Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dear Military Spouse...

Dear Military Spouses,

Congratulations! You found a good man and have married them or are actively pursuing a wedding. We're so happy for you.

We regret to inform you that, your future as military wife, you will have to undergo a severe hazing. Unfortunately, by the time you're well immersed, it may be too late to change your mind. The military is not a bowl of peaches and cherries. As Erma Bombeck famously asked once, "If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?" You will come to understand this in time.

Here, compiled for your convenience, is a list of things that will not please you, and strong advice on how to deal. It is separated into sections: Military Life, Money, Deployment, and Family. It is both funny and serious, trivial and deep, every day and extreme, but most of all, it is honest.

Military Life (In General)

1. Troops don't work 9-5, Monday to Friday only.

2. One day they could be working days, the next, nights.

3. Don't bother planning a vacation. Leave-chits can and probably will be denied, depending on what kind of mood their superiors are in that day.

4. If you DO get leave approved and plan a vacation, you can rest assured that at the worst possible time, you and your husband will be pulled aside and checked in airport security, because his dress uniform (WITH metal belt buckle and nameplate) will set off the alarms. Supposedly they're not supposed to be allowed to check military members in uniform. Someone tell them that.

4. The bathroom will now and forever be referred to as "The Head". Hats will always been known as "Covers." Yes, you will call them that, too.
5. You will be dumped into a totally new town where the neighbors will be crazy, no one will know how to drive, the radio stations will suck, and you'll spend a good part of your first month trying to figure out the cheapest place to buy food... and a stiff drink.

6. His friends will not only be your friends, but if you get married and move him out of the barracks/dorms, you can probably expect one or 6 of his friends to move in too.

7. You now have to main the yard to government standards - even if the rest of the grass on base is 2 foot tall.

8. Civilians, take note. He DOES work when not on deployment. He doesn't just sit around in my living room eating bon bons and watching soap operas.
(Oh wait – or is that me because I'm a stay-at-home-mum?)

9. Stereotypes. People will assume he's cheating on you, he cusses, and he will have a tattoo. They might be right. There's a reason for the stereotypes. This is an issue that requires you TRUST him.

10. CLASSIFIED means SECRET, which means he is not ALLOWED to tell you. It's not a choice. This is another issue that requires your TRUST. It also means you need to KNOW the rules.

11. You will have to deal sometimes with higher ups who think their poop doesn't stink, and that your husband's petty, trivial inconveniences (you know, his wife is 35 weeks pregnant and can't get a doctor's appointment) don't matter.

12. Also, wives who wear their husbands' rank (this is NOT always, or even often, in some cases, officers' wives. They are human too. Most of them are wonderful people. Some of them wear their husbands' ranks, but so do some enlisted wives).

13. Free medical care: Otherwise known as waiting to take care of it until you get to a base/post with a decent hospital/medical system that accepts Tricare, so you can go back and forth between the military clinic and/or Tricare over whether it's covered or not, then go back for referrals, prescriptions, etc.

14. Just because a ship's doc is called, "doc" doesn't mean he'll give the same attention and care as a doctor in the civilian world. Chances are, he won't give much notice at all and will slap your hubby's back and tell him to take some ibuprofen and let him know how it is in a week.
Then, when your hubby goes back the week later, he'll tell him it's the same thing and give him more ibuprofen!

15. Another pseudo-perk: 24 hour maintenance doesn't always mean 24 hours. Most of the time it's, 'Turn off the main valve for your water and we'll have someone there between 8am and 4 pm tomorrow', which could very well turn into next week.

16. Forget everything the recruiter told you. Their job is NOT to make happy marriages.

17. You will get screwed again and again…and again. It's par for the course. Don't worry, you're not special. It's like a code.

18. To that effect, do not be surprised if you get so stressed you begin to hear Mimes. In fact, you may just answer the questions going through THEIR heads.

Onward and upwards:


1. The BX (Aka: PX, NEX) will probably rob you, price wise. We suggest the commissary for food and batteries and basic needs. The BX does, however, price match (to downtown stores, not the commissary), and you don't pay tax. Woot.

2. Be prepared to have your pay messed up or delayed for no reason at all.

3. If the military gives you too much money, it will be ripped out of his account faster and harder than a Brazilian wax in bikini season. If they underpay him, that money will slowly trickle into his account...sometime over the next six months to three years. And if you don't catch it, don't expect to ever see it again.

4. Companies may hesitate to hire you, because they know you'll move.

5. Likewise, the military doesn't care if you're halfway through college and no credits transfer. He will move when they tell him to.

6. When you do move, most likely you'll be in Podunkville USA and air travel will be twice as expensive, or you'll be in Touristville USA and living costs will be twice as expensive. God help you if you want to see your stateside family while he's stationed overseas.

That wasn't so hard.


1. To begin with: Your husband has signed up for a chance at death. I'm sorry. Some of us like to ignore this. Some like to be prepared. Some still haven't found a way to deal. All are normal.

2. Six month deployments are rarely six months.

3. Acquaint yourself with your computer….fast. It may be your best friend.

4. If you hear a schedule more than a few days before it happens, most likely it will be:
A.) Longer,
B.) Longer, or
C.) Longer than you anticipated.

5. If you don't have kids, you will more than likely end up with a dog or cat.

6. Get a dog. They don't talk back, and can't drive for you, but they keep you warm at night, still make messes, require you to wake up at a decent hour in the morning and go to bed at a decent hour of the night. Plus you have to keep them fed and watered, so to sum it up, dogs keep you from going into the, "He's gone; I don't have a reason to live" fog.

7. Tylenol PM and a journal might become your best friends during deployment! Chances are a bottle of wine and a bubble bath will accompany them both. Don't be surprised when you are doing normal things around the house and 15 minutes later you realize that you have not done them yet because you were stuck in a daydream about what it would be like if he were here right now.

8. You start missing little things like yelling at him for not taking the trash out, leaving his empty beer bottles in the living room for the dog to lick, or his socks on the stairs because he starting undressing, walking up the stairs.

9. Dinner may just become pickles and dry cereal when he's not home, because you don't have to cook for anyone. Burger King (or the restaurants on post) will be one of the things you're happiest to see, but over time will become your greatest foe. You may even hiss a little when you pass them downtown, because you've spent so many lonely 8am's in the parking lot waiting for them to open, so you have someone to talk to.

10. When he comes home from a deployment, be prepared for both of you to look different. Your hair will most likely have a new style, length, and/or color, and you'll pray that he likes it. He will have gained or lost weight, and have much shorter hair than your liking. He may come back with a new tattoo and/or scars. You may have either gained weight from nervous/bored eating, or lost weight because you had no appetite while he was gone. Despite all that, you'll buy a fabulous new dress to greet him in, which you will only get to wear for no longer than the 30 minutes it takes to drive home.

11. Don't be offended when he doesn't notice the new blanket on the back of the couch, the new paint in the bedroom, the new shower curtain, dishes, table, desk, appliance. Or the new flowers, comforter, lamp… Basically, more than likely all he wants to look at are you, the tv, and the backs of his eyelids.

12. He might come home from deployment and not want to be "Daddy" right away. Or "Husband" He will be happy to be home, reveling in all that is "safe" and "normal". In the time he was gone you learned to do what you used to need him for. It might be hard giving those duties back to him. Don't be surprised if he doesn't want to take them back right away. Your best bet is to talk to him. Let him play with the kids, or not, for a few days. Remember, if he was gone one month or 15, you and the children may not be the exact people he remembered. Find wives on base who have been there.

13. Also, don't be offended if your Troop asks for Macaroni and Cheese over the gourmet meal you have prepared. He's been used to eating runny eggs, undercooked bacon, moldy charbroiled toast, and a meaty substance known as meatloaf that is .05% meat and 99.95% You Don't Want to Know. Macaroni and cheese is simple, tastes good, and can get the job done. It's also only 50 cents a box at the commissary and can get you through those months that you are missing $500 out of your check and only have $50 after bills to put gas in the car and get groceries.

14. Something to think about: When he is deployed, if it is possible, he will very likely relax by playing video games. They aren't real, and that means they can take him far, far away from real, and that's the most comforting thought he can get sometimes in a wartime situation. This may lead to an addiction. Our advice: try to help him keep it in moderation, but understand that this helps him. It's fun for him. It keeps him young. Take up a hobby, go out with friends, sit in the room and read while he plays. Try the game. You might like it.

And finally:


1. You are not first in your marriage. As long as he's active duty, you never will be. The military does not care if it is your anniversary. If there is a terrorist attack, pending deployment, or they just plumb feel like calling him in to work, he will go. The other option is jail time. You pick.

2. Your husband will not keep every promise he ever made. In fact, between the military and his given gender, you'll be lucky if he keeps two. As long as he keeps the basic, "Promise to love, cherish, and be faithful" you're in good standing. The rest will have to be hashed out, fought over, and bitched about to girlfriends.

3. This is one a lot of people don't understand. As the spouse you become the person who gets the news. Most of the time, he will call you, write you, e-mail you first. God forbid he dies, because you will be the one to find out. This leaves you in a very poor situation, as someone (often, but definitely not always, his mother - especially in my case. I love Sherry!) will be jealous that they are not receiving every call made out of the war zone, school, or basic training. This can lead to verbal/physical/mental feuds between you and his family. If you are lucky, most of his family (ESPECIALLY any prior military members) will understand and leave you alone.

4. In regards to this, it will also be your fault, should you marry him, if he does not call home.

5. Over time, the number of deployments you and your husband have been through will greatly outnumber the number of anniversaries you two have actually spent together in the same town, let alone state or country.

6. You will remember the year your son was born, but you'll fight over what base you were at, in what state or country.

7. Never assume your husband is going to get his ten day TDY [or time off of work for ANYTHING]. You may just get stuck doing all the legwork finding a place to live yourself because you're number 213 on the base housing list and they are not concerned with helping you find a place off post. When he's promised his days and they never come, you're steady out on your own running up the miles on your car in a town you know nothing about. But, as they say, when you assume, you make an ass out of "u", and me.

8. You will NOT see your family as often as you want to. You will most likely not be stationed near home. (Definitely not, in my case!) Your siblings will suddenly possess time machines and constantly step too far into the future for your liking. Invest in a good phone plan, and webcam. It helps.

9. The most heartbreaking thing I've had so far - you will have to choose between your job (or lack of money) and your grandma's funeral. Or weddings. Or baptisms. Or family reunions. We are sincerely sorry. We can almost guarantee this will bring you to your knees more than once. On the same note, it is not extremely uncommon to hear of women who delivered, raised, and/or lost babies while their DHs were deployed/TDY.

10. Expect that during his career in the military, more often than not, you will be both Mummy and Daddy at home. You will take care of your kids, giving them all of the love you can and emphasizing the honorable role of their Daddy. You wait (sometimes not so patiently) for him to come home and embrace him, giving him back his Daddy "role". This is especially prevalent if you have very small children for they will "know" Daddy but as you look forward to homecoming day, your children will be looking at you to wipe your eyes, stand up and brush it off and continue on being the amazing wife and mother the military sometimes forgets to acknowledge.

The biggest advice: Surround yourself with positive influences. Stay away from negative, gossiping women, of which there are lots.

It's too easy in the military to drink underage, party, etc. It's also very easy to doubt your husband when he is away. This is harder for National Guard wives, who don't have a post nearby to run to. Still, find stories of marriages that did last. Through many deployments. Find people whose husbands broke up with them because they thought it would be too hard, and got back together. Be nice to veterans. If all goes as planned, you might be one of those someday. A lot of vets are still married to their high school sweethearts. Get to know their stories, if you can. You'll be amazed.

As one husband once said, and every military wife can tell you: "While life apart is miserable, life alone is death."