Military Spouses: We’re Not Who You Think We Are…
I had the great honor of attending and supporting a recent Heroes at Home Military Spouse Awards event at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA. To say it was an inspiring day would be a gross understatement. From gaining valuable business knowledge during the “MilSpouse Your Way” expert panel, to hearing about the contributions and accomplishments of the nominees and honorees, to meeting to kindest and most vibrant new friends, I was reminded of how incredible the military community is, and in particular in this case, the unsung heroes – the families and spouses of service members.
When Dave joined the Marines, I had a lot of expectations and opinions about what it would be like to be a military spouse and partner, and to be honest, I was half excited and half terrified. I felt so proud that Dave was going to serve our country, I knew we’d have a lifetime of adventures ahead, and let’s be honest, I couldn’t wait to go to a ball every year! On the other hand, I was nervous that I wouldn’t fit in because I don’t dress like Jackie O. and am very career-oriented, something I didn’t think I’d find common in this lifestyle. There are a ton of stereotypes, and I believed them. Once I really became part of this community, those dogmatic beliefs were shaken, and a whole world of military family amazingness opened up that I had no idea existed. Military spouses are not who you think they are. And here’s what I’ve learned about military spouses over the years…
They are extremely independent: This is a funny paradox… military spouses and families are referred to as “Dependents” by the military. But what’s amazing is how independent they are! It’s common to have to spend a lot of time “long-distance” from your service member, and during that time, spouses strengthen their self-reliant muscles and skills! Working, raising kids, taking care of the house and pets, managing the finances, maintaining great relationships on both sides of the family, managing all of their spouse’s logistics while they’re gone, getting all of the regular things done by themselves – they have it all covered! Sure, when their spouse is home, it’s great to have someone else take the trash out, but you’ll never meet a military spouse that doesn’t know how to fend for themselves. We are talking day-long road trips with all the kids and pets. They are superheroes!
They treat everyone like family: Being stationed far away from your family is really hard. But military spouses have this way of making everyone feel welcome, cared for, and basically… like family! Johnny needs a place to stay for 6 months while he’s in training? No problem, and he can bring the dog! Your buddy’s parents are coming into town and need a ride from the airport? Done! Half the team can’t travel home for Thanksgiving? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of room at the table. I have not found another community quite like this, where everyone’s ALWAYS welcome and treated like family.
They are unbelievably generous with their time and resources: While many military spouses work full-time or even run their own businesses, some military spouses choose not to work full-time jobs, or depending on the location of their duty station, there may not be tons of local opportunities. But don’t be fooled, the ones that “don’t work” aren’t just sitting around – they are contributing WAY more than you’d ever know. When some parts of the family are gone, it is quite often that you find yourself asking for help – with picking up the kids, little favors that you can’t do on your own, etc. Military spouses know what that’s like, so they are the first ones to jump in and help out when a friend or neighbor is in a pinch. Not only that, many spouses spend a lot of time volunteering locally or even start their own charities or organizations to provide resources to military families or out in their communities. I know spouses who “don’t work” but take care of their kids, help watch other people’s kids, and volunteer full-time for an organization – all gratefully and out of the goodness of their heart (without getting paid!) They do it because they care. This was highlighted so profoundly at the Heroes at Home Awards Ceremony. It was so wonderful to honor the individuals that give back so much to their military and local communities, without ever looking for recognition, payment, or praise.
They are resourceful, especially in a pinch: Marines are not the only ones who kick in doors! Military spouses seriously know how to figure stuff out and get things done. Let me give you an example. Back when I lived up in Boston (in my “past life” – when I worked a corporate civilian job, was a total city girl, and fiercely supported my family members in the military but was convinced I could never date a service member) my sister and 2 of her friends, all military spouses, came up for an event in Boston and stayed at my apartment for a few days. During the week, they navigated the streets of Boston and did some sightseeing while I was at work. I lived in a tiny apartment on the second floor – we’re talking one of those old crooked (yet charming!) Southie places with no air conditioning and an illegal roof deck. So of course the locks to our one door were incredibly finicky. One of the days they were out exploring, I had a bunch of missed texts from my sister that they were unable to get into the apartment and my key didn’t work. I tried to give her some tips on how to wiggle it at just the exact angle, but come to find out they had already used their tactical skills to pick the lock and were inside relaxing after a day of exploring the city. I simply had to shake my head and laugh… Marine wives!
Military spouses are my heroes! They bring their unique backgrounds into their communities to create a vibrant mix of skills and values, and they always have everyone’s backs. They are hard workers whether they run their own businesses or dedicate all of their time to graciously volunteering. They are resilient. They are essential in the success of this country.
Don’t forget to thank and celebrate military spouses, because in the front lines of life… they will always have your back!
For more information about Heroes at Home and to get your ticket to a local awards ceremony, please visit: https://www.militarynews.com/heroes-at-home/