Life On The Go

No, I’m not talking about traveling gypsies or backpackers through Europe. I’m referring to the people that sacrifice their need for stability for their spouses as they pick up and move every 2 years. I’m referring to Military Spouses.

The average U.S. Soldier PCS’s (Permanent Change of Station) approximately every 2 years. For Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, the time can range from never to 6 years. Oftentimes, the only times Marines leave their current base is for a deployment, and because Sailors are a nautical branch of the military, they need to be at least decently close to water. Occasionally, Marines and Sailors will move once a year, depending on their MOS (Mode of Service). To them, it’s just a normal part of being in the military. For spouses, it’s a chaotic mess.

I know several people who grew up in the military, so moving every 2 years was a great way to make new friends, have new experiences, and learn new languages. I, however, did not grow up in the military. I have a brother that’s a Marine, and my grandpa was a Sailor back in WWII. My maternal grandparents were both Army. So I didn’t realize until I was in college that not everyone stays put their whole lives. And then I met my husband.

When Thomas and I met, he was an ROTC cadet finishing undergrad and I was working an internship for my master’s. We went on 1 date and it didn’t end well. Cut to 2 years later and I was living in Louisville, Kentucky, and he was deployed to Kuwait. We caught up on Facebook and I had actually planned a trip home to Southern Illinois to visit when he told me he would be home from deployment at that time, and we should get together for drinks. (Almost) 3 years later and we’ve been married for a little over a year and have moved to Phoenix. After deployment, Thomas went into the Army Reserves so he could get his MBA through the school where we met. Doing his program online, he could complete it from anywhere in the world, which was perfect since we moved here and he started working in finance–super demanding. I thought I knew what being a military wife was all about.

I was dead wrong.

Fortunately, we don’t PCS because Thomas isn’t active. He just picked up Captain, and he’s not sure if he wants to remain in the military. If he does stay in, I’m sure we’ll move a lot, and I’ll be on my own for a while if he’s deployed. I’m currently on day 2 of a 20-day annual training for him, where he had to go to El Paso to complete. It’s the first time we’ve been away from each other for military duties, and it’s really hard.

The point of my story is this: while we “knew” what we were getting into when we said “I do” to our Soldier/Marine/Sailor/Airman, we didn’t actually know. We wouldn’t know until we experienced it. In the military, you don’t actually get to make plans. You can try, but Murphy’s Law of the Military says that when you do, your spouse will be called for field training or a deployment. And, not only will they get called for something major, it’ll be as far away from you and the event as humanly possible. I’ve now been to several of my friends’ weddings alone because Thomas would get training orders.

Piece of advice #1 for military spouses–wing everything. Don’t even try and plan the birth of your child for when your spouse can be there because yeah, they’ll miss it.

What I’ve heard a lot from my friends that are married to the military (because you’re not really married to just your spouse. I really hate to tell you that.) that they wish they could do online classes for school. A lot of places may offer online programs, but they might not be realistic; they might be too expensive; they might be too demanding in consistency for the life of a military spouse. Oh, I have a final exam due? John just got orders to move us all to Japan, better email the instructor for an extension. Sometimes, instructors won’t grant extensions, even though you legitimately can’t help it. Just please don’t throw your spouse’s rank around like it’s yours.

Piece of advice #2 for military spouses–learn to have a filter. No matter your spouse’s rank or how well you’re doing in the class or how bad of a day you’ve had and now the commissary is taking forever, you’re still that Soldier/Marine/Sailor/Airman’s spouse and what you do and say can and will reflect negatively on them.

Now it can also reflect positively on your spouse. I don’t want anyone reading this to think I’m only about the negatives, but it’s something that needs to be said. Something I learned–if you’re respectful, people will respect you. I have used my dependent ID to get onto the BX here in Phoenix, and since my husband’s rank is listed, I get saluted. The first time I was REALLY confused. I couldn’t understand it. I get called ma’am as a sign of respect for the rank, even though it’s not MY rank. But I’m incredibly respectful of everyone around me (or I try to be), so I get respected in return. Apparently, it’s not like that with all spouses.

Again, there really is a point to all of this, and how it relates to Brighton College and The Paralegal Institute.

Because you’re a military spouse, you have enough challenges in just your personal life. Moving constantly, going (sometimes) long periods of time without your spouse, taking care of a house and kids and a job by yourself until they can come home…It’s hard. It takes super strong people to make a military marriage work. So you need a break. I’m not saying take a break from your responsibilities. But you deserve to do something for yourself. And I know some of you out there always wanted to go back to school, or finish a degree that you started, or just try something new. And we recognize all that you go through on a daily basis. You experience things that regular civilians don’t, like the constant fear during deployment of is he coming home? Will the next doorbell ring be a chaplain handing me a death notice? Will I hear the words “on behalf of a grateful nation…” and be handed a folded flag? These fears can be debilitating. And, if you’ve had to experience this, I am so sorry you had to go through that.

For those of us that put in the long hours with our spouses, and wash their ACU’s and help shine their dress shoes; for being moved across the country or across the world at a moment’s notice, or being alone for the birth of your child while your spouse is fighting for our freedom–we salute you as well for what you sacrifice being a spouse. That’s why Brighton College and The Paralegal Institute offer military spouses special discounts and programs to help you chase your dream while your spouse is chasing theirs.

All it takes is a phone call. Give us a call for more information on how we can help you succeed while your spouse succeeds. And remember: you’re not in this alone. By working with us, you’d be able to have extreme flexibility and support along the way, every step.