Recently I was having a conversation with someone who did not have any personal ties to the military. No one in their family served and they were not a veteran. Over the course of the brief conversation, I was asked where I am from. That question led to the discovery that my husband is a Marine; I am a military spouse.
It was after the discovery that this person asked me to thank my husband for his service. And then, she thanked me. She thanked me for my service and sacrifice.
This is not the first time this has happened…but it always feels uncomfortable to me. I think I stumbled over my words as I half-way thanked her but tried to say that sacrifice isn’t the right word. And then…well, we were both uncomfortable.
Don’t get me wrong: I am so grateful that the gap between military families and civilian families seems to be getting smaller. We have come a long way. Yet, there are still many Americans who have little to no understanding of the effect that military service can have on not only the service member, but the entire family.
So, when someone who has not had any personal experience with military life offers up a sincere thank you…I appreciate it on so many levels.
I always feel the need to somehow explain that I don’t consider what I, as a military spouse, “do” to be a sacrifice. In that brief interaction, I feel like I need to explain that my husband is the one who made the brave decision to go talk to a recruiter, take the oath, sign the contract, step onto those yellow footprints, train his body and mind for war and then leave all the comforts of home to defend our nation on foreign soil.
Somehow I want to get the point across that me just happening to be in the same bar as this young Marine one night, dating him, falling in love, saying “I Do”, and agreeing to support the career choice of the man I love in no way compares to anything he has done in service to our country.
Part of me wants to explain that while, yes, we move a good bit, and I hold down the home front while he is gone, and that perhaps my life would be vastly different if he has chosen any other career path on the planet, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I want to tell them that yes, it has been hard, but life is sometimes hard, and mine is no exception. That what I “do” is not really that special and you certainly shouldn’t call it “sacrifice.”
Or should we?
Certainly, if we look up the technical definition of sacrifice, well then, yes…I suppose the term might be correct. As a military spouse, I have “sacrificed” several things, I suppose. Every day I see the struggles of many in our community as they try and carve out a career as a military spouse, meaningful relationships with extended family, a thriving marriage with their spouse…despite the added challenges that military life throws at them.
So many spouses give up things that they might not do otherwise because they are married to a member of the military. Yes, they choose to do so, but they are still giving these things up in order to support their service member. Giving up things…that means sacrifice, even if we don’t use that word, right?