Military Families are Gunning for Peace this Holiday Season

As a military spouse, I have a lot riding on this last month of presidential transition. My family’s safety and wellbeing rely on our next Commander-in-Chief inheriting a world where peacemaking is possible. Tragically, the U.S. relationship with Iran is headed in the opposite direction.

See, January 3, 2021 will mark one year since U.S. strikes killed Iran’s General Soleimani — a significant anniversary that many experts including Ret. Admiral McRaven say may spark retaliatory action. The U.S. embassy in Iraq has already been targeted by Iranian-backed rockets over the weekend.

If you’re a civilian, Iran may not seem super consequential to your day-to-day life. But for families like mine, it’s frequently top of mind because if our countries takes a turn down War Time Lane, we’re the ones who will have to drive the armored delivery truck. Recent escalations between the United States and Iran will likely make it harder for President-elect Biden to repair this volatile bilateral relationship. Without viable diplomatic options, my great fear is that the United States will once again resort to military tools and force — and get us stuck in yet another prolonged foreign conflict.

This is the last thing we need. I urge our leaders to step back from that brink before it’s too late.

My husband enlisted in the military in September of 2001. He’d be quick to tell you that he signed his name on the dotted line before the terror attack on the World Trade Center, and I would be equally quick to tell you that the timeline doesn’t matter. What matters is that in the two decades that followed, I have watched him, and the husbands and wives, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers serving next to him answer the nation’s call again, and again, and again.

The night before my husband is to leave on military orders, he follows the same routine. Our bedroom becomes a staging ground for his gear. He sits on the floor, stacking little piles of toiletries and uniform pieces. When he first started his military career, WiFi wasn’t a thing, but these days, he brings his tablet and tells the kids he will call. He gets on the phone and starts making the rounds, calling his dad and his grandma. He doesn’t say goodbye, he just checks in and says that he won’t be able to call for a while, and he will come by and visit them when he gets back. We don’t really say goodbye either. I drop him at the curb and get out my tears on the ride home so I can walk through the door and get the kids into the “Dad’s Deployed” routine as quickly as possible.

I want to tell you that it’s hard when he’s gone, but the reality is that he’s been gone so many times that it’s become old hat for us. The kids know what to expect, and I know how to cope with take-out, lots of distractions, and work to keep me busy. I know how to engage the kids in sports, hobbies, and frequent calls with dad to make life feel normal. But, the truth is, we are all exhausted.

I take great pride in my husband’s service, but I know this tempo isn’t sustainable. Military families across the country can tell you the damage that multiple deployments have had to our bodies, hearts, and minds. Military children also share the stress and worry that comes with separation. Our nation has been engaged in war for two decades, but is anyone even tracking that anymore?

I share my family’s story to underline the urgency behind avoiding war with Iran. We’ve become a nation that engages in wars of choice, and our service families are burnt out. While my spouse and other service members are always ready to go when called, our President and the Pentagon have a responsibility to ensure that they are weighing the full cost before entering a conflict.

We cannot continue down this current path. I believe strongly that we must exhaust our tools of development and diplomacy before we reach for the military. As we ride out the last few weeks of Trump’s presidency, military spouses like me will be holding our breath, hoping that those who make these interim decisions remember that behind every action, there is a family hoping and praying that their loved one won’t be called away to engage in another needless war.

IMAGE: FORT DRUM, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 10: U.S. Army SSG. Tyler Laliberte embraces his family after returning from a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan on December 10, 2020 at Fort Drum, New York.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

 

About the Author(s)

Heather Aliano

Heather Aliano is a proud active duty Air Force spouse living in Illinois and the president of the board of advisors for the Secure Families Initiative, a nonpartisan group of proud military families, united by love of country and commitment to service. You can follow her on Twitter @heatheraliano.