After writing my open letter to a naive National Guard spouse yesterday I got to thinking about all the the things that I really wish someone would've told me when I married into the military. The letter speaks to guard spouse Lacey Vermeulen, who went to her local news station outraged that her husband's mid-tour leave had been pulled. Perhaps if she had known, however, that leave changes are just another day at the beach, she would've let it roll off her back and moved on.
So here are my top five things I wish someone would've told me when I was a brand new military spouse bride. Since there are about one million things someone should've told me and I have whittled it down to only five, there are probably things that you think are important but are not included here. Feel free to add yours in the comment section. Maybe our crowd wisdom will keep some military bride somewhere from making the same mistakes I or Lacey Vermeulen did.
1. The military never, ever does what they say they are going to do. This is so hard because the promises sound so wonderful when they are made, and emotions run so high when you hear things like "we'll send him home early!" and "you can have two full weeks of uninterrupted-by-dumb-problems leave!" But think about it this way: the unpredictability makes the whole thing a big adventure. The only thing you can bet on is that the thing they said they'd do is not the thing that will happen. So buckle your seatbelt and enjoy the ride. That's "glass half-full" sort of stuff.
2. The chain of command applies to you, too, if only by default. I am a girl who likes to get around the normal flow of things and go straight to the top. When I call the cable company about some sort of billing shenanigan I don't even bother with the little man -- I ask for the manager right away. Things just get done faster that way.
But that doesn't work in the military. You have to play by the rules. Why? Because you are an extension of your servicemember. And while technically those bossmen can't control what you do, your spouse can and will get in trouble if you make his commander look bad. That means when something you feel is unjust goes down you have to first go through the chain of command to fix it. Hint: start by talking to your family readiness group leader.
3. Military life does not come with a manual -- but there are manuals out there. Do a quick Amazon search and you'll see plenty of books by plenty of fabulous people on surviving military life ... even our very own SpouseBuzz Boss Lady Jacey has written one.
This list on Amazon is a pretty good rundown of books, but there are plenty more out there.
4. Ask for help from an older spouse. I know it can be a bit daunting to just walk-up to someone you've never met and ask them for advice. But I can promise you it will help. At your first family group meeting try introducing yourself to the family group leader and saying something like "I have no idea what I'm doing and I have a lot of questions about how to navigate military life. Can you help me?" I bet they will be happy to lend you a hand. Why? Because we have all been in your shoes at some point.
5. The internet is a big ol' military support group. There are plenty of websites and Facebook pages out there run by people who just want to complain or who simply want someone to commiserate with. But there are also lots and lots of great communities rich with helpful information and people who have been there, done that, know it sucks and want to help you through it. SpouseBuzz is one of those places -- but there are plenty of others. For example, if you are in the Army the Army Wife Network is a great place to go. If you are a ManSpouse check out Wayne Perry's new group for spouse dudes.
So welcome to the military family, bride [or groom]. We know it's scary -- but we're also here to take care of you. If you give it a chance you may just fall in love with the military life like I have.