Why More Military Spouses Need To Share Their Stories

Community
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.

From left to right: Naval Special Warfare Operator First Class Eddie Gallagher, Army 1Lt. Clint Lorance, and Army Special Forces Maj. Mathew Golsteyn

On Friday, President Donald Trump intervened in the cases of three U.S. service members accused of war crimes, granting pardons to two Army soldiers accused of murder in Afghanistan and restoring the rank of a Navy SEAL found guilty of wrongdoing in Iraq.

While the statements coming out of the Pentagon regarding Trump's actions have been understandably measured, comments from former military leaders and other knowledgable veterans help paint a picture as to why the president's Friday actions are so controversial.

Read More Show Less

A former Soviet submarine that became a tourist attraction docked adjacent to the Queen Mary in Long Beach is expected to be sold soon to an anonymous buyer, with plans to remove the rusting sub by mid-May.

The 48-year-old Russian Foxtrot-class submarine, known as the Scorpion, had hosted paying visitors for 17 years before it fell into such disrepair that it became infested with raccoons and was closed to the public in 2015.

Read More Show Less

Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.

The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.

During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.

"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."

"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."

Read More Show Less
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (Reuters photo)

Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.

Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.

Read More Show Less
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith (Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation's third highest award for valor this week for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, the service announced Monday.

Read More Show Less