Dear Military Spouses,
I have never been one to shy away from admitting when I am wrong. Well at least not since I have been a bit more of a seasoned adult, if you will. I am writing this letter to apologize to every single military spouse out there. For many, many years I placed tremendous judgement on military spouses. And as embarrassed as I am about those judgements (because they were unfair and completely wrong), I believe writing this letter holds a lot of value, not only because I sincerely owe you an apology but also because someone else who reads this may view “us” as I did you, once upon a time.
Although I have been a military spouse before, it was while I was an active duty Soldier, and I must admit it was MUCH different then than it is now. You see, I served our country for almost 21 years and I was also married to another service member. Although I was a military spouse, I didn’t experience this role in quite the same way. As a service member, it is your job to support the mission and to do whatever needs to be done for the organization. I did that and so much more. Even though I was a mother and did a lot of the things I do now, it was different. That’s the best word I can use to describe it.
In 2010, my family’s life changed unexpectedly and dramatically while my husband and I were both deployed to Afghanistan. He was Killed in Action on June 24, 2010 and I found myself beginning an unfamiliar chapter on my own, with two children. I continued to serve our country while raising my two children and doing the best I could at being a Soldier and mom. I honestly never saw myself becoming a wife again, but if you know anything about me, most of my life is filled with stories of things coming true that I claimed never would.
In 2015, I took a chance on dating a man who I quickly learned was amazing in every way; he is now my husband. In 2018, we got married and about a month later PCSd to Fort Hood, Texas. This definitely wasn’t my first PCS but it was my first as a non-active duty military spouse. It felt so different to prepare for and move as a dependent; everything was based on my husband’s social security number and the fact that he was the Soldier. It honestly felt like I couldn’t do much other than greet the moving company with a smile and stand by for any information my husband shared with me about his new unit, when our household goods would be delivered, and things like that. It felt really different on this side of the fence, and I had to adapt quickly. Am I the only one who felt a little bit like it was sink or swim the first go around?
Now let’s be clear before I go any further, that my judgements were harsh. I wasn’t only thinking that military spouses had it easy, I was thinking things like:
-Military spouses have no reason to complain because they have it so much better than the servicemember (who gets up super early and often works late hours).
-If/when they don’t work, or have a career, it is because they prefer to stay at home.
-It must be nice to have all day to hang out.
-Everything is taken care of for military spouses, yet most are unable to keep their house clean and have dinner on the table.
Now, here I am many years later eating each word and every thought that I had about military spouses. I am embarrassed about how inaccurate and, even more, how judgmental I was to this amazing group of people. That’s right – amazing group of people. I think the first time it really smacked me in the face was when we arrived at Fort Hood and my husband’s unit hosted a welcome for myself and another new spouse. So many spouses from across the post who had never met me or even knew me took time out of their day to make me feel like I was welcome and supported. Wow! How did I miss that things like this were happening among spouses, that they too were forming bonds and having each other’s backs, within my very own community? I have countless similar stories that have occurred over the last two years that have proven every judgmental thought I had, wrong. Not only that, but I have been in the trenches as well, on my own with the family while my husband has been in the field, TDY and overseas. We had a new baby and the following month he left for Europe. Our household goods were delivered and he went to work the next day. I’ve been up just as early and throughout the night tending to our children while continuing to work and take care of the family and our home. The list goes on. I know by this point, most military spouses reading are thinking, “yes, that’s our normal.”
I have two observations about my experiences. The first is that I had it all wrong. I had no idea what it is truly like being a military spouse, through not only the difficult times, but the amazing experiences, support and bonding that we can share with one another, among spouses. Secondly, I believe that most service members would not understand unless they have lived it. But I do hope that they will learn to have more compassion and understanding for the unique demands and challenges of being a military spouse.
So to you, my fellow military spouses far and wide, I sincerely apologize. My judgements were unfounded and unfair. I had no awareness about what you experience in your day to day, let alone throughout the duration of your soldiers service. The military spouse is worthy of every acknowledgment, every thank you, and of a great deal of respect, plus much more. I have learned and can say now, that in our role, we are serving too. We provide steadiness and support so that the service member can perform their duties effectively. I am proud to be among this special group of citizens, and I thank you for welcoming me with open arms.
To current service members, learn about the role and day to day operations of the military spouse life. Take the time out to talk to spouses. We are incredibly diverse and we have a lot to offer. I have met so many spouses who are dedicated volunteers, thriving entrepreneurs and loving and caring parents.
While I have experienced a unique and difficult set of challenges myself, learning to shift my mindset about my military spouse community is one that I am so glad to have experienced. I am grateful for all that you do, for all the support that you provide, and to stand among you in our military spouse community.
With love and respect,
***I originally wrote and shared this blog on September 21, 2020. Since I was unable to transfer the blogs from my old site, I am resharing some of them***