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The ‘Dirty Dozen’: what it means to serve as a Reservist

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- When I was the spouse of a Reservist (which was the better part of my five years of marriage), I didn't get it. My husband would work his normal work week, then square away his uniform on Friday night for drill on Saturday and Sunday. Come Monday morning, he was back at work, and I had no concept of the toll it took - until I became a Reservist with a full-time job, too. They call it the "Dirty Dozen" here: 12 days in a row where you set your alarm for 5 a.m. to be at work by 6:30 or 7 a.m. Twelve days in a row where your spouse has to pack the kids up for church alone on a Sunday, or - if you're both Reservists - you have to find a babysitter Saturday and Sunday. Twelve days in a row that your kids are in daycare or with a sitter. Twelve days in a row where date nights don't exist because those precious hours from 6 p.m. when you get home till the time you roll into bed are spent going through mail, cleaning the house and doing laundry. For those who are geographically separated from their military unit, it also means two travel days, or working a full day Friday and then driving several hours to get to the unit's lodging facility in time to shower and crash for a few hours. Employers who honor their Reservists' duties are extra special. Although it's a federal requirement to allow Reservists to leave when they are on orders and hold their job for them, some employers find ways to make it as difficult as possible; others accommodate with alternative work locations, work-from-home options, or even "stay available by phone" or "check email" and they're good to go. During the rest of the month, part-time military service means Reservists have to stay physically fit. They abstain from activities some civilians enjoy. What they do off-duty, they know, can affect their entire military career. Prior to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," those who were in partnerships with members of the same sex had to stay "in the closet" 28 days a month for the sake of the two they serve. This is the sacrifice we all signed up for when we raised our right hand and took the oath. When someone thanks me for my service, I say - genuinely - "it's my pleasure." And it is. But I didn't get it until I experienced it. I took for granted what part-time military servicemembers do day in and day out and especially during the "Dirty Dozen." Don't take for granted what your Guard and Reserve friends and family do when they serve. They're not "weekend warriors" - they're part of a force that's ready to activate any time active duty needs a hand. They're some of the finest people and finest Americans I know.