I’ve been a military spouse now for more than a decade.
No, I’m not a good military spouse as far as participation within our squadrons or packing the perfect deployment care packages. I’ve made a consorted effort to not “wear my husband’s rank” and, instead, to make something of myself as an individual.
But, I am a deeply proud spouse.
I’m so proud of the fact that my husband chooses every day to protect and defend this country. I’m proud that he has deployed four times overseas to support U.S. efforts and, most importantly, protect other service members in harms way.
My husband is regularly thanked for his service, as he should; as any human who would voluntarily sign up to risk his or her life for someone else’s should.
On rare occasions, I’m thanked for my service, too. Usually I meet those remarks with something coy and along the lines of “I’m just the wife” or, when I’m feeling especially snarky, “I’m just the dependent.” I scoff at that last statement. I LOATHE that last statement. I usually want to scream at the top of my lungs that I am not dependent of anyone or on anything.
And yet, sometimes, in the most unexpected times, I truly feel reduced to that sentiment.
“Just the dependent.”
About a month ago, I was on a business trip that happened to be in my hometown. I was able to mix work with some family time. My sister joined me at the hotel where I was staying, and we decided to do something “touristy.” As we were paying our admission, I asked, as has become standard for me in such situations, if they offered a military discount.
I was met with a cold “not for dependents, just the active duty member.” I bit my tongue, paid my money, and walked away.
For the record, this has nothing to do with the discount. I appreciate any entity that offers any discount to any person.
What offended me in that moment was that I was put as lesser than my husband. I was deemed “not good enough” because of my role in life.
Sure, I’ve heard that statement at least a 100 times through the years and have shrugged it off. But I’m not the same military spouse that I was 10 plus years ago.
I’ve weathered many storms.
I’ve survived four deployments, two of which were only separated by about four and a half months.
I can’t even count the number of TDYs we’ve endured. Because, if I’m being honest, sometimes the temporary assignments are worse than deployments. They come up unexpectedly and last minute. They’re never short, as their name implies. My husband missed both pregnancies with both of our children and was only home days before their births.
Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, sickness, and death: He’s missed all of it.
I put a house on the market, signed at least 100 pieces of paper using a Power of Attorney, organized PCS logistics, and moved across the country with a 15-month-old, ALL without him.
I’ve put our children to bed, been the only parent who they’ve woken up to, and have had countless meals with them alone. Both of my children had major surgery while their dad was halfway across the world.
I’ve put beloved pets down, I’ve missed work days to care for sick children, and I’ve missed family functions because we just couldn’t make the trip happen that time.
I have military spouse friends who have delivered babies while their husbands’ were deployed, and they weren’t granted their leave that they were promised. I have friends who have weathered more deployments than me, with more Murphy’s Law moments than me, and who have literally lived their lives practically single for the majority of their marriage.
I’ve also known those who have lost their spouse in combat, in training, and even to PTSD — the kind of loss that makes you question, “if only they hadn’t …”
I’m not trying to be a whiny, it’s clearly not about the discount. But we are serving, too.
We didn’t sign up for this, but we wouldn’t change it. We signed up to marry our partner, the loves of our lives, the one we chose in which to have a family. We didn’t sign up to be “just a dependent.”
What I’m trying to say is that MY service is enough. I do enough. I AM enough. WE are enough.
And sometimes, I just want someone else to recognize that too.