The Independent Dependent

I have seen many articles recently about how military spouses are tired of being called a dependent.

Military Dependents are the spouses and children of members of the United States Military for the purpose of pay as well as special benefits, privileges, and rights associated with the armed forces.

Most of the articles point to how hard military spouses work, by themselves, when their spouse is deployed. From taking care of children, to carrying employment and so much more. They do not feel they are “dependent” on anything when carrying such a big weight on their shoulders.

In some ways, I agree with them. I am the spouse of a newly retired Navy Seabee and the daughter of a retired Coast Guardsman. I have been a dependent my entire life. I have been through deployments of my father and my husband and they have certainly taken a toll on my life. When I first married my amazing sailor, he deployed within just a few weeks to Iraq. I was pregnant and my world had fallen in. Since that time I have been through another 4 deployments, each one more stressful than the last.

Then there is the other side of my brain that screams “REALLY?!?!” Since when is dependent such a taboo word to say to a military spouse? We are dependents. In most cases we depend on our military member as our prime source of income, our medical benefits and privileges that come with being a part of the military way of life. When I first got married, I was brand new to the world, just out of high school and had a child on the way, with only a part time job at Boater’s World to sustain me.

Over the years, I have learned to become very independent dependent. I have learned to take care of the house when things break (love that my husband taught me plumbing). I have learned to carry a job and take care of my children at the same time and so much more. Sometimes I joke about being a single mom during deployment  with a husband on the phone. It may seem harsh but that can be a true reality for many military spouses. I love to joke about how deployment saved our marriage, right about the time I miss him, he comes home, about the time I want to beat him, he deploys. Ha! Please see The Long Long Weeks Of Deployment for my take on my life while he is gone.

Being a dependent is not a bad thing. What other word would you use to describe your situation and relationship with the military? What should they call us?

I am an independent dependent. I can take out the trash, fix the toilet and hold a career while my spouse is deployed, but I depend on my spouse for medical, dental, exchange and commissary privileges. There is no way I could have afforded everything I have right this moment without being a dependent of the military. However, my husband has now retired and we are learning how to take care of ourselves with half of what we had during active duty. Luckily, the military provided some amazing resources to help us prepare.

So, no matter what they call us, and I have heard some major doozies, we are all military spouses regardless and we are all here to help each other along our journeys. So my advice? Leave the word alone. It is just a word that the military uses to describe the extra family members attached to the service member. It in no way defines who you are as a person, who you are as a military spouse, or who you are as a community member.

So remember, when you look in the mirror, you have a team of backup guarding your six. Holler at me anytime!

Read more: Spouse Wars

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