In honor of the aforementioned presidential holiday, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the matter. My husband touched on it briefly earlier this week, and I'll explain a little more.
What makes a happy military spouse? One who has, as Jon pointed out, "bought the lifestyle." Let me back up and give you some of our story for those of you who don't know it...
When I first got to know Jon, he was a soldier. I was really the first person who entered into his life in this context, and I loved the fact that he was in the Army. When our relationship began getting more serious, I was looking forward to a life in the military- however, I had an incredibly distorted view of what that life was like. Though my brother had served when I was in high school, the Army remained this vast... unknown... to me, a 20 year career in the military meant about 3 deployments- one every 6 or 7 years. And really, in the "Old Army" (that before 2001), that was not uncommon. Though there were short separations, they were (with some exceptions, depending on his job) few and far between. Now, however, it's a different story. The military life is plagued with deployments- 15 months gone, 12 months home, 15 months gone, 12 months home...
Getting back to our story... as most of you know, he deployed with the National Guard only a couple weeks after our wedding. The whole time he was gone, "the plan" was to go Active Duty as soon as he redeployed (got back to the States). However, for reasons out of our control, that didn't happen when we thought it would, last April. Deep down, I was glad. To be married only 10 days before sending your husband off to war is filled with emotions that those who have never been through it simply don't understand, and those who have understand all too well. There is doubt, uncertainty, fears (both rational and irrational), resentment, anger, and frustration.
Needless to say, by the time the opportunity to go Active came around again in June, I was happy to have my husband by my side and didn't want that ever to change. While he wasn't sure which path to take in life, I was! Out of love toward me he did what I wanted and withdrew his name.
We moved down to Georgia and both taught at the school he was at before he deployed. It was a great time in our marriage, and I will always look back at Fayetteville with fondness. We needed that time together. But, I know Jon. As I've often been told by other spouses, once the military is in their blood, it doesn't leave. This was true for Jon. While he enjoyed being back in the classroom and loved the students, his heart was with the soldiers. Unfortunately, mine wasn't!
Then, something started to change. In September, we went to a ball for his battalion. While there, we were talking with his former Battalion Commander, who told Jon of a mission called "Operation Warrior Training" that he was working with, and that he would love for Jon to come be a chaplain there! Jon kindly smiled and thought nothing more of it.
I thought about it hard for a couple weeks. I knew that if I gave him any indication that I was willing to go back to the Army, that would be it. The decision would be made. Was I ready for that?
I decided I was. Our relationship was at a point that I knew I was more important to him than the Army, and I knew that more deployments wouldn't change that. I knew I could share him with Uncle Sam.
So, I told him. He was taken aback at first- he didn't want to believe me until he knew I was serious!
And now, I realize it was the best decision we could have made. I tell you that whole story to put it in perspective for some of you. As he said in his post, this decision to be military is one we made together. Sure, there are bad things. Downright awful things. But you know what? You'd be hard pressed to find a job that had NO shortcomings! It's all a matter of priorities, and what shortcomings you are willing to put up with to do the job you love.
I began this post with saying that the key to being a happy military spouse is "buying the lifestyle." And once you do, it's great! For me, it's PWOC. That is how I have chosen to get involved- it was first something to do, quickly became my social network, and is now also my ministry. There are tons of other clubs and groups on an installation- anything you want to be involved in! And the family support is unlike you would get anywhere else- you just have to be willing to do the research to find the resources you need. I know some pretty miserable spouses- and they make their husbands miserable. The reason is that they only see the negative things about the Army, not the amazing camaraderie and benefits. (if you want just a glimpse of what is out there for spouses, go to militaryonesource.com and browse...)
The military is not only a job, something to pay the bills. It runs through your blood and gives you a sense of pride that you have never felt before. It is a way of life, and the only way to enjoy it is to view it as such.
So yes, it's hard. It brings challenges and frustrations not known in any other context. But those things are countered with immense joys... each difficult goodbye makes the coming reunion that much sweeter.
You have to choose it. Together.