I’m going to be completely honest in stating that fact that I really struggled watching my husband experience complete joy when he got to do his army job and then coming home and working long hours for little pay at his civilian job. I don’t mean to sound like I am complaining because in the long run we were just happy he had a job, but stepping foot in two completely different worlds almost daily was quite taxing. Our unique lifestyle was even apparent to civilians as one of my lifelong and best friends relayed a conversation she had been involved in with her mother. Her mom had questioned her to see if she suspected that my husband’s civilian job as grocery worker was really a “cover.” I still laugh when I think of that story. As National Guard and reservist spouses we may not be James Bond status but we do get to lead a double life. This double life is not always glamorous but definitely unique and character building.
I don’t think the vast majority of the military community (traditional) or the civilian community really understands the nature of the National Guard and Reservist lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief our service members don’t just do “military stuff,” once a month. There are constantly trainings, paper work, and other overlooked duties they are required to do on their own time (yes I said their own time, no clocked hours!). There are also schools, trainings far from home, deployments, missions, and leaps that call them away from their families AND their civilian jobs. To make matters even more complicated there are aspects of both the reserves and the National Guard where service members are full time; meaning they do their military job everyday but still fall under reserve/guard ranks. In short our service members aren’t just weekend warriors, they dedicate much more time than three days a month to maintaining their training, skills, and MOS. They work hard in two very different worlds, but that’s the lifestyle we chose. If life were easy it wouldn’t be hard so here we are pulling our weight and contributing to the team.
After about six months home from our active duty service, I finally started to realize how blessed I was to get to live in two different worlds and call myself a guard spouse. I was able to live close to my family, my husband was able to attend college full time, and we were able to make other decisions that active duty families don’t have the luxury of making. I finally realized that change I craved (the lack of spousal support within the National Guard community) that would make being a National Guard spouse so much better wasn’t going happen for me if I didn’t assist in actually BEING the change. I know there are many people just like the old me that feel that lack of support, and lack of understanding simply because your service member decided to commit his/her self to an effort that is so amazing and selfless but a little bit different than the “main stream military life.” I am here to tell you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
It might not be as easy as walking next door, but there are spouses like you EVERYWHERE! Chances are your husband/wife has some “drill buddies, ” that have a “significant other,” you can talk to. Make the initiative to get to know other spouses, create your own spouse posse, and mobilize. I can’t tell you how important mobilizing is. You don’t need a special calling to be a leader; in fact you aren’t going to get a special calling, JUST DO IT! That pride I thought I lost emerged again after I decided that I was going embrace my role as a military wife; a National Guard Wife. Once I openly flaunted my pride in being a military spouse it was easier to find people who shared that same badge of honor.
As I look back I’ve realized that my life is very different from what it was a year ago. We are now on ADOS orders near a National Guard training camp. Most of my new friends are also military spouses who share the same life experiences as I do. I love being part of the National Guard Family. I find pride in belonging to such a distinguished organization that has played such an influential role in birthing and maintaining the greatest country on earth. I’m not trying to pretend like my situation or any reservist spouse’s situation is more difficult than that of an active duty spouse. Each organization is different and presents a unique set of challenges. We are all the on the same team. From active duty to reservist families our loved ones all took the same oath and all WILLINGLY pledged their own lives to defend the causes of freedom and liberty. It’s important to accept each other, understand each other, and SUPPORT each other.
As a National Guard/reservist family you are part of one of the most dedicated, strong-willed, and supportive networks on the planet. You step foot in two different worlds almost daily and have members of both arenas cheering you on and hoping for your success. Nobody can understand more clearly the complications and abnormalities of your lifestyle than those who find pride in the same “minute-man,” type organization. Find them. Befriend them, and then find others! It won’t be easy, but if easy was our motto we wouldn’t be supporting the man/woman that wears the combat boots in the first place. Pull up your big people pants, get out of your comfort zone and let’s start a movement like any other. We are military spouses TOO! Let’s show the world we are strong, capable, and proud to belong to the National Guard and reservist ranks.