I've had this conversation often enough that my head no longer spins around like I'm demon possessed. I've also have many reactions to it, ranging from sudden understanding to complete and angry denials and a decision that I need to be "schooled" on the matter.
And it all starts when people ask what I "do" and I say, "We're Air Force."
Notice I don't say, "We're in the Air Force." That's because I am not, my husband is. He signed his life to Uncle Sam, I just married him. But we are Air Force. If that makes any sense - it doesn't sink in to a lot of people.
I move, too. And let's just say that our stationings haven't all been glamorous and jet-setty (and notice I said "our" stationings, but I'll get back to that later).
I don't deploy, but I muddle my way through deployments thousands of miles from family and people I know, taking care of all the boring and mundane tasks that keep my husband able to deploy with a clear and focused mind.
With the help of the correct power-of-attorney (and this takes trial and error, because you might be horrified to know that that standard POA the base issues you is NOT the right one) I've solved pay problems, successfully challenged an incorrect payment for TDY, and settled my crazy Mother-in-Law's house and effects so she could enter into a nursing home.
I follow base rules, join base organizations, take food to new mothers, babysit in emergencies, act as an impromptu counselor for my fellow spouses (and some active duty), and I stand with my hand over my heart at 5:00 when the National Anthem plays.
*WE* most certainly are Air Force.
There is not much counterpart for this in the civilian world (other than the police and fire-fighters, but for some reason I never think of them as civilians), and I think that is where the problem comes in. Being a military family is an occupation in and of itself, with all the attendant (and unpaid!) responsibilities of a position on the GS scale. More than some, in fact. Let's face it, although it might make the workplace a more pleasant environment, there just isn't as much riding on the cookies that the wife of a Barnes and Noble manager might send in for the weekly staff meetings.
There are those that I've spoken to who have taken it as a personal affront that I consider my role as a military family member to be a part of my husband's career. And it is his career (not mine) - but it is also my life.
"You mean your HUSBAND is in the Air Force."
"Yes. And I'm Air Force, too."
"Are you on active duty?"
"No, I'm a spouse."
"Do you work for the military?"
"Yes, and I don't get paid."
My husband finds this whole issue very funny. He had one encounter where someone called him on the phrase, "We were stationed at..."
"You mean YOU were stationed."
"Well, you know, my wife did have to move there, too."
Yes, move there. And do base clean up there, and counsel other military spouses there, and bake for people who have had babies or been sick there, crochet blankets for newborns there, babysit there, and support my husband in all he did there.
So I do think that gives me the right to say, "We're Air Force."
*UPDATE: there have been some questions about the whole Power of Attorney issue. Luckily, it's a subject SpouseBUZZ has visited in the past! Although you need to check with your base Legal Office for specifics to your own situation, you can read up on the subject more here.