For a few years, the United States Army’s recruiting slogan was, “An Army of One.” Unlike the slogan, “Be All You Can Be,” or other ones that were used for over twenty years, “An Army of One” was introduced in 2001 and retired only a handful of years later in 2006.
My husband and I were privileged to spend this week with senior officers and their spouses. We both had the honor of speaking at the Army’s 2019 Religious Leaders Symposium which gathered chaplains stationed around the world for sessions designed to equip them to better help their troops.
It became clear to us why, “An Army of One,” failed. Although it was probably designed to encourage young people to recognize how serving in the Army would benefit them and allow them to maximize their individual potential, it missed the boat. One of the strongest gifts of army life is that you are not alone; you are part of a community and family.
The military community is formed with one’s fellow troops as you bond while fulfilling a common mission under stressful conditions. Speaking to the chaplains’ wives (there are female chaplains but no husbands attended my session) I saw another reason that this slogan didn’t ring true. Like you, I have often wanted to express my gratitude to members of the military when I pass them in airports. They are most recognizable, of course, if they are in uniform. Yet, every chaplain I met this week, didn’t sign up as an individual. While not issued a uniform, his wife and family are full partners in his service.
The women I met were strong, courageous and resourceful. Like any good soldier, they recognize the importance of the mission and subordinate their personal desires and needs to that mission. Like other military wives, the task of raising children falls disproportionately on them. They continue to build their homes despite continual packing up and moving around the United States and the world as their husbands are assigned to new bases. They manage their emotions as their husbands are deployed to active war zones, the women’s imaginations supplying information their husbands cannot share with them. These women form a sisterhood that celebrates joyous occasions and mourns tragedies together. As chaplains’ wives, they must be role models and pillars of support for others on the base, often under crushing circumstances. They too are part of the military family. An army of one? Not in the slightest.