Things I’ve Learned as a Military Wife
By Valli Gideons
SpouseLink Guest Blogger
Are you sure you can handle being a military wife?
This question was actually posed to my 25-year-old self.
How the heck would I have known what kind of wife I was ready to be? Seriously. Did other brides-to-be get asked similar questions?
I’d never been a wife, for goodness sake. All I knew was I fell in love with a Man. Who was a Marine.
Now, years later, I reflect back with such wonder. How the heck did we make it this far?
What I didn’t know in my 20s about being a military wife was…
We would say goodbye to each other, a bazillion times. Sometimes with only a few days’ notice. And often for six months or longer.
But absence would make the heart grow fonder. And handwritten love letters would become golden.
These same separations would fall on more occasions than we could count: birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, etc… and the list would go on. And on. And on.
Receiving my favorite flowers or phone message on my “answering” machine would make my heart sing. And I would learn the kindness and grace of neighbors, friends, family. We would learn about things like burial wishes, life insurance plans, and imminent danger pay.
But, we would cry buckets of tears and then put our faith in God.
Our life would be full of things like orders, with little-to-no say in what was next: six months, a year, three years.
But we would live in places we never imagined, often experiencing retrospective blessings.
We would make friends fast.
But we also formed a habit of including others; we knew what it was like to relocate. To be new. Lost. Homesick.
We would experience moving all over the country. For the short term. And longer.
First, finding a new home. Followed by a million boxes, unloaded off an 18-wheeler, struck with anxiety over all.the.stuff.
But we would become world-class purgers and organizers. Fluent in making a house a home. We developed a skill of hanging pictures on the walls — in record time. Even though we might be packing them up, filling the nail holes, only months later.
Becoming skilled at making stuff work — we learned ulitmately things didn’t matter.
We would find ourselves on the outside of circles… ya know, the people who had known each other since their kids were in kindergarten. Neighborhood friends. School friends. Sports friends.
But we would learn how to introduce ourselves. Be uncomfortable. Say yes. Initiate.
While our military friendships would not be defined by geography. Or status. Or anything else. They would be lasting. And could pick back up on a dime. And, if we were lucky, we would make a real friend at every duty station. We would know what it was like to watch the hearts of our kids’ break; missing their Dad so much they came unglued.
But we would pick up the pieces. Because there wouldn’t be any other alternative but to keep on keepin’ on. They would learn about service.
We would lack the luxury of making educational plans for our kids or dropping roots in our favorite beach town. Climbing the personal career ladder would have to wait.
But we would learn to be flexible. And master the art of reinventing.
The needs of the Corps would almost always trump ours. And we would learn to accept it. Albeit, sometimes begrudgingly and unenthusiastically.
But we would ruck up, pack up and drive on. Learning to go with the flow. Improvise. Dream a new dream.
We would develop resiliency. And learn to adjust. Endure.
In time, we would understand that military life could be a calling.
Even for the military spouse; despite sometimes being referred to as a dependent, his Social Security Number, or simply as the commander’s wife.
But he would call me his long-haired center of gravity. Secretly, I would begin to believe it.
The sacrifices would sometimes be excruciating and at times seem unbearable.
But, in the end… it would be worth it.
Valli Gideons is a military bride who writes about raising kids with cochlear implants, military life, and other things from the heart. She’s been married to her Marine for 22 years and has learned despite the struggles and sacrifices, it is worth it. Check her out on Facebook (@MyBattleCall), on Twitter (@valligideons) or on her website.