Why More Military Spouses Need To Share Their Stories

MIlitary spouses Lisa Williams, right, and Sarah Conrad, pledge allegiance to the flag during a 7th annual National Military Spouses Day event in Johnstown,PA., Fri., May 8, 2015.
(John Rucosky/The Tribune-Democrat via AP

I’m a 21st century military spouse. I am a college-educated, working woman who has been supporting my service member’s commitment to our country for more than a decade.

I gave birth in an overseas Navy hospital. I’ve been a solo parent during a six-month deployment. I vote via absentee ballot in presidential elections. I shop at the commissary. I’ve lived on-base in privatized housing. I’ve lived off-base in neighborhoods where our house was the only house with an American flag hanging in front.

Am I a typical military spouse? Maybe.

Or maybe not.

The story of my military spouse experience is one story among the nearly 700,000 military spouses currently carrying a dependent ID card.

I’m an avid reader of historical fiction. In the evenings, after the kids are asleep, I often find myself absorbed in fiction set during World War II. I ponder the plot lines and character development, especially the women who held down the homefront during the war. If I was a military spouse in the 20th century, what would my story be?

Then the realities of my military marriage bubble to the forefront in my mind. I ask myself, How will my grandchildren view my role as a Navy wife when they learn about the war on terrorism?

When future writers examine the history of today’s military families, will they see a story worth writing? Will our stories be worth reading or making into an award-winning film? Will ours be a story worth telling? What will be the major themes of this future historical fiction?

In my opinion, the stories of the 21st century military spouse share three common traits: longevity, vigilance, and connectivity.

We’re in for the long haul.

The first theme in this war story is longevity. In April, the Month of the Military Child, we often read about military children who are impacted by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their day-to-day military lives are shaped by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. They don’t remember a day when the United States didn’t have troops in the Middle East.

The same is true for the 21st century military spouse.

According to 2013 demographics, 52.6% of military spouses are 30 years old or younger. That means the majority of military spouses were barely teenagers in 2001. It also means that the 21st century military spouse is married to a service member or veteran fighting in the longest war the United States have ever known.

A 21st century military spouse knows a neverending war. They scoff at banners declaring victory, but still feel hope when the president announces “troop drawbacks.” Then comes the surge. Then it’s more training of soldiers in a nation that I’ve never been to, but the foreign land’s name rolls off my tongue like it’s a second home. The 21st century military spouse has been in it for the long haul.

We’re constantly aware of new, emerging threats.

Military life today falls under a cloud of constant vigilance. The threat, either overseas or homegrown, never takes a backseat. Our minds don’t get a break from the peril of fatal injury for our service members.

When tragedies like the shooting at the recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee, happen, 21st century military spouses add this threat to their growing daily worries over their service members’ dangerous jobs. When a mass shooting leaves 12 people dead at the Navy Yard, we no longer feel safe inside the gate. When an Iraq War veteran kills three at Fort Hood, we wonder why.

We accept that our husbands and wives put their lives in harm’s way during a deployment. We don’t expect their lives to be on the line when they’re home, but it’s becoming more and more of our reality.

We’re plugged into an amazing digital network.

It is a text message instead of postage. There are military installation Facebook groups instead of social functions. The 21st century military spouse is always connected to her service member, other military spouses, and their civilian friends and family members through her computer or cell phone. This network --- which connects Army wives stationed in Okinawa with those unpacking in Texas — is shaping our military story.

In the past, military spouses were limited to the friends and resources at their duty stations. Today, their social media circles move with them whenever they relocate and websites, not handbooks, are the guides for navigating military protocol. For the growing number of male military spouses (9%), dual-military couples (6.4%), same-sex military families, and transgender military spouses, this digital network can be a lifesaver when feeling isolated on post.

This connectivity doesn’t end when deployments start. Smartphone applications like Skype and FaceTime allow military couples to see each other during frequent separations.

The story of the 21st century military spouse is a complex one that is worth taking the time to listen to and worth telling. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to tell your story. We want to know your story. America needs to hear your story.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".

In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"

Read More Show Less

It is impossible to tune out news about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump now that the hearings have become public. And this means that cable news networks and Congress are happier than pigs in manure: this story will dominate the news for the foreseeable future unless Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get back together.

But the wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment mania has also created a news desert. To those of you who would rather emigrate to North Korea than watch one more lawmaker grandstand for the cameras, I humbly offer you an oasis of news that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington intrigue.

Read More Show Less

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.

A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.

Read More Show Less

There's a joke that Joey Jones likes to use when he feels the need to ease the tension in a room or in his own head.

To calm himself down, he uses it to remind himself of the obstacles he's had to overcome. When he faces challenges today — big or small — it brings him back to a time when the stakes were higher.

Jones will feel out a room before using the line. For nearly a decade, Jones, 33, has told his story to thousands of people, given motivational speeches to NFL teams and acted alongside a three-time Academy Award-winning actor.

On Tuesday afternoon, he stood at the front of a classroom at his alma mater, Southeast Whitfield High School in Georgia. The room was crowded with about 30 honor students.

It took about 20 minutes, but Jones started to get more comfortable as the room warmed up to him. A student asked about how he deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I believe in post-traumatic growth," Jones said. "That means you go through tough and difficult situations and on the back end through recovery, you learn strength."

Read More Show Less

It didn't take long for a central theme to emerge at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Livermore, an event attended by hundreds of area residents Friday at Union Cemetery in Bakersfield.

It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.

"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.

Read More Show Less