Chocolate, candy, flowers, cards, romantic dinners and “be mine”, that is what Valentine’s Day is to most people. To military spouses however, Valentine’s Day is much more, and most times very different. Sure, we get cards, chocolate, candy and flowers too; the difference is sometimes our gifts arrive at our door via delivery man instead of our spouse. They are sent from all over the country and the world. See, most of the time our Valentine’s are gone. They are gone overseas, gone somewhere on the sea, somewhere in the air, somewhere away from us.
For military spouses Valentine’s Day is most definitely all about the thought. If flowers or chocolate aren’t possible we get an e-mail or maybe even a phone call. You know for us those things are just as special. To know that our loved one is thinking of us, no matter how far away, is sweeter than any candy and more beautiful than any bloom. Romance is relative when you are a military spouse. It isn’t dictated by tradition as much as it is by circumstance. It is what we make it. Of course we would all rather be with our spouse on the most romantic holiday of the year, but as always we understand it isn’t always possible. Through experience we know that we can’t always have the traditional holiday, but it doesn’t make it any less special.
One year, my husband was gone on patrol for Valentine’s Day and had been gone for quite awhile. I knew he wasn’t able to send anything and didn’t expect it. For him e-mail was on a 24 hour delay and I had resigned myself to it being just another day. I wrote him a long e-mail about how much he meant to me and how much I missed him but because of the delay I knew I probably wouldn’t hear back that day. I bought myself some chocolate (I am a sucker for those Russell Stover hearts) and some wine. Later that day when the phone rang I wasn’t expecting it to be my husband but it was. His Captain had allowed each of them to make a phone call to their loved one to say Happy Valentine’s Day. It was amazing. To hear his voice made me feel so close to him. It made him being gone bearable and when his ship pulled in I was waiting on the pier ready to celebrate in person.
For me personally, many of my Valentines Days, just like birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases etc., have been spent alone. I admit it hurt at first. It hurt to be alone, watching everyone else celebrate. Now, however, it doesn’t hurt as much. I know that the job my husband does is so vital, so courageous and so amazing that it makes me love him more. I know that when he does come home, we will get to celebrate all the things we missed in our own special way. My husband and I never forget the days he misses; we just celebrate them a little late.
Even though we may not get to celebrate traditional holidays all the time, we do get to have a special holiday that is just for us, we call it Homecoming. Homecoming is definitely the most special holiday of all. Many of my favorite memories with my husband are homecoming celebrations. Those first hugs and kisses are the greatest. The butterflies in my stomach remind me of all the reasons I love him, they make me feel lucky. And when he is home, we pack so much love and so many memories into the time we have. I like to plan special things for when he comes home, special meals, fun adventures we can go on and I love to write him letters or e-mails while he is away. Those things keep me going and make the time pass quicker.
The career our spouses have chosen is our gift and our curse. We spend many traditional holidays alone but we get to have some special ones of our own. The key is to hold onto those amazing feelings and to keep them in our hearts. Chocolate and flowers are wonderful but seeing our spouse standing on the bow of a ship or walking off a plane to our waiting embrace is worth a million traditional celebrations.