Imagine a chapel filled with military couples. They range in marital experience from newlyweds with only a few months since their “I do’s,” to a seasoned couple who has celebrated 32 anniversaries. Servicemember ranks range from private to field grade officer. And those couples are all in that chapel for the same reason: to renew their wedding vows.
That’s exactly what happened a couple weeks ago at Fort Stewart. Twenty-one couples proclaimed their love for each other all over again at a “Coin and Covenant” ceremony just before the brigade’s deployment to Afghanistan. Each couple received a coin that was split in half, one half for the husband, the other for the wife, as a tangible reminder of the covenant part of the ceremony when they renewed their vows.
I’m sure you all just joined me in a collective, “Aww, that’s the most romantic thing in the whole wide world!” That was my initial reaction when I first read the story too.
My second reaction? Wow. These spouses are marrying their servicemembers again despite the fact that they know precisely what they’re getting themselves into.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard MilSpouses retell conversations they’ve had with non-military connected people who imply that we have no right to complain about our lives because we knew what we were getting into when we chose to marry into the military. I’ve had a few of those conversations myself, and they’re so incredibly frustrating because my husband wasn’t in the military when I married him. (Then of course, the discussion immediately turns to, “Well why in the world would you let him join the military?" But that’s a whole other blog post.)
Even if my husband had already been in the Navy when I met him, I still wouldn’t have known what I was getting into. There's no way I could have predicted what military life would look like. I don’t care if you were a military brat who grew up to be a servicemember who majored in Military History and minored in Military Marriage in college. It’s impossible to comprehend what life is like as a military spouse until you’re smack dab in the middle of it yourself.
That’s why it’s even more of a romantic gesture in my eyes that these couples, and any military couple who renews their vows, chose to say “I do” again, this time with a knowledge they didn’t have during their first walk down the aisle. They knew firsthand what they were getting into.
And they did it anyway.
In its own way, military life is rewarding, with opportunities for personal growth at every crazy twist and turn. Sometimes, it’s even fun. But it’s by no means easy. And we’re often reminded of that when we look at our non-MilSpouse friends who live a few blocks over from their entire extended family in the same house they moved into after their honeymoon (because they were actually able to have a honeymoon) and who haven’t lived half their marriages without their other half. On our less than stellar days, when those pangs of marital envy bubble to the surface, it’s easy to wonder what we got ourselves into, to question if we would do it all over again if given a free pass to go back in time and take a different path.
I know what those 21 couples at Fort Stewart think. What do you think? Would you marry the military again if you knew then what you know now? Would you kick off a deployment with a vow renewal ceremony? And how do you respond to people who say, “You knew what you were getting into”?