Tomorrow is Military Spouses’ Appreciation Day. Yep, it’s an official “Presidential Proclamation” day. There are those amongst us who will disagree with my statement that Military Spouses are underappreciated. We’re the silent ranks. We signed a contract, except ours is called marriage. We took the vows, but they didn’t cover everything in a military life.
We sacrifice about as much as our spouses. We’re used to it, and we don’t complain. Still, it’s nice to know someone thinks we’re doing something right. Yes, our husbands are heroes to most Americans. I’d love it if my husband was a hero. He isn’t. Most guys I know in the military aren’t heroes. Sorry, Americans, but they are just doing their jobs.
Just like we spouses do at home. A Military Spouse is a special breed. She can pack a home, get medical records for the family, grab the dental records, run by the vet for the pets’ vaccine records, grab records from the school, change their address, and move across country at a moment’s notice. (I’m not kidding about the moment’s notice at times.) Oh, and all by herself since her husband’s already at their next assignment. She trusts her husband’s taste in housing; since she knows she’s never gonna pick out a house until they retire. After all, he needed housing the moment he got to the new assignment. She can buy a car in route when her car quits on her and the kids. She knows more car lingo than her husband.
She can shut bank accounts down, but she’d prefer it if he’d choose a military credit union. She can register their car in their home state while thousands of miles away. She’s used to getting looks when someone writes her mailing address as her permanent address at a store or medical facility. She talks like she’s in the military, using the same lingo. She can repair a leaky faucet, pay bills, deal with a rattlesnake bite on one of the dogs, talk to her mother-in-law and reassure her everything is fine, call his grandmother and keep her happy, all while chasing a kid around the house and preparing supper for her husband’s entire command that he mentioned five minutes before they showed up.
She’s tough; possibly tougher than her husband. Don’t cross her, she’s not the forgiving type. She can feed seven or forty on a moment’s notice. She wonders why they haven’t invented a way to pump caffeine directly in her veins as she drinks the fifth pot of coffee that day. She’s used to the lonely nights without a call. She’s used to him calling from work saying he isn’t coming home for a while. He’ll call her when he can to let her know when he might be home. She’s knows the tone in his voice that says he lied about when he’d come home; expect him in a few days or months. She’s both mother and father to her children. She never plans a vacation expecting her husband to join her. She drives to their dates in a separate car, because it never fails that he gets called to work.
She can handle emergencies without him, and sound like nothing happened when he calls. “Oh, the dog’s at the vet because he was bitten by a rattlesnake. Junior has seven stitches in his head because he climbed up on the entertainment center and jumped down. Lacy is in the hospital with pneumonia. Grandpa had a heart attack and is on life support. There’s no way I can get out there to say goodbye. Life’s fine. How was your day, darling?”
She is independent, but she wishes she could lean on her husband for support. She’s soft and tenderhearted with her children. She’s a lover and friend to the man she married. Her heart swells with pride at the service songs of the military. She’s great at inter-service rivalries. She can whip up a formal dress, and be at a picnic the next day. She’s proud of her husband and his accomplishments, even if she wonders where she’s gonna display the latest award.
She’s moved more times than she wishes to recount. Some across town. Others across the world. And it never fails that he disappears just in time for the move. She’s great at saying the words “I understand” and “I’m fine,” even when she’s neither. She hides her tears and pain behind a smile.
She has given birth by herself. She’s suffered the pains of miscarriages and stillbirths without her husband at her side. She’s sat by a child on life support, grasping for a hand that’s not there. She keeps up a front of bravery for those around her. She’s been on bed rest without someone there to help.
She never gets enough information. She’s usually the last one to hear anything. That includes when he gets orders to do something. She’s the one who is packing him the morning he’s leaving because no one mentioned to her that he’s leaving until an hour before he hits the road. She gets requests to “do this for the command” and may have 24 hours to get the task done. She can whip up a meal for her family – or forty members of his command – in an hour’s notice. She can find his dress uniform for the formal he forgot to mention until that morning, while getting dressed herself. She’s able to stand in front of a new military widow and offer her condolences. She knows exactly where her black dress for funerals is located in her closet.
She’s the one who you see sitting with a veteran at the coffee shop. She intently listens to his stories, not caring about the errands and the chores she has to get done. She smiles and laughs at the veteran’s stories. She pats his hand when the story turns sad. And she prays that when she’s gone, someone will treat her husband the same way.
She’s the one with the soft smile for the young Marine who helped her carry her packages into the UPS store. She’s the one grateful to the sailor who helped her fold her stroller before he tells her he has two of his own across the country (or the globe.) She thanks the soldier who lets her cut in line to purchase a gallon of milk with kids hanging off her. And she’d love to yell at her airman who isn’t where she needs him.
She takes the kids to school. She helps them with their homework. She tucks them in at night after they say their prayers. Then she falls into bed, her pillow wet with the tears no one ever sees.
And for all of this she gets missed anniversaries, missed birthdays, missed holidays and most importantly missed morning kisses and evening hugs. Oh, and once a year she gets a Presidential Proclamation thanking her for standing by her Marine, airman, sailor or soldier. It’s not a lot, but it is a reminder someone notices what she does.
So, take a moment to thank a Military Spouse today. And if you see someone in uniform with a wedding ring you might wanna mention that today’s a day he should show up with at least a single stem flower for his wife. Or offer to buy flowers for his wife.
Special Thanks to Amanda Morrow (US Navy Spouse) for her help putting this post together. Somewhere between calls, emails and Facebook messages about children, husbands, doctor visits and life in general, Amanda found the time to add thoughts and approve this. And since Amanda’s a Navy Spouse – does that count as military? – I guess I should thank her for her service. (I’m ducking in case she can hit from a few thousand miles away.)