Every year the meeting halls and conference rooms of Washington D.C. fill with military spouses. They’re there for Military Spouse of the Year, Homefront Rising, MSJDN or maybe the AMPA Gala, to name a few. They come from far and wide to show Washington they’re here, raise their voices, and circle the wagons. They come to get stuff done.
For me, it’s also my very favorite time of year. It’s the one week every single year where I get to see my all favorite military spouse friends in one place. In real life, we’re separated by PCSes and hundreds of miles and jobs and families and all the normal daily life demands but for one week, we get to come together and work to make military life as good as it can possibly be.
For me, whenever I’m around them, military life already is as good as it can possibly be.
So in honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, I nod my cap to them: The five friends every military spouse needs. Let me introduce you.
The Perfect Military SpouseThe first military spouse friend you need to make is the one who sincerely gets exactly where you are. She’s a military spouse too, maybe at the same phase of it as you are, but more than just being a military spouse, she seems to excel at it. She’s the one who knows everyone in Family Readiness and just how to get Tricare to pay for a prescription they keep telling you they won’t cover. Braving the commissary on payday weekend to get supplies for a kid’s birthday party? She’s there to help - with coupons. Confounded by this month’s LES and a random deduction you can’t figure out? She’s got you covered, plus explanations for all the new acronyms your spouse has started to throw around.
On a good day, she’s google.mil. On a bad day, she’s open arms and open ears. Maybe she drives around with a “his boots, her flips” sticker on her car, or maybe she’s the person who has mastered up-cycling camouflage into gorgeous holiday-centric wreaths. She comes in countless variations, but without exception, one thing is true: When in doubt, you always start with her. If she doesn’t have the answer, she’ll find it. And chances are, she’ll find coffee, too.
The One Who Knows EveryoneIf you’re anything like me, you may be cursed with an inability to remember people’s names or put together their story with their face the next time you run into them. “Oh, we did meet? How on earth did I forget?,” you puzzle. She remembers you. You have no idea who she is. But not only does she remember you, she remembers how you met, what kind of job you’re looking for, the names of your kids, and that your dog is sick. You immediately regret admitting you have forgotten her, but she seems to take it in stride. She’s good at meeting people, and she’s great at making friends.
If the business world is all about connections, success in military life is all about friendships. With her around, that’s easy. She introduces you to everyone and makes sure you stay in touch. She’s quick to make conversation and never leaves anyone out. To her, no matter how different a person is, everyone is worth knowing. And somehow - how does she do it? - worth liking. She makes you realize you actually do want more friends. She pushes you out of your comfort zone. Big dreams? She introduces you to the people who can make them real. New base? New job? No problem. She knows just the person for you to meet.
A day doesn’t go by that you’re not grateful you’ve met her. But to say you’re grateful to her just for her friendliness and encyclopedic knowledge of other military spouses is to sincerely undersell why you love her. She knows everyone because she sincerely believes they're worth knowing, and you know that because she makes sure you feel it every time you talk. She listens like you’re full of good ideas, takes your hair-brained schemes and puts some actual value in them, and somehow even manages to call you on your nonsense with a compliment. You don’t know how she does it, but you know you’re lucky to be part of her life. Once you meet a friend like her, you never let her go.
Movers and ShakersThen there are the movers and shakers. We all know one. She’s the friend who was nominated for MSOY for your base. Or who is actively involved in Homefront Rising, the one who landed herself on Glamour Magazine’s 50 Phenomenal Women list. She’s a military spouse on the move, and you know just meeting her that she’s going places. But she isn’t just in it to win it for herself. She’s the kind of person who views success as a group thing and takes everyone she knows up the ladder with her. She wants you to be happy. She believes in your dream. In-house early education center devoted specifically to military kids? She’s passing out flyers to everyone she knows. Harboring secret dreams of become a pediatric surgeon? You wake up to an email where she’s laid out exactly how you can make it possible, PCSes included.
Where you see barriers, she sees stumbling blocks. Where you see another crappy PCS and a lousy new station, she sees an exciting new adventure. She wants you to be happy - independent of military life, and she spends every waking hour trying to find a way to make the two mesh seamlessly. Somehow, she does it. Once she sees your potential, she never lets you forget it. And when it comes to her own, she never lets it just be potential - she turns every opportunity into a moment of action, and she inspires us every step of the way.
The One Who Has Been Through ItEvery single military spouse needs to be friends with another spouse who is just a little more seasoned. My husband jokingly calls these the saltier wives, but I like seasoned better. They’re definitely saltier, but they’re also sweeter. When it comes to being in the muck of military life? They have worn-in boots that have navigated all of it before. The promotions, Fourth of July fireworks, welcome homes, and company picnics? She appreciates them even more. Just like every old lady looks at you in the supermarket with a screaming infant in your hands and tells you to cherish this moment, the seasoned military spouse knows this moment, however challenging and frustrating, is one you will be thankful for later. You’ll remember how it felt to hold your small children’s hands as they gazed up in fireworks in wonder and asked you what “rockets red glare” meant while surrounded by people who have witnessed them first hand. You’ll forget the crappy move in which every table you own was broken and all your family photographs were lost. She’s been there before, and she’s come out on top. Every piece of hard-earned wisdom she’s garnered she shares, and if you’re lucky, you’ll listen.
The CivilianYou may not believe me, military spouse, but you need her. Sometimes it can be so easy to get lost in our own little world we forget that before we married into the military, we were just Average Joe and Jane civilians ourselves. Your best civilian friend still is, and when military life is the hardest, you actually need her all the more. Sure, she has no idea what it’s like to have your husband be shot at halfway around the world and she can never remember what TDY stands for. But she knows you’re going through something hard, and she won’t ever try to tell you it’s not as scary as it seems. Not only will she listen to you being scared, she’ll stand right there with you in it. After all, she can see from the outside how hard this world is. She doesn’t have to put on a brave face just to survive it, too. When the going gets tough, she reminds you that you have what it takes - not because there’s anything that makes you extra special, just that she’s your friend, and she’s seen you be strong so many times before. Sure, she may put her foot in her mouth about something military life (her husband's business travel is not equivalent, even if she suggests it is), but it doesn’t matter. She can be your break from all of it, and she can be as impressed as we are that you managed to get through another day of deployment with all the kids alive and fed.
They’re all different, for sure. But together, they’re all you need to get through military life. When the bottom falls out and you feel yourself hanging on by a thread, they’re there, each lifting you up in their own ways. If it weren’t for them, this life would be harder. But with them by your side, you know you’re counting your blessings. And they count out like this: thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.