Sometimes as a National Guard significant other (SO) it's easy to feel like an outcast.
I joined Twitter recently (late to the party, I know), and as one of my first moves I followed @SpouseBuzz to help keep myself up to date. One follow led to another, and I soon became aware of the wonderful Military Significant Other (MilSo) family that exists on the site. Indeed, many lovely SOs were kind enough to follow me and include me in their circles of conversation.
I watched as military significant others from all branches reached out across the web seeking new MilSos and following each other to commiserate, provide support, and act as sounding boards for other SOs who needed to vent or sought advice.
This community is undoubtedly an absolutely wonderful thing, an invaluable tool for those who face multiple deployments and PCS relocations.
But as I read the posts about deployment countdowns and trouble with the in-laws, the differences between my life and theirs were thrown into the light. After a while, I found myself wondering: "Am I really a part of this community? Do I belong?"
Since my soldier is in the National Guard, my man and I generally live what appears to be a typical civilian life. Like most of the country, we wake-up each day, put on plain clothes and head to our standard 9-5 jobs. We walk the dog, eat dinner at 7 p.m., and watch an episode of The Sopranos every night like clockwork. One weekend each month, his commitment to our country takes him away, but other than that blip on the radar, everything appears ... normal.
But that's not completely the case.
While it's arguably easier than being an Active Duty spouse, being a Guard SO is it's own challenge. It's a constant struggle to find some mythical balance point between civilian and military life when the scales are constantly tipping.
It's true that the nature of his commitment to the Guard makes my experience different from that of other MilSOs. Unlike Active Duty spouses, I don't see my man in uniform everyday. I don't have to think about whether my life and family will be uprooted soon for yet another PCS. I don't shop at a commissary, live near a base, or have to fight with Tricare about coverage. And, so far, I have not had to deal with the longing that accompanies a deployment. In these things I would agree that my experience is not the same as that of an active duty MilSo.
I would be a pretentious fool to claim that it was.
And yet, after much thought I humbly suggest that, to a degree, I do share many of the same kinds of cares that weigh on an active duty spouse's mind. On those occasions that my soldier is in uniform, I am concerned for his safety. When he leaves, I pray that he won't be injured in some freak training accident (like the mortar explosion that killed seven Marines in Nevada earlier this year). I wait and wonder what time he will be released from duty and if he will make it home in time for dinner or my birthday (which he missed this year because of drill). When he's here, I worry about deployment.
Is my life significantly different from that of an active duty spouse? Without hesitation, I would say that it is.
But am I still a part of the military community? You bet your butt I am.
While we may not deal with the same day to day issues, together with our service members we believe in the same overarching ideals of loyalty, duty, honor and selfless service. I would gladly stand by and support any MilSo that crossed my path, and I hope she (or he) would do the same for me.
Diana is a twenty-something publishing professional currently working as a writer and assistant at her local newspaper. A rural New Jersey native, she enjoys spending time with her handsome, goofy, lovable music critic of a servicemember, going on hikes with their dog, exploring new recipes and restaurants, reading books by or about various dead people, and learning random facts that will maybe someday (probably never) come in handy. Follow her on Twitter @SweetDiaMarie. Her latest project, Move It, MilSO!, aims to motivate MilSOs to fit lifestyles.