While a few of us were catching up at a class reunion, the question arose of whether or not any of our classmates were in the military. Immediately after the words “I am military” left my lips, a response from another classmate came swiftly; “You’re not military. Your husband is military.”
Until that moment I never questioned whether or not I was in the military. In many of my responses about our family, I’ve often said the words “we’re military.” They flowed from my mouth with the same absolute truth as did my own name. “We’re military.”
For 26 years I have been married to a service member, so for 26 years I have been part of the military.
The first 8 years were active duty Navy, taking us from southern California, to central California, then on to Nevada. It took less than 24 hrs to detach from the Navy and attach to the Minnesota Air National Guard, where my husband is still currently serving.
Clearly, my husband is military. But now I found myself wondering why I considered myself military. Quite possibly it was my military ID. Or my access to the base. Maybe it was the restrictions I adhere to when using social media. Perhaps it was the stringent privacy regulations set to protect our base and service members that force me to withhold information from others (including family and close friends). We’re military. I’m military. My kids are military. It was a no-brainer.
Until that moment when I heard those words, “You’re not military. Your husband is military.”
I remember feeling like a deer in headlights. It took way too long to process what had just been said. I quickly tried to laugh it off, but my heart was hurting. And I suddenly questioned everything I thought I had been for the last 26 years. No one had ever said that to me before. More often than not, folks thanked my husband for his service, and then turned to thank me for my service, as well. I always appreciated the acknowledgment. I never questioned it…until now.
I learned early into my marriage that our life in the military would not look like a normal marriage. And I accepted early on that my husband’s career would be trumping mine (you can’t become a news broadcaster when you move every 2 years). And as new parents of a rapidly growing family, we jointly agreed that consistency in our home, wherever the military determined that would be, was more important than both of us having careers. So it was then that I became a stay-at-home parent. I became the constant in a whirlwind of moves and separations. And to this day, I am so grateful. We are so grateful.
But in that single moment I had to reevaluate part of my identity: Was I military?
I shopped at the commissary (military only), I volunteered on base (military only), I joined different base groups (military only).
Every time my husband’s rank changed, I was required to get a new ID.
I could walk into a hotel and ask for the military discount.
I was offered special prices at local stores.
Indeed, I was military!
From the moment I became a military spouse, I became part of the military!
Thinking back to that conversation, I know the comment was not said with malicious intent; I realized something significant: those who have never been intimately involved with the military, whether as a service member or spouse or dependent child, shouldn’t be expected to understand the comprehensive dynamics of military life. It took me years to understand it! But those words forced me to think deeply about the part of me that is military…a part I hold with great honor and privilege…a part I wouldn’t exchange for anything…a part that is wholly and undeniably military.
Military spouses are never sworn in. We do not wear uniforms, nor do we salute others on base. We are never trained for combat; we are not deployable.
We are simply the military spouse.
But make no mistake… We are military.