I am a military spouse. It does not define me but it has shaped me; made me more forgiving, fortuitous, empowered and free-flowing with an ability to embrace calm in chaos.
I am a military spouse. I married a soldier who wanted to make a difference, have an impact, protect and lead. Being a soldier was what he had always envisioned for his life but being a military spouse was not mine. I chose to stand beside him unaware of what that would entail because I loved him and wanted to build a life with him. The same reasons any two people get married. I highly doubt they knew the curve balls life would throw their way or how to navigate them and neither did I. I didn’t know that this choice would soon become my scarlet letter to the society I left.
I am a military spouse. I spent the first 5 months of marriage in a revolving door of training schedules in preparation for another deployment. I stood, tearfully and watched him turn and walk away towards a war raging in the Mideast again, wondering if I would become a widow before I turned 24. The same war that continues to rage on in his mind and body still today.
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I am a military spouse. I fell asleep and rose every day in prayer of safety and peace for the man I love and strength for myself. I pulled it together with positive affirmations when his deployment was extended to 18 months and tried not to be bitter that the first two years of our marriage were spent conversing through letters, broken skype calls and random phone calls with gunfire raging in the background. To holidays, birthdays and anniversaries spent alone even though I was surrounded by friends and family; it just wasn’t the same. I desperately tried to create normalcy for myself and him by working, buying a house and prepping for the life we had wanted upon his return.
I am a military spouse. Against the odds, I became pregnant the day he returned home. I became the cliche’ with an unplanned pregnancy – a homecoming baby to be. Joy filled and fearful became the battle of my soul. I was job hunting again while trying to find the balance between morning sickness and this person who had returned in the shape of my husband. Figuring out who we were and the rhythm of our long-awaited life together only to have this compounded by the nightmares he relived in both his waking and sleeping hours.
I am a military spouse. I encouraged him to seek help and walked beside him hand in hand to that appointment. I sat there with him as the words “you are a soldier, suck it up” came out of the counselor’s mouth. We both left defeated and abandoned by the army and country we served. He swore he would never seek help again as he deemed it forever futile.
I am a military spouse. While sitting at my desk at work, 6 months pregnant and loving the career I was building, received the phone call. You know the one, “hey I just received orders, we are moving soon.” The home I had worked so hard to build to make it through deployment had just been shattered into a million pieces. The nursery I had prepared for our baby girl, the friends I had made and the job I had earned despite being pregnant vanished with one phone call.
I am a military spouse. At 9 months pregnant I packed up and moved our things to a storage unit at our own expense and prayed for renters for the newly purchased home we left behind. The army didn’t care that I was due the same week, they expected him to report for duty at his new assignment. I was living with my mother waiting for my husband to return from school before starting his new job. A job he didn’t want and hated to the core but orders were orders. Our baby girl joined us exactly 9 months to the day her daddy had returned home. The significance of this never leaves my mind. There was no nursery, no space to call our own and a baby with severe colic. I resented her, I resented him, I resented the Army and I resented my country. Spinal nerve damage and postpartum depression consumed me for the first year of my daughter’s life. I was suddenly surrounded by family and friends who couldn’t relate to our military life while my husband worked around the clock as a recruiter in our hometown. I ached to be understood and cared for but I pressed on trying to be the wife and mother I hoped to be. Finding reprieve only in the small joys of the day to day.
I am a military spouse. I watched my husband fall silent and go within when the phone call came that one of his friends, comrades, had committed suicide. Hours before we had been to the doctor to confirm the miscarriage of our child. The next day, I put him on a plane to say his goodbyes to one of his brothers while I wept at home for the child that would never be. Picking up the pieces and moving forward.
I am a military spouse. The joy of our second daughter’s arrival was overshadowed by new orders arriving; South Korea. I was to become a single parent to a toddler and a newborn. A role I never wanted to fill. Upon renewing the lease to the home we had called home for the previous two years, the only comfort from the life I was soon to lead, became a battle over foreclosure. The owners had not used our monthly rent to pay the mortgage and the bank forced us out. I gave birth to our precious baby girl and moved two days later to a house across town. A house that held no memories for us and became filled with unpacked boxes. The boxes sat waiting, an anecdote of my life. With a two week old baby and a toddler, we said our tearful goodbyes at the airport for all to see. My life was a nightmare. I had a baby that never slept more than 40 minutes at a time, a toddler who missed her daddy and I was alone trying to make it from one minute to the next. He missed all the milestones and I missed them too. The memories of that year are scarce, as I was in full survival mode, and I try to recall them from the few pictures I took. Deep down through the fake smiles, I was bitter at having to go it alone. Of seeing other families tackle those first years together and share in the sleep deprivation, diapers, and tantrums. I became invisible and a magnet for platitudes from those around us. Comments such as, “thank goodness for technology”, as a means to appropriate the lousy hand we had been dealt and remind us of “our place” or better yet “our choice.” As they go about their lives without ever thinking of the moments they take for granted.
I am a military spouse. I packed and moved our belongings to storage in anticipation of his return home. He was set to attend another school before being sent to a new post and we wanted to save on rent for just one month. I welcomed home my husband with open arms, so full of happiness knowing full well the transition to come was going to be rough. I had coped in his absence in my own way and while I was glad to share the load, I wanted my way of doing things to remain. For it was a sense of control and consistency my life lacked in so many ways. After a paperwork mix-up, he had to arrive at our new post 9 hours away before midnight, with it already being two in the afternoon. After two weeks of house hunting, he signed a lease on a house I had never seen. We moved in and started the work of becoming a family under one roof. We had just spent an entire year apart living two drastically different lives. Finding ways to relate and rebuild was exhausting.
I am a military spouse. I pushed through my exhaustion and introvert nature to find friends. I desperately needed friends. I easily found them, and for the first time in my life was welcomed with open arms just as I was. My friendships grew faster and stronger than any I had ever had before because at the core we all were married to the military. We know we aren’t afforded the years to foster a lasting relationship so we jump right in. To this day, these ladies have been an outpouring of support and love from miles away.
I am a military spouse. A routine training jump turned into a ruptured appendix. I had to answer questions only a military spouse would understand. “What is his pain level at?” (10 – because their tolerance of pain is distorted) “Has he ever had morphine before?” (YES) “When and why?” (IRAQ, 2006 WHEN HE WAS BLOWN THROUGH A WALL) Then to bear witness to the absurdity that is government healthcare as the surgical floor and ER department argued over how urgent the situation was because it was a holiday weekend. The surgery that was supposed to take 2 hours ended up taking 5 since the appendix ruptured in the midst of the back and forth. I sat, alone, in the waiting room, wondering if he was ok and counting the clock since I had a baby at home still nursing and needing to be fed. Thankful for the family that came to our aid from states away. I sat, watching as my husband literally went mad with pain and a cocky doctor who refused to adjust the medication because he was ready to go home and start his weekend. The surgery that is considered “routine” left him with a nicked bladder and other nerve control issues with no recourse because you can’t sue the army. Just file the paperwork they said.
I am a military spouse. I watched as he was left behind to run the rear detachment while his team deployed. He hadn’t been medically cleared in enough time. While I was relieved and happy, he was not. He had a mission and he had been left behind. We couldn’t find a way to understand each other’s perspective and animosity between us grew.
I am a military spouse. I watched as my daughter became more and more ill as we rotated through the ER for 5 days of unrelenting fever before someone took us seriously. By the time we were transferred to the children’s hospital, she had no white blood cells left and was fading before our eyes. We would fight for another year for answers and with insurance on covering the tests she needed. A genetic mutation and an immune system disorder changed our lives. I threw myself into her care while grieving the loss of the career I had hoped to have had. One more piece of myself that slipped away. The saving grace, the military spouse community that stepped up and became my family. They showed up with groceries, flowers, and smiles. During one of my hardest times, I was so thankful for those that understood. Friendship, true friendship, forged from the fire; I know what that is. I’m truly thankful to the women who held me up.
I am a military spouse. We finally had to short sale our home we purchased while on deployment. We could no longer continue to pay the difference of the lack of rent we received from our tenants. We had acquired years of debt due to the housing market crash with no means to recoup. It was a relief and burden all at the same time.
I am a military spouse. While struggling with my daughter’s health crisis I faced my own. I was plagued with adrenal fatigue and constant migraines. In the midst of it all, I traveled home alone with the girls to say my goodbyes to my Grandaddy. To maneuver the impact of loss and the subsequent questions of death posed by our children while my husband was away training.
I am a military spouse. I watched as the trauma of war ravished my husband after having years of manifestation. First his memory, then his speech, the constant headaches and then his balance and ability to walk. I urged and pushed for him to seek help, the same help that told him to “suck it up buttercup” years prior. This time, the knowledge of combat trauma had caught up within the system. He was quickly diagnosed with a severe TBI (traumatic brain injury) and a permanently damaged vestibular from countless concussions and blows to the head. His career, his life’s path became uncertain and I watched him fight like hell to keep it. Months upon months of physical therapy were spent regaining his balance enough to prove he could still adequately do his job. We researched and tried different treatment methods to learn how to cope (you can read about that here) with having no short-term memory due to sustained damage. He refused to take antidepressants. He had taken them during his latest deployment to keep him calm enough to fight and in turn made him suicidal. He coped, we coped but things were not the same. We had become two very different people separated by the traumas of war and an unrelenting training schedule of a combat soldier. He fought for his career while I fought to raise our daughters.
I am a military spouse. I supported his decision to take a new job as a drill sergeant as a means to advance his career and hopefully move us closer to home. A hope that a change would bring us closer together. I packed and prepped while he was away at school a state away and we rolled into our new home on post months later. I was thankful to be close to family. Only this was short-lived as it finally all came crashing down. With his brain permanently rewired he no longer knew how to cope and just wanted to feel again. How his seeking to dull the pain would eventually shatter my heart into a million pieces and break my spirit and destroy our marriage. We had borne witness to the brokenness of humanity not only in the world but within ourselves. The last ounce of positivity left but hope remained.
I am a military spouse. Though weary, I rose again. This time more grounded, shielded and with a fire in my soul, refusing to let my dreams and aspirations die. To quit the endless role of a dutiful military spouse, always forgiving, always relenting, always with a smile and a positive attitude. I sat in the darkness, and now I rise from the shattered pieces the military and war created. He rises alongside me, this time from grace and the quiet strength that has always carried us through. We move forward with a new perspective, a new love for one another, new boundaries and a new war to rage. One for military families weary from a decade at war. We now set our sights towards retirement and how we can create lasting changes to the system that fails so many. Bridging the gap between the military and the civilian population we serve.
The man who became a soldier, who believes in the good despite the brokenness, puts his boots on every morning to walk back into the fight while I stand at the door behind him. Dreaming of the time where we wake up every day to serenity in the arms of each other in what appears to be a normal life. I’m not sure we will ever know what that is, or if we are meant to.
For he is a soldier and I his wife. I am a military spouse. #intheirboots