I came across an interesting discussion on a forum earlier this week and read through the responses with great interest. The question which began the discussion was, "Do you consider a military spouse someone who has served this country?" What a great question, I thought. While spouses don't have an official role; they don't wear uniforms and they certainly don't wear rank, I think they do serve. I know I've been guilty of saying that "spouses serve, too" on occasion. But what I meant, and what I believe others mean when they say this, is that we serve in an unofficial, unrecognized, supportive capacity.
I found myself agreeing (in part) with the commenters who stated that we sacrifice, we don't serve. I say "in part" because although it's true that we sacrifice, that term means that we're giving up something. And we are. We do. But with all that we give up, (perhaps the most precious of all is the months and years we spend without our significant other. Time we will never get back), I think we get a lot, too. I am biased, I admit, but here is the single best article I've ever read about military spouses and sacrifice.
The spouses keep so many things on a military installation running efficiently and effectively. We are, after all, chronic volunteers. Furthermore, in a post 9/11 world, the military recognizes the importance of keeping mama (or daddy) happy. As Mrs. Casey, wife of General Casey told us, it's absolutely a readiness issue.
I've never been to a promotion ceremony of a married service member in which he didn't stress the vital role his spouse has played over the years. And while we don't sit around expecting praise and thanks, I think most everyone is aware of the positive affect spouses have not only on the family unit, but on the greater military community.
So what do you think - do you serve? If you answer yes to that question, what does "serving" mean to you?