I have been a proud member of the military spouse community for almost 14 years. As my husband would say, “It doesn’t feel like 14 years. It feels like 14 minutes… under water.” Let’s not dwell on how romantic my husband is, okay? It is true though, it doesn’t feel like 14 years. Time goes by quickly, even if it never seems that way when we are smack dab in the middle of deployment number X. In addition, I have the best job on the planet. Every single day I get up and go to work with and for this community of amazing people. Since being named Marine Corps Spouse of the Year in 2010, I have had the privilege to meet and work closely with some of the most incredible human beings I have ever met… who just happen to also be married to someone in the military. These men and women would be incredible, no matter what community they were a part of… we are just lucky enough to call them “our own”.
We have spouses, like Karen Guenther (your Marine Corps Spouse of the Year, 2013), who started a charity to help wounded Marines and their families with $500, and has turned it into more than $100 MILLION dollars. Yes, you read that right. We have spouses, like Mary Reding (National Guard Spouse of the Year Finalist, 2012) who created a network of military spouse lawyers who have successfully lobbied and affected legislation across the country and changed state Supreme Court admission rules to improve upon the challenges of licensing and portability for other spouses in her profession. And we have spouses like El Brown (Army Spouse of the Year, 2012) who started a successful business, Kinderjam, because she wanted to help her own son, and has now given a lucrative business opportunity and an educational outlet to military families across the globe.
We have some superstars, there is no doubt. But, in our everyday lives, even if we are not starting multi-million dollar charities, or affecting legislation, or starting a new business… most of us face and conquer challenges that are unique. And we have done it during more than a decade of war and frequent deployments. You will never, ever, hear me say that my “job” as a military spouse is harder than the one my husband does as a Marine. Look. I wouldn’t have made it 30 seconds on those yellow foot prints… and living in Iraq for 7 months? The camel spiders alone would have given me a heart attack… let’s not even talk about digging a hole in the sand for a bathroom. He has the harder job… hands down, no questions asked. I have the utmost respect for our service members because they made a commitment to do something that I would not do. And for that, we should all be eternally grateful.
However, respecting the fact that my husband has the harder job does not diminish the very important role that I… that WE… all play as military spouses. It is not an easy job. None of us really knew what we were getting into (I don’t care WHAT anyone tells you). But, after 12 years of war, we are still a strong, capable and resilient community… like the many generations of military spouses who came before us. And for that, we should all be proud. So, to honor Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and to say thank you to every single one of you for what you do… here is a top five list just for you.
5 Reasons Military Spouses ROCK!
5) We had no clue.
If you haven’t read my entirerant article about this, well click here. But I think it bears repeating. It does not matter if you were a military brat, or how many books you read, or how many friends gave you advice, or what you THOUGHT you knew about being a military spouse. Nothing fully prepares you for the reality of it all. Period. You had no idea what you were in for, but you decided that loving your service member was worth it all anyway.
4) We get back up.
Look, this life will knock even the most resilient, seasoned spouse to their knees from time to time. But we, sometimes with the help of another military spouse, always seem to get back up and do it all again next time. The next deployment, the next duty station, the next set of last minute orders, the next goodbye to another beloved military family. We may not always do it with grace and poise (I fully support a good, old-fashioned temper tantrum now and again), but we get up and we do it because we know that what we are doing is important.
3) We adapt.
We are masters at this. Give us an impossible set of circumstances, very little resources or time, and absolutely no choice in the matter… we can OWN whatever you throw at us. We never don’t always like it, but we will figure it out. We are pros at adapting to ever-changing schedules, climates, careers, peer groups and housing… to name a few. We may absolutely hate the climate and lack of water in the desert (um… not that I am talking from personal experience here), but we will make some new friends, put a baby pool, pile of sand and a few margaritas in our backyard and make the best of it. Adapt. Overcome. Or, pour another drink.
2) We don’t take it for granted.
We spend so much time away from our spouses, away from family and friends, away from the beach… that we really do appreciate what we are given. We know spouses who now are full-time caregivers to wounded service members. We know spouses who have tragically “earned” the title of a gold star… so we know what is at stake every single time we tell them goodbye. And we don’t forget it. Sure, our spouses still make us crazy all of the from time to time… but we hug a little tighter, forgive a little faster, and cherish the time we have with them. Even if we are secretly plotting to shave their eyebrows when they sleep.
1) We help each other out.
We value and appreciate our friends and family who are not a part of a military family. They offer us great support and empathy and really do want to help. But we also know that, at the heart of it all, the only person who can truly understand what we are going through is another military spouse. It is just something you have to live to get. Yes, we can have our catty moments (just like ANY other group of people), but military spouses are amazing at supporting one another. If you have not found this to be true in your military spouse circle, do me a favor… keep looking. Because I promise you, there ARE amazing, supportive, genuine spouses in your community and they can enrich your life in ways you have never imagined. Do not let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. For every bad apple, I have seen hundreds of gems. Find them. Trust me.
Thank you for everything you do to support your service member. As we say here at Military Spouse, you are truly “the force behind the force”. You should be very proud…
We certainly are.