Life as a Military Wife

Happy Wednesday peeps! It’s been a crazy month so my intentions of celebrating Military Appreciation Month were not as successful as I had hoped so I am making the best of it for this last week!

As many of you know, my husband served 4 years in the Marine Corps and the military is still very close to my heart. The purpose of my posts this week will be to (hopefully) create more awareness of military life and what active duty personnel, veterans and their families go through.

Below is a brief interview with one of my very close friends, Chelsea who I met while Brendan was serving with her husband. Although there are many miles between us, we are still keep in touch and consider each other close friends. Thanks Chelsea for not only taking the time to do this, but also for being so honest and genuine!

A little bit about Chelsea & Nick…
Nick was my childhood crush, but he never knew it until we got much older. We started dating in high school and during my senior year, since he had already graduated, he decided to join the Marine Corps. When he came back from boot camp we got engaged and five months later I was off to California to literally start an entirely new life. As soon as I arrived we had 48 hours together and then he had to leave for 2 weeks for a field op. Little did I know, that was going to be “the norm” for the remainder of his career. He deployed for the first time 6 months after our wedding so those 6 months were bittersweet. All I could think about was him leaving, so I desperately wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. However, the Marine Corps had different plans. He would work 12-14 hour days and come home completely exhausted. I was alone…. a lot. I moved back home for that first deployment and for lack of a better word, it sucked. He picked up rank really quickly and became a Sergeant within the first 3 years, which brought on more responsibility, and more time away from home.
I finally made a real friend who shared all these same experiences with me, and whose husband was also deployed with Nick. Our husbands deployed again in 2010 and this time it was Afghanistan. I stayed in California and lived with my friend and both of our little pups. At this point Nick reenlisted for another 4 years.
When Nick came home from that deployment something was different. He wasn’t as happy, he got frustrated really easily, and we fought like we had never fought before. I think at that point we had been married almost 4 years so I was also just growing into a person with interests other than my husband. Fast forward summer 2011 we were not doing well at all and the D-word was on the table.
I personally never considered actually going through with it, but we knew something had to change or that was where we were headed. To be completely honest, at that point we would have been considered a pretty good success for lasting that long – a lot of military couples do their best to keep it together but it really is unlike any other lifestyle. Trust, communication, respect, and loyalty go a long way. To make a long story short, we stuck it out. That next year he deployed for a third time, Afghanistan again, and this time things were better for us, but much worse for him. He was working nonstop, doing tons of fire missions, getting little sleep, and his schedule was just crazy.
He told me during that deployment that this would be his last enlistment. At first I just didn’t believe him. He was such a good Marine. The kind of Marine everyone else looks up to, emulates, and respects. I felt like him leaving this career he built behind would be a mistake, but nevertheless I went along with it. He got out in November 2014 and life has been kind of hectic since then. I’ve been in school full time and working while he has also been in school, using the Post 911 GI bill. He’s leaving again soon to train for a new job. He will be a private contractor for a government security company, which has posts all over the world. At this point it looks like he’ll be going to Afghanistan again.
Looking back I can’t believe the things we went through and how we came out of it all. I’ve seen a lot of sadness, loss, pain, regret and all the while, life was still so beautiful. I think the one thing that never changed was our love for each other, and Nick’s love for the Corps, for his Marines, and for his country. I never considered myself much of a patriot, but now I see that’s not true at all. I love my country so much I sacrificed 8 years of my life for it too. I love my husband so much I sacrificed my education and a career so that he could be successful in his. At this point, life is a little more about me than it was back then, but the Marine Corps stays with you. It follows you wherever you go. I still cherish the friendships we both made during that time and i will never forget the lessons those years taught me.

What is/was the best part about being a military spouse?

… the people we met along the way have made it all worth it. I have friends in so many places all over the country and its unlike any other friendship. Some of our friends are still active duty and some have since moved on like we have, but no matter what there is such a special bond between all of us that will never change. I truly care about these people and I know I could count on any one of them for anything. I also feel very lucky to have been stationed in one place the entire time Nick was active duty. Many times we thought we were getting reassigned, but somehow we ended up staying at Camp Pendleton for 8 years. Its unheard of really, but I feel like we were meant to be here. Its where we have built our life and I love it. Lastly, the best part for me is the pride I feel for my husband for his sacrifice and how hard he worked to be the very best example for his Marines. I see it in the way they interact that he made an impact on them and it makes me really proud of him.

What is/was the biggest challenge of being a military spouse?
The biggest challenge back when he was active duty was the time spent apart. I spent so much time missing him, waiting for him (even when he was stateside it felt like all I did was wait around for him to get home from work, back from the field, or just get out of bed on the weekend *haha* it was surreal when we were actually together. Now, as the wife of a veteran, its seeing him heartbroken and lost after finding out another brother passed or took his own life. It’s the worst feeling in the world, trying to imagine that relationship, built over months or years, just ripped away in a moment. Its heartbreaking.

How would you describe life as an active duty spouse to a civilian?

Active duty is difficult to explain because there are so many different types of jobs in the military, so it is different for everyone. Nick was in an artillery unit with 4 batteries within the unit. They rotated deployments so when he wasn’t deployed he was training for one or doing some kind of course, like sergeants course or live tissue training (google this shit). For the most part our life really was like anyone else’s, normal stress like money or car problems or whatever, but at the end of the day we were always dreading saying goodbye again. In some ways I’m thankful for that because it forced me be a better wife, have more patience, be flexible, choose my battles wisely. Overall, active duty is like living life like a nomad, never getting too comfortable because you never know when you’ll have to pick up and leave again, which is especially hard for families with children. I guess you just never really feel completely settled.

How can Americans who are disconnected from the military (i.e. not personally knowing anyone serving) have better awareness?

I think the first thing you could do is try to imagine how you would feel if the one person you loved most in the world (dad, mom, brother, sister, husband, wife, whoever); imagine that when they left for work everyday you constantly worried about them. And then picture what it would be like to not see them for months at a time, only having short, interrupted, horrible service, awkward phone calls that sometimes disconnected. Then, imagine when you do see them again how exciting that would be, but soon after they return you realize they are little bit different, something has changed and you’re not quite sure what or how, but you know its something you’ll never truly understand. I think if more people could see past the stereotypes and bad media, they would see that these are regular families that are just trying to get through a day at a time. Having more awareness can mean just being mindful of your words towards the military in general and showing respect to those who have volunteered their life for the good of the country by simply thanking them when the opportunity arises.

What should everyone know about service members’ spouses?
For the most part military spouses are just like everyone else, we just live in random places all of the country, hardly ever see our families, and we have to fight for our marriages because it is hard to be married to a service member. A lot of us got married very young because of various reasons, so we’re not quite sure what we’re doing at first. Through the years I’ve realized that there is some truth to the saying “being a spouse is the toughest job in the Corps.” I used to roll my eyes at this because I never felt worthy of saying I had it hard or that my being my husbands wife was a “job.” However, looking back I see how fast I had to grow and learn and figure things out the hard way. Watching my husband walk onto a white bus and not seeing his face again until 7 months later (3 times) taught me that I am so much stronger that I ever thought possible. I can fix things around the house, I can live alone and take care of myself, I can wake up with enough determination to push through the day even when I haven’t heard my husbands voice in 6 weeks. I can also admit when I can’t deal with the pain of missing him. Just like anything else in life, we live and learn, but being the spouse of a service member is more than a life lesson, its a lifestyle and you have to become accustomed to the quirks.

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