Rotary Club of Vinings
An Experiment

Book Review: Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War

The following book review is a Special provided by Elise Cooper for BlackFive readers. You can read all of our reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right side bar.

9780399163791_p0_v1_s260x420Alison Buckholtz’s book, Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War is a very powerful reminder that the families of those serving are also heroes in the War on Terror. This book, written more like a diary, allows the reader to see what it is like for a military family as they transfer with their serviceperson to different bases throughout the US. From 2009 to 2012 Scott, Alison, and their two children, Esther and Ethan, moved to the small town of Anacortes, Washington for Scott’s three year Navy assignment.

Alison allows the average citizen as well as those marrying into the military to understand the trials and tribulations of being a military family: the difficulty of deployment, how a military mom becomes a single mother, and the families reliance on each other for strength and support.

The author gives a candid and moving account of her friendships with other military wives and the way they acted as a team, their own unit, to support each other and help one another endure during these difficult times. This was no more obvious that in the chapter about “Pippi,” who struggled to make ends meet both financially and emotionally. While in the hospital recovering from a C-section, Alison organized fellow military spouses to report for duty, to come together to help and support Pippi by cleaning her house, which looked like a junkyard. Buckholtz noted to, “Helping other spouses became a reflex. I wrote this book as a service to other military spouses.”

She believes that in military marriages, “The service member’s spouse typically takes on the role of the pep-talk-giver. When the kid is sad about Dad’s absence, wonders why Dad has to be away for so long, or demands to know why someone else can’t do the job.” She fabulously describes what is like not only for the spouse, but for the children who must come to grips with having a parent gone for long periods of time. She noted, “I wanted to stress to my children that this is dad’s job; yet, I understood that it is really tough for a younger child to understand since they see the work as black and white.” This was emphasized in the book when she gave the example of another military wife who felt that her husband chose “to stay in the Navy, which means you choose to leave us.”

What made the book very interesting is how she showed different points of view, that she did not feel the same way as the Navy spouse. She tells of Scott quoting a phrase from the Lovelace poem, “I could not love thee, Dear, so much, Loved I not honour more.” When asked about this she commented, “Scott’s career was so much a part of his character, that person who I loved and admired. He would not be that person without the military service.”

She told that what she loves about the military is being able to have friendships with people that have a different perspective than hers. There were people who were judged on their actions rather than their sex, political affiliations, religions, or race. “This is the upside. We had a mutual respect for each other that might not have the glue in a civilian world. I am grateful to the military for allowing me to be given the opportunity to get to know people from different backgrounds, people I otherwise might have never met.”

Standing By is a beautifully written book that should touch the heart of every American. The author does a great job in explaining how different families reacted to the issue of deployment. It is one of those rare books that can appeal to both those in the military and citizens who want to understand more of what it is like to be a military family.