Many people think members of the military have it made with their guaranteed paychecks, government housing, and military benefits.
As with many other things in life, sometimes things are not what they seem to be ...
My Blissful Life As a Submariner's Wife
Imagine yourself as a young mother, half the world away from loved ones as a military dependent, then compound this with the much larger challenge of raising a family by yourself because your military spouse is always gone. No amount of money can replace when an active duty military member misses some of life's major milestones, such as the birth of a child, a baby's first steps, or a high school graduation.
Follow one woman as she struggles to provide balance and stability to her dependent children while her husband serves his country. Her trials and tribulations will provide insight to just a few of the challenges faced by today's military family.
Think you understand the life of a military dependent? Think again ...
Life as a dependent spouse can, at times, be more challenging than it is for the Active Duty (whom I will from now on refer to as the AD member or spouse) spouse. When a person agrees to marry that one very special person in their life who is serving our country as an AD Member, do they realize just what they’re agreeing to? Sure they repeat their vows - to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, till death do us part - but what about when the AD spouse has to travel while they’re in the military, either by plane, submarine, or ship? Does this former civilian, now military dependent, really understand what life will be like when their spouse is called away by the military, sometimes disappearing for weeks, months, or even years on a mission to some secret place? How do you think this former civilian will feel when their AD spouse, because of security reasons, really can’t say where they’re going? When all they can say is they’re going (because when Uncle Sam says go, AD members listen) because they have to, but know that they love you and hold down the fort? All the while there are bills to pay, a budget to adhere to, children to raise, homework to be completed, and school activities (sports, plays, band practice, etc) to chauffer the children to. Now throw into this mixture when the civilian spouse also works full time, has housework to do, meals to cook, and yard work to do… yes, this really complicates matters.
If you’re a military dependent and what I’ve described above rings more than a bell to you, then please read on. The following pages are my story of what it was like going from civilian, to AD Member, to dependent wife, to Veteran.
The life of a dependent spouse, depending on the branch of service, can be quite lonely. My husband and I were both in the Navy when we met in Hawaii - I was stationed on shore duty and he was stationed on a Submarine. During his 20 years or so of AD service, he was home spending time with the family really only about 5 years of that. Because he was married to Uncle Sam first and me second, he had to go where the Navy took him. I understood that and always supported him with it. But because of this, he missed many family milestones – a baby’s first steps, the first day of school, emergency surgery for appendicitis, our oldest son’s graduation from high school.
If this sounds familiar, know that you are NOT alone. Many dependent spouses will understand and totally relate to your feelings of pride in your spouse and our country, your frustration that they aren’t around more often, the stress of carrying a high percentage of the family struggles on your shoulders, and ultimately, if you’re like me, your adjustment to the situation.
Successfully navigating through life as a military family will very possibly be one of the most challenging things you’ll ever have to deal with. An alarming number of marriages don’t survive this challenge, but you don’t have to be a statistic. Get out there and meet your neighbors, make some friends. If you live in military housing, your neighbors are probably going through some of the same things that you are so network and share ideas.
If your spouse is in the Navy and stationed on a ship or a sub, have them find out who the Ombudsman is for the Command. An Ombudsman is frequently a dependent wife who is a type of liaison between the dependent spouse and the military or the Command. If you have a question about the military or need help with something, especially when the ship or submarine is deployed, the Ombudsman will know who you can contact. If they don’t, they should at least be able to point you in the right direction.