Of budget cuts and military spouses

Published 8:09 pm Saturday, March 2, 2013

By SFC Ed Holland

Greetings from Afghanistan!

The weather here is snowy, icy and cold. But my soldiers and I are well prepared. We have Yak Tracks, parkas and heat.

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As I sit here and watch all the open-sourced news on AFN, it really disturbs me how we are in a battle for budget cuts across America. The cuts will start with Transportation Safety Administration, Defense Finance and Accounting Services. Where are the cuts for the people on Capitol Hill?

Lawmakers continue to focus on Social Security and Medicare and shift the focus off of their substantial paychecks. I believe the cuts should start go from top to bottom. How would the Senate and House feel if they had to work for what the U.S. soldier earns? The soldier does not get a fair shake economically. We are the lowest paid branch of the uniformed services, and yet we do the most.

At this moment, America is up in arms, because we thought we avoided the Fiscal Cliff, but we have run into the Sequestration Whirlpool. I just don’t understand why we can’t get this right. I hope it will get figured out before such stringent measures are taken and unemployment rises again.

As for us over here defending freedom, we had a momentous occasion this month. No U.S. soldier died as a result of enemy fire in 30 days. This is a milestone for us. We owe this to the training and dedication of the Afghans we stand by with every day. They do it for the same reason as us: love of our countries and families.

I want to take a moment and talk about something near and dear to my heart, the military spouse, the Mom or Dad who controls all the madness at home. I compare them to air traffic controllers during the busy holiday season. But their season never ends. It is a 12- to 15-month whirlwind of change and uncertainty.

They sit by the phone or the laptop awaiting a call or an email from their soldier. They keep the family running smoothly. They are the knife that spreads the peanut butter evenly.

The spouse has the hardest job in the world. My job is very difficult, but I can focus on my mission and not home, because I know my significant other has it under control.

She sends boxes filled with goodies, letters, stuffed animals and other things to make me smile, but she also takes care of all the finances. It’s even harder for spouses with children and pets. They have to manage a job, taking the kids to school, sports, after-school activities and more. But they always find time to talk to their soldier. Facebook, Yahoo, and Skype are the most-used sites here now.

When the soldier comes home, he or she will get numerous awards ranging from Silver Stars to Army Commendation Medals. What do the spouses get, besides the satisfaction of knowing their soldier is home safe?

What I have done in the past is take my time to “detox” from the rigors of the deployment and take my kids out of the equation. Give her a spa day, and I mean a complete day. They need their time as well, just time to exhale.

So to all the mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers who have done and will continue to do this great and awesome job, I thank you. I salute you for the sacrifices you have made and will always make for the sake of my soldier, your soldier, America’s soldier. If I could give you a badge, it would be a badge of courage, sacrifice, honor and extreme gratitude. You are truly our backbone. You are the reason we can go and fight and win our nation’s wars and not worry or stress about home.

And to all the spouses who have lost loved ones in wars and conflicts during the last 10 to 12 years, your fight will continue. You have lost something that can’t be replaced. My most heartfelt condolences go out to you. I just want you to continue to live the legacy your soldier has left. Stand up, be proud and say, “I am a military spouse!”

Wear you badge of courage to carry on proudly and honorably. Be that source of strength for the newest members of our fraternity. And give the new military spouses guidance and shine the light so they can proudly go where you have.

As always, hello to my favorite girl. Mommy, I love you and your baby boy is fine. I hope you are recovering well and continue to be strong for me as I will be strong for you. And to Shonya, it’s almost over!

To my wonderful kids, Kederer and Kishera, you guys are the best. Dad loves you and can’t wait to see you. Trust me, Dad will be at your graduation on June 8, Kederer. I am proud of you, and I hope you are proud of me. Love you God Bless.

In my world we always end with our motto… “Air Assault!”

Sgt. First Class Ed Holland, a 1989 graduate of Suffolk High School, has been in the U.S. Army for 18 years. He is on his sixth deployment, including five to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.