army life

Good Friday

This is my third Good Friday at this duty station.

This year I spent on the couch with my husband, watching the EWTN broadcast of the Celebration of Our Lord’s Passion from the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The stream cut out in the middle of the intercessions, which coincidentally was at 3 PM, so we went ahead and prayed today’s Divine Mercy Novena. The broadcast was beautifully full of silence, and so even if we couldn’t be there or at our own little church here, at least we were able to fill our living room with prayerful sounds.
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The Church Militant

We’ve found our parish, our lovely on-post chapel, and I will fully admit that one of the things drawing us to it is one of the chaplains (there are three–three!–though one is currently deployed but will probably be coming back in a month or so), as he is an excellent homilist and I do so love a good homily.

So of course his homily today (the readings for your benefit) made, among others, the very real and salient point that Catholic liturgy is not centered around how it makes us feel or how we want it to make us feel or on ticking off a list of things that seem cool or relevant–it is ultimately centered around Christ, in the Eucharist, and our need to commune with him in order to receive the grace necessary to make it through this life[1]. In today’s Gospel, he pointed out, everyone goes to Peter’s house because that’s where Jesus is, and there, Jesus heals. And so we go to Mass, even when we are feeling like Job, because God wants us to keep talking to Him and to keep coming so that He may work his healing in us, even if we are having difficulty seeing it.

He compared it to going to school, where you might like recess but not the actual learning portions, or to being in the Army, where there is always something to complain about, despite the positive notes. But he also pointed out that these are all things we do in community, that we have classmates and spouses and battle buddies to uplift and support us (to be Paul in his second reading, as we are called to preach the Gospel to each other)–and then, this being a military chapel, he reminded us that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, that we are under attack and need the support of our battle buddies, the communication from our commander, and that also we need to be aware that the little it may feel like we’re accomplishing is part of the much bigger, longer fight that we will eventually win–though that victory, like Job’s reward, doesn’t come until the end, until we’ve passed through all the trials. And the Church is the Body of which we are all members, the army to which we all belong, and those rules and rituals she provides for us come from Him Who is her Head. And so we come to a Mass which was given to us on Christ’s terms, not perhaps the ones we would like for him to maybe set forth because they’d be easier or more accessible or entertaining or immediately emotionally gratifying.[2]
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Finding a Parish

Part of “being military,” or at least being part of a marriage whose employment rests on transience, is learning to settle yourself in a new place as quickly as possible. You get a good head for how to adapt your furniture to your new rooms so that you can start unpacking right away; you have a couple of boxes of those little trinkets that are yours, and you set them up and hang up a few pictures so that the walls are a little more your house and instead of new house. You spend hours digging through boxes labeled “kitchen” and cram as much into the dishwasher at one time as you can so that you can have real plates to eat off, even if the dining room table is still covered in, say, your liquor collection. (We really need to find a place for those, come to think of it.) You make yourself go to the non-mandatory welcome events and pick up all the brochures and calendars (and free swag at the information fairs) and write the more interesting opportunities down on the calendar in an effort to remind you to make the effort to get out and start getting involved.

And, for us at least, you try to find a church.
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The Walk

I was going to do a post explaining the difference between officers and enlisted soldiers, but it got bogged down in details and acronyms and so it’s on the shelf for another day.

Today I am going to talk about something else: The Walk.

Now, I don’t know how it’s perceived within the military. I highly suspect that once it’s learned it’s not even noticed. And its existence makes sense, and I understand why it happens, but it does not make it any less annoying.

All soldiers walk the same.

I mean obviously they do, they train to march in formation, part of being in formation is being exactly like everyone else, but they do it OUTSIDE formation as well. And it’s a very specific walk: the steps are probably whatever length the person’s legs require in order to match the person they learned to march next to (a problem you probably also see among marching band alum); the arms swing in a not-quite-natural rhythm at a not-quite-natural distance from the body. The hands are half-curled and the arms have a somewhat gorilla-esque curve to them. The shoulders…we won’t say swagger, but noticeably shift from side to side. It’s not a march, but it’s a learned step, and if your soldier is wearing a uniform, they’re walking this way.

And honestly it’s really only vexing when they’re in uniform when they do it, mostly because I cannot count the number of times I’ve been sitting in the car waiting for my husband to emerge from the building only to be confronted with a wave of round-abouts-six-feet-tall men in uniform Walking towards me…no…wait that one’s hair might be too short…no the hair’s okay, are those his sunglasses? wait he’s coming this way he’s coming…no they’re all going…towards their cars because their cars are not my car because they are NOT MY HUSBAND HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN EVEN BE IN THAT BUILDING YOU SAID YOU’D BE DONE TEN MINUTES AGO.

The rest of this post could be a reflection on uniformity and diversity in the Army, but I spent twenty minutes in ninety-five-degree heat waiting for my husband this afternoon (which I’d rather do than deal with the hassle of affording a second car) and the heat has sapped my strength, mental and physical. Besides, we’ve barely even talked about what the Army is! Who the Army is! It’s far too soon to be reflecting.

So for now, I leave you with the fact: all soldiers walk the same.

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The Army: Macro vs. Micro

Back from a Memorial Day holiday, I was going to make a different post about the military, but then I realized I hadn’t made this one, which is a bit more foundational.

One of my aims with this blog is to discuss military life, mostly because as has been observed the military really only makes up about 1% of the United States population (a percentage that increases when you include family members, but still isn’t that great) and because until three and a half years ago I was part of the 99%. My great-grandfather was a West Point graduate who served in the Army Air Corps until he was medically discharged, and his son, my closest experience of the military, was drafted during the Korean War and ended up serving on the front lines as part of a mechanized artillery unit in the 3rd Infantry Division. (My grandpa on the other side was also in the Army for three years, but he spent it Stateside as an instructor.) Granddaddy’s relationship with the military is thus, I think, understandably complex, and mine was mostly nonexistent.
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