A Holiday in the Life of a Military Wife

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"Behind every strong soldier, there is an even stronger woman who stands behind him, supports him, and loves him with all her heart." – Unknown

Two days out from Independence Day, I was cursing the firecrackers that some ignorant individual was setting off just moments before midnight. I stayed up too late, was getting tired, and I was also becoming a little cranky. As the firecrackers echoed with an incredibly loud bang, I consoled my poor dog, who, most days, is the essence of male bravado. Since his adoption into our family while my husband served in Iraq, our rescued mutt has taken the role of protecting his family very seriously. He is not, however, a fan of firecrackers.

 

yellow ribbon

Image: Michelle Donahue Hillison via Shutterstock

 

Of course, the lighting of mortars and explosion of lights across the night sky on the Fourth of July is an All-American tradition, along with the parades, barbecues and retail sales. I love this holiday, and I love seeing the displays of the red, white and blue in what people wear and in the decorations in their homes and businesses. I love seeing the American flag and the feeling of unity among neighbors and strangers.

It always makes me more proud of our service members and first-responders – many of whom will not have the opportunity to celebrate this day of independence, because they are keeping our nation and neighborhoods safe.

I woke up groggy, and typical of my morning routine, I sipped some super-strong coffee as I read my email, and then jumped over to Facebook. Of course, most moderators in the social media world were asking the same question: What are you doing for the Fourth? Most responses were typical: Having a cookout with family; seeing the fireworks; and traveling to the beach.

One comment from a military spouse felt like a punch to my gut. In essence, she said, “Nothing. Fireworks remind my husband of the mortars when he was in Iraq, so we don’t do them any more.” Looking at the clock, I logged off Facebook and got ready for the day. Her words lingered with me, and with each loud sound I have heard today, I was reminded by what she said. The sheer irony has laid on my heart all day. This soldier, who bravely fought for freedom and independence, suffers from the noise of the celebration of independence. This military spouse will spend her evening caring for her soldier, because she knows he needs her.

It is true that the service members have tough jobs and many times are in imminent danger. Military spouses have a very tough job, too. Many of us manage the home and the family on our own. Most of us have experienced more than one “deployment disaster,” such as a pipe bursting or all appliances conking out at once, or, in my case, a skunk spraying the entire exterior of the house. We deal with payday screw-ups and sketchy information. Most of us are blessed when our service member returns healthy and whole. There are, however, many spouses who become care-givers to a host of injuries, physical health, or mental health issues.

Military spouses don’t wear a uniform. We don’t stand out in a crowd, unless we are next to our uniformed service member. We often celebrate holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries alone, trying to keep the days normal for the family. We attend weddings and funerals, dance recitals and school plays solo, but when appropriate, we are taking video and photos to share across the miles. We Google videos on how to tie our son’s ties for senior pictures. We pay the bills and handle the work of two. We stop what we are doing to look at our phones, and will answer any text or call from our spouse at any time – day or night. We worry – though we know we shouldn't. We pray and send care packages and create countdown calendars.

I recently attended a conference in Chicago, and afterward enjoyed an afternoon at Navy Pier. I was surprised to see a USO there, and I took the opportunity to share this great service with my 15-year-old daughter. Inside the USO, I explained to her that this respite service is manned by volunteers. Anywhere there is a USO, her dad and brother can stop in for a rest, a cup of coffee, or to check email. Most of the time, you’ll find a USO in an airport. As a military dependent, she can use a USO as well.

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