By Ashley Ashcraft
When I married my husband at the West Point Cadet Chapel twelve years ago, I had no idea the challenges we would face as a military couple. Neither of us did. No recruiter tells the seventeen-year-old kid how signing up for the Army will affect his or her future family.
As a new bride, I missed my husband during his frequent absence and long hours, but I healthily managed my emotions. And then things changed. The insurgents that shot down my husband’s Apache helicopter in Afghanistan set off a chain of disappointment, anger, sorrow, and resentment.
The reintegration period after deployment tested my fortitude and faith. Neither of us was properly prepared for what to expect after a traumatic deployment. Throw in a PCS (and everything that entails!) weeks after his return and a tiny seed of resentment began to sprout beyond the surface.
Over time, my little seed grew into a weed that began to block out the sun. It was fertilized by twelve moves in twelve years, moving with three kids, reapplying for teaching certificates, pre-deployment trainings, flights to the coast to send aircraft overseas, trips across the country for research projects, missed anniversaries, a frequent empty seat at the dinner table, work calls and texts at all hours, and incessant taking down and setting up of our lives. This cycle of stress and instability robbed me of the woman who said “I do” over a decade ago.
Have you ever grown exhausted of yourself, or what’s left of you? Have you yearned for that optimistic woman that stood at the alter and excitedly pledged her life to another? Do you ever wonder how to rediscover her?
I finally grew weary of my feelings towards this military life while stationed at Fort Leavenworth. After years of battling resentment, I realized I had to change my perspective to find contentment. I can’t control my husband’s career. I can’t control how far we are from family. I can’t control the rapid pace of change we endure or where we end up next. But, I can change myself. I can view myself as a volunteer, not a victim–as one military wife so wisely said.
To begin my transformation, I created a 40-day wife challenge and experienced a dramatic heart transformation. I learned that serving my soldier in love, praying for him, focusing on his positive qualities, prioritizing intimacy, remembering our good times, infusing fun into our marriage, and forgiving him healed my heart. I asked my husband to describe me at the end of those 40 days to which he replied, “Selfless and sensational!”
Now, I’m choosing to view my husband as a dedicated servant to our country. He’s a standout leader and an advocate for his soldiers. He’s chosen a sacrificial way to provide for our family and I’m proud of him. I have a feeling these next six-plus years in the Army are going to be significantly more fruitful and enjoyable! But, it’s all up to me.