You Say 'Dependent,' I Say ...

It sets my back up when people dismiss military spouses as "dependents.” What kind of crack is that, anyway?

“Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy,” wrote Nobel prize winning playwright George Bernard Shaw (who was also one of the founders of the London School of Economics.) "We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.”

That’s how I feel, too, especially about military wives and husbands, and their service members, and their kids and their communities. We are all dependent on one another. Every one of us. In a good way.

That isn’t always the way it is perceived in the rest of the world. Sometimes I am talking to a reporter, or a provider, or a colleague and I get the idea that they picture someone very, very different when they picture a military spouse.

They say "dependent"' in a way that is sounds like “dependopotomus.” They picture Women Who Love Too Much. They picture dependent personality disorder. They picture spouses who need some kind of therapy because they love someone who keeps leaving them.

I get the feeling when they say “dependent” they picture some woman they saw once (or just heard about) at the Burger King on base with a dirty kid wearing nothing but a ten-pound diaper.

That’s not what I picture. I’ve spent my entire life within the community of the military. I was an Air Force brat. I’m a Navy wife. Now I’m an Army mom.

So when they say "dependent," I picture spouses getting off the plane in Japan, or Korea, or Bahrain, or Germany, or Italy unable to speak or read a word of the language who manage to push a stroller while catching trains, and wangling the housing system, and getting their kids to school and figuring out the local complexities of basic life -- usually while their service member is deployed.

When they say "dependent," I picture people who train for one occupation then quickly figure out that isn’t going to be compatible with their service member’s constantly moving lifestyle. So they become YouTube goddesses, writers, nonprofit directors, surgical nurses, bank vice presidents. Whatever it is takes, they do.

hrs_20140420-A-9999X-001When they say "dependent," I picture Yesenia Ruiz-Rojo, the 21 year old terminally ill Army wife who old her doctors at Brooke Army Medical Center that all she wanted was for her baby to live. She delivered him January 9 and has had eight months with him so far, God love her.

Those people who don’t know us say "dependent," and I picture a service member who can’t keep a goldfish without having someone in place to hold down the fort.

I picture a person who makes the good life possible for military members. I picture flags in front of the house. I picture preschoolers jumping up and down to see their returning daddy or mommy. I picture sweeping into each other’s arms at last. I picture wind-beneath-my-wings, dammit..

But I’m a military spouse. I'm OK with dependence -- because I know it goes back and forth, up and down, over and under and through. For every soul of us.

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