he can confidently complete his job. I mail him newspaper clippings or comics to keep him up-to-date on the details of the civilian world that he would otherwise miss. If you think dinner and a movie is expensive, imagine how much UPS charges to overnight a care package.
Patience is an asset every military girlfriend develops quickly. Yes, persistence is required to pass the 12 to 18 months while my boyfriend is away, but even the minor encounters now require more tolerance. For example, when my boyfriend calls me, it’s never in privacy. He can only talk for a short time and is usually interrupted by his buddies. Under normal circumstances, I would be offended if my boyfriend told me to “hold on” as he talked to someone right next to him while I was on the other end of the phone. Now I have to appreciate the circumstance: He’s probably receiving or providing important information.
If my boyfriend were to call me and chew me out for something trivial, I can promise that he’d sleep on the couch for a few nights. But under all the stress and pressure of combat, I am more patient when he’s in an irritable mood.
The lifestyle I’m describing is familiar to many people on this campus, as well as across the country. And because most of the troops overseas are college-aged people, the companions back home are as well. It warms my heart to see people wearing yellow ribbons or sporting “Support Your Troops” magnets on their cars. Do not, however, discredit the tremendous influence that military girlfriends have on this war. We support the troops unlike any car magnet could: with love, patience and a lot of letters!
And remember: Even if you cannot support this war, you must support the men and women who are brave enough to enlist. These people are putting their lives at risk and deserve all the encouragement Americans can offer.
To send a care package or letter of support to our troops overseas, visit www.anysoldier.com and pick a name at random.
Taylor Williams is a Junior majoring in English Education.