There was absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for being married to someone in the military, even though my own father was active duty military. There are no classes to prepare you for exactly how deployments, temporary duty stations (where your spouse is gone for up to six weeks at a time), and 18-hour days will change/affect your marriage. Each military member will handle battle injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and losing their buddies in different ways, and as the spouse, you just learn as you muddle along. We learn to do things like Permanent Change of Stations (the name for military moves), write living wills, and sign power of attorney sometimes while crying, sometimes not. The constant in our lives is change — it happens at all moments throughout the year, and we are never in control.
Our lives can be hard and unpredictable, but we're families who love each other and do what we can to stay together.
I have never met a military spouse without dreams of their own perfect career, and it's all too common for our wants to take a backseat to our spouses'. We lack any amount of control over when, and where, we will move. Many spouses wonder, "What company would even want me?," especially when our résumés look erratic and inconsistent. When some of us do manage to get a dream position in our career field, it's common to be met with scorn over our spouses' job — we're often ridiculed or accused of being puppets and war-mongers. The fact of the matter is just because our spouse serves in the military doesn't mean we support all military actions or decisions (none of the service members I know follow blindly). Like the rest of the country, military members and their spouses all vote for different political parties, but unique to the rest of the country, we put politics aside in order to serve the country. All of it comes at a great cost, and that cost is etched into many of our hearts.
Each time we leave a duty station (the place our spouse is assigned), the heartbreak that envelops us as we say goodbye to people who became family is deafening. You hold the people that became your brothers and your sisters just a little bit tighter, willing the time to last. But it never lasts long enough. The first time I said goodbye, we were stationed in Alaska. I don't think I stopped crying for hours. These were the people who helped me when we welcomed our first child, cheered with us as she began walking and talking, and cheered for me as I ran 5 and 10k races. The goodbyes never become easier — all military members and their spouses will be shuffled from post to post, state to state, and across the world, but those goodbyes linger and sting for years.
There are too many things I want to share about being a military spouse. One friend pointed out that, at times, we live in a different culture, much like if you were to travel abroad and were met with a different language, manner of dressing, and way of living. Some of our traditions can be very old, and some of them very new, but practically all of them seem strange to outsiders. All military members and their spouses learn the proper way to dress and act for events like re-enlistment, commissioning, change of command, and military balls. We deal with pomp and circumstance, with "Yes, Sir" and "No, Ma'am," with people hating us for what our spouses do, and with inappropriate questions about how much our spouses make.
While news outlets love to share videos of homecomings, and social media loves to share cute Christmas cards and maternity shoots, we want to share that our lives are so much more than that. Military spouses, whether Army, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard, are strong — we don't know how we do it all either, but we keep doing. We are a multifaceted group of people pushed together under the most extraordinary of circumstances. Our lives can be hard and unpredictable, but we're families who love each other and do what we can to stay together.
Above all, many of us just want you to talk to us. We know our lives are strange, and we are basically nomadic, but I promise you will have a one-of-a-kind friendship with us. You'll never find a more loyal, unwavering, and trustworthy friend. Plus, many of us make a mean bowl of mac and cheese.