What This Female Veteran Wants Military Spouses to Know

Airmen participate in an all-women’s retreat at Osan Air Base, March 29, 2012.
Airmen participate in an all-women’s retreat at Osan Air Base, March 29, 2012. (Craig Cisek/U.S. Air Force photo)

Dear Military Spouse,

Sometimes I feel like I play both sides of the fence. You see, I am a military spouse like you, but I am also a female military veteran. And before I became a military spouse, I was really confused. How is it hard to be a military spouse? The ones I knew made it look so easy. And the ones who complained sounded silly, I just didn't understand. What was there to complain about?

Really, it can't be that bad.

Then I became one and the grass wasn't quite as green as I expected. I guess once you walk a mile in someone else's shoes, you really get to see all that it entails.

Military life had always been on my terms. I may not have been in the driver's seat, but I at least was in the front, helping to navigate where my life would go. As quickly as my name changed from "Captain" to "Mrs." I learned my life was no longer focused on my goals and dreams. Now my husband's choices would change my life for the years to come.

Instead of going off on the adventures the military sent me, I was left behind to deal with real life. Often, that meant a toddler throwing up, appointments here and there, and then we would celebrate Daddy coming home. All the while, I was still struggling to keep up with daily life.

Maybe it sounds like I'm the one complaining now, but it isn't all bad. The times my husband is away, he is missing our boys growing up. Some days, we have a lot of fun.

I have come to accept the life of being a military spouse. It isn't nearly as easy as I thought it would be. I was kind of proud of myself for embracing this new journey. Then one day, something happened.

We were at a ceremony and the speaker, in an attempt to honor military spouses, lumped them together with military service members and veterans. I raised my hand, because, of course, I am a veteran. But I knew most of the people who saw me there would assume I was a military spouse instead.

Why did I care? Why did it bother me so much that someone would see me as a military spouse and not a military veteran? I knew how hard military spouse life was. It was something I should be proud of, right?

But here is the thing: I am not only a military spouse; I am also a military veteran. The speaker unknowingly took away the honor of military veteran when he put both military spouses and veterans together. It was as if he was telling me that the only way I could serve my country was being a military spouse.

And that really bothers me.

Because we live in a nation today where men and women can serve in the military. And as a female military member I often get looked over or dismissed. I am a military veteran who deployed to Afghanistan for nine months, got shot at and faced many other challenges.

So, when someone looks at me and says I must be a military spouse, I get this feeling deep inside where I want them to know that I served, too. I want them to know about the things women are doing across the globe. I want us to feel honored for the sacrifice we make.

There is this war going on between military spouses and females in the service. I think it really comes down to, we don't understand what the other side is saying. We are using the same words to explain two different things, and instead of listening to the other side, our defenses go up.

Is there a way military spouses and females in the military can start to listen to the other side? Is there a way to support each other and start using words to build each other up? Instead of tearing each other down?

I have lived both lives: Female military member and military spouse. We both face challenges in this thing we call military life. And it isn't a competition of whose life is harder. Let's just agree military life is hard on both of us, but it can become a little easier when we choose to listen and support each other. Let's bridge the gap between military spouses and female service members.

Step one: Listen to the other side.

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