On the Regarding War blog, soldiers, veterans, and journalists will share their stories from Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones. It will feature personal stories and opinions from those who have first-hand knowledge of past and current conflicts. Those at home directly affected by a family member serving in the military will also contribute. The blog is meant to be a place where ideas are exchanged and experiences are related in an effort to gain a better understanding of the realities and effects of war. Share your thoughts, raise a question, and join the conversation by leaving comments on the posts.
If the military enforced an application process for potential spouses, my resume would have been rejected long before my husband and I exchanged vows. I thrive on structure and schedules. I'm a homebody, and I loathe packing. I'm not a big fan of change, and I tend to hunker down in my comfort zone. And I always assumed that wearing a wedding ring meant I would never be alone. These aren't exactly qualities that lend themselves to the unpredictable lifestyle in the military.
When my husband's military career began, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and if he knew, he neglected to inform me. His first deployment was a harsh wake-up call. At the time, I was a graduate student and a new mother, juggling thesis proposals and baby bottles. Suddenly I was on my own, struggling to maintain the pace of my life while picking up the slack caused by his absence. I had few military friends, and I was oblivious to any resources available to guide me. I carried a heavy weight on my shoulders, and by the time my husband came home, that weight had nearly crushed me.
The end of that first deployment coincided with the conclusion of my husband's tour, which meant the military was processing his orders to our next duty station while he was still deployed. I was expecting a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move to Virginia or maybe California. By the time I welcomed my husband home, however, I was already knee-deep in preparations for our relocation to Japan.
If the deployment was my breaking point, then Japan was my turning point. During our three-year tour there, I regularly participated in group cultural excursions and lively Bunco parties, where seasoned military spouses taught me the tricks of the trade. I learned how to cope with our crazy lives with a sense of humor. I gained so much independence that I almost looked forward to those short separations from my husband when I could enjoy time to myself (but shhh, don't tell him that!). Not only did I overcome my fear of the unknown, I also embraced it. A simple attitude adjustment transformed this anxiety-riddled transition into the most memorable and irreplaceable experience of my life.
We're now living stateside again, with another deployment under our belts. The second deployment wasn't easy, but it was easier than the first. I channeled the advice and optimism of my military spouse mentors, and I came out on the other side standing tall instead of buckling under the stress. After eight years of intense training, my military spouse muscles are finally strong enough to carry the inherent burdens of my job.
Over the years I've often wondered if I'd do it all again, if I'd so willingly marry the military if I knew then what I know now. My tenure as a military spouse has changed me. I've had to endure the challenges of single parenthood, the postponement of my own career and lengthy and sometimes unexpected separations from my husband. But I've also had the exceptional opportunity to live overseas, form unbreakable friendships and uncover my inner strength. I've learned how to balance being flexible yet prepared, adventurous yet practical, adaptable yet grounded. My newly discovered independence helped me realize that an exciting world exists beyond the bubble of my sheltered comfort zone.
So despite all the hardships and heartache, would I do it again? Absolutely. Without a doubt. In a heartbeat. Yes. And I'm confident that my refined resume would meet the requirements of any application for the title of military spouse.
Freelance writer, teacher, mother of two, and military spouse
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