This story is courtesy of our guest blogger, Shannon Van Heest

Life in the Military Part 2Our first married argument erupted during our DITY move to Pensacola for flight school.  Struggling up to our 2nd floor apartment under the weight of our dresser, we threw accusations about who was the worst organizer, planner, and pack rat.  Under that argument was a doubt and fear that I could make it in this new life – all around me things felt raw, different.  Heavy doubt, heavy fear, like the dresser on our shoulders.  We weren’t just newly yoked, marrying into the military, we were embarking on a new type of existence.

Even the commissary was strange.  My first experience there was on Pay Day.  Shudder.  As silly as it sounds to me now, that outing made me feel more alienated in my new role.  It was just like a grocery store on the outside, but everything was rearranged differently, creating one more change I had to navigate.  (For the record, I still forget to tuck cash into my wallet to tip the baggers.)

And then there was the first time I needed to see the doctor.  Calling the appointment hotline, I encountered a stranger taking down symptoms, judging how much time my ailments would accumulate.  Everything sterile, matter-of-fact, business-like.  Everything requiring a military ID, the one that made me feel like I was absorbed completely into Kyle’s existence, invisible. Using his social security number, being labeled as a DEP, or “dependent,” a label my modern, 2006 independent self recoiled against.

Over the course of those early months as a new Navy wife, I felt like my old, strong, proud, recent-college graduate identity was slipping away. I despaired that I’d ever find my way around this new way of being; that I’d ever really fit into the spectrum of military life.

But.  As we put our heads down and dug our heels into that first year – and the five after that – I made other discoveries, too.

Like I can be a military spouse and still achieve my dreams of graduate school and motherhood.  That the fulfillment of these dreams is sweeter because being a military spouse isn’t easy.

Like there is no singular way to be a military spouse.  We all have certain gifts that make us a right fit for the job.  And it is a job.

Like I will survive if we celebrate Christmas on New Year’s and my birthday while unloading a moving van.

Like homecoming reunions do make up for that lonely ache of deployments.

Like moving is the BEST motivator for simplifying life and clearing out clutter.

That some days, when I do get asked for my social security number and not Kyle’s, it takes me a good five minutes to actually remember…and that it no longer feels like an injustice, but rather, something to laugh about.

Like I’d have friends that enrich my life so deeply – military and civilian alike. Like as the new one, you sometimes have to initiate the conversation, even if it’s over washers and dryers at the Exchange.  We met our first, dear Navy friends that way.

That the depth of my emotion when pinning on his wings of gold was something no one could have prepared me for either.  We did it together, survived together.

That seeing his commitment to service inspires me to live better, give fully, love stronger.

And that my adjustment from the civilian world into a military one is an evolving process.  It didn’t happen with the marriage ceremony or walking under the arch of swords, being swatted on the bottom.  My adjustment happens a little more each day and gradually over time.  I’m still figuring it out.  The rawness is gone – and that’s a satisfying feeling.

When Kyle posed his question to me as college freshmen, I had no way to honestly answer without the knowledge I’ve gained from my last six years of experience.  But, the heart of my response remains the same, only growing deeper with time, which is perhaps the most important discovery of all:

That I’d choose this life forever if only it would have Kyle in it, too.  I really, really would.


Shannon is a Navy wife of six years, mama to two daughters three-and-under with a third baby girl on the way, blogger, and has her Master’s degree in Community Counseling.  She’s a lover of simple things like farmer’s markets, barefeet, and bluegrass music. When she’s not tickling sweet toes or chasing toddlers, you can find her reading a good book and sipping sweet tea.  For more, follow her at:


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