Very few other Military Spouses care that I am Veteran. They assume my experiences either have no bearing on their own lives or that my insights are out-dated, no longer true, or are simply too much information. As far as they are concerned I am now just another MilSpouse.
But they are wrong. I and many other former service military spouses like me have a lot to offer our new community if they would only stop and listen. As a veteran and a military spouses, these are some of the things I wish other MilSpouses knew about me and others like me.
When our spouses deploy, it is just as hard (and in some ways harder) on us Vet Spouses because we HAVE been there, HAVE done that. We do know how they feel out there separated from us. We do know how hard it is for them to keep all the stress to themselves so the loved ones back home do not worry too much. We do know how hard it is to see the kids grow up in pictures, or to hear about the struggles of the family but have no power to help
Don’t underestimate my knowledge of how the military works. Just because I am no longer in doesn’t mean that I don’t understand how the military works. I got into a debate with one MilSpouse who claimed seniority by stating her husband’s rank and her years married to the military as she supported a decision he made that affected the entire base, staff, and dependents. My argument was that his decision was ill founded, a knee-jerk reaction, and did not take x, y, and z into consideration. She argued that I was no longer in the military and had no idea what I was talking about. However, two hours after her very thorough effort to prove my “inexperience and ignorance,” her hubby called me to talk about my public criticism of his decision. He admitted he had been in the wrong and was reworking his decision.
But don’t assume I am only good for military knowledge. Just because I served doesn’t mean I know everything about every aspect of every branch of the military. Even among Active Duty and Reservists from the same branches, there are huge differences in the viewpoints and perspectives of military life. This is why those few men and women who go from enlisted to officer, or those who cross from Active Duty to Reserves (and vice-versa) are so highly sought out and respected; their additional perspective and experience is invaluable to the military body. However, most Veterans do not have that experience. Most remain in one career with minimal interaction with other careers, so they know only enough to help that other career as it relates to their own.
Never assume you understand what it’s like to be a Military member. I remember a conversation I had with a young woman, newly married to a Soldier who had just PCSed solo to a remote base. She assumed he was “living it up” and “living single.” She did not know of his weeklong exercises once a month that kept him in full MOP gear and cooped up in his room or at work for the duration of the exercise. She did not know that he had been put in a shop where he was expected to do the job of three, higher-ranking personnel because those billets had not been filled.
No one who is currently serving cares what your spouse’s rank is unless your spouse is the one standing there in front of them. The minute you come in wearing your spouse’s rank in an effort to get your way, you have lost all credibility and respect from those you just interacted with. Those MilSpouses who wear their spouse’s rank with anything less than humility are the same ones who drive new MilSpouses running from spouse groups. In the same way, brand new spouses who try to play the whoa-is-me card at every struggle in their first few years earn only complete disdain from the Active Duty personnel they run into.
I want to support my spouse community the same way I supported my battle buddy. During my active duty time I learned to support my brothers-and-sisters in arms. Now, as a veteran and a MilSpouse, I know it is still important to support each member of my new community. Branch, rank, time in service, previous hardships and past triumphs only matter if they spur you to react in empathy and compassion in an effort to help the spouse to your right and to your left.
Christina Borden is a fairly new blogger and aspiring author. She is a Veteran and a MilSpouse as well as a Mommy to a boy and a cat. She is extremely eclectic in all her tastes from the kind of music she listens to, to the variety of writing she does. She currently resides in a camper somewhere near the Rockies and is learning how to really find the silver linings in the chaos of Military life. If you are interested in reading more of her ramblings, to include some of her short stories, you can find her at www.agod-blessedlife.com. She is always thrilled and honored to hear from new people!