By Amanda Huffman
Growing up, serving in the military wasn’t something I thought about. To be honest, I did not even realize the role the military played in the world I was living in. It wasn’t until September 11, 2001 that I realized there was fighting force that stood ready to respond. That fateful day happened my senior year of high school. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. My dad had told me since I was young, I had to go to college. So college was my plan, but when a scholarship for cross country fell through at a small four-year university, I decided to attend the local community college.
There I made friends through the Honors program I was in, along with the people I met running cross country. I often think to this inflection point. Had I attended the four-year university on a cross country scholarship, would I still have found my way to the military? I guess it doesn’t matter. Because at the community college I met a bunch of friends who, over the course of our first year of college, had a military connection.
One decided to enlist in the Air Force, another in the Navy, another was being activated to deploy to Afghanistan, and lastly another friend was in the Reserve Officer Training Program. The stories they shared and the dreams they had for the future sparked an interest and I began a path toward military service. First, I considered the Air National Guard, but eventually joined the ROTC program that my friend encouraged me to learn more about.
In ROTC, I learned about myself and grew as a person. I also met my future husband. He was a year ahead of me in classes and we started dating my second semester of the program. We somehow kept our relationship a secret from almost everyone until the following semester. He commissioned the year before me and we got married a few months before I graduated. We were lucky and had help getting stationed together. I joined him a few months after graduation in New Mexico.
We both spent six years serving on active duty. Between deployments and temporary duty assignments, we didn’t see each other a lot. But somehow, even before iPhone and the technological world we live in today, we stayed connected.
After being married for over five years, we thought about changing our life by adding a new member to our family. We quickly found ourselves pregnant and heading to a new phase of life. We were at a cross roads. As a Civil Engineer, I had already deployed to Afghanistan and another deployment was on the horizon, likely within a year of my son being born. Add in the fact we had never PCS’ed at the same time and had spent more than our fair share of nights apart. It made continuing our dual-military-life career challenging.
I decided to leave the military behind and switch into a new role: Mom and Military Spouse. I thought I was ready. I was actively involved in my spouse group in New Mexico. I thought I knew the challenges of being a Military Spouse. But I had no idea. Military Spouses face challenges military members cannot understand. For one, getting your ID card is no longer something you can do alone. And that is just one of the many things I used to do without a second thought and now had to rely on someone else.
I wasn’t ready for what was coming. And my appreciation for Military Spouses and the challenges they face increased tenfold. To be honest, it continues to grow with each year I continue to serve in that role.
That transition happened eight years ago as of next month. And, while I don’t regret my choice, I will not say it has been an easy road. In my path to Military Spouse life, I learned the challenge of finding a new career and starting over. So, when I looked at my options, instead of continuing in the Engineering path, I pivoted to my love of writing and started a blog.
With a lot of twists and turns along the way, I built a community with others in the military community online. I was given the opportunity to share my story and share the stories of others. What started as a blog series idea of telling deployment stories turned into a series focused on military women that branched into a podcast and book, both titled Women of the Military.
I used to think the most important thing I would do in my life was serve in the military — and I am still proud of my service, but not because of the time I served in the service. I’m proud for the doors it opened to my future and the opportunity to continue giving back to the military community and help inspire the next generation of women to serve.
Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer who served on a combat deployment with the Army in Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career in the Space Force. Amanda is the host of the Women of the Military podcast. There she shares the stories of women who have served or are serving in the military. The podcast has over 200 episodes and over 100K downloads. Amanda is also an author and has published two books. Her first book, Women of the Military tells the stories of 28 military women who served in the military. Her second book, A Girl’s Guide to Military Service, is the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner for Teen Non Fiction. It is a guide for high school girls considering military service to help them build a strong foundation for their future career. She also works as a freelance writer and has been featured in a number of military publications including The War Horse, Military.com, Military Families Magazine, Clearance Jobs, Military Spouse Magazine, and more.
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