Book review: 1001 Things to Love About Military Life
Yeah, I know, you’re skeptical, especially if you’re on active duty. 1001 things?!? I’ll bet you can’t even come up with 10.
Luckily this isn’t a retention pitch– it’s a book title.
Tara Crooks (co-founder of ArmyWifeNetwork.com and producer of Army Wife Talk Radio) has reached out to military spouses for over six years through the Web and on bases. One day she and her co-founder (Star Henderson) began their list, and soon they had over 500 items. They reached out to their mentors, and the four of them turned their lists into a manuscript.
This is a book for everyone in the military, not just for spouses & families. Two of the authors are veterans as well as military spouses, and the four of them have nearly a century of collective military experience with deployments, transfers, families, bases, and the whole culture. There may be plenty of things to love about military life, but there are even more of them to laugh about (in some cases I’d hasten to add “once they’re over“).
The book is literally a numbered list. Some of the items are accompanied by photos or comics, others by essays. (A few items need no explanation.) It’s organized by the perspective of the servicemember, the spouse, the family, all our jargon, and our traditions. My favorite section is “Outside Looking In”, describing all the ways that civilians learn about and honor the military.
I also enjoyed learning about the history of spouse organizations and conferences. We have a lot of military spouses to thank for today’s support organizations and educational programs that we tend to take for granted. Tara and her partners are continuing the tradition over the Internet and in person!
One of the book’s best features is the occasional page for you to record your own experiences and memories— your holiday ornaments (collected from duty stations around the world), the bumper stickers on your vehicle, your favorite military-related songs, where you met your spouse, and your favorite ways to stay connected during deployments. After you’ve filled in these pages you can share the book with your (perhaps deployed) spouse or send it to another loved one for them to add their own.
Here’s just a few of the items that started conversations at Hale Nords:
- #240: Familygrams. My spouse (who composed far more than her fair share of the darn things during the Cold War) says that they are not at all something to love about the military. But I loved reading every one of them, so I guess it all depends on the perspective.
- #372: Finding moving stickers of different colors on your furniture years after retiring from the military. Yep. It’s been over nine years and we still find them just about every time we move furniture or clean out the garage/attic.
- #514: United Through Reading. This is a fantastic program for deployed parents to keep in touch with their kids. Mom or Dad record their video of them reading their kids’ favorite books, and then the kids can share the DVD at home with their own copy of the book. I wish I’d known about this when I was on active duty!
I’ve told our daughter most (*ahem*) of my sea stories, but “1001 Things” is a great way to pass on the rest of your family-friendly memories. It’s going on her reading pile, and I’m sure we’ll have many other conversations starting with “Hey, Dad, did you ever…”
You can read more about the book at LoveMilitaryLife.com. By the way, that’s Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Weatherwax pictured on their website. He’s 94 years old and volunteers at the USS ARIZONA Memorial Visitor’s Center to talk with people, tell his stories, and sign autographs. He even does videoteleconferences with school children around the world (including Japan). Some of these survivors have volunteered there three times a week for over a quarter-century. (That’s longer than my entire military career.) I’d say they’ve found many things to love about their military service, despite the horrific events that they had to survive. There’s a life lesson for the rest of us.
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