It’s often quoted that our military makes up less than 2% of the American population. I can’t recall ever seeing the statistics on military spouse numbers but I would guess that we make up less than 1% of the population.
My husband is fond of saying that the military member volunteers for his service but that the military spouse is drafted through their wedding vows. Some of us had an idea of what to expect if we grew up in a military family but most of us had no idea that our vows would entail “through better or worse, in sickness or in health, with the full understanding that the military will come first in this marriage most of the time because the job is 24/7.”
We are male and female. We are your sons and daughters, your sisters and brothers, your cousins, your aunts and uncles, and your grandparents.
If you are a civilian you might know us as your “once upon a time” friend who moved in next door for a few years. After the moving van pulled away, until the recent emergence of social media, you only saw us once a year in a Christmas card photo. Our children are frozen in your memory at the ages they were when our lives intersected.
We understand each other. We have been the recipients of baby showers from people who only knew us for a few months and who we’d never be able to reciprocate for because we’ll have moved on. We understand why you sit on the bleachers at a baseball game for nights on end by yourself because your husband is either working late or TDY. We know what TDY is. We know that a deployment is something totally different from a spouse being gone on a business trip.
We’ve experienced the fear while carrying on our lives as if nothing is amiss because we don’t want our children to worry.
A military spouse is there with a welcome meal or basket of homemade cookies when you move in, even though they’ve never met you. A military spouse calls you up and offers to take you to that first spouse meeting because she knows how hard it is to walk into a room full of people, alone, not knowing anyone. A military spouse becomes closer to you than your own sisters because there is so much about your life that she has a unique understanding of; she has lived it.
Military spouses understand that the definition of family doesn’t always include blood lines but rather, shared experiences.
Another military spouse worries about your children, checks up on you and offers company during a deployment, sits in an ER waiting room with you when your child is hurt, knows about that unique smell of cardboard boxes in your home and that although this move might be your 4th, 14th, or 24th, it never gets any easier. Their friendships can pick up exactly where they left off despite the 10, or perhaps even 20 years that may have gone by since you were last stationed together. We step into, and out of, each others lives on a continual basis but that doesn’t keep us from forming bonds even if an assignment is only for a year.
One of my very closest military friendships came about because we had a mutual friend who “blessed” the friendship before we ever met each other. I had known Mary Ann since the early 80’s and in 1999 I was moving in next door to one of her friends from another base. Her words to me were “I love Bev and I love you so the two of you will love each other.” With those words Bev and I skipped the first six months of getting to know each other and to this day the three of us remain close even though the military has never stationed all three of our husbands at the same base, at the same time. We’ve shared laughter and tears, vacationed together, attended our children’s weddings, rejoiced over the births of grandchildren, cried over the deaths of our mothers, and now Mary Ann has led the way through the retirement transition.
Military spouses don’t belong to communities with boundaries or elected officials or school zones. Our community is a community of the heart and for the past 34 years that community has supported, sustained and loved me. I will be forever thankful.
Today’s pictures aren’t new. They don’t even begin to show you the hundreds of military spouse that have loved and sustained me over the years. They are simply the photographs I currently have on my computer from the last several months as we transitioned to yet another assignment. Somewhere along the way this photo challenge got away from me and became more about expressing my thoughts through words than pictures.
This next picture includes a few of the community leaders from our last base. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the military community relies heavily on our local communities, who support us year after year, despite the fact that we come into their physical lives for just a short time. They make all the difference in how we adjust to yet another move and because of them we gain a stability of sorts. Because of them our actual roots might be shallow but the roots in our hearts grow deep.
And darn it, even though all these words and thoughts are mine and so, not new to me, as I’m proofreading this, tears are threatening to form, while I remember all the amazing spouses, both military and civilian who have made up my community since I joined Jim at his first assignment in Del Rio, Texas back in 1980.
When I think back on that trip to Laughlin Air Force Base I also have to smile through my tears when I recall the young, completely clueless military spouse that was me!