When I was 16, if you told me I would marry a man who joined the army, I would have probably laughed at you. Growing up, I had very little connection to the military, even though my parents are blue-hearted Americans and have a love for that country. In fact, one of my older brothers did join the navy, but didn’t have a good experience, and my mom’s own brother was unhappy about being drafted back in the Vietnam days. Why do I tell you all this? To give you a background. Even though my parents never spoke badly of service in that capacity, it was not also necessarily something encouraged to do.
So, it was a bit of a surprise introduction for me when a casual acquaintance told me he was leaving his job as an electrician to go to ‘basic’ – asked me to come to his going away party, and at his going away party, asked me to write him letters. (Well, I guess this is a warning where old fashioned letter writing can get you – ha, ha, just kidding).
So, in 2001, my connection with ‘military life’ began. And we wrote. And I began contemplating, and praying. And I talked and prayed with my dad. And that Christmas, this brand new soldier – not even finished with basic training – came home on leave and asked me to marry him. And so began a journey for me, not just of marriage, but of life as a military wife.
There are so many emotions that the phrase ‘military wife’ can stir in people who understand what that means (right, ladies?). I wrote a song for my soldier just this past Christmas that has described the journey a little bit. Take a listen to this very rough home recording on my ipad (and forgive the lack of sound quality) before you read on:
Trouble. Yes. Lots of it, and it’s been great 🙂
Our military journey started in Italy – after some pretty unique (to civilian life, but fairly average to military life) events: like, getting married over the phone in September so my husband could do some paperwork on his end to bring me overseas, to him getting to New Mexico 8 days before our ceremony in December 2002, to leaving a short week after the wedding with nothing but 2 suitcases of my things and my keyboard and guitar…. ah, those days. I still look back and laugh at the uprooting, the haphazard plans, the ‘breaking the rules’ we did those first days together (I won’t get into the rules we broke except to say, when I got to Italy, the paperwork hadn’t all been taken care of, and so there might have been some hiding out in the barracks for a couple days while we figured out where to stay until things got figured out). Right off the get-go, being in a new country, only 18 years old, I was immediately in the throw of what being a new ‘military wife’ meant, as my husband introduced me to another military wife with whom I stayed for a month while ‘the guys’ were gone – this all happening just 3 weeks after getting to Italy.
become tight and irreplaceable. I have to admit, that show “Army Wives” did portray pretty well the bond that gets created when you find
the individuals to help carry you through all that army life can throw your way. For the three of us who made such a friendship, it was
the anchor that held us strong through an uncertain deployment of our husbands to Iraq in 2003, which lasted 13 months. It was the humor
we needed to make those moments of not hearing from our husbands, or problems with the cars, kids, and what not, or sleepless hours and lonely evenings. It was our strength and entertainment. I’m forever thankful to the first military wife friends that helped me through the first years of figuring out what it meant to be a military wife.
And it was the hardest thing to say goodbye to that first duty station. I loved and cherished those first years. They were so hard, and I experienced so much. I fell in love with the country, I had a good experience for the most part with my husband’s work side of things, and I met some amazing people who stay in with me touch to this day.
Chapter 2: Fort Bragg
Our second duty station was Ft. Bragg, complete with 4 different moves inside the Fayetteville area, 2 deployments, and another kiddo. This part of ‘army life’ for me was about: God will never lead you where He cannot sustain you. And He did – at times I definitely felt the pressures – financial, marital, deployment separation, stress of small kids, loss of friends, promotions and accidents, all the various things that can happen to anyone. Life was never easy street that 4 year stretch. But God was always good. Even amid the heartaches, our own and those of friends, military life for me during that time was a school of life. It was all about seeing how, when God is the center of your strength, no matter what kind of life you are leading, He can make all the difference between success and becoming overwhelmed. And not to say there were never times I felt overwhelmed. But in the middle of those overwhelming circumstances, I knew where to turn.
Goodbye to Ft. Bragg was bittersweet. It was, for a short time, goodbye to army life as we knew it, with my husband making the choice to go to college and change over to national guard for a time. It was goodbye to another set of very dear and cherished army wife friends. It was goodbye to the way of life we had known from the start of being married. But it was also looking ahead at a new experience outside of what I had come to know as military life.
Chapter 3: a transition
I’ll admit, military life had become our norm. Those 2, almost 3, years separated from it were tough. They were a necessary time for me. They were necessary years for my husband and I as a couple. And they were a special time for our families since we returned to where both parents lived, and grandchildren were enjoyed to the max. But there was always this ‘missing piece’ in the background for both of us. I kind of denied it; my husband tried to work through it. But the time came again. God had a plan for us, and I prayed for God to give me peace to support my soldier in returning to that plan. And so after a short vacation from Fayetteville, we returned for an extended transition period, lasting almost a year longer than we thought it would.
That part of ‘back to military life’ was less stressful, and much more comical. Again, if I told you all the stories and you have a different life from the military, you’d probably think we are pretty crazy. And if your life has been interwoven with army life, you would probably laugh and share a story similar to my own. But this ‘about my: military life’ is beginning to get too lengthy. So I must shorten up my story just a little for the sake of my time creating this description and your time spent reading about it.
Chapter 4 and beyond: back to Europe
And that brings us up to date! We are a duty station in Germany, enjoying this new chapter of our lives, and continuing this adventure. So what do you need to remember about my life in the military and how it relates to this blog? Know that I never intended to live this army life. But since it happened that way, I’m so thankful for the somewhat unusual adventure it has been. As a military spouse, I can pull from a pretty diverse range of experiences that hopefully can give you, the reader, some insight and perspective on things I blog about that you would not have had otherwise. And most importantly, no matter what our lives look like, God is there ready to walk that journey with you to the end.