About Me

My photo
I'm a loving [although sometimes crazy] wife, a [very] loyal friend, a passionate educator, an involved citizen, a sensitive soul, a faithful Christian, a fiery Aries, and a classy lady.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One of the "Lucky" Military Wives

I'm a military wife. My husband works full time for the TN Air National Guard. And right now, he's deployed.

Luckily, he is in a "safe" place and does a job that is especially "safe." He often jokes that if he ever has to use a weapon as a means of defense, we are in far bigger trouble than we know.

I'm one of the "lucky" ones of all the folks who proudly wear the title of military spouse. We have no human children for him to be away from, and his deployments aren't usually exceptionally long. I'm lucky because I have a career that doesn't have suffer because we aren't required to move every few years. I'm lucky because we are near our families and hometown friends. I fully acknowledge this luck, and I am extremely grateful.

But it seems sometimes that because of this "luck" or other factors people seem to feel that it's perfectly OK to say some pretty careless things to me. I use the word careless because I don't believe that the intention is to be hurtful. Many times people say things because they believe the words to be supportive or encouraging. But, the reality is that they sting, even when sugar coated with the best intentions. It's the same annoyance I feel when I hear someone start a sentence with "No offense, but...."

And sometimes when I hear these things, I want to punch the speaker in the face.

I've felt called to share my thoughts on these phrases people say to me. Please, though, keep in mind that I only represent my own thoughts and feelings and certainly do not feel in any capacity that I represent any other military spouse. Every situation is a little different and all should be respected. This is a generalization that is (thankfully) not directed to any one person or group in particular. Just some thoughts I wanted to share. This is my experience.

With that in mind...Please don't tell me my husband isn't a "real soldier" because he's in the Guard.

A few months ago, a newlywed military spouse wrote a blog post about how those serving in the National Guard were not soldiers and their spouses were not military wives. She ended up getting so much negative response that she blocked all comments. She also got eaten alive in other blogs. Generally, she holds the widely-held belief that to be in the Guard only means one weekend a month and two weekends a year. That may have at one point been true, but I can assure you that it is no longer.

My husband has served in the guard for 9 years and is on his 7th deployment. Every single deployment lasted longer than 2 weeks. He's been to Turkey, Iraq, Ecuador, Guam, and other places. Not all dangerous places, but all places that required him to be away from his family for an extended period of time while serving our country. He is a soldier. A proud one.

Please don't tell me that 70 days (or any other amount of time he is away) "isn't that long."

This is the comment I hear most often, and I truly do believe people mean it as a way to encourage me. However, deep down, it hurts. A lot. In the grand scheme of life, 70ish days isn't that long. But one single day away from my husband hurts me. I hope that all married people feel that way.

And, 70 days is a long time. Consider a baby born 10 weeks early. It would weigh less than 3 pounds and the brain is still in a crucial development stage.

I would feel sorry for your if your spouse went on a 70 day business trip. It's tough to be away from your best friend and the person you love most in the world.

Similarly...Please don't tell me that you know how it feels because your spouse travels all the time.

Again, I know people say this to me to be encouraging and to show sympathy. I have friends whose husbands travel for weeks and months at a time and only get to spend a few days home here and there. I have no idea how they do it. I would be a big ball of sad all the time if that was our situation.

The biggest difference  I see is that I cannot pick up the phone and call my husband unless it's a true emergency. And even that would still take numerous phone calls and several hours. While sometimes he is somewhere he can call every day, the current base he is on only allows three 15 minute "comfort calls" home a month. Luckily this one has wi-fi in some public places so we can FaceTime about once a week, if the signal is strong enough and if we somehow get our schedules to match. Then the conversations last 10 minutes. But, that doesn't always happen.

The bottom line, it's just not the same. Can't we all just agree that it's tough to have a spouse away?

Please don't say "at least he's somewhere safe" because nowhere will ever be as safe as home with me.

Of course there are levels of "safe" with deployments. Sometimes they go to Hawaii. Sometimes they go to Afghanistan. Usually they go somewhere in between. And while a lot of bases are "safe," the reality that we have to have troops there at all is cause for a little bit of concern. Being a military wife has taught me one lesson very well - there is always something going on somewhere that we have absolutely no idea about. The government doesn't send troops overseas to play Draw Something or Apples to Apples all day, so there is obviously a mission that someone thinks is important enough to take my husband away.

Please don't tell me I knew what I was getting into when I married someone in the military.

A fellow military wife sent me piece from this article with the perfect response to this statement we get all the time. It's the perfect response, so I'll just let her words speak.

“Why do military spouses complain ALL the time? They knew what they were getting into when they got married!” A civilian asked me that question recently. And for the first time in my entire life, I came up with the perfect response.

“Women complain about childbirth all the time, too. They get pregnant and they know it’s going to be tough. But a woman doesn’t comprehend the pain until she goes through it. So she screams and moans and recaps that moment years later. But would she rather be childless? No. And that’s just the beginning of the challenges of parenthood. No one tells a mother, ‘You knew motherhood was going to be tough. So shut up about it already.’ But they do that to military spouses all the time.”

Finally - Please don't tell me you're sorry.

I married my best friend. He is my perfect match in every way. I am proud of him, not sorry about our situation in this moment. Even when I'm sad, I'm not sorry. Tell me you're proud of him. Say you appreciate his service.

Then take me out for a glass of wine.