Q&A: Alison Buckholtz, author of STANDING BY: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War
Alison Buckholtz’s articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post and Washington Post Magazine, Real Simple, Forbes Global, Salon.com and many other publications. Standing By–a candid, eye-opening account of our heroes on the homefront–is her first book.
In the three years since Standing By was first published, what has surprised you the most about the public’s interest in military families?
I half-expected America’s interest in military families to fade over time, but for a number of reasons, including Mrs. Obama’s tireless advocacy on behalf of military families, the country has remained very focused on making life better for servicemembers’ spouses and children. There’s been progress on better insurance coverage for special-needs children in the military, for example, and on making state-to-state transfers of professional certification easier for spouses. There’s also more awareness that military families aren’t a homogenous group – that every family is different, and doesn’t relinquish its uniqueness just because it’s part of such a large institution. Republican, Democrat, Jewish, Christian, gay, straight – the perception of what a military family is has broadened tremendously.
How did the military community react to Standing By?
I still receive the most moving letters and emails from military spouses who have read the book and tell me that it made them feel less alone, and that I said everything they had been thinking but didn’t know how to express. Many of them said they were going to pass the book along to another military wife, and others said they were going to give it to a parent or sibling, to help them understand our lives better. I am so happy that it’s helped readers feel less isolated and bridged the way to discussions that would have been hard to broach otherwise.
How has your life changed since Standing By was published in 2009?
So much has changed! My husband served a year on the ground in Iraq which I discuss in the new afterward; the kids and I moved back to my hometown, where my husband eventually joined us; I went back to work; and both of our children have become much more independent. My husband is still on active duty, but as his schedule has become more stable, we’ve been able to plan out our future with a greater degree of control than we ever had previously. It’s what I always hoped for.
During trying times, how does the community of military spouses help you find comfort?
I remain very tight with my military spouse friends – some who I’ve known for 10 years, others for less than a year. There’s just something comforting about knowing that you’ll be understood in an instant, without having to explain a situation or provide lots of background. It’s such a gift to connect on that level, no matter how different our backgrounds are, how far apart we are geographically, or how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other.