There is a list that periodically pops up on people’s Facebook pages, or blogs. This list is conveiniently titled “Ten things not to say to a Military Wife” or something equally obvious and directive. The list includes questions such as “Dont you miss him when he’s gone?” and the ever popular “My husband was gone for two weeks on a business trip so I totally know how you’re feeling.” I’ve read various editions of this list in my 8 years as a Navy wife, but always reminding myself that no one in my circle would ever be stupid enough to actually use any of these listed items in conversation with me. They know better, and they know that my love for my Husband far surpasses any physical distance. But while I had always brushed these lists off, chuckling at the responses that might be conjured in my snarky mind, I had failed to account for the general sense of unknowing in the civilian populace.
With all due respect to my readers, a two week business trip can not be compared in the slightest to a full military deployment which can range anywhere from 6-18 months. There are those who will say “Well, when they’re gone, they’re gone and you miss them no matter how far they are or how long they are gone.” Oh absolutely- they are gone and you miss them. Life happens while they are gone and the toilet might overflow and your kid might drive you up the wall. But in two weeks, your spouse is home and life goes back to normal. But when a married service member is deployed, it’s a different kind of “missing him.” You miss him, and you worry for his safety. You face the reality that for the next X months you will be a single parent, you will live the life of a single person, and you will be responsible for not only everything that you normally do, but also everything that your spouse normally does. You wait for phone calls that might not come, and if they do they are short and the voice on the other line is garbled so that you can only hear every other word. You pray- hard and often. You find strength, and you find a new faith in yourself and your family. You cling tightly to hope, and the faith that he is safe and will come home soon. And when they do come home, there is no going back to business as usual. The adjustment phase is awkward and difficult at best. YOU have changed, HE has changed. The entire family dynamic has changed and evolved in the past several months, and finding a new “normal” does not come easily. There are changes, and sometimes there are hurt feelings. But above all, there is always the certainty that he will be called to leave again. So you find that new normal, and you live that new normal, and you hold fast to what you have right now.
While perusing the Valentines aisle at Target today I ran into an old friend that I hadnt seen since before I got married. She was surprised that I had married a military man, but seemed above all curious as to how I could be with a guy “who is deployed, like, ALL the time?!” and since he is “trained to kill” aren’t I worried for my safety?! If she was stunned when I turned and walked away from her, she really shouldnt have been. Firstly, my Husband is not deployed ALL the time. And secondly, he’s trained to kill the enemy aggressors, certainly not his wife and children.
So in conclusion- Please. If you see a military spouse today- give them a hug. You really have no idea what they’re dealing with unless you’ve walked in their shoes. And if their spouse is deployed, hug them a little tighter.