Military Book Review: You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

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Military Book Review You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
Source: Amazon.com

You Know When the Men are Gone (2011) by Siobhan Fallon is a fictional book chronicling the lives of military wives and girlfriends at a Texas Army base. Many civilians find it difficult to understand the hardships faced by military families, and this book offers a descriptive narrative of the overarching particulars of base living, minus the sordid details.

While this book discusses an Army base and an Army deployment, it has similar themes that can be found on any Marine Corps base. The book describes the Army’s Family Readiness Group (FRG), which is similar to the Key Volunteer Network (KVN) in the Marine Corps. Both were an all volunteer run organization where the Battalion Commander’s wife typically maintained the advisor role. The KVN was phased out in 2009 and has been replaced by the Family Readiness Officer (FRO), which is now a paid civilian position.

The isolated base of Fort Hood reminds me of 29 Palms Marine Corps base, where there are “war themed roads… the targets wavering in the heat in the distance, soldiers slumped beneath the insufficient shade of tent netting, sipping from hot canteens”.

Themes of driving long distances and living on the base away from civilian life is something that I experienced during our time stationed there. I believe many military wives can relate to living in connected houses with thin walls, shopping at the commissary, raising children whose fathers are overseas serving, and living in a world of interconnected relationships.

This book captures moments or as the authors puts it “windows” into eight different scenarios at Fort Hood as well as in the middle-east. The men from the 1-7 Calvary, an infantry battalion, deploy to war-torn Iraq and leave their wives, girlfriends and children behind.

Several scenarios unfold: The foreign wife, who met a married solder while working at a Forward Operating Base (FOB) and fell into a love affair; a wife dealing with cancer whose husband remains behind to support the families, a glimpse into one individual’s time dealing with war, interpreters and the disconnect that he feels with the civilian world when he returns home for leave just to name a few.

Gossip, relationships, and affairs are discussed, but I was dismayed that the author didn’t write a happier tale in at least one of the chapters. Yes, many of us have known people who do and say crazy things, but those families are few and far between.

Most of us go on and develop deeper bonds with our spouses and become a stronger family unit. The author writes, “She stood and took a step toward him, knowing suddenly and without a doubt that he was, and always would be, worth the wait”. The character this is written about is an example of a wife who is devoted to her friends and neighbors and refrains from gossip, but was overshadowed by a darker character and is easily forgotten in the tale of woes spun.

One final element to note is that there is no resolution to the characters and stories, so the reader is left wondering what happened? As I read, I imagined there would be an epilogue which would tie the characters together. I was disappointed to find the work incomplete and it left me wanting.

Nevertheless, this book is an interesting read which provides a detailed description of life on a military installation when spouses are deployed. Many who are unfamiliar with military living may find this to be an interesting read. I would suggest borrowing it from a friend or checking it out at the library if you are looking for a fictional military book.

Are you looking for men’s gifts? Are you hesitant to shop for men’s jewelry or a little hesitant to do so online? It is not always easy to shop for others, and shopping online can create some added difficulties. The following article was composed to help you find men’s jewelry online in an easy and efficient way.

To start, think about a small number of items you may purchase. Familiarize yourself with jeweler’s ‘lingo’ in regards to each item. Whether it be stainless steel rings, Masonic jewelry, custom dog tags, or any other piece you are searching for, it is advantageous to know of such things like ‘carat’ and ‘karats’.

Next, use a popular search engine, such as Google or Yahoo, and search for particular items. Broader terms, such as “jewelry”, will elicit a great number of results. If you’re more specific, typing in “men’s titanium rings” for instance, then you will save time during your search.

When visiting a men’s jewelry site, make sure to distinguish whether they are the actual manufacturer or a retailer of one or several manufacturers. Sometimes, the two can be one in the same, but be more cautious when purchasing items from independent or unknown manufacturers.

You may want to search a particular Web site not present on the first couple pages of the results regarding the initial search. You can specifically search any site on Google by using the following commands:

“keyword or phrase” site:”the site address”

For instance, if you wanted to search the Sam’s Club Web site for navy gifts, you would search for the following:
navy gifts site:

One of the major limitations of buying online is that you cannot ‘experience’ an item firsthand. It is always good to shop sites that provide large and clear pictures of desired items. A large picture cannot completely emulate a firsthand experience, but it helps in making the purchase.

In some cases, having human-to-human contact can be another limitation to shopping online. Be sure to read all of the offered options regarding your purchase. If you have specific questions, then check to see if such a question is addressed in the site’s FAQ portion. If not, then it is best to delay the purchase, and talk to a live representative.
If it is not a surprise, then you can have the male try on particular items in local stores for size, color, and design.

Again, it is not as satisfying as experiencing an online piece firsthand, but it will provide you with a good idea of what is appropriate and desired.

It may be wise to do some offline window shopping. Most online retailers will attempt to beat their competitors’ prices, yet most prices are lower online because the site owners do not have the same overhead costs as brick-and-mortar store owners.

Make sure you have closely read all literature regarding sales, exchanges, refunds, insurance, and the like. In addition, if you’re pleased with your initial purchase, it may be wise to make future purchases from the same retailer. Retailers are more likely to provide sale prices to repeat customers; so, if the recipient loved his custom dog tags, then he may be equally pleased with a future order of military jewelry.

Today’s military members are spending more and more time overseas on deployments and special assignments. Over 1.8 million men and women have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and the frequency and duration of these deployments isn’t likely to decrease any time soon. If you have a friend or loved who will be serving overseas, deployment gifts are a great way to show your support, pride, and appreciation.

You might wonder what the perfect deployments gifts are for your friends or loved ones. There are a number to choose from, including military rings and other jewelry. If your solider, sailor, or airman has already deployed, you should consider shipping charges and customs requirements.

Depending on where they are located, it may be difficult to ensure that your gift reaches them without an inspection by local customs agents. Contact the postal service in your area to make sure you know what can and cannot be shipped to your soldier’s location.

Deployment gifts, such as military rings, give the recipient a chance to display their pride in their service and duty. Some of the rings might have an insignia for the specific branch of service they are in, such as the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or a branch of the Reserves. Other rings may represent a specific unit, battalion, or squadron.

These rings can be personalized with the service man or woman’s name or a short message. It’s one of the best ways to recognize their service and many will wear these pieces of military jewelry for the rest of their lives.

Military care packages are always well received, such as those with cookies, cards, books, magazines, or personal hygiene items. These personalized deployment gifts are sure to put a smile on their face and let them know you are thinking of them during this difficult time. With some deployments lasting a year or more, you’re probably thinking of sending more than just one gift. That’s quite all right, as each gift will be well received.

Deployment gifts might also include a book on the history of their family crest and coat of arms, a challenge coin, or a pendant with a special inscription. These deployment gifts will be cherished and will serve as a reminder that someone at home cares about them and wants their safe return.

Deployments are hard, not only on the service men and women, but also on those who remain at home. While it’s a way of life in the Armed Forces, it’s certainly not easy. Deployment gifts can help show how much you care.

In closing, if a friend or loved one is deployed or will do so soon, consider deployment gifts as a way of showing your love, pride, and respect for these men and women who serve abroad. A military ring, pendant, care package, or other gift is certain to put a smile on their face and keep you close to their heart. The sacrifices made by service men and women today must not be forgotten.

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