Dear Military Spouse,
I wasn’t always one of you. And even after I was, I wasn’t really.
I was a Midwestern kid who spent every day of her life in the same brick ranch on Bloomfield Lane. My life was stable and predictable. My future, it seemed, equally so. The story of my life was to be written within the confines of my hometown—a thought that didn’t trouble me in the least. But as so often happens, the pen ran away with the paper, and my story danced off in an entirely new direction.
Before I knew it, I was pulling a U-Haul van up to our first home together: a modest townhouse surrounded by the deep red clay of southern Alabama. Energized by the shock of change, I delved headfirst into our new life, eventually finding work as a seventh grade Reading teacher. It was an eye-opening experience that left me both exhausted and eager for more.
Our time there was formative. It is where we laid the foundation of our marriage, where we made lasting friendships, where we grew as professionals—each in our own right. It did not, however, include you. Not much anyway.
I have to be honest; back then, I struggled with the term “military spouse.”
I was frustrated by the expectations conferred upon spouses at various points in a military career, growing ever-more anxious at the thought that someday I would be expected to fulfill certain duties. I bristled at the idea that my husband’s career might somehow form my identity and was genuinely flummoxed by the seeming multitudes of women around me who seemed positively giddy over a world of ceremony and tradition I simply did not understand.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have always supported my husband and the military at large. I have always been immensely proud of his sacrifices, his work ethic, and his commitment to our country. And I have always been grateful for the many opportunities our military life as provided.
Still, as a woman whose story had once seemed so certain, this monumental change felt like a cliffhanger I had never intended to write.
What about my own career? Where were my accolades? What about furthering my education? Would my ambitions always take a backseat to his? Where were the expectations for him regarding my profession? How was I any more a military spouse than he a teacher’s husband?
Superficial though those thoughts may appear, I felt them deeply. It was the beginning of an identity crisis that would take years to work through, and one that I suspect may be as common as the whirlwind romance that uprooted my predictable Midwestern life. Such stories are prevalent in our world, as you well know.
So in my fear, I hid away from you. I didn’t understand you or your world. It was foreign and threatening. It made me feel, however incorrectly, inferior. I didn’t want to be one of you because I was afraid of losing me.
Does that sound strange?
Sitting here now, reflecting on the years that have passed, I can understand how it might. These days, my identity as a military spouse is strong and secure—thanks to many of you who have supported me along this journey. But that’s why this plea is so important. Eventually, it becomes easy to forget the struggle to acclimate to this life; to pretend that the mental toughness it requires is innate rather than sharpened against the blade of experience. It becomes easy to forget that somewhere, right now, a new military spouse is keeping her distance, unsure of how—or even whether—she should fully embrace this life.
And to her I say, do it.
Take a chance and dive in. You are still you. Your ambitions still matter. You will find ways to achieve your goals. Your story might be written in different ink, and it might not look exactly as you had planned. But I promise, it’ll be worth it.
It’s worth it because of the groundswell of women waiting to support you in every future duty station. That’s you, dear milspouses. You have the power to change lives; to make people feel wanted, appreciated, and worthwhile. I know because you did it for me.
So, thank you.
Thank you for the countless acts of selflessness you have shown me over the years. As veritable strangers, you have taken me into your homes to celebrate holidays. You have showered me with love and gifts for impending births. You have cried with me during the darkest days and danced with me into beautiful star-filled nights. You have assured me that I am a good mother in the midst of colicky-ridden angst—sitting for hours listening to babies wail while I wept. You have shown kindness in innumerable ways and given more joy than I could ever repay.
I am sorry for not believing in you, for failing to recognize the importance of such a bond. And I want to thank you for being there to accept me when I was ready. Your friendships have made all the difference. Please know that your names are all written within my life story, each etched carefully into my heart. No matter where this life takes us, your kindness has mattered, and I think about you more than you know.
To those yet to come, I am excited for our adventures and look forward to the chapters we will fill. This life is an adventure after all, and I can’t wait to see what the next page brings.
With gratitude and love,
A military spouse