Dog Days

Spring is trying to pop out here at Osan. I've seen the first signs of buds on the trees, but it is cold today, in the 30s. Lots of wind yesterday, big wind.

But in these sort of dreary dog days of spring with the promise of newness to come, is also a bit of sadness about our impending move to England. We have discovered to that England is a very difficult country to import a family pet to. Our dachshund has been part of our family for 14 years now. But my wife and I are beginning to think that the long trip locked in a carrier all the way to England may be more than our puppy can handle. For one, the six month process doesn't officially begin until later this month, which puts her arriving about a month after me. So either my family holds in the US for a while after my departure, or we find someone to put out puppy on the plane for us. But that isn't the biggest issue for her. She does not travel well in a puppy carrier. We're not sure about how well she will do in the transit or what the impact may be on her health. So we are thinking of having someone keep her.

But all in all, it will be hard on all of us to leave her behind. She's been part of our family almost since the first day we've been family. But our story is not unique.

Separation from family is not unique in military service. In fact it is expected and typical.

As I reflect over my five years of active duty service and my expected service until retirement, I realize just how different our lives as an American military family differ from the typical American family.

Military families don't have the full range of freedom that most American families have.

Military families are often told where they will live. It is not like we can pick up an move anywhere we want. The needs of the military will dictate where we live for the most part. We can ask for a particular geographic area, and the needs and desires of the family are considered, but in the end it is the posting that decides where we live.

Which impacts the continuity of the family's life experience. Mobility means a change in environment. Different environments mean different resources, both in quantity and in quality available to the family. This can be desirable as the base of experience is broader, but the consistence is less simply because the difference is greater. Personally I think the gain in experience is worth the trade off in continuity. I miss home for instance, and I realize that my children will not equate home with "one place", but they will be better equipped for the demands of mobility in our current world that come in many professions and they will be well equipped to decide "where" they wish to live as they will have experienced different places.

Take schooling for instance. Schooling will be interrupted. It will be eclectic because military families move often and schooling quality could be radically different from one location to the next. But most Americans are dependent on the community in which they live for the quality of the schooling for their children. Not everyone can afford private education. Not every community offers the same resources.

Different places do have challenges as well as opportunities in the socialization and upbringing of my children. Not ever social value and way of life is truly valuable in a scale focused on quality, especially when weighed by a value set that is shaped and informed by the vision set for by our God and Creator in the Holy Scriptures. I am a Christian and make no apology but only offer humble thanks for the fact that my values are shaped by the Holy Spirit speaking to me through the Old and New Testaments. I realize that to many this is "quaint" and to some "harmful" but I have found it anything but. That said, I have the challenge of teaching my children to think critically with an informed mindset regarding what the world around them offers them.

Many freedoms for military members and families are curtailed in comparison to the rest of American citizens. Mission drives some. Quality of life and concerns to keep a strong professional and competent military force with healthy families drive others.

We carry military ID cards. My card had embedded in a chip certain personal information. I have to provide the card when demanded in many situations. I find the current debate on a National ID card to be interesting when I hear fears about the "government" have so much personal information on tap. It already does so for those of us in uniform.

In some places, depending on the location, the mission, and the country we are told what we can and cannot own, sometimes what we can and cannot eat or drink, and so forth. Sometimes there are curfews. If we live on base, we can't bring just anyone over. Speed limits are very small and you don't dare go over or you can loose driving privileges. There is no such thing as one DUI after another. One DUI is usually death to an officer's career and will normally result in suspension of permission to drive on base.

So there are many restrictions. But the curious thing is this: the quality of life seems so much better. On base I'll let my children play in the front yard and don't worry about them. I let them go without concern to our activities centers or be enrolled in a program because the people volunteering have had background checks and are known to our community. We drive slow, but when I'm walking I feel safe because people do obey crosswalks. Smart restrictions and higher accountability, for us, in my humble opinion leads to a higher quality of life.

So what does this have to do with the dog?

I love that old elongated puppy. I'll never forget when my new wife and I went to look at these puppies for the first time in this dilapidated house trailer in Illinois. Out came a line of puppies following a toddler who was clothed in nothing but a diaper. And the last one in line, a little tiny runt of a thing, came over and put her paw on my wife's foot. (She still does that.) It was instant magic.

It will be hard to leave our little elongated puppy behind. But I have orders and she may not tolerate the plane ride. And the benefits to my family economically, socially, on all scales are so great in my head I know it would be foolish to sacrifice a career for a 14 year old dog. But the heart grieves the decisions of the head because this dog is a member of the family.

Of course we haven't fully decided yet. Decisions of the heart are often like that... stubborn to listen hoping for another way. And maybe there is. Perhaps that is a key thing about being human... logic does not always have the right answer.