What Makes A “Real” Military Spouse?

I am not a “real” military spouse. I have been with my soldier for nearly nine years. We have faced three overseas deployments into combat zones and the inevitable aftermath that comes with them. So why do I hesitate at the title?

Maybe it is the fact that my soldier is another woman.  For most of the time that we have been together our relationship has needed to be hidden from the Army in order to preserve her career and allow her to continue to serve.

Because of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, I was unable to reach out to support structures in place.  In fact, I was actively hiding from them.

Our only protection seemed to be isolation.

Although we are well-known as a couple in our Wyoming hometown, Cora was part of the Minnesota Guard for years. I was never introduced to those folks.  It was easier to stay secret if I never travelled to any readiness or reintegration events.  Our only protection seemed to be isolation.

I am still having a hard time wrapping my mind around being a part of the military family now, after all that time being excluded completely.  I was nearly paralyzed by the prospect of picking out my clothes for a military weekend. I finally had Cora come in and help me.

I had picked out clothes to allow me to disappear into the background.  Once I realized that, I picked out another batch that were all about being seen.

That was not what I wanted, either.  I am not one who should be out front as a visible example of our community, but I had to do so anyway.  The stress of needing to be right on this--not embarrassing Cora, and not shutting myself down to a bland cutout of myself--was amazing.

Those years of enforced separation from the family world of the military culture, and the physical distance between our life here on the ranch in Wyoming and the bases where my wife has reported for duty, have aided in distancing myself from all things military.

Because I haven’t gotten to see firsthand the programs, support systems, and other benefits available to most other military families, it’s been easier for me to tolerate being excluded as a same-sex spouse.

The repeal of DADT was life-changing

The repeal of DADT was a dream come true for us, as well as for thousands of other military families.  I am uncomfortable with lies of any sort, and being put in a position where the truth could destroy my partner’s very career was excruciating.

Having that pressure lifted from us was life-changing.  For the first time, Cora could talk about home honestly with others on her deployment, with no pronoun changes or awkward deflections of questions that she couldn’t answer.

Finally she could share pictures of home containing more than just the landscapes and animals.  I hadn’t realized how much I resented being the “dirty little secret” that could harm her until the pressure was gone.  September 20th is a holiday in our home, as it is the day that the right to serve openly was granted.

Too focused on differences.

Many of the challenges that other military spouses and their families face on the day-to-day level are foreign to me.  We live far enough away from the nearest base that shopping in the commissary or PX is a non-issue. Command get-togethers for families are similarly not convenient—even if I knew those folks.

I have never experienced the uncertainties that surround PCSing, or moving my children to different schools, or any of the countless details that tie active duty families together with shared experiences.

It has been all too easy for me to focus on the differences, on the ways I am excluded from the community of spouses, when instead I should have been paying more attention to what binds us all together.

What is true to the core is that I am married to a soldier--to one who raised her hand and swore an oath to serve her country, and I stand with her, proud of her, and do my best to help her fulfill those obligations with honor.


Nonie-Proffit-photoNonie Proffit was raised on the ranch in southwestern Wyoming, and returned to her hometown after obtaining a degree in English.  In addition to managing the ranch’s small flock of sheep, Nonie is a librarian in the county library, where she indulges her addictions to reading and research.  Nonie and her wife Cora live in a cabin on the family ranch, and enjoy the views of mountains and meadows from their home. They began dating in 2004 and were married in Iowa in 2009. Cora is a Clinical Psychologist and a Major in the USAR, and together the couple has been through three deployments totaling more than four years.

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