“It’s almost like military spouses have split personalities,” she told me. “You’re so proud of what he does, but at the same time, you think, “Why is it always my husband who has to do all that?”
I have asked that “why is it always my husband” question before–why is it always my husband who is called away to the hospital during my 3-year-old’s birthday; why is it always my husband who is up all night and then too tired to enjoy the weekend with his family; why is it always my husband who has to go away on so many conferences and leave me sleeping alone?
But I have never, ever faced a night where I’ve been scared my husband won’t come home because his job is dangerous.
I have never, ever had a husband miss a child’s birthday because he’s on the other side of the world for months on end.
I have never, ever had a husband leave for six weeks with only three days notice, deployed to a place that’s so secret he’s not even allowed to tell me about it.
The sacrifices I think I make pale in comparison to the sacrifice of military spouses, and I am in awe.
Today is November 11–Remembrance Day in Canada, Veterans’ Day in the U.S., and celebrated but likely called other things in other nations. It’s the day when we all stop and remember the sacrifices made for us by so many for the cause of freedom.
And today, since it’s Wifey Wednesday, I thought that I would take some time to acknowledge the sacrifice that military spouses make as well.
My good friend and my assistant Tammy is married to a military chaplain. My husband and I have been close friends with them for years, and we’ve always greatly admired their attitude towards service.
On Sunday, Tammy and I are heading to Rockfish Church, near Fort Bragg, where I’ll be giving my Girl Talk! I’m hoping there will be lots of military families represented. (If you’re in North Carolina, come join us!)
The woman who contacted me to have me come and speak is Carrie Daws, author of the book The Warrior’s Bride, who has lived in the trenches as a military spouse. I asked her if I could interview her for a Remembrance Day post to help women like me, who aren’t married to military members, understand better what they go through.
Carrie, explain to me this split personality–what are you split between?
Emotions are high because you’re in that place between pride and guilt, especially if you’ve been on a base with people who didn’t come home.
The pride is huge: there’s a deep understanding in a military wife’s core that her husband and her family are sacrificing for the greater good. I am not normally a woman who cries. But I hear the first strain of God Bless the U.S.A., and I’m in tears.
I know what my husband has sacrificed, but today, even in the United States, there are people who don’t understand that there are military members still deploying to war zones–right now! So I’m very proud of my husband and my friends and what they’re sacrificing, and proud of their commitment and courage and bravery to do stuff that I certainly wouldn’t want to do.
What about the guilt?
We all need to learn the difference between real guilt and false guilt. There’s a lot of guilt when people that you know don’t come home–the guilt of just being so grateful that it wasn’t your husband. But that’s a false guilt, it isn’t real, and we need to learn to differentiate the two. Sometimes all of us need help in releasing that false guilt.
And false guilt isn’t unique to the military; the general population deals with it as well. What’s different, I guess, is what we’re feeling guilty about.
Do you get scared?
Absolutely. And it’s not just the military–I think there’s more of an awareness since 9/11 that first responders are in dangerous jobs, too. You always think to yourself, when he walks out the door, that he may not walk back in. There’s a hyper-sense of that, especially if your husband is in special ops or has a highly deployable status or job.
It means you have to train yourself to always say goodbye well, and to not take moments for granted. And that’s hard because life still gets in the way, kids still get sick, laundry still piles up. And then something will happen and the fear will hit you fresh again.
Do you ever stop watching the news?
I’ve gone through seasons where I’ve had to stop, and then seasons where I couldn’t get enough news.
Then there were times when friends going through similar things were good for me, and others where those friends were toxic. It really depended on where I was at in my relationships and with God.
What do deployments look like in the military?
Deployments are different depending on your branch. Special ops are 3-4 months. Regular army or navy may be a year, but most are in the 4-6 month range.
My husband’s longest was 102 days.
They’ll do regular rotations, so they rotate in and out. There will be 3 months of training when you don’t see them, then a 3 month deployment, then they’re home for 3-6 months, then it starts all over again!
(Side note: in Canada our deployments tend to be about 6 months. At the 3 month mark they’ll either fly you to see your family or your spouse to see you. I’ve had a number of friends away for 6 months, and it is HARD.)
If my husband were gone like that I’d be tempted to do the math in my head–if he’s gone for 6 months, and we’re married for 40 years, then we’ve just lost 1/80 of our potential time together, or 1.25%. Do you ever do that?
Absolutely! Kathy, my co-author, has been married for 25 years. Her husband has been away for 12 years of that. And it can be hard when your husband’s away and you’re talking to a friend and she says something like, “Oh, let me just ask my husband really quick!”, and she picks up her phone and calls him. And you wish that it were that easy to call your husband any time you wanted to.
What’s it like when he’s away?
You just have to work so hard on building your marriage, which is hard if he’s in a position where he can’t even regularly communicate. But you pray for him and you feed yourself and you grow closer to God and try to keep a good perspective.
On the daily front, in some ways it’s easier when the kids are littler because you can make all the decisions–you can have cereal for dinner if you want! But at the same time you have to consciously work on your marriage. If the dishwasher breaks, what would he want me to do? It’s more than just being a single parent, because you have to consider him as if he were there.
What do military wives wish the rest of society understood?
This life is harder than we thought it would be, but that doesn’t mean that we’re complaining. We desperately want people who realize that we sometimes need help, but because of the way life is we don’t get to enjoy those deep relationships. We know we’ll move every 18-24 months, and so you don’t have the chance to develop close friendships.
So we don’t reach out for relationships easily. And that means we’re probably not going to ask for help, even though we need to and we want to. So we need people to understand that and still pursue us. We need people to reach out and want to be our friends.
How do you feel about Veterans’ Day?
I’m so grateful for the sacrifice that people are making still today. Even just the living conditions–They’re in long pants and long sleeves in horrendously hot weather, with strange bugs and the like. And they do all of that because they are willing to stand between me and my children and the evil of this world. And most of these military service members I will never, ever meet and they’re still willing to do that for me.
That deserves our thanks.
It does indeed deserve our thanks. And the spouses who support them deserve our thanks, too.
In talking with Carrie and with Tammy, my whole perspective on military spouses has changed. Ten years ago I would have felt sorry for them–oh, that’s so awful, that their spouses are being deployed and they’re gone so much! It’s so unfair!
But now I realize that that attitude is an insult. Certainly they need our help and our gratitude, but never, ever our pity, because they take great pride in what they do, as well they should.
I love Carrie’s line–“life is harder than we thought, but that doesn’t mean we’re complaining.” And that’s because they know the value of what they do, and the tremendous privilege of being called to serve.
And so I just want to say to all the military spouses and military service members who read this blog, I see what you do. I see that you are willing to stand between me and my children and the evil of this world, and I hope and pray that I never take that sacrifice lightly. I thank you, and I am proud of you, just as I am proud of those who fought in previous wars so that we can live in freedom today.
Thank you, because freedom is never free. And you are the ones who pay the price.
Here are two videos I thought are fitting.
For Carrie, here’s God Bless the U.S.A.:
And for my fellow Canadians, here’s a great Maritime song written pre-9/11 about Remembrance Day. It’s always been one of my favourites:
May we all take some time today to say thank you to God for freedom and for those who sacrificed.
And then may we make a point to reach out to those who aren’t in military uniforms–but who still sacrifice today, for all of us.
Carrie Daws has co-authored The Warrior’s Bride: Biblical Strategies to Help the Military Spouse Thrive.
“The call came down from Command, and your warrior husband is out the door, leaving you behind to handle whatever he has left undone. Whether it’s the day-to-day monotony, the inevitable appliance that breaks, or the months without his presence beside you, being a military spouse brings challenges few appreciate. Yet God sees you and longs for you to boldly step into His plan. He purposely chose you for this moment—for your man. He wants to give you abundantly more than what you have right now and desires you to thrive as your warrior’s bride.”
Check it out here.