Among the military community, there is a small population where double duty inflicts the toughest choice of how to balance a heart of service.
Choosing to serve our country and serve our family at home comes with a heavy dose of priority, devotion, and sacrifice.
With only just over ten percent of military families that have dual military members serving on active duty, making the life changing conversion from military member to military spouse is a unique transition- one that brings these spouses face to face with obstacles most are not aware of. While transition is not an unfamiliar term to the military community, the process and adjustment from leaving the service to still being intimately involved, it presents areas that make the wounds of leaving linger longer than desired.
If I am honest with you, leaving the military after nine years felt a lot like a breakup where I still had to work with my past love interest on a daily basis! The mounting pressure of wanting to give 100% to both my family and the military eventually drew the proverbial line in the sand. At first, the choice seemed pretty obvious. Family comes first, so I signed my DD-214 and was on my way out. But, what I could not account for was how deeply woven the military had shaped my sense of self worth and identity.
My identity, in almost every way, seemed to vanish overnight. Taking away my value and contribution- only to inherently assume the identity of my spouse. The only numbers that seemed to count, beyond my discharge date, was my spouses service number -not my years of dedicated service and sacrifice.
There was a void in the absence of my military identity that I struggled to reconcile. The concept of service while on active duty to becoming a military spouse was difficult to translate. Missing the extraordinary experiences that can only come with being in the military felt a lot like being left behind in his shadows striving to validate the value of the new supportive position I now had in our lives.
Not having a clean cut from the armed forces prolonged my ability to transition from military to civilian. But, in hindsight, I am so grateful that I was able to stay apart of the community. Once I was able to start getting my feet under me as a new military spouse, I realized that my prior experience gave an advantage of knowing the “inside ropes." It helped with managing the expectations of what service looked like. Essentially, I knew first hand what we, as a family, signed up for in my husbands continued service which allowed me to have a deeper understanding that most spouses are not privileged to.
For the first time since becoming a military spouse, I started feeling as though I had something to bring to the table. I wanted to bridge some of the gaps between the military spouse and active duty communities as an advocate and a source of knowledge. Even more importantly, being able to stay apart of the community helped me to regain the sense of comradery with my fellow military spouses that I so desperately missed. No matter what, we had a foundation, a unifying point that brought us together in support of each other.
Now, as a veteran and retired military spouse, there are common points and lessons I’d like to share.
First, to the military member considering leaving the service in support of your spouse and/or family - make sure this is your choice. Life is too short to carry resentments or what ifs about missed opportunities. Have a six month transitional plan with measurable goals to assist you with acclimating to civilian life to include getting involved with a local military spouse group as soon as possible. This is critical in filling that void of being apart of a community being in the military gave you.
Besides, you were never meant to do life alone, get connected. Take advantage of any transitional assistance that is available, it may seem pointless at the time but trust me it's there for a reason and it truly makes a difference. Talk to your spouse about expectations because role clarity is so important in such a huge dynamic shift.
To the new military spouse (or even the veteran spouse at the back of the room), please hear me when I say you are SO valued! Just because you are not in the service does not mean you do not serve. You have a unique value that makes our military community extraordinary! Even though your job is thankless at times, not only do you have worth, the truth is you are invaluable.
Statistics show that you are among the most giving, effective, educated, and selfless community in our country. So please take care of yourself because you are needed more than you will ever know! In fact, there is a marked difference in the military member who has a solid support system and those who do not. Those who do, show the ability to rest assured home is in good hands so that they can focus on the task at hand. Know this is you! You are the constant behind all the variables they face.
Lastly, for all who are reading this, your identity is not in what you do but the in the values and beliefs that shape you as a person. Sure the military may help to cultivate those some of those values, it is not the source. Hold true to the heart that lead you to service.
JOIN THE MOVEMENT!
We invite you to join us in creating a paradigm shift within the military spouse culture. We want to be at the forefront of creating a movement within our community that trades comparison for compassion. We want to replace the negativity that surrounds the MilSpouse culture with a positive image of personal fulfillment and success. We can be a group that raises each other up, building strong leaders and supporting new ideals. Join us by “liking” our Facebook page, subscribing to the blog, and linking us to your local “spouse’s” Facebook page!