Thoughts On Burning The Flag

Thoughts On Burning The FlagMy first husband was a soldier in the United States Army for the first 10 years of our marriage. After that he left active duty and went reserve status for another 10, for a total “time in service” of 20 years.

Initially, he was a medic, then an LPN after his college training, to each unit he was assigned to, wherever we were stationed.

I was 18 years old, and he was 19 when he enlisted. He left for basic training just 3 days after our first child was born and he was gone for nearly four months. It was a sacrifice to be essentially a single-mother during the time he was away in boot camp and then his Advanced Individualized Traing (AIT). But I knew it was necessary and that he was serving our country.

After basic training and AIT we left our home and family in Utah and moved to Ft. Lewis, Washington, where we lived on a Private’s pay, barely making ends meet, for eighteen months, at which time he received an overseas assignment to Germany. He was gone for 8 months before he secured approval for our son and me to accompany him (it’s mandatory for soldiers to live on post, in the barracks, until they reach at least the rank of Specialist (E4) and spouses aren’t allowed to live in the barracks. So, once again, I was a single mom for the better part of a year.

After we joined him, we lived in Germany for 4 years. And I loved it there. Though, back in those days (1981 – 1985) there was no internet and cell phones hadn’t been invented yet, so long-distance phone calls to the states were extremely expensive. I very rarely got to call my mother…once a month, if that. And when I did, it cost over $100 per call…which put a real strain on our low-ranking budget. The entire time we were in Germany the troops would spend 45 days at a time “in the field”, almost every other month. What that means is that my then-husband was more than 100 miles away, without access to phone, and we had zero contact during the extended time he was training for the possibility of military engagement.

Another real concern while we were in Germany was the regular bomb threats received by American soldiers and their families who were stationed in that country. These attacks were making national news in the USA before I ever left to join him, so my mother was, justifiably, worried about our safety going to live in that country. As US military personnel and their dependents, we were required to follow a daily procedure of putting a different color of tape across all openings on our vehicles each night before bed and then checking all the doors in the morning before getting in to make sure nothing had been tampered with during the night…to ensure our safety. There were those who didn’t take this step and their car exploded with them inside. So, we took this precautionary action very seriously. Many times there would be local demonstrations in various communities outside of US military Post Exchanges (department stores) and Commissaries (grocery stores) where the locals would pour red paint all over their bodies and lay down in the streets, blocking traffic. A clear statement of their opinion about our presence in their country…(even though we were there by request of their government in order to help secure their borders).

Overall, most Germans were very friendly to us and I loved our time living there.

But there were certainly sacrifices made as a part of serving in the military.

Our second son was born while we were stationed in Deutchland and I came back 8 months pregnant with our daughter, who is our youngest child.

Once we returned to the USA we were, again, stationed in states far from our home and family. But we knew going into it that this would be the case.

After my then-husband left active duty and was serving in the US Army Reserves we relocated back to our home state of Utah. But in 1990 he was yet again called to active duty when the war with Kuwait broke out. His unit was deployed to southern Germany, to fill in for active duty personnel there, who were sent to serve in the middle east during Desert Storm.

And once more, I was a single mother.

But this time our kids were approximately ages 12, 8, and 6. And even now, all these years later, they acutely remember the day we hung a big Welcome Home sign on the fence in our front yard and tied yellow ribbons all around the house before going to meet their father when he, and the rest of his unit, returned home from that war.

Why do I tell you all of this?

Because I suspect most “average Americans” have no idea what it means to truly sacrifice and serve their country. To spend days, weeks, months, and years away from home and family, to place yourself in harm’s way 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365 days a year, in order to preserve the freedoms those same Americans enjoy, without thought or consideration, every day of their lives.

So, after participating in that system, first-hand, for so many years of my life, it really annoys me to see people who have never given up anything, never truly dedicated themselves to something of significance, literally taking for granted not only the freedoms fought and paid for with blood, sweat, and tears of our brave men and women in arms…but all too happy to suck the system dry seeking federal funding for college, food stamps, financial benefit, and more.

And then they go so far as to trample on the flag…burn the very symbol of that sacrifice and freedom by which they receive so much benefit?

Yes, I absolutely believe in the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech. It is one of the core freedoms and privileges our military personnel fight to ensure. So, yes, unlike many other countries where that freedom is not guaranteed and there are strict prohibitions against such public displays of anti-nationalism, I’m grateful for the fact that, as Americans, we can openly express our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and even disapproval of government.

But I find it deeply disturbing and absolutely distasteful and reprehensible that there are citizens of this great country who enjoy the freedoms afforded that citizenship, yet who so blatantly devalue the sacrifices made by the few in order to maintain those benefits of the many.

And that, to me, is exactly what those who burn our flag are doing.

I find it shameful.

Contraception or Abortion: The Lesser of Two Evils?

Tracy Partridge-JohnsonI was shocked at age 35 while having a phone conversation with my mother regarding the dilemma of my teen pregnancy 18 years prior.

I was very happy to be having the first, real discussion “as an adult” with her about it since the situation occurred. I had many feelings, emotions and questions that had been unresolved and unaddressed over those many years and it felt freeing to finally be able to have a candid conversation with her about the reality of the situation; her experience as well as my own.

I remember she expressed feelings of shame and embarrassment, living in our very conservative Mormon community of Orem, Utah in 1979. The year really isn’t so relevant because of the culture. A teen pregnancy or pregnancy out of wedlock, regardless of age, would be seen as socially unacceptable in the ultra Mormon culture of which we were an active part even in today’s society.

Image is everything. A popular cultural slogan goes like this; “Avoid the very appearance of evil.” So, needless to say, once I “appeared” pregnant at age 17 it would be clear to the entire community that I had been engaging in “evil” activity. Of course, a pregnant teen is “technically” to be loved and embraced by the membership of their congregation. Especially since they are clearly “lost” and need guidance to be brought back into the fold.

But, I digress.

I was shocked during this conversation because as I tried to explain that at the time I had desperately needed to feel love and emotional connection to a male in my life (this connection unavalable to me from my father at that time) and that now, looking back on it, I didn’t understand why, given the fact that they knew I had recently become sexually active, they hadn’t talked to me about options for protecting me against the possibility of pregnancy?

Her response floored me.

She told me that even today, all these years later, she still wouldn’t even consider talking to me about the option of using contraception.

WHAT?

I was astonished. I asked her what her reasoning was for this decision and she explained that, in her mind, allowing me to be on contraception would suggest that she “condoned my behavior” which she clearly did not.

My response was to tell her that whether she “condoned” it or not, the fact of the matter was that I was sexually active. Didn’t it make more sense, I asked, and wouldn’t it be more loving and compassionate to protect me from pregnancy, whether she was ok with my behavior or not?

Her answer was still no.

And she is not alone in this thinking. Which in 2009 is not only unbelievable but practically obscene. When you stop to think about all the unwanted pregnancies and the impact that issue has on our society, it’s patently offensive.

So, here is my core question:

If young girls were informed and educated about their options regarding sexual activity, contraceptive choices and protection from pregnancy, and these options were made readily available to all women, would we even need to be having a debate over Pro Life or Pro Choice? It seems that if all “fertile” women were on contraception until they CHOOSE to have children, the whole abortion issue would almost go away.

True, there are those cases where an unwanted pregnancy occurs even when contraception is being reliably utilized. But, over-all there would be a HUGE reduction in the need or desire for abortion.

So, what is the REAL moral question here?

Many parents seem to cling tenaciously to a sense of artificial morality taught to them by their parents and religious leaders endorsing a sort of head-in-the-sand attitude. This attitude goes something like this; “If I try to force my teenagers not to listen to their natural bodily urges then, hopefully, they will get through their teenage years without an unwanted pregnancy.” This mindset tends to implement huge piles of shame and guilt on the teen in order to try to keep them from participating in sexual activity. But the fact of the matter is, when they find themselves in an emotionally and sexually charged situation…and they aren’t protected…they will choose to have sex, anyhow.

So, back to my question:

Which is better? To have more sexually active teenagers who are on contraception thus resulting in significantly fewer abortions, unwanted children, STD’s and unwed mothers on welfare programs? Or to continue doing what has been done for ages and try to enforce this religious moral will, which is completely ineffective anyhow, as is clearly evident by the number of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, state financed welfare programs to support the unwed mothers, etc.?

I think my vote is clear.

Sex is a natural and beautiful thing. The only part that makes it “bad” is all the baggage accompanying unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. And we have the technology to resolve both of those issues simply, effectively, and affordably.

Isn’t it about time we lose all the shame and guilt associated with expressing our sexuality and instead, educate and inform our youth about their choices for participating in an environment of love and protection?