My husband is in the process of transitioning out of the Army after 22 years of service. After three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, two tours in Korea, and a stint in Kosovo, he’s paid his dues, and he’s finally ready to make the transition to civilian life. Looking back at the years I accompanied him along his journey, I have mixed feelings moving on from the role of Army spouse. One thing I know is there are plenty of things I’ll miss about being an active duty spouse.
Here are 6 things I’ll miss most:
Pride of service. Active duty life is not an easy one, and those who choose to live it (especially for over twenty years) deserve commendation for their commitment. Active-duty service members certainly don’t serve for the money, and they’re not in it for the lifestyle. Most do it because they love their country and what it stands for. My own association with military service, both as a spouse and as an Army/Air Force civilian employee, has made me feel like I’ve contributed to something greater than myself, and experienced something unique.
My Army home. There is a charm to active duty life not experienced by most Americans; like the moments we pause to honor the flag each day. I always felt in some ways, life on a military base combines old-time America with the best of what American should be: a place where tradition and professionalism transcend all boundaries. I miss it now that we’re away from our Army hometown.
Wonderful friendships. One of the great fortunes of my military life was forming close friendships that were a source of great support during periods of separation from my husband. The time spent together for holiday meals, fun weekend trips, and unit functions brought a level of closeness similar to the relationships I had with college roommates and high school besties. Some are sure to be lifelong friendships, and all had their place in helping me survive these difficult years.
Limitless opportunities. How many spouses have the opportunity to visit (or live) with their spouse in a foreign country, immersed in new language, cuisine and culture? Thanks to this lifestyle, I’ve traveled to Korea, flown in military aircrafts, rappelled down a 50 foot tower, met 8 of the 9 US Supreme Court Justices, and even the President of the United States. I was able to participate in a professional development program through my work, where I was able to meet some of the Department of Defense’s most pre-eminent senior leaders. I’ve sailed on a Navy destroyer, and even attended a Pearl Harbor Day ceremony with WWII Veterans who were present on that fateful day. Many of these things might not have happened, had I not chosen this military life.
Great benefits & support. As a prior installation employee and Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader, I became familiar with many of the resources available to military families. In addition to the hundreds of installation personnel waiting to assist with services and support, numerous private organizations exist on post to support military families. I found our units’ Family Readiness Group offered a great opportunity to meet other spouses. If you’re not sure where to look, ask your FRG leader, visit the Family Support Center on your installation, or visit the base’s website or social media sites!
My sense of (MilSpouse) self. As my husband’s time in the Army winds down, I realize I’m facing a real challenge: adjusting my own sense of self to reflect a reality where I am no longer an active-duty spouse. I have spent so many years living and breathing military installations, befriending other MilSpouses, and shopping almost exclusively at the commissary, I’m not 100% sure who I am without that identity. My challenge now, along with my husband, is to grab hold of the weight of my military life experiences, both good and bad, and make that leap.
Being a military spouse will always be a part of me, and in many ways shaped who I am today. But I look forward to the challenges to come, and becoming the person I’m meant to be in the next chapter of our military life…transition.
Have you been a military spouse? What would you add to this list?