My husband is overseeing drill weekend this weekend -- Mother's Day weekend (don't the schedule makers have mommas?) And he leaves Monday for a week long TAD (temporary assignment duty) back to where I consider "home". I am not sure if it is the coffee in my cup or this lifestyle that is leaving this bitter taste in my mouth.
Being a military spouse is fickle. When it is good, it is great! When it is bad, it feels like a hole swallowing you up! There are so many really wonderful things about this lifestyle. Things that I just cannot put a price tag on. The most wonderful thing about being a military spouse is the other military spouses you meet. The ones who are getting dirty down in the trenches with you.
When living close or on a military base, you know that your built in best friend is right next door to you, across the street or in the pick up line at the school. You know that you may be meeting a seasonal friend who gets you through this season of life or that you will be meeting a life time friend. Don't get me wrong. I have 3 good friends from my childhood/teenage years. But those three friends don't understand the hardships of what I face every single day. It is not as easy as "It's time for you to put your big girl panties on today" because you know what? We have to do that every single day.
When I am close friends with other military spouses, they don't tell me to get over something. They commiserate. They understand that sometimes we need to vent about this lifestyle to someone who is not judgmental because she's been there herself before. And that the friend will not think any less of you - she will give you support and advice and not tell you that you chose this lifestyle or you could just leave your spouse because you're having a bad moment/day/week/month.
I have also experienced many wonderful trips due to the military. Whether it was moving to Colorado, visiting Florida (for virtually free) or the many trips I have taken to see my friends that I have met through the military (New Orleans and soon UAE to name a few). The experiences and culture are rich. The community is like no other.
But there are negatives -- so many negatives that we are not supposed to talk about because we are supposed to be thankful for every iota of this life that we "chose". I will tell you, I love my husband. I love that he serves. I love that we are the All American Patriotic Family. I love that my children have the best role model to look up to -- someone who volunteered to put on his uniform every day no matter what the state of our nation is currently in.
What I don't love (and I did not sign up for!) is that we have moved nine times in ten years. I don't love that my 11 year old has gone to 4 school districts. Or that my son who loves baseball will have to constantly change teams instead of playing with the same peers from K to 12. I don't love that my 6 year old barely remembers her first friends from our last duty station. It is all a blur to them. We figure out how old our kids were by what house we lived in since that has changed so frequently.
I have started my life over and over and over. At two duty stations, I had absolutely no friends. Fortunately at one, it was just a one year tour and the other I was working at a jail as a medic. Speaking of work. I can't get a job and keep it. I was making $70,000 a year at a job when my husband and I met. Not only was the money fantastic, but the job was one that I adored. I was working 12 hour shifts and that didn't work well with my husband's schedule so I opted to go to college after our second child was born.
College - that is another fun topic for military spouses. I started at one community college for nursing pre-reqs. I moved. Continued at another school and practically finished my pre-reqs so I started some nursing classes like Microbiology and Drug dosage calculations. Guess what? We moved again to another state -- where at the time, there wasn't an in state tuition waiver for military spouses. The nursing program was highly competitive and there were 1500 applicants for 24 seats. And none of my previous classes actually counted when I transferred. So again, I had to take many classes over or different classes all together. By the time I would have finished the pre-reqs and gotten selected for a seat, we would have moved in the middle of the program. Back to square one. I opted to get my degree online because I had already done so much work that I could not/would not stop. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in Emergency & Disaster Management and a minor in Intelligence Studies. This degree cost me tens of thousands of dollars. You know what I do with it? Stare at it on the wall framed in all of its beautiful glory and think about how one day, I may be able to do something with it.
Here we are, 6 months into our tour in Colorado. Colorado is beautiful. It is something really special -- I have never been somewhere quite like it. I love the location. I love the scenery and I hate to admit this, I kind of even love the weather here. But I am lonely. We are not in a big military town. We live in a community 6 miles away from base, but it may as well be a world away. I have not met a single friend here. I do have 2 friends who were at my last duty station with me but they have lives much like me. I do have 3 cousins and an uncle here as well, and it's nice to see them frequently but it is still not quite the same as having those "been there done that" military spouse friends.
Military spouse friends are the ones you call in the middle of the night when you have to make a trip to the ER when your child fell out of their bunk bed and need stitches while your husband is away. They are the friends that call on you to complain that their kids are being monsters and of course husband is at training so you run over with a beer and a bar of chocolate and make a difference in their week. They are the friends that you can wave to from your porch at the bus stop and know exactly what kind of day they are having by the look in their eyes.
While the spouses don the uniform, receive praise, promotions, pay increases. We are the silent troops behind them keeping the chaos organized. They have built in friends every time they move. They have coworkers at work that they can feel important and social with. We are the ones running to the same day cleaner across town to get their uniforms cleaned last minute. We are the ones who feel like they are leaving a piece of their heart and being behind every time we move. We are the ones drinking coffee alone on a Saturday morning because duty calls. We are the ones who still must feed the kids three times a day on Mother's Day because who else will feed them when we are the only parent home. When they are away (especially on TAD), they are being provided with meals, housekeeping and bringing their dirty laundry home - meanwhile, we are here at home, wrangling mountains of laundry, dishes and homework.
On the offhand chance we ask for a military discount or a stranger finds out we are a military family - HE gets thanked. He is thanked for HIS service -- While I don't wear his rank, WE serve together. Without a strong and resilient spouse family behind a service member, he could not lace those boots up and deploy. He could not keep his head clear from menial family matters. My husband knows without a doubt, that I have got his six. On the home front, he worries about nothing. But he is the one publicly appreciated.
In closing I would like to throw out a few words that I think of when I think of my fellow military spouses. Some, everyone may agree with, and some, the average Joe doesn't get to see this side of her.
Resilient, Strong, Bold, Organized, Tired, Proud, Supportive, Patient, Sad, Tough, Dedicated, Independent, Left Behind, Brave, Resentful, Awesome, Courageous, Exhausted, Lonely, Underemployed, Over educated, Patriotic, Resourceful, Busy, Sacrifice, Adaptable, Regretful, Longing, Peeved, Reserved, Unimportant, Unappreciated, Loved, Excited, Less Than
My message for you, military spouse, I see you. I feel you. I AM YOU. I greatly appreciate how you enrich my life and how you support those who are defending our country. Without you, our service members could not complete their tasks. They could not feel that the home front is well cared for. YOU are the pillar to this country!