Who is the Military? We vs. He/She

About a month ago, I wrote an article discussing whether military members and their families feel entitled to special privileges and services because of the active duty, retired, or reserve members’ service. Despite my intentions, the article sparked some debate with readers. One of the more pressing issues that seemed to divide the audience was whether or not “being military” was a lifestyle (e.g., including the family of the service member) or if it was simply the service member’s job. A few argued that as a spouse and/or immediate family member of a Soldier, Marine, Airman, or Sailor, you are simply a civilian, nothing more. Others argued that being the spouse of a service member was much more- that our lives are so drastically different from a civilian’s life that it is appropriate that the family is deemed as military, not just the service member.

In search of answers, I asked a few of the commentators from the original article to elaborate on their views of the military lifestyle. One reader said that to her, military life is not much different than civilian life- the only major difference is deployments. Many of the readers have children, and although they recognize the difficulty of raising children with one parent in the military; some did not think it affected them. Another said that one thing she gained from being a military spouse was to travel the world but that life outside of that was pretty much what she expects from a civilian life.

However, I am in the latter group. I believe that in being a military spouse my life is inherently different than it would be if my husband had a civilian job. There are some obvious differences: base housing, shopping at the commissary/PX/MCX, and long periods of separation. But what about those not-so-obvious differences? Here are just a few:

  • Clothing: You must be modestly dressed while on base/post. You cannot wear revealing clothing on base/post, even if you are the dependent. This include spaghetti straps, low-cut tops, booty shorts, clothing with vulgar, violent, or demeaning language or images, or beach wear (i.e., bathing suits unless totally covered). Sweatpants in the commissary are frowned upon. There are signs in front of each store reminding you of proper attire.
  • Rules in town: Even though you are a dependent, you must watch your behavior (and your children’s) out in public. You are recognizable even if you don’t realize it- your red or blue stickers on your car, your significant other’s haircut or hairstyle, and their uniform. Most military families can point out other military families without even seeing the service member. You are visible and you must be aware of this and Heaven help you if your spouse’s command gets word of inappropriate behavior in town (i.e., major issues such as fights, excessive foul language, reckless driving).
  • Family issues: If there are issues going on within your home whether they are financial, behavioral, or emotional, it is likely that your spouse’s command will find out about it. They will counsel the service member if they deem necessary.

With that being said, there is still one huge and obvious difference between my life and the wife of an accountant: deployment. On Military Spouse Appreciation Day, my girlfriend posted this picture and I thought it was very fitting:

 

Image Courtesy of: yourecards.com

If I was the wife of an accountant, a police officer, a government contractor, a business executive, or a janitor I would never ever have to say goodbye to my husband for 6 months or more. I would never have to sleep in an empty bed night after night. I would never have to worry about how I’m going to handle my newborn all by myself. I would never have to watch my daughter cry and cry when her daddy holds her because she doesn’t know who he is. I would never have to pray that I won’t see two uniformed service members walking up to my front door.

But I would also never have the swell of pride when I hear the National Anthem. I would never have asked that girl struggling to put a box in her car outside of Wal-Mart if she would like me to follow her home with the box in my SUV, and she would have never have trusted me but she did simply because we both had DoD stickers on our car. I would never have felt this strong sense of community that I feel in being a military wife- where you can look at the person next to you and they know exactly how you feel. I would never get to experience the intense joy of seeing my loved ones face after being separated for 7 months (it almost makes it worth it, trust me). I would never have felt that amazing pride I feel when I say my husband is a United States Marine.

 

Image Courtesy of: Google Images

There is something different about being a military spouse. It is not the same as being a civilian. I am proud of my husband and I am proud to be his wife. I recognize that he is in the military, but I still believe our family is military. We have all sacrificed so that he can protect this wonderful country of ours, him more so than me. But our lifestyle is military, everything we do is centered on that, and I’m proud of it.

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Comments

  1. Celidah says:

    Speaking as a Reservist’s wife, I have to say I’m in your camp! When my husband is off-duty, I’m a civilian’s wife, but when he’s on drill, AT, or deployment, I’m suddenly a military wife. We’re constantly straddling the line between military and civilian life–and as you said, different rules definitely exist for the two sides.

    Seeing it from both sides, I can tell you that I believe being a military family member is indeed a lifestyle, and a very different one from being the family member of someone with a civilian job. You’ve listed pretty much all the reasons that I would have cited myself (plus a few others I wouldn’t have thought of), so all I can say is that I agree with you. It’s a lifestyle, not merely a job.

  2. Amazingly well written. Thank you for sharing!

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