Loved ones left home.

In reading Vera Brittain’s, Testament of Youth, it became quite apparent that Brittain’s life was put on hold when her lover, Robert, entered World War I. She was entering Oxford as a student when he went away and was only eighteen years old. She commented on how there was pleasures to join various organizations of women to band together during the war but instead, enlisted as a nurse at a hospital for wounded soldiers. One comment nearly took my breath away when it hit me that not only does soldier’s lives stop during war time, but also their loved ones. Brittain writes on page 160:

“I had meant to do such wonderful things that year, to astonish my fellows by unprecedented triumphs, to lay the foundations of a reputation that would grow ever greater and last me though life; and instead the War and love had intervened, and between them were forcing me away with all my confident dreams unfulfilled.”

As someone who has not had a close loved one in a war during my lifetime, I am not sure I fully understood what families of soldiers go through. Brittain goes on to write more statements that make me realize just how she was affected by Robert entering the war. I took this reading and decided to further read up on soldier’s families. Through military blogging websites I found a blog written by a wife of a soldier.

June Cleaver After A Six Pack is written by a women whose husband is deployed in Afghanistan. The post titled “The Rambling Thoughts of a Woman Going Crazy…” depicts the struggle she is going through while her husband is over seas. The post discusses how she feels her husband will fit back in the family after returning home. She is afraid the War will change him in a way where their relationship will not be the same. She writes:

“Some days I wonder if we’ll survive this year… meaning, I fear that when he does come home for good we will be different. Will we be each other’s best friend again? Will he want to always be with me and love only me?”

This passage displays the mental strain that goes through a loved one of a soldier. In many ways I am beginning to think it is just as hard for a loved one of someone deployed as it is for the person deployed. At least the soldier has a schedule, a routine and a group of others going through the exact same thing. This woman only has her family, and even then they don’t have the same struggles as she does. This lack of a support system for families would make everyday life extremely difficult. This theory of mine can be pulled from Vera Brittain’s or the blog of the wife. I had no idea the struggles loved ones go through in times of war.

June Cleaver After a Six-Pack, “The Ramblings of a Women Going Crazy…”



  1. Jesse said

    It is indeed hard to imagine what it would be like to have somebody over seas. I’ve never even had a feeling similar to that. But upon reading Vera Brittain’s account you begin to sympathize and explore what those emotions would be like. The reading is very powerful and often times you feel so much for what she went through during the war. The same quote you cited in this post I had stopped on in reading too. She ceases to be concerned with academic pursuits and her future, but rather the outcomes of the war and Roland’s plight. She changes her whole course because of him in fact, by becoming a nurse and trying to share in his pain.
    Her passionate language does give her feelings life from time to time. Sometimes she slips in a poem or a diary entry, but the quotation from the military wife, to me, conveys exactly what Vera says in so many words much more simply, they’re both afraid. The military wife’s questions were so simple, but very compelling. “Will we be each other’s best friends again? Will he want to always be with me and love only me?” I can only imagine the kind of anxiety those thoughts would create.

  2. Drew C. said

    The topic of what those who are left behind during wartime go through is very poignant. It is not always very apparent to those who experience war directly that those who are not still experience devastating effects. The mental strain and constant worrying that go along with it must be almost unbearable, to have a son or daughter or lover (etc.) fighting in the war. It brings to mind the passage in Testament of Youth on p. 427 that my group looked at during this past week’s class. Brittain writes, “… I realise how completely I under-estimated the effect upon the civilian population of year upon year of diminishing hope …” Here, Vera is speaking of the effects of the war on her mother, but it cuts deeper to reveal just how those not immediately affected by the war are affected nonetheless.

    Additionally, I wrote about a similar topic in my 2nd actual post (not including the post about feeds). The worrying about a loved one is accompanied by trying to reconcile the person that they were with what they have become (a soldier trained to kill the enemy). It goes along with 2nd portion of Brittain that you quoted in your post: if the loved one comes back, will he or she be irrevocably changed and different?

    Anyway, great post. I enjoyed reading it.

  3. klynchmorin said

    I agree that it is very difficult to think about and even more difficult to begin comprehending having a loved one in a war zone. I find myself wondering if wives, husbands, partners, etc., feel the same as Brittain or if the advance in technology (email, blogs, etc.) has allowed for less anxious separations. The war experienced by Brittain is certainly very different from the war that is going on today but I imagine that in both instances it was just as difficult for those who stayed home as it was for those who were deployed. My friend’s brother, who only just turned 23, is leaving on Wednesday for his third tour of duty, this time to Afghanistan. My friend said it is still almost impossible to imagine her brother fighting a war halfway around the world. I cannot even begin to imagine what she and her family goes through every day that he is away. It seems that waiting for a phone call or some sort of message would be beyond excruciating, just as Brittain describes it in her memoir. I believe there are support groups for families of deployed soldiers, some of which may even be online. I would hope that these sorts of programs provide at least some relief for these families and loved ones.

  4. kmcoppens said

    I concur that you touch on a very important point in your post here. A point that is too often overlooked by society and even the soldiers themselves. I am not trying to imply that what the actual soldiers go through is not horrid and cruel, but the families of those soldiers go through much more than is mentioned. The anxiety in these situations itself must be enough to push an individual to the edge. The blog of the military wife and Vera Brittain’s writing both display a sense of urgency as well as a sense of fear that one normally only considers to be a part of the soldiers everyday life. Vera feels as though everyone around her lives in a naïve sense of being about the war, as I am sure the military wife from the blog feels as well. It must be terribly difficult striving to get through everyday when most individuals around you have no idea the severity and consequence of the war around them. As the soldiers hold a fear of surviving and making it through the day, the soldiers’ families hold a similar fear of making it through the day without breaking down. The families and loved ones have an additional fear thrown at them wondering if their soldier will come back changed permanently for the worse.

  5. mervenne said

    I think about this and cannot comprehend myself. I stress when I leave my dogs home alone—a home where they are relatively safe. I worry when my younger sister goes on a date; she doesn’t carry a gun and, presumably, no one will be shooting at her. When my parents or loved-ones leave on a vacation, I find myself praying their plane will land safely. I cannot imagine them being gone for a period of time where there are actually people trained and intent on harming them. And beyond the physical harm that could destroy a soldier, there is the mental strain. As the wife in your blog (and Brittain) worry, will the loved-one be changed? How could a returning soldier not have some mental affliction? Soldiers live each day with the fear of death—far greater than the civilian stress of the happenstance of a car-crash or tragic disease. This is an interesting concept that obviously stays universal with time. As long as there is war, there will be separation; as long as there is separation, there will be this sentiment.

  6. ptakt said

    I agree with your post whole heartedly. I could not imagine what it is like to have a loved one fighting a war thousands of miles away, not knowing if at this specific minute they are alive or dead. This has to be heart wrenching for people in these situations. I have friends who have fought in Iraq, I have seen their families and what it has done to them. One of my best friend spent 18 months in Iraq and Baghdad, He still suffers, as does his family. His younger brothers life is as messed up as his is. I like how you made the connection between “Testamant of Youth” and this blog article. I think you did a great job in writing about them both. Thank you

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