Is it Morally Irresponsible for Parents to Join the Army?

Is it Morally Irresponsible for Parents to Join the Army? November 14, 2013

My latest on Rare deals with a sensitive topic:

“I think I should join the Army,” my husband said.

It was after 9/11, and he strongly felt he should join in his generation’s conflict.  However, we had two kids. Many women told me I should’ve put my foot down and said “No” because children should trump military duty.

“Don’t you have kids?” one lady asked with furrowed brow after I was introduced as someone whose husband was in Iraq. “When he joined the Army, didn’t he realize he’d be deployed? What about your children?”

“Wars are complicated,” I began. “And the government needs adults over there to run things. Frequently, by the time guys are officers, they’re parents.”

In a child-centric culture that defines “good parenting” as a dad who never missed a soccer game, my explanation was as rhetorically forceful as Charlie Brown’s teacher assigning homework.

“Well, that’s where his priority should be,” the lady said, and that was that.
 Invoking “the children” always ends the conversation because you’re left in the unenviable position of defending your “anti-child” policies and, frankly, you’ve already lost. “He can’t be a father if he’s not there.”

I later relayed the conversation my friend, Anna, whose physician husband eventually deployed in the Air Force.

“If the entire population of ‘parents’ excluded themselves from military service, we couldn’t have stormed the beaches of Normandy, won at Gettysburg, or even gained our independence from Britain,” I complained.

“People like that just don’t get it. They close their eyes and hope someone else will do what needs to be done,” she said.  “And you’re a living, breathing ‘someone else’ reminding them that somebody has to do something.”

I knew Anna was right — that this was something we just needed to work through ourselves. After months of listening to the kids’ muffled tears in their pillows, I felt I was driving a damaged car, waving out the window at the people honking behind me. Just go around. We have to go at our own pace.

Read how this played out in our lives here.


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