What every civilian fiancé should know about marrying into the military:
For a little girl who’d never been out of the great state of Alabama, I sure jumped into the deep end of life when I married a career soldier. Life with a military man is not a bed of roses, and not for the faint of heart.
Below, are five things I think every prospective military spouse should understand before tying the knot. It’s not a comprehensive list by any means, but they can be a real eye-opener.
- If the Army wanted one of its soldiers to have a wife, they would have issued one. If I had a nickel for every time I was called a “dependent,” I could have retired ten years ago. The day I graduated from high school and got a job was the last time I was “dependent” on anybody. My parents raised me to be responsible and self-sufficient. The Army views a soldier’s wife and family as gratuitous baggage. You take them along when you move, but they get dropped and left behind the moment the going gets rough.
- In the event of hostilities, you’re on your own. Your soldier is married to the Army. You’re more of concubine as long as they remain in the service. We lived in Korea for three years during one tour. Back then, North and South Korea were always teetering on the edge of war with each other. The tension at Panmunjom (the abandoned village on the border between North and South Korea where the Armistice was signed after the Korean War) was palpable. We lived in Seoul, a scant 50 kilometers from the border, which meant the populace remained in a constant state of readiness. As the commander of an elite helicopter unit at Camp Humphreys, my honey and his men were first responders. That meant, in the event of hostilities, he answered the call of duty, and I was on my own with the kids.
- Discipline is a way of life. The military trains their fighting forces to obey orders— without question and without hesitation. The U.S. continues to have the most well-trained and educated forces in the world. The dress code, the physical fitness requirements, the mandatory drills—all result from and encourage continued obedience. You’ll never see a wife fuss and fidget about her clothes as much as a soldier in dress uniform does.
- You will be alone at times. Face it, the military is on call twenty-four/seven. This may mean maneuvers, training/education, or deployment (when they’re sent to hot spots around the world). When Uncle Sam calls, your soldier will go. Missing your anniversary, the kids’ birthdays, birth of a baby, or a family crisis—in the grand scheme of things, you run a close second, but Uncle will always come first. Don’t get me wrong. The military will often make allowances to keep families together and happy, but it’s just that, an allowance.
- Plan on having clean closets for the duration. With a move at least every three years, you’ll have the cleanest garage/attic/basement in the neighborhood. You just won’t have the time, space, or energy to be a pack rat. Of course, you’ll wonder three years down the road what became of that tan dress you liked so much. There will be lots of donations to the clothing drop boxes.
Harsh? Yes. BUT, for every con of military life, there are two or more pros. My world expanded exponentially with exposure to other cultures around the world, and to the men and women of the armed services. The Army takes care of its own. Pride, honor, integrity, morality, principles, ethics, and virtue – what better role models for your children than a man or woman in uniform. And oh the places I’ve seen!
The bottom line for me is, if I had it to do over knowing what I know now … I wouldn’t change a thing!