‘The Girl Behind the Man Behind the Gun’

Gates Calls Families, Community Supporters ‘Power Behind the Power

FORT BLISS, Texas, – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates paid tribute here last night to what he called “the power behind the power” – the families and community members who stand behind the troops engaged in the war on terror.

Speaking to local and military family group leaders at the Officers Club, Gates praised Fort Bliss soldiers who, along with their comrades throughout the military, have been “giving their all” in the fight against extremism.

That’s been possible, he said, because of the support troops receive from their families, as well as the support they and their families get from their community.

Gates pointed to the key role families play in their soldiers’ success and the day-to-day challenges they endure during long deployments.

“America owes a great deal to those who are ‘the power behind the power’ – the spouses, children, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of our men and women in uniform,” he told the group. “They, too, make a contribution and pay a price in the cause of protecting our country.”

They demonstrate “grace and patience and an amazing ability to organize and rely upon one another” when their loved ones are gone, he said. [link: DefenseLink]

Anyone even remotely connected to the military knows – without a doubt – that behind every soldier with a gun is the family. It is long overdue for the government to recognise this. Families ARE the backbone of ANY military, and some time back I wrote about just a few of the military families I know:

The Girl Behind the Man behind the Gun

by MacDonald, Wilson Pugsley, (b. 1880)

You have seen the line of khaki swinging grandly down the street,

You have heard the band blare out Britannic songs;

You have read a ton of papers and you’ve thrown them at your feet,

And your brain’s a battlefield for fighting throngs.

You have cheered for Tommy Atkins, and you’ve yelled for Jack Canuck;

You have praised the French and Belgians, every one.

But I’m rhyming here a measure to the valor and the pluck

Of the Girl Behind the Man Behind the Gun.

There’s a harder game than fighting; there’s a deeper wound by far

Than the bayonet or the bullet ever tore.

And a patient, little woman wears upon her heart a scar

Which the lonesome years will keep for evermore.

There are bands and bugles crying and the horses madly ride,

And in passion are the trenches lost or won.

But SHE battles in the silence, with no comrade at her side,

Does the girl behind the man behind the gun.

They are singing songs in Flanders and there’s music in the wind;

They are shouting for their country and their king.

But the hallways yearn for music in the homes they left behind,

For the mother of a soldier does not sing.

In the silence of the night time, ‘mid a ring of hidden foes,

And without a bugle cry to cheer her on.

She is fighting fiercer battles than a soldier ever knows:

And her triumph is an open grave at dawn.

You have cheered the line of khaki swinging grandly down the street,

But you quite forgot to cheer another line.

They are plodding sadly homeward, with no music for their feet,

To a far more lonely river than the Rhine.

Ah! the battlefield is wider than the cannon’s sullen roar;

And the women weep o’er battles lost or won.

For the man a cross of honor; but the crepe upon the door

For the girl behind the man behind the gun.

When the heroes are returning and the world with flags is red,

When you show the tattered trophies of the war,

When your cheers are for the living and your tears are for the dead

Which the foeman in the battle trampled o’er.

When you fling your reddest roses at the horsemen in array,

With their helmets flaming proudly in the sun,

I would bid you wear the favor of an apple-blossom spray

For the girl behind the man behind the gun.

(Courtesy of Granger’s World of Poetry)

I heard this poem read on CBC radio this Remembrance Day and, as usual, I had to go looking for the text. Is VERY hard to find. There is a similar one by PG Wodehouse – song lyrics for a WW1 musical, but this poem above is Canadian, written for WW2. (My thanks to Carolle for finding me Wodehouse, and the Vancouver Public Library for this one.)

Fact is, in every war there are women left behind on the homefront. In WW2, most of those women worked in munitions factories (Rosie Riveter anyone?) and in England, many of those “girl[s] behind the man …” joined the Women’s Land Army to make sure that food was still produced to feed a nation at war. The women in my family have shared many stories of their escapades in the WLA!

In this current war, women are – again – playing a vital role contributing to the war effort. Yes, women now are in the frontline combat roles, but there is also a group of women whose war efforts are every bit as critical as their sisters commanding tanks, machine guns, in the sandbox.

They are the wives, the mothers, the bloggers. Seems fitting to me that in this war, being fought on two fronts at home, (the msm and the rest of us..lol) women are writing about their lives as connected to the military. These women have a unique perspective that the rest of us do not. Their contributions to the GWOT are every bit as vital as the man with the gun. I suspect the men with the guns would agree with me!

Why do these women blog? I’ll let “Mrs. Hooah” explain:

Knee Deep in the Hooah/Tanker Bros
Knee Deep in the Hooah/Tanker Bros

Doing what I can!

My So Called Hooah! Life

I am knee deep in the Army! My son is an infantry soldier (Stryker Brigade) and my husband has joined at an older age and is an officer candidate. This blog was created to keep friends, family, and those who curiously stare into the circus that is my life, informed of what is going on.

And keep us informed she does. I have been a regular reader of Claire’s for a little while, and I have to tell you, some of her posts are gut wrenching in their honesty. So many great posts there, with emotions from jubilance at completing a 5k run, to fear, to contentment, to befrazzlement and to sheer exhaustion. Claire shares them all. One recent one:

Thursday, November 1, 2007

From Mourning to Morning

I have been thinking a lot about grief and mourning lately. It’s on my mind when I am praying for my friends who are dealing with grief, and while I am working through other things in my life that leave me a little lost. I have had to deal with my own serving of grief and mourning through out my soldiers’ deployments and assignments. I am realizing, now more than ever, that grief and mourning are inevitable when you are facing the deployment of a loved one to a war zone, and there is certainly an amount of grief and mourning when you are separated from your spouse even for a period of training…

And yes, Mrs. Hooah demonstrates her sense of humour (which seems to be a pre-requisite to being married into the military):

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Get a life!

Well the cat’s out of the bag now. I have no life. I have no identity and I have nothing more to do than to over identify myself with the career choices of my husband and son. I have received my first negative comment via email from someone who thinks I need to “get a life” and stop hiding behind the identities of my guys. OK, then. [ kneedeepinthehooah.com ]

Go read more of Mrs. Hooah – who is “Knee Deep in the Hooah”(or the Shi’ite!) here. Claire is one of a mighty band of bloggers who share every day of their lives with us. Through their blogs, you see the war in a way no one else can show you. No one.

“Get a life” shows up on another military mum’s site. It seems Mrs. Hooah is not the only blogger that has to deal with trolls. Some Soldier’s Mom: Thoughts of a Soldier’s Mom in A time of War, recently had words to say on this matter:

Some Soldiers Mom
Some Soldier’s Mom

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


To the troll who keeps cutting/pasting portions of my blog entries and other information from my blog at other sites and pretending to be me… GET A LIFE. I am not the embodiment of evil and neither are my sons or any others who serve or have served in the US military. If you have a problem with the war in Iraq, go vote….

# We have one son who is an Army vet, one son who is a Navy vet, one son who is active Navy, and a daughter in medical school (all clearly indicated in the public profile of this blog.) We do not have a son who is still in 3ID (although we have a few “adopted” 3ID sons currently deployed) nor do we have any children serving on any police department in the US (although we have a number of close friends who are current or retired NYPD and a nephew who is on a California police department.)

# We have one son who has severe and chronic PTSD among his other wounds as a result of his service in Iraq and, while he is doing better, it is not all feathers and snowflakes.

If you’re that interested in knowing my views on various issues regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll have to read my blog… they’re here over the past three years.

And finally, to this fanatic, not only is your behavior in the blog world an indicator, but your vile, porno language and overwhelming anger in your emails tells me you need serious professional help.

Been busy, busy, busy with family so blogging has suffered.[link: http://www.somesoldiersmom.blogspot.com/]

Now that’s a military mum NO troll should mess with! Many priceless posts on there. Be SURE and read the post called “It’s Not about You.” Straight-talking, MOM talking. Stuff on here that only a military mum could write. Go read more here.

Every single military spouse has insights, opinions hard earned by their inside connections to the troops. Family matters, politics, finances, emotional issues specific to their situation, these blogs have it all. Some have been living the military life for a long time, and some are relatively (lol) new to the life. Rookie Army National Guard Wife is one. Her “About Me” says:

Rookie Army Wife – New York

New wife to an amazing American Soldier whom I love.

Loving mother to 2 great kids that have been through a lot with a mom like me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It’s probably just me

I’m in a horrible mood today. So much has been going on in the last 3 weeks that I think I’m finally having my melt down about it and by melt-down I mean that I’m feeling angry and bitter and like a trapped animal that has to get away….

My most distressing issue right now is that I’m sick of changing things all the time. Is he coming home this week, will he have to go somewhere else, how long will I get to see him, when is he leaving for real, how long will he be gone…….and on and on. There are NO answers and if you’re part of the military you better just suck it up and deal with it. My life, that I had been so controlling of just a few short years ago is spinning our of control at the whims of other people and there is not one thing that I can do about it!!!!

To read Rookie Army Wife’s posts is to feel your heart ripped out. Her struggles are so palpable, and her writing so eloquent. She bares her soul and gives us personal insights the msm would never imagine as they glibly quote their ‘numbers’, their statistics. Every one of these wives and mothers is a hero to me. As I read the words from their hearts, I am in awe of the courage, the tenacity with which they, also, serve their country. Read more of Rookie Army Wife.[link: http://www.rookiearmynationalguardwife.blogspot.com/ ]

SpouseBUZZ is another milblog where no topic is off limits, no topic is too personal to be aired. Their strength is in their collective of writers, which include: AirForceWife, Andi, ArmyWifeToddlerMom, Homefront6 and other awesome, dedicated authors.

They say:

SpouseBUZZ is a virtual Spouse Support Group, a place where you can instantly connect with thousands of other milspouses. Here, we celebrate and embrace the tie that binds us all – military service.

Back in August, Andi wrote about anticipatory grief. Don’t know what that is? It is a phenomenon military wives know all too well. Read on:

Anticipating the Worst

August 8, 2007


I knew exactly how it would play out. I’d gone over it a million times in my head. Sometimes during the middle of the day, sometimes at night when I couldn’t sleep. I refused to be caught unprepared.

I didn’t have to worry about a stranger knocking on my door. My husband did not deploy with a unit, he deployed as one representative from his unit. So, his Colonel would know before I would, and he would send my husband’s co-workers to my door. He would probably come himself, even.

I would open the door and know immediately why they were there, but at least I wouldn’t hear about it from someone who didn’t know my husband. The news would be bad, but I had decided that having familiar faces, friends even, deliver the news would somehow make it less painful.

And the post goes on, and the comments show the relief that this topic which they have thought about privately, is now out for public discussion.

Up until today…until this post… I thought I was terrible for trying to be prepared for the worst….

There is no reason we should feel “terrible” or ashamed for our thoughts while our spouses are in harm’s way.

AWTM and I know these are issues which are difficult, but also issues that we never seem to talk about openly for fear that we would be seen as weird or morbid….we thought, “how many other military spouses are thinking about this but are afraid to talk about it?” How many other military spouses think something is wrong with them for thinking about such things?”

I think we have our answer – a lot – and we want to assure other military spouses that they are not alone, this is perfectly normal. [ spouseBUZZ ]

And there is the strength of a blog like spouseBUZZ, and one of the positives of any of these blogs. By writing, sharing their lives, these bloggers learn that they are NOT alone. On those days when they may feel isolated in an unsupportive non military environment, there is the blogosphere where their sisters on the homefront know exactly what they are going through. The power of the internet! There are so many of this great blogs out there, I can only scratch the surface here.

In case you believe all of these writers write all war, all the time, not so. Just a brief glimpse through these and all the other great blogs out there (I still haven’t found all of them. lol) shows that, like the rest of us they deal with bill paying, raising kids, celebrating achievements, and mundane chores like raking leaves etc etc. They may not write about the war all the time, but to read any one of them, you KNOW that even doing laundry, or baking cookies (yes, these mums and wives do adopt other soldiers too!), the war is the underlying theme in all their days.

Army Mom Times Three.
Army Mom Times Three

That is Army Mom Times Three. Her “About Me” makes me tired just reading it!


Kris, CO of 111th Sapper Company in Iraq (Kris’ wife Katie is also an Army Cpt.-two tours); Stephanie lives in St. Pete, graduated from FSU in 2001; Kylee just bought her first house here in “our town,” is engaged and we’re planning a wedding!, Austin is with the 4th Stryker Brigade in Baghdad. I’m scared to death for my two sons. My husband thinks I should be committed to the nearest mental health facility until “this” is over and the boys are safely back in the US. My girls save me.

She talks about all her family with obvious and deserved pride, describes her work life. (She has time for an outside job? lol)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ding Dong the Witch is Gone

The boss from Hell has been escorted from the building!!!! I wish I’d been there to see it.

I’m working from home over a s-l-o-w connection that is testing my patience. I’ve also got a patient testing my patience. Actually, he’s been really good for having had his chest split open 10 days or so ago. He’s even got me cooking again. Now I’m going to gain weight. NOOOOOO!

Austin is in Germany! That means he is NOT IN IRAQ!!!!! Yeah! He sees the surgeon tomorrow and should know the plan soon (did I say “soon” about something to do with the Army?). He told me via IM today that he feels “weird and out of place” at Landstuhl. It’s hard to imagine how that must feel, or any part of this war must feel, to actually be in it. I’m just glad he’s out of the Sandbox, however temporarily…

To get the full scope of all the medical trials her family has gone through, you have to go check out the blog here, but one post in particular made me smile:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

We Have an American Flag!

We now have an American Flag flapping in the breeze on a tall pole at work! Yeah! A former Army Ranger raises it every morning and lowers it every afternoon. This is a huge step forward for patriotism – the former owners’ religion did not allow them to display the American Flag.

My husband is home and doing really well. Modern bypass surgery is really amazing – “We have the technology.” And WE have great health insurance!

As for me, I want to scream a series of profanities, hit somebody, collapse in to bed and stay there for a month! But all in all, we are a blessed family. So I will behave.

That’s it for now. Sorry it’s so boring, but I’m so very tired.

Did I mention yet how much respect I have for ALL these women? They not only fight the war on the homefront, raise their families, go to work, they also BLOG.

One blogger I found doesn’t fit neatly into a category, but she will always have the military in her heart. Her blog is called Cool, Calm and Collected: My attempt at it anyway and she is definitely someone you should read. Mel was expecting to marry Jim, but the military and Iraq changed her life plans forever.

Mel, Cool Calm and Collected.
Cool Calm and Collected/Tanker bros
Officially SGT! HOOAH!
Officially SGT! HOOAH!

On her very first post:

Current Worries…

As I write this blog, I wonder if anyone will even read it… I am no one important by any means!

But, I will write as if someone is reading very intently.

Well, my fiancee was just killed in Iraq on 08 Feb 07…

My life has been a blur since. I am not blaming anyone (except the flipping Muslims…) But I just have so many questions that cannot have an answer to them….

Mel was 19 years old when she wrote that, and as time has proved, people ARE reading. This young woman is truly amazing as she writes about her grief, her loss, as her other friends are going on with their lives, including planning weddings of their own, while she is forever changed. Her most recent post:


I am annoyed. Annoyed at the way things are going right now. Some people just don’t get it. I don’t really know that they ever will, either. I mean, I don’t want something like what’s happened in my life to happen to anyone, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody… But I sure do wish people had more common sense.

It’s like this. I have a gaping wound, (I realize that, to some, Jim’s death is so long ago, and they really don’t think I should still be grieving, but the fact is, I am. I am still grieving.) And, rather than try to encourage me to keep fighting, some people pour a mixture of salt and lemon juice into it.

I just don’t get it….

This is a blog to watch, as Mel discovers what life has in store for her next. Raw, honest, heart hurting, and so inspirational. Read her here: [link: http://melissarae870.blogspot.com]

More than enough stories for a book, and there is such a book recently released.

1st Inf. Div. Spouse Pens Book on Army Wives

Aug 27, 2007

BY Anna Staatz

Janelle Mock, wife of the 1st Infantry Division’s Sgt. Steven Mock, has written “Portraits of the Toughest Job in the Army: Voices and Faces of Modern Army Wives.”

FORT RILEY, Kan. (Army News Service, Aug. 27, 2007) – Hoping to share the everyday moments of ordinary Army wives, Janelle Mock penned the book, “Portraits of the Toughest Job in the Army: Voices and Faces of Modern Army Wives.”

Mrs. Mock, who is married to Sgt. Steven Mock of the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, currently lives in Sammamish, Wash., a Seattle suburb where she grew up. The book details the stories of Army wives – their fears, hopes, anger, frustration and job – that Mrs. Mock has met while her husband has been in the Army.

“What they felt was so ordinary I saw as moving and poignant moments that deserved to be shared,” Mrs. Mock said. “One such moment was while I was on a walk, watching a neighbor carefully kiss and hold the letter to her husband one last time before sliding the decorated envelope through the mail slot. These are real life moments of this time of war unseen beyond the post gates.”

The book tells the stories of 20 wives who come from various backgrounds and were married, engaged or seriously dating Soldiers of all ranks, jobs and aspirations. Mrs. Mock’s own story concludes the book… [ Army News/]

There are so many more GREAT blogs written by today’s Girl[s] behind the man behind the gun, and I know I have – probably – missed many of your favourites. My apologies. Here in the Tanker Bros community, we have our own bloggers. I have deliberately chosen not to include the family, close relatives of our own MG and Cav Tanker, who have blogs, out of respect for their privacy. I would, however, be really remiss if I did not mention two Tanker Sisters who I know also have blogs. Yankeemom has a daughter serving in the US military. Her blog is also on my list of must read blogs, even though I don’t get over there as much as I would like. Her blog is a mixture of family news, politics, and quite often outright raging at the bs running amok in the US. In every post, her love of country shines through.

Yankee mom.

Veterans Day

November 11th, 2007

I can’t imagine what they’ve seen. Oh yes, I’ve viewed photos in books and on the internet. I’ve watched Hollywood’s version of battles and those who fought them. But I was not there. Their memories are their own ~ not mine. I can sit and listen to their stories of their buddies by their side and of buddies lost forever. But I wasn’t there. I can touch a name displayed on a wall, black and cold. And I can’t fathom the moments they lived in a jungle far from home. I can visit a wounded warrior, a life changed forever. And I can’t know how those changes came to be.

One thing I do know is that I am eternally grateful to the men and women who put on a uniform and laced up their boots every day, not knowing if this would be their last… [ http://www.yankeemom.com/ ]

Yankeemom, you not only inform me, make me laugh sometimes – you always inspire me, in so many ways. And then we come to another great blog, whose son is also serving the US military. CavMom describes herself as:

I am one Mom out of the thousands, who try to hold onto a sliver of sanity while our children are in harms way. Thankfully, I have a strong family and friend support group who keep me smiling when I am feeling down.

Her blog – 2nd Verse, Same as the 1st: My Favorite Soldier Heads Back to War – is a mix of news about her son’s time in Iraq, troop support, and all out patriotism. She “gets” it!

Good news hard to swallow

Posted: November 9, 2007

1:00 a.m. Eastern

“The day nobody was killed in Iraq” read the headline from the Australian newspaper, and it was an understatement to say the least.

The news coming out of Iraq is shockingly upbeat as Gen. David Petraeus’ surge strategy is showing fantastic signs of success.

The report from the Australian newspaper documented an array of success stories that Iraq war skeptics had not long ago insisted could never occur:

.” .. U.S. troop deaths declined for the fifth successive month to 39, the lowest such total this year and the seventh lowest in 56 months of war..” ..

Did I mention that CavMom also finds lots of good news to share? She does. Go and read. [ cavmom.wordpress.com ]

The future holds sunrises, sunsets, distant shores, soothing coves and safe harbors. It holds the cool breeze of friendship on the hottest of days, the warmth of family in the coldest of nights, even when I am too numb to feel it. I KNOW it is there just out of reach. I just have to keep striving for it. [ lemonademadedaily.blogspot.com ]

That is taken from a page on the LemonStand: Lemonade Made Daily blog. The author of that blog is Prior Active Duty Air Force, married to a MA ANG member, and the mother of daughters. Please go read her words of wisdom here. The issues she writes on are echoed in all the blogs I have mentioned. Every blog noted here also has sidebars with lists of lots more blogs. Do yourself a favour; take the time to go read as many as you can. You will laugh, you will cry, you will rage, you will be galvanised, inspired to action by these “Girls[s] Behind the Man Behind the Gun.” I know I am. Our country will never repay the debt they owe every single one of these women. Bless them all!

Originally on Tanker Bros here: [http://mikegulf.blogspot.com/2007/11/girl-behind-man-behind-gun.html]

Ros Prynn is a NewsBlaze investigative reporter and editor, who writes on a range of topics. Contact her by writing to NewsBlaze, or at her milblog assolutatranquillita.blogspot.com