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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dear US Army,

Lately, I've experienced a lot of anxiety. My family has exited army life. My "optional income" is a thing of the past, and I am now the primary bread winner. Health insurance, housing, learning to be a civilian - it's all new to us. But then I see a bank statement without "Department of Defense" anywhere on it, and I breath a huge sigh of relief. We are so blessed to be on our own, building a life that finally fits our beliefs and goals.  Don't get me wrong, Army. It was fine while it lasted. But the give and take of our relationship, on it's best day, was at 110% to 30%, respectively. I thank you, earnestly, for the benefits that we received (and are still receiving through the GI Bill), but when I think of the 3 deployments, 8 years away from family, career opportunities, college credit hours, and the mental and physical health that we threw away, I have no regrets. You gave a little, but you took too much. And what did we really contribute to "the cause?" I'm afraid you wouldn't like my answer. I'm afraid we were always just a couple of numbers, easily replaced and hardly accounted for.

I'm determined that it must be over. I need to make my own way, guided by love of God and of family. I do, in fact, love my country, but I simply cannot give any more to a fictional ideal. A standing army is not what this country was designed for, and I'm tired of being dragged along as politicians seek out new wars to fight. I know too many who can't recover - they lost life, limb, and sanity. Sometimes all three. I must get out before I'm among their ranks. The battles that were fought in my marriage, and in my own mind, as a result of the "assignments" my husband received over the past 12 years - they took an irreversible toll. If I'm honest with myself, we were too weak for it, and we barely made it out by providence and ignorant stubborness. And now, believe it or not, we are happy. We are so happy and free. This life is hard, but it's not hard like the life we struggled against inside your system. It's a thinking hard, where wits and patience and love get you through. It's a hard that satisfies.

I don't blame you, Army. You are simply the result of humanity shaped by an historical combination of discipline and violence, violence and discipline - whittled down from a good start to a monstrous finish by a never-ending procession of short-sighted commanders and tired soldiers. It's my fault, for being young and short-sighted myself. I didn't see it, but now that I do, I had no choice but to strike out. I wish you well - I will pray often that your organization can find some sense of a center again. That your institution can become again rooted in the values you force upon your military men and women, but fall so short of every time. And so, to punctuate this brutal correspondence with a ending fitting of my message, I will leave you with your "Army Values," taught from boot camp to battleground throughout your system, but rarely embodied by their teacher. The day when I see evidence that you live these values, I will return to your service. Until then, fare the well.

The Seven Army Values: Loyalty. Duty. Respect. Selfless Service. Honor. Integrity. Personal Courage.