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So here you are. The day you have dreamed about all your life is fast approaching. You’ve found the perfect dress, made all your plans, and are about to marry the man of your dreams- a military man. Pretty soon you will be welcomed into the military life, a total change from the civilian life you have lived up until now. What will it be like you wonder? What things do you need to know?
I want to be honest with you as others were with me before I married into the military. People warned me about military marriages, the hardships, the separations. At the time, it made me think. I knew nothing about the military, and nothing about the military life. I never dreamed I would marry a man in the military, it just so happened the man I fell in love with decided to join. I was given the cold, hard facts, and faced with a decision: did I love him enough to go through the ups and downs of military life? Was I strong enough? Without a doubt in my mind, I knew I loved him enough to follow him anywhere and to support him in whatever he wanted to do. The fact if I was strong enough is something God has been working on in my entire life and every single day, and I’m sure it will be the same for you.
I knew God had sent this man into my life, and I knew this was the man God intended me to marry military or not, so we did. You will hear disheartening facts about military marriages failing, about the hardships of deployments and separations, but one fact always remains true: If you are determined to make your marriage work (any marriage military or not) it will. If you determine in your heart that you can do this, that God called you to be his military wife, then you can do this. Nothing will stand in your way, and even when the hardships come (and they will) God will be standing right next to you, guiding and leading you through.
So what can you do now to prepare? Plenty! Research, research, research! The internet is an amazing tool, and you would be amazed at the amount of resources out there for military families and military wives. Talk to other military wives, find out the things they go through, and listen. Prepare yourself for 3 am phone calls from his work, recalls, 12 hour shifts and overtime. Be prepared for months of separation, deployments to a war zone, and when you think you have a homecoming date, be prepared for it to change. Be prepared for your husband to miss birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and more. And beware when having children that your husband might not make the birth. Be prepared for multiple moves, moves across the country, and moves to a new country. Be prepared to make friends and then say goodbye when you leave again, and be prepared to miss your family and feel lonely. And remember no matter how much you prepare yourself, you will never be prepared enough.
Know that for your husband the military will always come first. The mission is what matters, and that will always be foremost in his mind, it’s what they trained him to do. Our job as military wives is to pray for, encourage, and support our husbands. Sometimes that is the only thing we can do. Sometimes that is everything they need. Things like writing letters and emails and sending care packages while they are away become a very important thing. And just knowing that we are doing a good job keeping everything going at home, is what they care about. It helps them be able to concentrate on their mission more, knowing everything is ok at home.
Be aware that the death and PTSD are very real things for military families. Things like wondering if he will come home safe and sound, or if you will ever see him again, is something that will always be on your mind. If you don’t know what PTSD is, then I encourage you to research it and at least be familiar with it and it’s effects. If you have children in the future, know that you will be dealing with trying to explain why daddy is gone, and the pain of trying to comfort them when they cry for daddy in their sleep. All of these things can be heartbreaking. You might even ask if it’s all worth it. I believe it is.
There are also a lot of benefits to military life. As a wife, the military acknowledges you a little more. You get to shop at the commissary and the BX (or PX). You get military discounts, and good medical coverage (having a baby for free, is a great perk!). You get to make lots of new friends wherever you go, and you get to travel the world! Determine now that you will make the best of any place you go. Find things to keep you busy such as volunteering, joining a Family Readiness Group, or starting a group of your own to make friends.
Other military families will become your new family, and other military wives your best friends. They will understand you, nurture you, and help you grow. Beware of women who wear their husband’s rank. If you are an enlisted wife you will find a lot of these. Don’t feel bad if they ignore you or are snobbish, this is the only way they know and they are not worth having for friends if that is the way they act. If you are an officer’s wife, don’t become critical or a perfectionist, and don’t look down on others. You are told to set an example, so do so in word and deed, and remember that all that you do affects your husband too. Whether you are an officer’s wife or an enlisted wife, don’t buy into the lure of “rank.” We are all military wives, and all in need of support. I have made many friends on both the officer and enlisted side, and appreciate friendships from both. Don’t be closed to those opportunities, you never know where a friendship may be waiting to bloom.
Being a military wife is one of the best things in the world, and it’s something I would never trade in for what others may call “a more normal life.” There is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you see your husband in uniform. Or when you hear the national anthem. You may even cry when you hear it and it will be something you will never tire of. You will become the most patriotic person you know, and you will learn to love the American flag and understand what it really means. Red, white, and blue will be your new favorite colors, and you will be so proud of your husband when he gets promoted because each new rank is one step closer to his goal. You will be so proud of his every achievement, and will want to tell the world how proud you are. Every homecoming will take your breath away, and every moment apart will only make your moments together more treasured. Nothing can totally prepare you for being a military wife, or how any of these things will feel. The life of a military wife may not be easy, but I can tell you from the bottom of my heart it is definitely worth it!
A Fellow Military Wife