By Lori Dean, Spouses Club of Fort Eustis PresidentMay 7, 2009
FORT EUSTIS, Va. (May 7, 2009) -- When I was first asked to write an article about being a military spouse, I thought, how fun! I love being a military spouse, so how hard can this be' When I actually sat down to write it, I had other thoughts.
Though I am a military spouse, I am not a "typical" military spouse. I've lived in the Hampton Roads area for the past 10 years. I've only been to one other installation for a permanent change of station. Many of you at Fort Eustis probably remember me as the "ICE Lady" when I was the Customer Service Officer there.
I may have moved every three years or so, but not due to a PCS; it was due to life changes. My kids have been in the same school system, although not in the same schools, for their entire school careers. I've been through one actual deployment, although I've been through hundreds of missions.
Being the spouse of a "boatie" or a diver is very different than most other military occupational specialties in the Army. You have two duty stations to choose from, and if one is full, you stay in the other. Dealing with a constant in and out of your spouse, never really knowing if he will be there the next day, or knowing you will only have him for a couple of days before he's gone again for a couple of weeks can be more difficult than a long deployment. With a long deployment, you know you will have to have a backup babysitter in case something happens to your plans for working or an appointment or just some down time.
With the constant in and out, you have to have three different plans. Plan A is if the Solider will be there. Plan B will be for if the Soldier will not be there, and you absolutely know that. Plan C is for if the Soldier is supposed to be there or not be there and the opposite actually happens. That can be absolutely exhausting! Especially since you never really know what plan you'll be using until the day of the event. However exhausting, you do it because you are always hoping to use Plan A with your Soldier home, but knowing that most likely it will be Plan B or C because missions and duties change on short notice, and you have to be able to adapt quickly.
Being adaptable is a requirement of being a military spouse. Not everyone knows that going in to a marriage, so when I hear people say, well, she married him knowing he was a Soldier and what the Army was like, I cringe because that isn't necessarily true. I can tell you, I had no idea what I was in for when I got married.
I quickly learned that although I had a husband, he wasn't always going to be there when I wanted him or needed him to be there. The next thing I learned was that there would always be another spouse or neighbor willing and able to pitch in and help with whatever was needed, and it was reciprocal. Venting, a shoulder to cry on, a babysitter, help with house cleaning, or a ride to the Commissary all were available if you were willing to step outside your door. Often, I didn't even ask for help; my friends and neighbors just knew to step in and give me the help I needed. That, too, was reciprocal. I remember going to a friend's house with my kids, and telling her to go shopping, go for a walk, a drive or whatever, and I'd stay with the kids. Saving each other's sanity was the key to survival.
Even after going through my divorce, those same friends were still there for me. It didn't matter to them that I was no longer a "military spouse," it was the friendship that survived. Friendships made within this small community we call the military can survive time, distance, divorce, re-marriage, children, deployments, missions or whatever life can through at you. And some days, it just may keep you sane.
I stayed working within the military community, and although not a spouse, I still made friends with some terrific spouses who didn't care if I was married or not; they liked me for who I am. Those same friends were there for my re-marriage, to an Airman this time.
Although the Army and the Air Force are different branches of the military, and the language is very different, the culture is so much the same. I'm still a military spouse, and at this time, luckily for me, my husband is home 99 percent of the time. I'm now the one who travels with my job, but I know that a deployment or a remote tour is very likely in my future. Possibly even a PCS to a new duty station, so that maybe, just maybe, I can learn how to make the curtains fit the windows in a new place.
I've spoken to many other spouses, and each one has a different outlook and perspective on the life they've chosen to live. But, for the most part, all are in agreement on one thing; they wouldn't change the life they have and the friend's they've made for anything in the world. The military community is close knit, and one military spouse can spot another from a mile away. One will take the first step and introduce themselves, discover they were at the same duty station at the same time, their Soldiers do the same job, or a million other things they may have in common. A new friendship is born. What other community will you find that'