I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles

I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other BattlesI Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles by Lily Burana

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of a former punk-rawk stripper turned Army wife, and what it means to be a military wife in post-9/11 America. Lily is not just a war bride, she is a War on Terror Bride. We travel with her from her first meeting with her husband-to-be, through his deployment in the Global War on Terror, and back to the coddling traditions of the West Point community. Along the way, Lily takes us through her harrowing crisis that nearly destroyed her marriage, but that ultimately made her a stronger, more savvy Army wife.

I enjoyed hearing that other people had the odd commissary experiences I remember from my childhood, and have noticed the same things I have noticed about military home decor. Getting a DEERS card? Check. Living in a fishbowl? Check. Duplexes? Check. I also identify with her almost maternal feeling for service men and women, especially in the wake of the Global War on Terror when some people (read: civilians) have the attitude that it is individual servicemembers’ fault that we are fighting a war-without-end-in-sight in the Middle East. Burana adequately expresses what it means to be against the war without being against servicemembers.

The upswing in flag-waving patriotism immediately following 9/11 annoyed me to no end because I knew it was false and reactionary. To me, patriotism is not about putting a flag on the front of your house or a flag sticker on your car, or wearing a flag pin (Sarahpalinsayswhat?). The flag is a symbol, not an accessory. Patriotism is about giving up your chance at a normal life in order to serve your country, not yourself. It is moving away from your family and childhood home for parts unknown and unforeseen, giving your will over to a higher power, not unlike a religious acolyte, in service to that power. Patriotism is the mothers who keep on when their husbands are on an extended TDY in Alabama and their 5-year-olds have The Worst Case of Chicken Pox Ever, in North Dakota, in November, and there is not one smear of calamine lotion on base. Patriotism is the fathers who can’t tuck their daughters in at night because they’re on Red Alert, waiting for the Soviets to fire the long-range missiles they’ve been threatening to fire for 40 years.

It is, as Burana says, about rendering honors: to the flag, to the acres of military dead, to the veterans of wars past and present, and to our servicemembers both active and retired. It is being surrounded by traditions that bring each individual in to the fold of a large, closely-knit family that stretches back through time to the roots of our nation. Patriotism, in many cases, is about silence and stillness. The stillness and silence of taps being played, of the flag being lowered at sunset, of a moment of silence. It is a stone monument, stone as silent and still as the tomb, to the ones who went before, to the ones who never came home.

Flag-waving patriots annoy me because they’re missing the entire point. Patriotism does not wave flags ostentatiously, then sit around and wait while other people do the work. Patriotism quietly goes and does what’s necessary without ever making a fuss, without ever calling attention to itself or bragging about what it has done. Patriotism endures hardship of all sorts for the sake of service to a greater power. The patriots are not just the service men and women in combat fatigues and uniforms, they are also the families who gave their husbands, daughters, mothers, and sons in service to the military, who keep things together at home in the meantime.

Michelle Obama is as much a patriot as her husband, for she has sacrificed her privacy and a life of her own choosing to give her husband to the country. Their daughters are no less patriots for being children, for they have given their father to the country in order for him to serve the higher ideals of the nation. He might miss a few bedtime stories, a few family dinners, but hopefully they get why this is necessary and are okay with it, or someday will be. If so, they are true patriots. They’ve given up the freedom and security of normal childhood in order for their father to serve; they’re missing out on best friends and a hometown and a feeling of normalcy. Some day I hope they will look back and say, “That’s okay, someone had to do it.” They might not be wrapped in an American flag and singing the Star-Spangled Banner, but they are expressing their affection for the country in the way that has been given to them. In modern-day America, there are a few people who believe that if you aren’t shouting your patriotism from the rooftops, you aren’t a REAL AMERICAN. And if you don’t support the war, you don’t support the troops. And Lily and I are here to tell you, that is bull.

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