There is a group of military spouses who often go unnoticed: those who have served in the military as a service member, too. Sometimes these spouses are still actively serving in dual-military families. Other times they leave service after marriage. Either way, military spouses who are also veterans are more common than you think, sometimes hiding in plain sight.
While being a military spouse who is also a veteran has many advantages, it can also be really hard, prompting them to keep their veteran status private. Why is living as a military spouse who is also a veteran so challenging? Here are a few reasons.
The transition from veteran to military spouse isn't easy.
Going from active duty to military spouse is a huge shift in how the military views you. You go from being independent to becoming a dependent, and you must rely on your spouse for things like getting your ID card and working with the housing office. Since no one assumes you are a veteran you see how the "dependent" stigma causes you to be treated as "less than" just because you are a military spouse.
Sometimes people are going to brush you off or tell you things you know aren't true. They think they can write you off because you're "just a spouse." It's hard to look back at your military experience, when you were treated with respect and dignity, and now be seen as a nuisance while constantly getting the runaround.
You feel like an outsider.
Being both a military spouse and a veteran means you can see both sides clearly. And while you understand one side's complaints about various issues, you also understand the reasoning behind why things are done a certain way. Then you are left with the choice of speaking up or keeping your thoughts to yourself.
You can be seen as an outsider because you have served in the military. You may be trying to help, but then instead you find yourself alone and misunderstood.
Sometimes you get ostracized.
And because of those outsider feelings, you may be ostracized. I know many military spouses who are veterans who decide to keep their service a secret from fellow military spouses because of how they have been treated in the past. But then there are those experiences with military spouses that are overwhelmingly positive. It's hard to find yourself stuck between the two roles.
You know more than you may want to.
Knowing how the military works can be a good thing. You understand the lingo, the long hours and the changing schedule which can make milspouse life easier. But you also know the danger under the words "everything is okay." It is a tough position to be in, especially when your spouse deploys to a dangerous location. You can imagine what they might experience based on your own deployments and that can be really hard to live with. Sometimes being blissfully ignorant has its advantages.
The "pull" between both sides is real.
You know how hard military spouse life is, but you still have a desire to be recognized as a veteran first. Sometimes, you get angry at the wrong person. For example, I would get angry at military spouses in general instead of the specific person who assumed I wasn't really a veteran. I believe that this causes an inner tension that makes it difficult to feel at home with the milspouse community.
Being a veteran makes military spouse life easier in some ways and harder in others. For those who are both veterans and military spouses, it can be a tough role to fill. But know you are stronger because of your past experiences, and you can use them for good.
Amanda Huffman is an Air Force veteran, military spouse and mother. She hosts a podcast, is the author of "Women of the Military" and a contributing writer in "Brave Women Strong Faith." You can follow her journey on her blog.
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