Why My Husband Chooses to Stay in the Military, And Why I Think He’ll Never Get Out

My husband just renewed his contract, for another three years. It was his second time since we’ve been married, and the second time he had planned on getting out.

Two years ago he was told that he would never get out, not when he’s within just an arm’s reach from retirement – in three years he’ll have reached fifteen years of service. “We’ve got you now, Bentley,” they said. “You’re over the hump.”

What exactly is it that keeps them in the military? Is it the security, the fear of the unknown? Is it the camaraderie of the “good ol’ boy club?”

Surprisingly, the unemployment rate for vets post-9/11 is a whopping 10%. Compared to the national average of 7.7%. This is quite high! And it definitely is something that many servicemembers consider when they decide to stay in, even with the likelihood of being deployed (sometimes several times). Perhaps this statistic isn’t taking into account wounded combat veterans on disability, or veterans attending college with their G.I. Bills.

Like most, ​my husband wishes the strain his being in the military sometimes puts on our family wasn’t as difficult at times. While still pregnant with our daughter, he was chosen to compete in an International Sniper Competition. When he came home to tell me I could tell he was excited. I was excited for him! I asked when the competition was, and he handed me the paper. No kidding, it was scheduled over the week that Elise was due.

I should’ve known!

We had already been talking to my doctor about my being induced a week early, due to complications with my pregnancy. As we secured an induction date, we began to plan for my husband leaving for two weeks, only days after our daughter was going to be born.

My amazing mother-in-law and grandmother flew in from Ohio for a week to help while he was away, which helped significantly with not only taking care of both my newborn and 14-month-old, but also with the awful blood thinner injections after a massive blood clot was found in my upper thigh near the femoral vein. I’m already a big wimp when it comes to shots, but let me tell you, these things hurt like a son of a you-know-what!

Even with my wonderful family in town helping, I still felt my husband’s absence. We all do! While I was crazy proud of him, I missed him badly! After my mother-in-law left, and I was caring for our two babies on my own, I missed him even more.

Since Elise’s birth only four months ago, James has left twice already, and is getting ready to go again in about another month.

We all feel this…we feel that pressure when our spouses leave, we pray for their safety when they deploy, and we lean on our friends for strength and support because our families are often too far away.

It’s a life that we, as military spouses, have grown accustomed to…just as a mother is accustomed to the stage her own child is in, but looks at her friend with a child in a different stage in amazement, thanking her lucky stars that it’s not her. Even when we’ve already been through the same stage (I am certain as a mother of two babies, while in my early 40’s, my girlfriends look at me like this daily!)

We have learned this military life, because we have become this military life. We have learned to adapt, bend, and grow because we have to. It makes us strong, it makes us independent, and most of all, it keeps us humble.

I’m undoubtedly proud of my husband for extending his time in the service, again. When he does decide to finally make that transition out I will also gladly welcome it, but not without acknowledging that I wouldn’t be who I am today without having lived this crazy, but undeniably rewarding military life.

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