By Rachel Engel
April is Stress Awareness Month, and if there’s one thing servicemembers are familiar with, it’s stressful situations.
Once again, enlisted military personnel top the list of most stressful jobs in 2017, and it’s no surprise. If you joined in 2001, and are still serving, your entire career has been in the shadow of war, war and more war, as well as deployments that won’t stop.
It’s not just the threat of deployments, though, that makes the military most the stressful career choice in the U.S. The entire lifestyle does not lend itself well to those who like to take life slowly and leisurely enjoy every moment.
What else would you add to this list?
1. Constantly saying goodbye
Servicemembers and their families are forever saying goodbye. Goodbye to their families before yet another deployment. Or TDY. Or short tour. Goodbye to the friends they’ve made as they leave for a new duty station. Goodbye to their families, hoping they get another chance to visit in a year or two. Goodbye to coworkers who have become family.
Goodbyes are a part of the culture in the military, but all those goodbyes are not easy to handle.
2. Moving to new places
Sure, traveling can be a new adventure, and it’s often one of the most looked-forward-to parts of military life. However, the stress of packing, moving kids from one school to another, losing support systems and friends, having to start over in a new town, state or country can all be extremely stressful.
3. Making plans for the future
Ask a military family where they see themselves in five years, and you’ll get blank stares and silence. The truth is, we not only don’t know where we will be geographically, we know very little about anything else. Will we be in the midst of a deployment? Will we still be in the military? Will we be overseas somewhere at an exotic location? We cannot know what the future holds, because it changes so quickly, and for families that can be hard, especially for kids who are trying to establish who they are and where their interests lie before it’s time to head off to college.
4. Knowing politics have a direct impact on your life
The average voter is fairly removed from the actions of national politicians. Eventually their decisions may trickle down to a personal level, but for the most part the day-to-day lives of people don’t change when a new president takes office. For members of the military, however, a new president means a new boss who is in charge. He or she has the power to send them to war, to make serious recommendations on how much money they make, how much equipment they’re provided and how much time they have with their family in between separations.
It’s hard to watch as presidents gut defense spending, knowing the lack of funds will impact your ability to do your job.
5. Getting that work balance just right
You can’t exactly bond with your kids from 3,000 miles away in a war zone. You miss birthdays, holidays, milestones and the everyday family memories. When you come home, there’s training missions, volunteer requirements and work days that never seem to end. The struggle for many servicemembers if finding a balance that works for everyone and still allows you to give your best in all areas of your life.
6. Acknowledging the danger you face
When you say goodbye to your kids for a deployment, you know you’re not going on a simple business trip. You’re headed out to fight the “bad guys,” and that means facing the harsh conditions and perilous nature of combat. Those goodbyes aren’t sad simply for the distance and time they symbolize; it’s because it could be the last time they hear you say it.
Are there civilians that face similar hardships? Of course. Police officers and firefighters rush into danger every day, and some jobs require frequent moves around the country. But only servicemembers face all of these challenges on a consistent basis, and that’s why it’s the most stressful job in the country—because it’s not just a job. It’s a lifestyle, and one we choose readily.
It may be stressful, but it’s also a calling most people will never understand.