I don’t really think of myself as a military spouse. I think of myself as a wife – perhaps because I don’t know any other life. To me, marriage has always been and will always be marked by dreaded bouts of distance followed by highly emotional homecomings, too many acronyms to be considered English, a transient “home” from one station to the next, and dirty boots and uniforms that acquire too much closet space. This is just my norm as a wife.
We don’t really see our duties as particularly special from one day to the next as we grow adapted to this life. Therefore, it’s easy to overlook the sacrifices we make to be with our service members, which is why I’m glad my Facebook newsfeed reminded me that today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. It has made me reflect on my life as a navy wife, forcing me to acknowledge that our “typical” actually is pretty damn special. It’s worth acknowledging, celebrating and honoring.
I am so proud to be among the ranks of other men and women who quietly stand behind those carrying the weight of our country on their shoulders. While our partners are fighting the front lines, we’re patiently on the side lines awaiting their return. While our friends are planting their roots, we are floating from one town to the next. As our colleagues are advancing their careers, we are reinventing ours with each move. And we do so with grace, because we love our spouse and we love our country.
But we also fight battles here on our home turf. We fight misperceptions and stereotypes, everything from “you must’ve married for the extra money and benefits,” to “everybody cheats.”
And while outwardly we appear tough as nails during long deployments, we secretly question our strength every night that we go to bed alone. And while homecomings look glamorous with our glittery “Welcome Home” signs straight from Pinterest, they are also incredibly stressful behind closed doors as we fill the huge gap that just stole nearly a year of our lives.
But we pick up the pieces, because that’s what we do. We keep our men and women in uniform strong. We stand by them. We lift them up. We remind them to laugh. We love them unconditionally. We are their home base. We do all of this knowing that we must surrender a bit of our own freedoms so that they may do their jobs to protect the freedoms of everyone else.
We forego time together – what will add up to many, many years apart, more than we want to know. We forego the ability to travel when we want, see our families when we want and live where we want.
We make friends, and then we leave them. We find jobs that we love, and then we have to leave those, too.
But we gain so much. We learn to live in the moment. We appreciate the little things. We never take time for granted. We live with intensity and purpose. We broaden our horizons from seeing the world, constantly growing our family with all the new faces we meet.
So here’s to all of it – the good and the bad. Here’s to remembering, beyond this day, that even though we are often in the background – waiting, wondering, worrying, wishing – we matter. We matter so much more than we give ourselves credit for.
And we’re pretty badass, too.