I don’t claim to be an expert in Army affairs, but I do have experience in what it’s like to date and be engaged to the military. Two years ago I met my hero and delved into a whole new world: the U.S. Military. At times it feels like limbo: you’ll be official in the foreseeable future, but at the same time, you can’t claim dependency or even get on base without being interrogated. However, “limbo” is the ideal time to become comfortable with the military life, before the craziness of dealing with TRICARE and PCSing starts.
This may sound cliché, but my biggest piece of advice to another military girlfriend or fiancée is to be your own advocate. No one is going to do the work for you. I first began learning through stories my now-fiancé, Mark, would tell me of his own experiences. Even now, every time he speaks about work, I give 100 percent of my attention and sometimes I even take notes.
I’ve also been doing my own research, and I consider myself a self-appointed student of the Army. I’ve checked out books from the library like Married to the Military: A Survival Guide for Military Wives, Girlfriends, and Women in Uniform or The Military Marriage Manual, among others. I visit official military websites like www.army.mil.
But what has been most helpful are websites like SpouseBuzz and military wives' blogs that tell me first-hand what life is like in the military world as the significant other.
Secondly, don’t be afraid to reach out to your soldier’s FRG for support and friendship. You might be surprised at how welcome you feel.
Despite living three hours from Mark's post and not being married yet, I've never felt disconnected from the military family. This was especially important during his first deployment, which ended just a few months ago. Right before he left to join the unit in Afghanistan, the command sponsored a Christmas stocking stuffer drive. I immediately jumped on this opportunity to support the troops and asked my co-workers to donate items. They were happy to do so, and afterwards I met up with the Army wife collecting the donations when she was in my area. She was one of those people that I felt an immediate connection with, as if I had known her before. We talked about deployment and she was so encouraging! At the end of our conversation she asked, "Can I give you a hug? I'm a huggy type of person." She definitely was someone I wanted to be friends with; her bubbly, positive personality was contagious and was something I wanted to imitate as a future Army wife.
I came to find out later that she was the wife of Mark's commander. This made an even bigger positive impression on me. Here I was, "just the fiancée," about to go through my first deployment, living three hours away from post … and the commander’s wife took time out of her day to make me feel like I was her peer and part of the Army family!
Around that time I also got my name on the FRG e-mail list, which was no problem at all. Every week, I received updates on the post's events, and every month they would forward the soldiers' newsletter from Afghanistan. The unit also had an active Facebook page, which the commander's wife updated frequently. Mark had his mom as first point of contact, but because I was so connected to the unit through e-mail and Facebook, I ended up giving her information about redeployment.
Finally, if you don't live close to the base, seek out support from others in the community who do have a military affiliation. I have three friends in my area who are retired Army wives and they have been a godsend. They all are much older than me, but having mentors is important. The wisdom and guidance they give are even better than words in a book, and I look forward to carrying on their legacy and positive attitudes.
I dream of the day when I can attend FRG meetings, volunteer at unit events, and shop at the commissary … because that means I’ll finally be an Army wife. But for now, I am proud to be an Army fiancée, loving and supporting my soldier, and preparing myself for the adventure of a lifetime.
What are your military fiance survival tips?
Malori was born and bred in Texas, and is engaged her hero, Mark, a soldier. While she is not immersing herself in the military culture and writing about her thoughts, she makes a living in arts administration and teaching violin. She feels blessed to have the opportunity to love and support her soldier as he serves our great country. Her blog can be read at http://engagedtothearmy.wordpress.com