I envision a service member, a spouse, a child, a mother, a father, a community. I see the people who make it possible so we can serve. I see the people who taught me service is more than a uniform and a weapon.
This is, in my opinion, one of the great struggles spouses must endure.
Do military spouses serve? I believe we do.
You will say that I don’t wear a uniform. I don’t, not like you. Mine is different. My uniform is jeans and t-shirt, a ball gown sometimes, yoga pants, or business suit. I serve too.
You will say that I don’t deploy. I don’t. I will never understand what it’s like to sleep in Afghanistan, Iraq, in jungles of Vietnam, Korea, or the trenches in Europe. Fear and worry have been my bedfellows at night though. I serve too.
You will say that I don’t know what real sacrifice is because I have never lost a friend on the battlefield. The anguish that is experienced with losing a friend can haunt a home for some time. I serve too.
You will say that I don’t understand active duty military life. You are you wrong. I do understand.
I understand moving, giving up friends and a community that we built together. I understand quitting a job I love. I understand the impact on my child. I understand what it’s like to hold my son as he cries out for his father at night. I understand that I’m not the parent he wants.
I serve too.
It’s nice to hear, that spouses and families are supported. It’s unfortunate when you realize that those words are meaningless.
In recent months, I have discovered just how meaningless the support of spousal service really is. It’s incredibly disappointing.
Take spouse employment, as I wrote about recently. It’s nice to hear military leadership say that they support spousal employment. The barriers we face to become small business owners, or to achieve employment dreams are overwhelming.
It’s easy to give up, and not advocate for yourself, your family, or your spouse community. The fear of reprisal to the active duty spouse looms over our heads, so spouses don’t say much.
I am wrestling with that fear, as I write this article.
I have spent the last few days, trying to put my anger aside, and know that I cannot stop advocating for military families. The problem is that I want to stop; I want to give up because I am heartbroken.
My heart breaks every time I sit in a meeting and hear unfavorable comments about spouses. My heart breaks when our service is disregarded and cast aside. My heart breaks when spouses are belittled, put down, or insulted.
What is most insulting to spouses and their service is when the service member is dismissive of our spouses.
That’s when you realize, no matter how much you advocate for the military and the military family, it doesn’t matter. You’re just a spouse and you don’t serve.
Our senior military leadership believes in the service of spouses. What confounds me is the lack of application of that belief. It’s clear to me that the feelings of senior leadership are not replicated at the lowest levels.
How does the message get so distorted? The message from senior leadership is completely opposite of my recent experiences. It is a struggle to understand where the communication breakdown occurs. Make no mistake, a communication breakdown is occurring.
Spouse support needs to be meaningful and not just empty words.
There will be service members and spouses that read this, and disagree. I understand. I have heard the disparaging comments made about spouses. I know the stereotypes that are we deemed to fill.
In case you don’t know, those disparaging comments and stereotypes exist about the service member too.
What I am asking is that we try to understand the perspectives of both spouse and service member. Our service is different, but it doesn’t mean that we are better than one another, we are just different.
When you meet a military member who appears to think so little of spouses, your heart will break as well.
My heart and spirit will mend, and my advocacy for military families will not stop. I will wonder from this point on, if my service is valued.
Posted: Monday, July 21, 2014 10:50 am | Updated: 12:30 pm, Mon Jul 21, 2014.