I should have anticipated this entry would not be well received by some military spouses. My friend, who is married to a man in the Air Force, warned me. As did Ian (the husband about to re-enter the military).
“Yeah, sure, the essay ends well…but that first part…I don’t know. People might not see past the first part.”
“But it’s positive,” I argued. “It’s a happy ending. It’s about growth and–”
“Oh, we know, we know,” they might have said in unison if they had been in a room together. “But…”
There is only one comment at the end of the blog post, but I also introduced the topic on a couple of military spouse forums because I know there are other women married to service members who bristle at being called a “Military Wife,” and who will be chastised by certain military wives (not all) for not taking pride in the title.
There is a wide spectrum of feelings about this, I discovered in the conversation about military spousedom, but the sentiments boil down largely to the following:
1. Pride for the spouse, but a lack of interest in using the Military Wife title.
2. Fine with the Military Wife title, but as one of many identifying titles (wife, mother, sister, doctor, and so on) that shape who the person is. Additionally, there is something unique about the military spouse title, or label, as those married to the military live a unique lifestyle. They move frequently, have to suffer the absence of their loved one during a deployment, and have to figure out what to do with their kids and/or jobs when it’s time for either a deployment, TDY, or a move.
3. Being a spouse is a lifestyle choice, a job, and being the spouse of someone in the military is an incredible source of pride.
The second sentiment was the most prevalent.
What also happened is I received more than a few responses that indicated to me I didn’t do justice to what it was I was trying to communicate. Or, maybe the “before” part of the contrast used to illustrate the growth was a little too incendiary for some.
In any case, the larger message was not (for the most part) absorbed.
A few responses pointed to my having a hang-up about titles and labels, and because I spent so much time saying “Army Wife” and “Military Wife,” I can see how that happened.
The larger message in the entry – which, again, I now realize I probably didn’t communicate very well by using titles and stereotypes formed in childhood as a vehicle to take us there – is that it was a “I didn’t see the forest for the trees” situation.
Being with Ian made me see the military in a completely new way. He has a very deep respect for it, but it was difficult for me to perceive the military as anything but ho-hum-whatever when it was something I saw every day as a child. The first time I was able to truly appreciate it was when Ian took me on a tour around Arlington, and we stopped at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I started to joke about something unrelated, and he tapped me on the arm and said, “Sh.” So I “sh”ed, and I watched, and I listened to the silence surrounding the tapping and the clicking of the guard’s shoes, and I thought about what it all meant, who the unknowns were, and the powerful symbolism of the ever-present guard protecting the tomb, his presence a constant reminder: “You’ve not been forgotten.”
And it took Ian’s leaving the military for me to appreciate the spouses and their community.
It often takes stepping away from a thing, or looking at it from a new point of view, before I can see it more clearly.
And the point is this: I’m so glad I did.