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The day to day reality of military life is something that most people who are not affiliated with the military can really understand. Hopefully this is a glimpse into the struggles military families face everyday.

It's hard to forget that living this military life and loving a soldier puts you in a day to day life that most people don't understand. But some days the differences are clearer than others. Today, as I had to put my own work aside to deal with yet another household crisis I was annoyed by the fact that DH can't help me deal with it because he is essentially out of reach of all communication for the next 10 days. Non military affiliated spouses simply have no understanding of what it's like to have your partner suddenly taken out of your life, and then dropped back into it after a certain period of time. Oh sure there are men and women who have spouses that travel a lot but the two situations are not even remotely the same.

I have a brother who travels 40+ weeks out of the year, and has for many years. I also have a sister in law who is an absolute saint. But their marriage works because my brother can still be her partner even though he travels. He can still make phone calls to the gas company, pay bills, or read the kids a bedtime story through the miracles of webcams and WiFi. My DH can't do any of those things. When he's gone, whether it's a 10 day field exercise, a 30 day school, or a 12 month deployment his head is totally in his job. And it needs to be, or people will die.

DH was gone on my birthday, and now ironically he's gone on his. One more of life's milestones that we don't get to celebrate together. And next year he'll be deployed, so we'll be apart again. Birthdays, holidays, special events spent with the people you are love are what defines a life, and a marriage. Shared experiences and shared celebrations are the bedrock for a relationship that will last forever. How is our relationship ever supposed to be a true partnership when we cannot be together for the most basic milestones of life? How am I supposed to switch gears from having a partner I can depend on to having to shoulder everything myself? And then switch back to including him in the life I have built for myself so that he doesn't feel left out?

When I try to describe to my non military affiliated friends what this is like they say things like," Well you need to demand that he shoulder his share of the responsibilities. He chose to be in the service and he chose to be your husband so he has to find a way to do both." Which is probably exactly what I would say if I wasn't "on the inside" of the situation. But the fact is I can't ask him to do both. I would never ask him to do both. Because I couldn't live with knowing he took time away from his training to make a phone call I could have made, or spent time dealing with a household matter when he could have been learning a technique that would save someone's life. When it comes to matters of life and death it's just not important anymore whose turn it was to call the credit card company.

So I try to swallow my resentment at having to put my work on hold and disappoint my clients or miss another deadline to deal with a household problem that my partner should have been able to handle. I try to fill the deafening silence at night when we are usually watching TV together or discussing the events of the day by turning up the TV or calling friends. I try to disregard the loneliness that comes with missing the small intimacies we're developed through our relationship like him kissing me on the nose in the morning before he leaves or my leaving a Post It "I love you honey. Go save the world" message on the coffeepot every morning. I look at a picture of him, sent via text, in the field in all his gear as he learns how to save lives and administer justice and I pray that my pride in his accomplishments will make it easier to accept his absence from my life.

And I hang onto the moments that make it all worth it. Like the moment when, after he called a hospital to check up on a kid whose life he saved in Afghanistan, the kid's mother grabbed the phone from her son and sobbing so hard she could barely speak thanked my husband over and over for saving her son's life. The sacrifices we make, as well as the sacrifices our spouses make, have a much bigger impact than we can see on a day to day basis. Which makes this life of great joy and great fear and great sorrow truly a life like no other.

Originally posted to WifeDuringWartime on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 12:31 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for this excellent diary (6+ / 0-)

    Tipped and recc'd. nt

  •  Thanks to both of you for your sacrifice! n/t (4+ / 0-)

    This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around!

    by Snud on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 12:34:40 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for sharing the reality (5+ / 0-)

    of your life (and by extension the lives of other military spouses) with us here. The sacrifices of military families are legion, and you're right, most of us on the outside simply don't have a clue.

    Best to you and your DH.

  •  I know that just reading a diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bfitzinAR, Santa Susanna Kid

    can't make us truly know what it's like to experience what you describe, but it certainly helps put things in perspective. Thank you for reminding us and thank you both for your service. I know it's not just the active duty partner who serves.

    Our real adversaries are not each other

    by Vita Brevis on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 01:02:18 PM PDT

  •  Proof that behind every great man is a (3+ / 0-)

    great woman.  There ought to be medals for military spouses.

  •  I can sympathize (3+ / 0-)

    I am an only parent of a 13 yo.  His dad is no longer living so it's hard to do it all but somehow we do.  Do you find however, that it makes you appreciate him so much more?  People complain about their spouses frequently however I found that when they are gone you appreciate them more.  I know now, even when my boyfriend leaves for a short period in time that we often write notes also...it's the little things.

    "If you don't do it this year you'll be another year older when you do"-Warren Miller

    by fishgirl26 on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 01:09:24 PM PDT

    •  Absolutely (3+ / 0-)

      it does make me appreciate him more, and him appreciate me as well. We tend to fight less about little things because we don't want to spend the time we do have bickering. I always say it's both a gift and a curse to be really aware of the possibility of your spouse not coming home.
      My sympathies to you on the loss of your child's father!!!

  •  It's that go away-come back thing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Santa Susanna Kid

    that's the worst.  You do make a life for yourself without him.  You've got your routine with the kids and schools and shopping and work and whatever - then he comes home again and it's like having a guest in the house.  Messes with routines.  Kids "act out" because Daddy's almost a stranger.  And just about the time having him there is normal, he's off again.  I don't know how you keep that kind of marriage together.  I've been divorced for 31 years.  (And that wasn't a military marriage - but we didn't have the kinds of electronic communications we do now and when he was gone, he was gone - for months.)

  •  Thank you so much for this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vita Brevis, Santa Susanna Kid

    I'm not a military spouse, but a new military mom.  My son went in last September and is currently in training for EOD.  Talking to him everyday (even though we lived in different states) was something I took for granted.

    I am so in awe of him and yet so terrified for him at the same time.  People really can't understand unless they live it.

  •  This is why we must honor our servicemen and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Santa Susanna Kid

    their families. It's so easy to see only the pageantry, without realizing just what sort of sacrifices are being made by every member of a military family, and I wish our country would think more about what you have diaried here, instead of just affixing a magnetic bumper ribbon or whatever.

    •  Honoring is not enough. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nzanne, harchickgirl1

      We need to provide sufficient official resources - not cobbled together wives-clubs and other voluntary, i.e. unpaid support organizations.

      If we compensated and supported financially the soldiers and their families and sent less defense monies into the pockets of contractors, we'd probably be better off.

      Even more so, we must reconsider why we are sending so few soldiers so often for so long - and whether the missions are really in the defense of our liberties and not just being instruments for projection of power.

  •  Great diary, Indie! (0+ / 0-)

    For those who are serving, for those who have, and for non-military as well. The families never stop serving, even after the enlistment is up. Your brave and stoic service is appreciated just as highly. Bless your heart, SSK

  •  My thoughts are with you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    siduri

    I just wanted to say that, as an ex-army wife who was lucky never to have her husband go on a dangerous deployment, I understand your resentment because I experienced it myself, even under less stressful conditions.  People mean well (I hate that phrase!), but they often make it far worse by saying and doing the wrong things.

    No one can truly understand what it's like to stand by and wish your man well into uncertainty, and then hold the fort until he comes home.  You dislike the unreliability it imposes on you, the feeling that you're all alone in the world dealing with anonymous business people who do not honor your husband's service, and the fact that no one can possibly understand how hard it is to stay behind and play a passive role in his success.

    We army wives are encouraged to stand strong in order to help our men.  This can backfire, though, when we truly need help ourselves but feel as if expressing our needs would be a betrayal of his peace of mind that things are going smoothly at home.

    I can only imagine your other emotions because my husband served at a more peaceful time.

    I applaud your attitude, I salute your ability to cope, and I thank you for your willingness to serve the country in a way that no one can understand unless they've been in your shoes.

    "It may be President Obama's very air of elegance and erudition that raises hackles in some." ~ Maureen Dowd, Sep. 12, 2009

    by harchickgirl1 on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 03:21:50 PM PDT

  •  thank you both (and to the kids, too) (0+ / 0-)

    from the bottom of this bleeding heart liberal's soul!

    we are the future. no one else. WE are the ones who make change happen in every little detail we do. make it count. we only get one go-round.

    by edrie on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 03:49:19 PM PDT

  •  what makes him do it (0+ / 0-)

    Why would a man leave his family and threaten their happiness?  For the abstract ideal of patriotism?  The enemy is so far from our shores that it is we who occupy the enemy's lands, whoever this "enemy" is. How can that be worth the pain inflicted on both sides, by voluntary actions such as those of our soldiers and their fighters. They leave behind families to fight for what? I cannot understand it.

    This is all in the minds of the participants. - Gen. McChrystal (powerful Afghan warlord)

    by Marcion on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 10:39:47 PM PDT

    •  It's not about politics (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nzanne

      It's not a life for everyone, so it's not surprising you can't understand it. Most soldiers I've met couldn't give a rip about politics. The concepts that we debate about everyday aren't even on their radar. All soldiers have different motives and some are indeed motivated by the ideals of honor, patriotism and so on. I'm very disheartened by the growing attitude among certain elements on the Left that having pride in your country or wanting to defend it somehow makes you a tool of some giant military industrial machine. You can, in fact, be Liberal and want to make changes in the country and still be proud of it and want to defend it. If you don't think the Taliban are a threat to world peace and national security you are very mistaken!
      But my husband's motives are much simpler than that. My husband wants to help people. Pure and simple. He has medical skills that can save lives. He wants to save them. He has saved Afghan children, he has saved US soldiers, he has saved Taliban fighters who were shooting at him minutes before he saved their lives.That's why he is, and will always be, my hero. He goes out everyday and tries to make the world a better place using the skills he has. If I have to be lonely or suffer a little so that another Afghan child can survive an IED blast or so that another wife can see her soldier come through the door I will willingly do it.

      •  This is an amazing response, Indie (0+ / 0-)

        to what could have just really offended you.

        Your DH's reasons for his service - and yours - are beautifully explained both here and in the last paragraph of the diary.

        And I hang onto the moments that make it all worth it. Like the moment when, after he called a hospital to check up on a kid whose life he saved in Afghanistan, the kid's mother grabbed the phone from her son and sobbing so hard she could barely speak thanked my husband over and over for saving her son's life. The sacrifices we make, as well as the sacrifices our spouses make, have a much bigger impact than we can see on a day to day basis. Which makes this life of great joy and great fear and great sorrow truly a life like no other.

        Just saw this this am, and know you probably won't even know it was rescued, but you are in my thoughts and thanks.

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