Christina over at Married To A Sailor is holding a contest this week, challenging us to write about what it is like to be a military spouse. I could not have written this post yesterday, because it would have been full of expletives - but today I think I can handle it. Here's my best shot:
I have become accustomed to my identity being tied to the the Marine Corps, but I usually don't refer to myself as a Marine Wife if I am introducing myself to a person or a group; it makes me feel like those name-droppers who try to get attention by being associated with someone famous. Not that I would ever do that, but I often feel like the title of 'Marine Wife' was kind of thrust upon me - I didn't exactly choose it, nor do I feel I have done much to 'earn' it. I never enlisted, and as bad as this sounds, I don't 'love' the Corps, and did not marry it! I married an amazing, intelligent, strong, and super-sexy man - who happens to also be a United States Marine, one weekend a month, a couple weeks every summer, and sometimes for longer periods of training or deployment (like right now).
When we married after five years together, (two years dating, three years engaged) my husband was supposed to be getting out of the reserves. Instead, he decided to take his last chance to apply to Officer Candidate's School. He turned 29 that year, and they don't let you even apply over the age of 30. At this point in his life, hubby already had a GREAT full time job in law enforcement, so I was baffled by his choice to also become a 'career' Marine. **edit....I think I get it now!**
I already had two children of my own before I even met him (age 7 and 2 when we first started dating) and by the time we finally tied the knot, we had another one together, already 2 1/2 years old at our wedding. That's a story for another blog! But my identity was, and still is, as a MOMMY and I already knew that single-parenting really sucked. So the OCS thing really upset me just in the short term, knowing it meant he would be gone for several months. I couldn't even begin to think of the bigger picture, knowing this meant a lifelong military commitment (or at least another decade or so).
Now, nearly eight years later, and a few days into our third deployment, I am still struggling to grasp the even bigger picture of what it means to be a Marine Wife. My kids are now 19, 15, and 10, and we have another on the way in September - so going back to my primary identity of Mommy, right now being a Marine Wife means Single Parenting...again.
And worse, this time it means giving birth alone.
It means sleeping with my phone, and practically showering with my phone, in case hubby calls.
It means I have a solid appreciation for that kleenex with the lotion in it.
It means taking over everything my husband would normally do, physically and emotionally.
It means I have learned to wrestle and rough-house with my sons (they NEED that!) and to laugh at fart jokes.
It means I have to face fears that I didn't even know I had.
But more than all of these, being a military spouse means I actually know how strong I am - I don't have to guess or wonder. I get to enjoy a feeling of victory on a daily basis when I conquer those fears I didn't know I had. I have good days and bad days, just like any other mom, but on most of those, I can actually feel my super-mom cape (sometimes I feel it flapping in the wind, and other times I feel it strangling me....)
I am finding, more every day, that being a military wife also means I belong to an amazing sisterhood of mil-spouses, with more love and support to share than I ever imagined. There are a lot of great quotes from Ronald Reagan, but one that I think applies to most military spouses is this:
"Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They're just braver five minutes longer." -Ronald Reagan
Planned or not, willing or not, I am proud to be among the heroes at home, these amazing wives who stand up and support their heroes who fight for peace, and support each other here at home. I know that we all will be brave for five minutes longer, or five days, weeks, months, or years, so that our husbands have something to look forward to when they come home, and a little something more to fight for.
I recently read Johnny Tremain with my ten year old (helping him with a book report) and wish I had written down word-for-word a conversation toward the end of the book, where one of the founding fathers was asked WHY they were willing to fight. Basically the gist of it was that the revolutionary war was not about any one man, or any one city or town, or even one country - it was about FREEDOM for all of mankind. I know that my husband feels the same now, and even on those awful days when I resent the Marine Corps for making me feel like the rejected mistress - with my love gone back to the arms of his 'wife', his first love, the Corps - even then, I am so proud of him for sticking to his principles.
And being a Marine Wife, most of all, means that every day is different from the last. No two alike, just like snowflakes. We can take the pile of snow and shovel it 'out of the way', or we can play in it - make some snowmen or snow angels. We can complain about the cold, or enjoy the beauty of the light reflecting off of the snow - either way, those snowflake days will continue to fall, and eventually enough of them will pile up to make one interesting military life.
*My hubby, my son, and my father-in-law aboard MCB Quantico for OCS graduation ceremony, 2004
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