My husband, Bill, served as a commissioned officer for 30 years in the U.S. Army. He was in ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) in college and got his commission in 1984. In 1986, he finished college and went on active duty. In 1995, he left active duty. He had several reasons for making that decision. Bill Clinton was president at the time and he was drawing down the military. Competition for rank and good jobs was cut throat. Bill was married to his first wife, who wanted him to leave the Army because she didn’t like the lifestyle. Also, there was a financial incentive for leaving.
After he left active duty, Bill joined the Arkansas National Guard. It meant he was a part time soldier. He had a regular job, but would drill every month and for a couple of weeks each year. In 1999, with his first marriage breaking up, Bill decided to go back into the Army. He joined the National Guard’s Title X program, which put him on duty full time, as if he was once again a regular member of the Army. He was paid the same as any other person at his rank in the Army, had the same privileges and duties, and had to meet the same physical standards. He simply got his money from a different pot and had a different group of people evaluating him for promotion.
You may be wondering why I’m writing this lengthy lead in for a post about two sisters who retired from the National Guard. It’s because I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to think folks in the National Guard aren’t worthy of the same respect as other people who serve in the military.
This morning, I read an article about two sisters, Lisa and Lynn Currier, who retired from the the National Guard after 33 years of service. Both women enlisted in the Army in February 1986. Lisa Currier is leaving active duty as a Master Sergeant. Her sister, Lynn, is a Lieutenant Colonel. Both have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Both have served the United States bravely and faithfully. We should all be proud of their commitment to the Army, regardless of in what capacity they served.
Unfortunately, many people who read the Army Times and are also on Facebook disdain people in the National Guard, particularly if they’re women. There were a lot of unfortunate Facebook comments about these sisters on the post where I found this article. Most were written by men who didn’t think the women don’t met the weight standards. A couple of people commented on the sisters’ appearances. Many more comments were about how serving in the National Guard as a “weekend warrior” isn’t as “impressive” as serving in the regular Army.
As the wife of a man who was in the National Guard, I’ve had occasion to meet a lot of his colleagues. What a lot of people fail to realize is that people in the National Guard who aren’t serving full time, as Bill did, work regular jobs. Those regular jobs give them extra skills that regular servicemembers might not have. For instance, when Hurricane Katrina hit in September 2005, one of Bill’s National Guard colleagues, who had worked as a landscaper, had innovative ideas on how to deal with the flooding on the Gulf Coast. Another colleague worked in sports medicine and had helpful skills in recovering from injuries. He even helped me once when I badly sprained my ankle. Moreover, while people in “big Army” are working one job, folks in the National Guard are juggling their civilian lives with part time life in the Army. That can’t be easy.
Lisa and Lynn Currier managed to spend 33 years of their lives working for Uncle Sam. It shouldn’t matter that they were in the National Guard, nor should it really matter what they look like in their uniforms, so long as they met Army standards. Obviously, they did. The one most egregious offender in the comments section brought politics into the discussion. Anyone who didn’t agree with him that these women weren’t fit was branded a “liberal” (horrors!). Frankly, I would be much more offended by being called a Trump supporter.
I think spending 33 years in the Army is very commendable. I never could have worn a uniform myself. A lot of Americans are completely unsuitable for military service. They can’t meet the physical, medical, or legal requirements, or they simply don’t have the aptitude. I think anyone who joins and serves honorably deserves basic respect. It’s not easy to meet the standards for military service for as long as the Currier sisters have. I’m sure it will be difficult for them to leave that part of their lives behind.
As much basic respect as I have for anyone who serves in the military, I have also seen some pretty shameful attitudes from former and current servicemembers, particularly when it comes to women who serve or people in the National Guard. Making fun of two sisters who managed to accomplish what these two women have is pretty sad, in my view. They’ve seen a lot of history and could probably teach some of the misogynists who are disparaging them a thing or two. Godspeed to both of them.