A Woman’s Nation —
Up before dawn to hit the gym, a quick breakfast and in the office before 8 am. I take an early lunch and drive to the harbor. On the pier I wait with the others, all casually straining to catch that first glimpse of gray on the horizon. I glance at my blackberry and send an email back to a client. A child cries out, “they’re here!” In the distance I see a U.S. warship entering the bay, after eight months my husband is finally home.
While he was away I packed all of our belongings, loaded the truck and moved cross-country. I said goodbye to friends and searched for a new career. I waited and worried, hoping the ship would arrive before Christmas and that all its sailors would return safe and healthy.
As a military spouse I face challenges that most civilians don’t regularly encounter. Duty stations change every few years, making it difficult to establish roots in a community. Deployments are coming more frequently, on shorter notice and lasting longer, meaning that separations are increasingly unpredictable. However, of all the challenges I face as a military spouse, the most difficult is dispelling misunderstandings about military life.
Recent polls indicate that support for members of the military and their families is at an all time high, but when asked about life in the military most civilians only conjure images of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The advent of an all-volunteer service combined with regular decreases in the number of active duty service members created a gap between the military and the average citizen. While that gap is largest for those who serve directly, it is the spouses and families that regularly struggle to bridge it.
Employers worry that changing duty stations will cause military spouses to abandon their jobs with little notice. Colleagues wonder if they’re serious about their careers. Friends fail to include them in long-term plans. Extended families are frustrated by their inability to attend holidays and reunions.
This gap assumes that when you join the military, or marry into it, that it becomes the central force in your life. In truth, while service requires sacrifice, serving in the military is a privilege, not a punishment. Success requires flexibility, a sense of humor and a well of patience. But there is no conflict between being a member of “A Woman’s Nation” and being a military spouse.
With education and thoughtful public policy it’s possible to bridge this gap. Military spouses and families must share their experiences, and civilians must put aside stereotypes. Political leaders must enact policies that ease the strains on service members’ families and prevent workplace discrimination against military spouses.
Back on the pier, my husband emerges from the crowd and we rejoice in our reunion. After dropping him and his gear off at home I return to the office to make an afternoon meeting – just another day in the life of a military spouse.