The extract under consideration was taken from a book which is entitled “Counseling Military Families” by Lynn. K. Hall. In her book, the author draws upon the research done by Mary Wertsch, an expert on the subculture of American military brats. Chapter 3 of the book is dedicated to the military family as a social construct and consists of six parts, each describing a certain feature of this family type.
The introduction to Chapter 3 reveals the key feature, which constitutes the base for distinguishing the military family from the common one. It is the discrepancy between what the military protect and how they themselves live. Mary suggested the term “Fortress” to designate the culture of the military. The term serves the purpose of differentiating the military society from democratic: “The great paradox of the military is that its members, the self-appointed front-line guardians of our cherished American democratic values, do not live in democracy themselves” (Hall, 2008, p.45).
Continuing on the topic, Hall refers to a military officer who claimed that “the military members are fighting for democracy in Iraq, even though they don’t practice it” (Hall, 2008, p. 46). The warrior society is characterized by “a rigid authoritarian structure (which) extends from the world of the service member into the structure of the home” (Hall, 2008, p. 46). Such families are united by the same characteristics: parents expect complete obedience, violate privacy of their children, establish rules for behavior and speech, etc. In these cases both spouses and children are subjected to the rules. Yet, the authoritarian parenting style is likely to lose its power as soon as children reach a certain age. As a result, the children can either rebel against the restrictions or pretend they obey the rules, but only in their parent’s presence. They tend to feel betrayed due to the fact that they are trapped in their family values, which steal the right to choose from them.
Isolation and Alienation
Another feature of the military family is its mobility, which consequently leads to isolation and alienation. It is common for military brats not to keep in touch with kids they knew in elementary school, as the longest they spend in one place is three years. Moreover, it can be a foreign country, in which case a family spends the time behind the fence. There were kids who confessed they actually had never left the base. Hall refers to the first Gulf War, during which the on-base security created certain obstacles for getting around. The Americans felt they were different and, therefore, they had no desire to leave the base very often. Undoubtedly, there are exceptions. Parents “who see living in a foreign country as an adventure” (Hall, 2008, p. 48) try to use the opportunity to learn the language and cultural aspects. Sadly, even attending American public schools does not guarantee the sense of belonging. There is a clear distinction between civilians and the military since “America is divided between the vast majority who do not have military service experience and the tiny minority who do” (Hall, 2008, p. 48).
The social world of the military is stratified in accord with the ranks: officers and enlisted. One can observe these two subcultures in a very close proximity: they are employed by the same employer and have the same goals, but are unable to socialize with the other class. It influences both the military and their families, whose members form kind of clusters due to the same class affiliation. Wertsch said that “the military has its reasons to make these distinctions and perhaps would be dysfunctional without them, but it seems that the only equality among officers and enlisted is in dying on the battlefield” (Hall, 2008, p. 50). Despite the fact that all children go to the same school, there is a distinction in housing, at school curricular events and in sports. For instance, the children of the enlisted tend to play football while the children of officers play tennis.
One of the conditions of military life is the absence of the military parent, sometimes both parents are absent. This resulted in the need to hold graduation ceremonies with a transcommunication system. Sadly, “a parent is often absent for the prom, big football game, drama production” (Hall, 2008, p. 51). There was a survey of marital adjustment of couples in 1990s which illustrated quire reassuring results: “only 17% of the respondents shared that they felt more distance from one another than prior to the deployment, and only 14% of the soldiers felt left out of the family” (Hall, 2008, p. 52). Yet, the numbers imply that quite a lot of families experience stress because of a deployment.
Importance of Mission
Every service member is expected to commit to the military, to have “a felt sense of mission to make the world a better and safer place” (Hall, 2008, p. 53). The aim of training is to focus the recruit on dependence on the team. There is a good tendency to honor military members which turns the service into a proud cult and attracts outsiders. Nevertheless, “the dedication to the country and fellow soldiers sometimes creates serious issues for the family” (Hall, 2008, p. 53). The military have to spend long hours working and, consequently, the priority shifts toward the service. They have to balance between the two families who are both important for their successful service.
Preparation for Disaster: War
There is one crucial thing which makes the life of the military different from civilians’ life. They live with a realization that they may have to sacrifice their life for the sake of their country. In fact, this realization “is deeply rooted in the military tradition and is accepted as a condition of service” ” (Hall, 2008, p. 55).
Hall, Lynn K. (2008). Counseling Military Families. What Mental Health Professionals Need to Know. New York, London: Rouledge.