Serving Overseas and Feeling Alone Out There From the vantage point of one military wife, whose husband is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., those serving overseas are feeling increasingly alienated. And the feeling is stronger during the holiday season.
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Serving Overseas and Feeling Alone Out There

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Serving Overseas and Feeling Alone Out There

Serving Overseas and Feeling Alone Out There

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Commentator Rebekah Sanderlin's husband completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan. She says military families feel increasingly alienated.

REBEKAH SANDERLIN: Where I live, just outside the gates of Fort Bragg, every war is personal. When you talk about Vietnam, it's Uncle Jim. Korea is Grandaddy's brother. You won't find anyone here who doesn't have at least one friend or family member in the military right now.

We call this war GWOT, shorthand for the Global War on Terror. We do not say Iraq War, because Iraq is just one front in a much larger war. We bristle a bit when other people say Iraq War because our next door neighbor was killed in Afghanistan, and no one seems to remember that we're fighting there, too.

I'm telling you this because it seems you all don't understand us very well.

There's a popular saying in military towns like mine. The American military went to war and America went to the mall.

Many Americans have lamented the loss of national unity we all felt after 9/11. Since then, the country has moved on. But in military towns, every day is still like a mini-9/11.

That line you see at the end of almost every story about Iraq, the line that says two soldiers or four Marines were killed or injured? When we read that line, our eyes jump back up to the date line, then we take a mental inventory of everyone we know in Anbar province or Tikrit, Fallujah, Kandahar or Paktika(ph). We try to recall when they deployed and we count the months to determine if they might be back yet. Then we scan the story for more clues.

If the killed troops were part of convoy that hit a IED, then Fred, who lives down the street, is probably fine, because he's a parachute rigger. Then we immediately feel guilty, because we know someone else's friend is most assuredly dead.

We feel pretty alone in this war. America seems to have sent us the loud and clear message that we volunteered and that makes the war our problem. America isn't willing to demand that Congress allocate more money so we can have the equipment, training and services we need.

Troops at home can't train because the equipment is being used in the war. Grass at military installations goes unmowed. Daycare centers have cut their hours or closed completely. We don't blame the military for this. We're at war. Obviously the safety of the troops is more important than the length of the grass. So we suck it up. But we get bitter and retreat into our insular worlds. We stop talking to the rest of the country and stop asking for favors. We rely on each other instead.

When a woman's husband is killed, the wife of another deployed soldier babysits and that wife stops sleeping at night because she knows the roadside bomb could just as easily have killed her own soulmate.

This war, our war, the defining moment for this generation, has thousands of first names and mine is one of them. But people like me are not even two percent of the American population. The other 98 percent went shopping.

ELLIOTT: Rebekah Sanderlin writes a blog in the Fayetteville Observer. This is NPR News.

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