Getting Out: 4 Reasons I Won’t Miss Active Duty Life

sailor-saying-goodbye-to-wifeWe’re getting out. After 22 years of service, my husband is making the transition to civilian life. I’ve been by his side for 13 of those years, and I’ll admit, I’m finding it hard to accept my new role as something other than a military spouse. There are so many things I’m going to miss about military life, which I wrote about here, but let’s be honest: there are definitely things I won’t miss once we’re on ‘the other side.’

I won’t miss things like:

Saying goodbye. In our 13 years together, my husband and I spent at least eight of those years living separately thanks to deployments, unaccompanied tours, separations due to employment, or long term training. Words cannot capture the dread that would build in my heart in the weeks approaching a deployment, the desperation of the last night before the dreaded flight, the weight of the ceremony, the emptiness of the car ride home. I am forever thankful for the service and sacrifice of those still deploying, but I am even more grateful it will never be my husband’s service, or our sacrifice, again.

“Rank” discrimination. While military spouses officially have no rank, in my opinion, many perpetrate class-based discrimination against their fellow spouses. As a senior enlisted spouse, I found myself shunned from some events since my husband was not an officer. Simultaneously, I was penalized by junior enlisted spouses for living in a household that made too much money. Let’s stop separating ourselves and support each other for what we are: people joined in a common life experience, supporting our active-duty spouses, while raising families and meeting our own life goals. Together we’re stronger, right?

Keeping up with the Joneses. My last few years as a military spouse turned me into brand-name loving fiend. Prior to relocating to our last duty station, I never owned a Coach purse, and I wouldn’t have even considered spending what we did on my most recent purchase from Louis Vuitton. But spending money on brand name goodies seems to be an ingrained part of military life: from the healthy Kate Spade selection at the Exchange, to the brand name clothes, to the status cars. It seems like everyone is trying to out-do each other, and that’s probably why a lot of military families are in debt, in my opinion. I don’t know if post military life will change my ways, but now that I’m backing away from the ‘forest,’ I can see the trees …but, that doesn’t mean I’m giving up my purses!

The sense of entitlement. Though we’ve all played a role in our spouse’s career, we’re still military dependents, and the benefits granted to are because of our service members. As an Army/Air Force civilian employee and volunteer on post, I have witnessed numerous cases of spouses behaving badly at all levels. All the services and support we have access to are benefits, not entitlements, which can be taken away. And if you don’t write your Congressman, some of them might well be a thing of the past. Military spouses who want to benefit from the sense of community on their installations should be ready to stand up and contribute to it; if you don’t like the events the FRG is holding, volunteer to help plan a function. If you don’t feel there are enough military guards manning the crosswalks in front of your child’s school, help organize a group of parents to do the job. Start being part of the solution!

Sure, it’s easy to point out the things I won’t miss about military life. But what really matters is your own experience, the bonds you formed, and the amazing places you’ve lived, all because of a lifestyle that most don’t have the chance to live. I’ll see you on ‘the other side!’

Can you relate to any of these? Will it be different in the civilian world? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Laura-Yates-headshotPosted by Laura Yates, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Army spouse


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  1. 2
    Teresa Reid

    loved the article.. I related to most.. I will say that after my husband retired from the Navy adjusting to him being here 24/7 was a challenge most will agree to. As a military spouse you basically are a single parent and take on both roles of parenting and after husband came home his role was to be given back and that’s where the struggle began. It was very hard for me to give it up after having it for so many years. The kids struggle too. They would forget dad was here and still come to me for everything and it made Dad feel left out and unproductive but after time we all adjusted. It is something that should be counseled on when transitioning out. I honestly think they should have family counseling for retired military families. There are so many issues they deal with.. Thanks for the article..

  2. 3
    Vickie Ireland

    Wow, I’ve had a totally different experience as a military spouse – thank goodness. While I admit to owning some Coach purses, I know plenty of non-military folks who also happen to buy this brand. I don’t own anything by Louis Vuitton, we don’t own expensive cars or anything by Kate Spade, and I am confident enough in myself and my spouse that people will like us for who we are, rather than the types of material items we possess. I think that perhaps your experiences with “rank discrimination,” dissatisfaction with other spouses, and having to keep up with the Jones’ are personal issues that you have with those around you, or your personal insecurities, rather than being an honest reflection of the average military lifestyle – and you will carry those issues with you, regardless of whether your spouse is active duty or not. I think your article does a disservice to military spouses worldwide, as 3/4 of your article is aimed at dissatisfaction with people, rather than at some component of military service.

  3. 4

    I was a military spouse and active duty at the same time, I remember when my husband deployed I was invited to a few of the spouse events and I was was completely shunned for being active duty. They all acted like they were better than me. Then when I deployed, my husband was invited to a spouse event but he said they were completely rude to him, and he left after 10 minutes.

  4. 5
    Pamela fair

    We retired 5 years ago after 22 years. I will never stop missing military life. It’s hard to define why. Do I miss getting left alone with 4 kids for months on end, no. Do we actually make a decent amt of money now, yes. I just miss being near people that I feel connected to. I miss the community feel, especially after 7 yrs overseas, which makes for tighter communities. I guess it’s kind of the ” you can take the girl out of Kansas but you can’t take kansas out of the girl.” I am a military wife, that has been part of my identity since I was 20 yrs old. It’s difficult to change that after 22 yrs.

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