Today, while listening to the 80’s channel on my satellite radio station and driving home from seeing my husband off on his fifth deployment with the USMC, I recalled a high school homework assignment with clarity.
Mrs. Dobry, my junior year high school English teacher, was a red-haired bespeckled woman. She plays golf with my mother to this day, so I’ll say nothing more. But the fact that I remember that assignment and her class undoubtedly says a lot. We tore apart Lord of the Flies until she famously revealed the ending. (Piggy DIES!?) We gave how-to speeches (Mine: How to tie a Windsor knot while Kristie Vianikos explored the realm of grocery store bagging). And we eventually had to write an expository essay. I chose to deconstruct the then wildly popular song by Billy Joel, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
If you are circling near the age of 38, then you are singing a line right now. It might be the line about Marilyn Monroe, Brooklyn’s Got a Winning Team or the ever-scandalous British Politician … Sex stanza but you what of what I speak.
In order to score on A on the assignment, I had to record the song on a tape recorder off the radio. Remember holding your finger atop the red record button and when the damn DJ shut his yap, you slammed it down desperately trying not to cut off the first note. After that, I had to write out the song – longhand. Okay, okay enough barking about the technologically arrested development that defined the 80’s.
During a marathon visit to the Westmont Public Library where I reviewed and studied much of the lyrics, I began to write about the song and it’s meaning. Why was it written and what did it ultimately mean? Did it truly capture the essence of an entire generation or did it miss significant events? And who the hell was Syngman Rhee?
And so when I heard that song today, the entrails of my husband’s jet still practically hanging in the air, I got to thinking.
My husband is currently the Commanding Officer of VMA 311 “The Tomcats.” Incidentally, John Glenn, who is mentioned in Joel’s song is a celebrated former Tomcat. This is our fifth deployment as a Marine Corps family and while I am proud of our service to this nation, I am particularly proud of the stamp we are leaving on history. Much of Joel’s song admittedly meant little to me – in part because of my age but my life was fairly antiseptic, my children will know the war. They will know about deployments, sacrifice, and what Semper Fi means. We have taught them about respecting the flag, standing still during evening colors, and how in this decade of war, only one percent serve in the military and it’s something to be extraordinarily proud of.
And once again, my husband will not be here on Christmas morning to see the joy and surprise on my girls’ faces. Sure, we’ll set up facetime and prop up the computer so he can watch as they tear into their presents but it’s not the same. He’s not here to remind me to move Penny, our Elf on the Shelf. He’s not here to grate just the right amount of nutmeg into my egg nog or stuff stockings or partake in our traditional fondue dinner. But we’ll blow kisses to the computer screen and puff out our chests a bit knowing that we are a Marine Corps family and this is part of the deal. It doesn’t make the holidays any easier but they will surely be memorable – my kids will look back on photos and the years that daddy is digital are likely to be some of the best Christmases they recall.
And sadly, they will have been a part of the incalculable failings of our Congress as they continue to bungle our future at the expense of party-line politics and worse – self-serving notions of grandeur. No generational-defining song would be complete without chronicling such befuddling behavior. Even Steven Colbert, who also warrants inclusion in the song, has mocked our elected leaders.
“Lawmakers on the debt Super Committee are looking for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. They've recommended cost-saving changes in military health benefits … And the Super Congress recently received a letter supporting those cuts from the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees. They say, of veterans: We believe no constituency better understands the challenge America faces, and no constituency is better suited to, again, lead by example by putting country first.”
We are the true one percent. And it’s a badge I wear with honor and one that my girls get to wear too. My husband might wear a patch with a, while historical, but nonetheless whimsical cat, but I proudly wear one too. Military spouses deserve a few lines in the song too. Along with twitter, Facebook, Angry Birds, and many, many other quintessential bits from our generation: The Next Greatest Generation.
And although I always stumble over the Dien Bien Phu Falls line, when the song came on, I turned up the volume, my to my children’s horror, and sang it at the top of my lungs. Perhaps it was the nostalgia factor. But I think it was because I knew that my husband, our participation in this war and our life in the USMC, will be a line in a noteworthy song someday. My kids will probably have to write – or excuse me type – a paper about it. And while I had to look up the Bay of Pigs Invasion, they will have lived through the Iraq invasion. I wonder what rhymes with Shock and Awe?
Molly Blake has been a journalist for 10 years and has published articles on a wide variety of subjects. Her main focus is on military family and spouse issues including moving, deployments, education and spouse employment. Molly is the web editor for Blue Star Families, a freelance writer and maintains a popular blog called YumaMom.com.
Molly holds a Master of Arts degree in English and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. Her published works have appeared in newspapers, blogs, magazines and web sites. She is a member of Military Reporters and Editors.
Molly's husband is an active duty United States Marine Corps aviator and Commanding Officer of VMA 311 "The Tomcats." They have two daughters. You can find examples of her work on www.mollyblake.com
To read my guest post visit: Household 6 Diva
To read more Holiday Posts from Military Spouses Check out: Riding the Roller Coaster