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Terrific service

What it means to be married to the military

The month of May is a time for labour festivals, dancing round poles in clogs, and putting flowers in your hair. In the US, it is also Military Spouse Appreciation Month. What do you mean, you haven’t heard of Military Spouse Appreciation Month? Here is Pentagon Spokesman Lawrence Di Rita explaining it on Thursday:

If I could take a minute to acknowledge that tomorrow we’ll be celebrating military spouse – will be – Military Spouse Appreciation Month is this month, and there will be some announcements and some other activities associated with that tomorrow and through the weekend. We, obviously, always talk about how we recruit soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, but we retain families, and we retain families largely because of military spouses and the terrific service that they provide as well. We honor them, and this is the month where we will be taking particular time to honor them.

Note the last sentence, where Mr Di Rita hurriedly works to erase any implication that for 11 months of the year, military spouses are not appreciated at all. But what is interesting in this quote is the explanation of why military spouses are so wonderful – it’s because of “the terrific service that they provide” . . .

Modern military vocabulary works very hard to describe war in the language of business, just as the language of business becomes more war-like. Thus, missiles and aircraft are “force packages” and “delivery systems”, as though the US Army were just a branch of Fed-Ex. And in this context, it makes sense to describe those (mostly women) who are married to soldiers as “service” providers.

Even if we refrain from pointing out that “to service” can also mean “to have sex with”, the notion of soldiers’ wives and husbands as valuable logistical support is an illuminating example of the military’s instrumentalist view of human beings, even those human beings who have not volunteered to be instruments.

One might idly notice, too, that to get from SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) to MSAM (Military Spouse Appreciation Month) requires the addition of only one letter. Everything that can be acronymized can be understood on the same spectrum, as a weapon or a tactic. The “service” of spouses is also a force multiplier in the war on terror.

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