My husband is in the Army Reserves, a term many people do not understand. Being in the Reserves means your full time job is not the Army. A person in the reserves has a regular job but then goes on “drill” one weekend a month, and two weeks of the year for training. What I have found however, since being with Chris (we married in 1999) is that the one weekend a month and two weeks out of the year is a joke. He spends way more time doing Army stuff, especially since Sept 11.
Since Sept 11 Chris has been on Active Duty 3 times. So in 10 years, Chris has spent 3 entire years on Active Duty. Away from his family, friends, his life and his civilian job. The effects are many. The time away affects marriage, relationships with children, relationships with friends and career.
Before I go any further I want to state up front that I am sharing MY own experience as an “Army Wife.” All spouses of military members have different experiences. All marriages are different so the ability to handle the separation depends on the relationship of the two people. Please do not take my thoughts as a blanket definition of being an Army Wife.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. Each time Chris has been deployed our life has been affected in many different ways and we always seem to come out better in the long run. Chris loves the Army. He loves the USA. He is proud to serve his country and feels like he is at his best when he is serving. I believe the Army has shaped who he is as a person, and I therefore appreciate the Army for making my husband a man of honor.
I like being a supportive wife. Sometimes its harder to be supportive than others. I often wonder what is harder – being the one who has to go away and be put in harms way, or being the one left behind trying to hold our life together and being strong in front of the kids.
Two of Chris’ deployments were not in combat zones. I will be honest, there is resentment on my part. Chris is off at Oktoberfest in Germany and I am left at home to make sure the kids are taken care of, the bills are paid, the house isn’t falling down, and unable to leave or go do anything unless I find someone to care for the kids. When I am sick or the kids are sick, it is difficult to not have a partner there.
Then I flip back to feeling as though I’d much rather be here and have the kids with me than to travel the world and not be able to hug the kids every day.
After 12 years of marriage, 3 deployments, and 2 kids we are coming to an end of our Army Reserve career. As much as it is Chris who has the rank and goes away, I feel like being an Army Reservist is a whole family commitment. Chris could not maintain life without me hanging back (both personally and professionally), staying committed to him, and managing the family.
So in less than 2 years, he will hang up his boots and we will finally get 4 weekends a month to have family time, to keep up with projects, manage sports, and basically everything. Up to now it has always seemed like there is never enough time to get things done. Is there ever really time to get it all done?
We were lucky enough that by the time Sept 11 occured, Chris was a Captain and on his way to Major. He was a high enough rank that he could actually control some of the things that happened while he was on active duty. When he was in Iraq he was able to call me every single day. I was fortunate to talk to him daily and know that he was alive. Some are not as lucky and do not get to contact their family as often. I know if he could not have called, my anxiety would have been MUCH worse.
I look at the paper every day and I see the names of the soldiers who have died, most of them young, enlisted kids. They are someone’s son or daughter, but also a husband, wife, mother or father. And I know some that have died are survived by grandparents and great grandparents. Our society today doesn’t always “get it” that we are a nation at war. People of honor and integrity are freely giving their time and for some, their lives to protect us. And in many cases these young people are not getting the support they deserve.
No matter what my challenges have been, I think its important for everyone to understand that there are a lot of soldiers who return home and have a very hard time acclimating back into real life. Many are becoming suicidal and have PTSD. They don’t always feel comfortable enough to get help. Some die because they didn’t have the “strength” to ask for help.
Many service men and women see asking for help or going to a counselor as a sign of weakness, or even something that will hurt their career because they must report to the military that they go to counseling. For a time, that was absolutely true and in some people’s mind, it still is. However, I believe the Military as a whole is recognizing the high numbers of suicides and are trying to not only support but also promote seeking help when needed.
I work in the social service field so I know enough to have helped Chris upon his return home. We went through a period of him jumping out of bed and running into walls at any bump in the night. I was able to recognize what was happening and talk him down and remind him he was safe at home. His stopped in less than 6 months. Those who do not have spouses with social service knowledge may not know what to do or may not understand. That is why it is so important as a spouse to recognize the need and encourage getting help if needed.
I have learned many things being an Army wife.
I have learned that I am much stronger than I ever thought. Each time he goes away I get stronger.
I have learned that I am happier when he is home and life is certainly less stressful.
I have learned to appreciate simply being able to go to a movie with the whole family OR being able to go to a Rated R movie with a good friends while Chris takes care of the kids.
I have learned that it is OK for me to go away and leave him with the kids for a weekend, but I really wouldn’t want to go away for too much longer without seeing my kids.
I have learned that my house, specifically the kitchen island, is a lot cleaner when he is gone. But I would much rather live with a cluttered kitchen island than have him go away for another year!