Choosing to marry someone is a big decision. Choosing to marry someone in the military complicates things even more. Especially when you know exactly what you're getting yourself into.
I grew up in a Coast Guard family. My father, mom, sister and I have lived all over North America: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maryland, and Connecticut. My earliest memories come from Honolulu, where my dad would leave for months at a time on a ship. I remember missing him – to a three-year-old, a few months away seems like a lifetime. Other memories include getting ready for homecomings, complete with crafting leis, dressing up, and making posters. There was also that one time my sister had her birthday party on a buoy tender -- quite a hit with the other kids.
My dad is a great man who served the Coast Guard over 30 years. It’s not his fault that he moved us around, but I do admire the way my mom handled all the stress.
It couldn’t have been easy to move to Hawaii with two children under five years old, especially with my dad called to sea before the moving shipment even arrived (two months late). Nor was it easy to parent two pre-teen girls while her husband was in Canada mapping icebergs to prevent another tragedy like the Titanic. She regretted gthat we didn’t see our relatives as often as other children. Oh, and forget about her career – she gave it up to be a full-time mom and take care of everything during his absences.
When I got to be older and my dad had retired, I was grateful for my experiences as a military brat. However, I looked at all the sacrifices our family made, and the stress my mom endured as a Coastie wife, and I swore off ever marrying someone in the military. I mean, who would want that?
Moving every few years? I wanted to become a dietitian and open up my own nutrition practice.
Your spouse being shipped off at the government’s whim? I wanted a husband that would stick around.
Basically, I desired stability and predictability in my future.
Fast forward: When I met my now-husband Andrew at the University of Maryland (go Terps!) I was attracted to him because he was kind, smart, and so much fun … not to mention easy on the eyes.
Turns out he was also in planning to go into the Army.
As our relationship progressed, I knew I wanted to be with him, but I was so scared: Scared of his commitment to the US Army. Scared to potentially re-enter the military lifestyle. Scared of the inevitable absences, and the fact that as an Army soldier in wartime, he would likely be sent to a combat zone.
Plus, on a lighter note, I liked living near the water. Oklahoma? El Paso? Not quite as beach-y.
Falling in love with Andrew was easy; accepting his sense of duty and his desire to serve was not. I soon realized, however, the qualities that make him a great soldier are some of the same reasons I love him. After all, he is responsible, loyal, caring of others, and so hardworking.
I finally understood why my California-loving, career-driven mom gave it all up when she married my dad and moved with him to Alaska: because it’s worth it when you find your “one.” Your spouse is committing himself (or herself) to something bigger, for the good of others. And you contribute by supporting him (or her), even if it means making sacrifices of your own.
Nothing in life is easy. So far, my relationship with my husband hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk, especially as we gear up for a deployment. But life with him in the Army is 2,398,423,457 times better than life without him at all, and I’m keeping a positive attitude and an open mind.
I suppose I have sort of an advantage since I grew up around the military and I’m already familiar with what the lifestyle entails. But now, I’m learning first-hand what it takes to fulfill my new role: a military spouse. My mom has certainly inspired me, and I hope I can do the same for my future children.
Did you grow-up in the military? How did it influence your decision to become a MilSpouse.