By Lisa Warren
If your spouse is a member of our Armed Forces, it likely didn’t take either of you long to figure out there’s a whole lot about military life that can be downright frustrating.
Driving to PT (Physical Training) just to receive a message for a 0900 work call.
Submitting paperwork to a superior just to resubmit it again later because the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) lost it.
Planning a weekend getaway in the neighboring state only to get called in for work to do absolutely nothing.
Waiting and waiting and waiting some more for a major reimbursement following a TDY (Temporary Duty) assignment.
The list goes on. It’s easy to count the curses of military life, but I’ve learned there is a whole lot about it that’s worthy of my gratitude. At the end of the day, while we are still waiting on that reimbursement no less, I find that the blessings outweigh the burdens.
We dread goodbyes. Through teary-eyed faces, we send our loved ones off to trainings, TDYs, and deployments. Separations are oftentimes wrought with little to no communication, vastly different time zones, and a struggle to understand the other’s current reality.
Nothing, however, is much sweeter than the reunion. We mark the days on our calendar and dream of that first sweet embrace. And truly, that first embrace is even sweeter than we imagined.
As difficult as each separation is, I have found that my marriage is stronger for it. I am thankful for the time apart. I have grown most in my marriage when my spouse was farthest from me.
When my spouse left for Basic Training, I took inventory of my wife skills. While that’s a post for another time, I spent those two months growing spiritually and growing in my marriage even though my other half was absent.
The opportunity to travel and broaden our cultural experiences drew us to the military lifestyle. We can all think of reasons for why we hate PCSing (Permanent Change of Station), but honestly, a PCS can and does have a lot of perks.
We haven’t made it to Hawaii yet, but the fact that it’s even an option at some point pretty much sends my head spinning. And Germany? Or Italy? Heck yes!
The military extends to us the opportunity to not only visit, but to call home parts of the world we might otherwise never have a chance to see.
We are currently stationed in Washington, and we could live a lifetime in the Pacific Northwest and never see and do all this region has to offer. The travel bug is biting even as I type this. Canada, Idaho, Oregon, and the coast border us. Oh, the places we can go!
Building a Community
It’s heartbreaking to leave friends and family behind, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from my tenure as a military wife, it’s this: no amount of distance can put asunder the truest of friends. Oceans separate me from my two closest friends, and while I miss their physical presence in my life, the distance has never threatened to divide us.
Even still, we crave and need a physical community where we reside. If we make the effort, I believe we will find the military community to be close, tight-knit, and loyal. Who better to cry with you during a deployment or to dress up with you for the ball than your newfound military spouse friends?
Beyond the walls of the military installation, I’m thankful for the church community we have. Their support and care has lifted me up and challenged me in my faith journey, especially during those not-so-fun separations.
The opportunity to pursue my dreams
Before my husband joined the military, we were both teachers. He joined the Army to pursue a lifelong dream, and I continued teaching throughout his training.
The time came, though, when I had to decide if teaching was still ideal for me. The military didn’t make it easy. Washington required a new state certification, not to mention the job searching and interviewing process that would ensue! Plus, I didn’t want to be stuck fulfilling a contract if my spouse received orders for Hawaii. Who wants to be drowning in research papers when you could be reading a book on the beach?
Since first grade, I’ve dreamed of becoming a published author. I’ve started more novels than I can count and finished none. Teaching for a living tends to take the brain cells right out of you by the end of eighth period, leaving zero motivation to work on that future bestseller.
It dawned on me that my husband’s military career wasn’t putting a damper on my career goals. On the contrary, his military career was and is allowing me to pursue my dreams. We pinch a few more pennies and eat out a little less, but that’s okay. For the first time in my life, I have the time and the creative brain juice to make this dream a reality.
We are 2,000 miles away from our home state, and both of us have always been homebodies. It’s not easy packing up your life and leaving family behind, but like everything else in the military, there’s something to be thankful for amid the hardship.
Leaving your parents and cleaving to your spouse takes on a whole new meaning in the military. When the only person you know in the whole state is your spouse, you tend to rely on each other and grow closer together.
As a couple, you figure out things on your own, such as building a new community, perfecting a work and personal life balance, and discovering new places to visit and ways to entertain yourself and your friends that are unique to the area you now live. Through it all, I’ve clung to my spouse, and in so doing, have gained a new appreciation for him and our relationship.
This is usually the first thing that comes to mind when people talk about the advantages of military life and for good reason.
Servicemen and women can accrue some serious time off; it sure comes in handy for visiting family over the holidays. And while I’ve heard my fair share of gripes about the healthcare system, Tricare, overall, provides quality medical care for low to no-cost to the patient.
Likewise, the housing allowance is definitely a blessing, and we are certainly grateful to the businesses who extend a military discount to us. Our Armed Forces are not paid what they’re worth, in my opinion, so I am thankful for the benefits that add to our quality of life.
Room to grow
Many civilian jobs provide room to grow for employees, but I think the military offers even more in this regard. Enlisted members and officers alike have opportunity to move up the ranks. Beyond that, though, the military offers an incredible amount of jobs to choose from.
I’ve grown to appreciate the old adage of “hurry up and wait.” There’s a lot of truth to it. If you can wait things out, new windows of opportunity will appear that will benefit both active duty member and spouse.
My husband is going on two years of service, and in his short time in the Army, quite a few windows have opened, including an upcoming promotion. I am thankful for his superior NCOs and officers, who have showed genuine concern for his personal well-being and his professional career. Without them, many opportunities would never see fruition.
Let’s face it. If I quit grumbling about the downsides to military living, I realize I have even more for which I can give thanks.
The wasted fuel from the morning PT was cancelled means my husband has a running vehicle.
The lost paperwork my spouse resubmitted means that he cares enough about his job to get the details right.
The cancelled getaway weekend means we can appreciate the time we do spend together.
And that waiting and waiting for a reimbursement? As irritating as it may be, I am still thankful because our bills are paid and our fridge is full.
As I am sure you can bear witness to, as well, military life is not free from struggle, and it’s easy to count its cost on our lives. Even so, there are many blessings available to us if we are willing to count them.
Lisa Warren is a military spouse and blogger. Connect with Lisa:
Pinterest: My Military Spouse Life