Your Prince Charming. He swims up to you and kisses you as if you have been doing it a lifetime. Your heart flutters, your eyes grow wide and your future flashes before you. He’s awesome, wonderful. He gets you, he’s strong, you feel safe when in his arms. He’s funny and isn’t intimidated by your strength or sense of self, he likes you just as you are….You call your family and exclaim “I’ve met the man of my dreams and he’s a sailor.” A brief pause on the other end of the phone and then whispers of concern start to come your way. “You know what they say about sailors?” “Where are you?” “Be careful, you are surrounded by beautiful things and it’s easy to get swept away” If only they knew him they’d understand.
This is my story and the story of many women, who fall in love with a member of our Armed Forces. There are hundreds of thousands of service members stationed throughout the United States and overseas. Many of whom have captured the heart of the “Lady in Waiting”. I use that term as the description of the typical military spouse.
After you fall in love, you get married. After that many begin to start a family. You find out you’re pregnant! JOY JOY JOY…then you find out your husband is deploying for 7 months. Or 9 months. Or 18 months. Not only is he going to miss your pregnancy, but the birth of your first child. Their first crawl, first walk, first word. For some service members, they have children who have celebrated their first birthday and they’ve never even met them. Not your childhood fairytale.
Marrying a man in the military is very different than a man who isn’t. Once you are married your title now becomes ‘Spouse’. You no longer have an identity of your own, everything you are becomes an extension of the service member. Your health insurance, when you call to make an appt. you need to use their social security number in order to get anywhere. Your children often suffer from anxiety due to the fact that their parent keeps leaving them. The kids suffer from behavior problems, social problems, they sometimes latch onto the one left behind for fear of them leaving too.
As a woman married to the military the sacrifices are extreme. You lose everything you’ve held dear. You move away from your home, your family and your friends. You have to quit your job and hope to be able to find a new one on the other end. You are isolated in a new town, you have to start over. Then move again in a few years and start over again. And again, and again…often repeating this cycle for 10, 15 even 20 years or more. Some spouses have to move to another city without their service member due to training or deployments. So not only do they pack their house alone, they fly to the new location alone and get set up alone. Many military families struggle financially because they are forced to live on one income. If a spouse does get a job, and the family has children who require daily care, any money made usually goes to pay the child care expenses. Even though the spouse is outside the home, interacting and making new friends, the effort almost seems useless because they still aren’t any further ahead.
This is why many spouses choose to stay home with their young kids. This is also the reason many spouses feel isolated and alone. Not your childhood fairytale.
You started out this life as a vibrant, energetic woman, and due to the situations of the world you have now become a shell of who you used to be. You find yourself crying at all hours of the day. You lose your cool at the most inappropriate times. You suffer and your kids suffer too. You question your self and your ability to be everything to everyone. If you are able to hold onto your sanity, job, and you make friends easily, it still doesn’t get any easier. Even retirement comes with a price.
With all of that above, you might be thinking “Why then would you want to take on that lifestyle?” Well for one, because we fell in love. That you can’t control. From the moment I met my husband I knew we were soul mates. He demonstrated such awesome qualities that regardless of what happened between us I wanted him to be my kid’s dad. Lucky for us God had the same plan in mind.
As a military spouse, the pride one feels is overwhelming. I am married to a HERO! How many women can say that? My Prince doesn’t ride a white horse but a metal ship. Armed not with swords but missiles and bombs. I feel safe when he’s around. I am protected. I am among a very elite and special group of women. Women who inspire me every day to be my best, to be the strongest version of myself. My story of life as the wife of a Navy Chief doesn’t even compare to that of those women who love a Marine or Soldier.
Each spouse is so uniquely different in their circumstance. Every family has their own challenges. My challenge is that my husband returned Dec. 21, 2010 from a 6.5 month deployment. He left March 23, 2011, for a minimum 7 month deployment. He will have missed 9 months of my oldest sons 6th year of life, and 9 months of the 3rd year of life of our baby. Less then a week after my husband left, our oldest lost his first tooth. Something my husband had to experience via a photo in an email. But my sacrifice doesn’t compare to what my husband is giving up. He doesn’t get to take our kids to school. He doesn’t get to eat birthday cake with them. See them swim underwater for the first time. He doesn’t get to teach them to ride their bike or see them sing in their first school chorus. Not only are they sacrificing time with their families, but they are also sacrificing their lives should the situation arise. No wonder so many of our service members are severely scarred when they come home.
The one thing that spouses all have in common is the sisterhood and the unique understanding of just what it means to be the other half. The backbone of the United States Military.
I am able to be the woman I am ONLY because of my family, my friends and the other military spouses who privilege me with being in their lives.
Find a spouse and hug them today. You’d be surprised at how far that will go.