I had no idea what I was getting into when I married my husband. I don’t think anyone really does unless you were raised in a military family. As a soldier you are sort of prepared for the fact that you will be moved around often, be away from family and friends for long periods of time, and deployed to dangerous areas at any time. The military, in return, offers you compensation via money, medical benefits, education and so on. As a spouse however, you are not as prepared. Most of us are blind-sided by all of the changes and sacrifices we have to go through. I mean, sure we all know that our spouse will be deployed and we will have to move every three to four years… that is pretty common knowledge. However, I had no idea how much these seemingly harmless sacrifices would affect me and ultimately change the way I think about family and community.
Despite all the changes of military life, for the past three years (since I have been married), the biggest change for me has been my family. And I don’t mean having kids and gaining a husband. I mean those crazy people you are raised with. My family was a pretty close one. No one had ever left and started a new life somewhere. So it is a bit of an understatement when I say my family was less then excited about me moving far away and marrying a Soldier. I heard everything from “You are betraying us”, to “He is controlling you”.
This was just the first year I was married.
At first I tried so hard to fix the problems so I could have my family AND my husband. But I was living a life they would never understand and honestly, they didn’t really want to try. Since then I have grown really far apart from them… which is something completely new to me. After all, they have always been there in the past. Lucky for me, my husband has a very pro-military family and they are extremely supportive and understanding. The sad thing is… even with a supportive family back home, you still lose that closeness with them over time. No one had prepared either of us for that.
We had our first daughter when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan. I had her six months into my husband’s deployment. We had planned it that way so that he could be home for R & R during her birth. We were living in Hawaii at the time so the nearest family to either of us was over 2000 miles away. I thought I could handle being pregnant by myself and raising her for the first 6 months. After all… it’s only a year right?
Boy was I wrong.
Not having my husband with me during my first pregnancy was awful! All of things we should have been experiencing together for the first time, I was experiencing alone. I can never get that back. I was working and taking online classes to try and keep busy, but that ended up just being exhausting. I had to make time for work, school and skype. And because of the time difference my husband’s only availability to skype was somewhere between midnight and three in the morning. It was the longest six months of my life… and that was only the first half.
Once my daughter was born I figured everything would be ok. I would have her so I wouldn’t be so lonely. Plus, watching her grow would help make the time go by fast. Once again, I was wrong. I guess during deployments you sort of have to trick yourself into thinking it’s no big deal and that you can handle it, no problem. I think I would have been better off admitting to myself from the beginning that I was not going to be able to do this alone. At least then I could have made preparations.
So how did I make it without having a total mental breakdown? I owe that all to the amazing women I met. And yes, a majority of them were military spouses. They helped me through everything. When my very own family was back in California condemning me for moving away and preaching that I had chosen to leave home and have a baby alone… these women understood. They understood why I bawled like a baby every time a blue bus drove by, and why seeing pictures of my niece with our family broke my heart. They offered everything from their homes, to house cleaning services, to a nice home cooked meal. I could not believe how much they offered to do for me and my daughter.
I will never forget a co-worker of mine. She was a seasoned military spouse and she not only fought and demanded to my boss that I go home any time I felt the least bit ill, she took me shopping and showed me everything I was going to need for my new baby. She even came over and put together my daughter’s dresser. I had another military spouse come over and help me clean and organize my daughter’s soon to be bedroom which at the time was so full of ACU printed equipment, it actually looked like the Army threw up in there. The help and support was unlimited.
Then there was my roommate. Her husband was deployed with mine so we had decided to move in together off post to save money. We had no idea we would also save each other’s sanity. She went to every appointment with me, every ultra sound, and was as excited to meet my daughter as I was. I would do more for this woman then I would do for most of my blood relatives. I will never forget the amazing, selfless things she did for me during a really hard time in my life. We went through every day of that deployment year together and have a strong bond that not many people understand.
People constantly refer to military communities as being a different, sort of tight-knit group. But they don’t really realize how close we are and how we have to search within our community for not only new friends… but for a new, understanding family. WE all know the real sacrifices we make to give our spouses stability and support, and that behind every strong face there is heart break and a longing for that unconditional family feeling. That is what makes us adopt these strangers as family. WE are the only ones who feel and experience the sometimes lonely life of a military spouse and know the words to say to keep each other from losing our minds.
People can say what they want about the ‘average’ military spouse… but despite our sometimes gossipy, sometimes vindictive ways, in my experience we seem to always come together when hard times hit. When a unit deploys, a sort of change in the wind happens and any disagreements we may have had suddenly don’t matter as much. I feel so much closer to my new military family then I do my own family back home. And although it is not always the easiest lifestyle to live, it is extremely rewarding and I wouldn’t change it for anything else. I strongly encourage any new military spouse to take that chance in trusting these ‘strangers’ and not to be put off by some picture painted about how horrible and untrusting other military spouses are. There will always be a select few who might meet that criteria but once you meet those who don’t you will find lifelong friendships and whole new outlook on what family really is.