The National Guard could very well be the most mysterious of the services… All other branches have an idea of how the other services function and their purpose. Unless one is right in the thick of it, living it, the concept of the guard may elude you; it’s like that endangered species that you didn’t know existed, certainly never seen or maybe forget about until you hear the name again on the news. As a National Guard veteran and spouse I hope to sum up just a bit of what I love about my guard life.
Like all branches, it has pros and cons, and I have good and bad days. I would have it no other way! The Army National Guard is the only reason this California girl was able to meet my handsome Texan while training in Georgia. I married my man in uniform many moons ago and as a spouse I’m still learning what I love about him and our National Guard life. Not that I love it every day…there are plenty of days I don’t, and it would be much more easier to write a top 20 list of what is most difficult for a National Guard spouse. For now, let’s just focus on the positive!
10. Education and Career goals
A National Guard spouse can maneuver these personal goals with ease! I went to a local junior college and without complication transferred to the university, no difficult process of credit counting or figuring out which would or would not transfer. Career planning is just as easy because as a guard spouse I am familiar with local businesses and the local job market. This perk also applies to my children! With knowledge of the local schools I have been able to plot a clear trajectory of where my kids will go.
Now, like anything in life plans don’t always come to fruition; as evident with my thirteen year old not getting an approved transfer to the high school we had hoped for and now he will most likely end up at his grandma’s alma mater. It’s a good school, just really, really old! Nonetheless, whether it is our neighborhood elementary, a magnet or GATE program, private or charter schools…I have the inside scoop.
I can point out the ones that breed success and the ones I hear about on the news, for other than good reasons. I must also mention that my kids will know where mom and dad will be in the next few years as they make their college and career plans. Not that I am dying to get them out of the house (cough, wink, crossing all fingers, and even toes)…. seriously, I’m not!
I cannot express my appreciation for this one enough. All three of my boys have had the same pediatrician for years and the same goes for me and my husband, well not a pediatrician though. We have the comfort of knowing who exactly we are going to see, same doctors, same offices, health history on file and intact.
Whether on Tricare or private insurance we have managed to stay with our trusted doctors. Stability across the board leads to a comfortable patient that willingly entrusts the medical professionals we must depend on. The best part about this perk, well from a female point of view… I have had the same GYN/OB for years! I have the comfort of knowing exactly who I will be seeing at each annual exam, or I should say who will be ‘seeing me’. Just saying! It puts me at ease.
I know what you’re thinking, shaking your head and confused. For us in the middle of a chaotic military life, we sometimes have a few choice words for civilians….I love mine too much to mention any of those words. I know for active duty service members most neighbors, friends and obviously co-workers are also military. As a guard spouse I am the oddball living in a world of civilians… uniforms are not the norm at the grocery store.
I choose to appreciate the breather from stress that a civilian world offers. When I am surrounded by people with a ‘normal’ life it allows me an opportunity to not stress, relax and just enjoy myself, like everyone else. I kind of just hide the crazy, like Dora in Finding Nemo: “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” And one secret I have also found with my civilian community is that I actually become the special one, as opposed to my soldier.
Now be honest with this, my fellow spouses! We all know we sometimes experience this life as in the background; the one in uniform gets all the glory, as appropriately earned and deserved. However, when surrounded by civilians who only have a partial understanding of military life we all of a sudden become the amazing ones!
I know it’s kind of like that Toby Keith song…….no, not that one, not the soldier one we hear at every sendoff or homecoming. That other song, ‘I Wanna Talk About Me’…….yes meeEEE! I know, call me selfish. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate ALL my soldier does but civilians are keen to realizing how special we military spouses must be to do what we do, even when they don’t completely “get it.”
7. The Minuteman
Okay, don’t lol when you read that, get your head out of the gutter! There is a perfectly good explanation for this and it has nothing to do with where your mind is taking you. My husband and his fellow guardsman would be very upset if I let the rest of the military community think like that.
Now, seriously, this has to do with the history of the National Guard. December 13, 1636 is the date considered the National Guard’s birthday, and that means it is technically older than the nation itself. Militias of the early colonies were ordinary citizens, farmers and townsmen that organized into military units to protect their own.
A small elite group of the militia was the minutemen, usually younger in age and more mobile so they could be rapidly deployed. If you’re a guard spouse I’m sure you already have that image in your head because it’s all over your house on those National Guard shirts, hats, glassware, coffee cups and insulated mugs. It doesn’t matter what state your soldier is with, the minuteman is a sort of mascot.
It is that image of a farmer with a plow at their side and a musket in their hand, depicted from the Concord Minute Man statue of 1775 by Daniel Chester French. The statue was made in remembrance of the first battles of the American Revolution at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. The minuteman signifies so much for this country and to a guard soldier and spouse is a clear symbol of the honor and history that comes from being a part of the National Guard.
This particular perk has a little more to do with the service member and their choices, but this bodes well for the guard spouse too. A National Guard career varies from active duty as a guardsman has a bit more say in their career progression. Unlike active duty you don’t get orders every few years informing you of your next great adventure.
And a National Guard enlistee will always know their exact unit and job they will be doing way before bags are even packed for basic training, no list or luck of the draw as it can be with other branches. This also means they will have options, to choose between a variety of avenues to upward mobility or just mobility in general. The National Guard is not known for moving around a lot but make no doubt that it certainly happens. I have guard friends who move so much, if it weren’t for Facebook I could not tell you where these close friends of mine are living.