May, the month we celebrate our beautiful moms. It’s the month when the days are longer, children from all over can see the last day of school on the horizon, and we take a step back and let our graduates shine. There is something so special about May. It is one of my most favorite months of the year. May also marks the official month of showing appreciation to our Armed Forces, it is Military Appreciation Month.
With that said, I couldn’t let May close without paying tribute to the Military Spouse (Military Spouse Appreciation Day was May 11, 2018). Being a military spouse myself, I know the highs and lows of this role. It is by far one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever had. If I could tell my twenty-something self about what it would be like to take on this role, I would start with the learning curve! Just like becoming a parent or step-parent, there is nothing that can prepare you for what life will bring you in the years to come as a military spouse. From power of attorneys to deployments, there was so much I didn’t know. I thought I was prepared because I had the best role model for taking on this role, my mom. What I never realized was the level of commitment she and other military spouses have towards their partner’s military careers. It was far more extensive than I could have imagined.
Now back to that conversation with my twenty-something self as a military spouse. What advice what I give?
You will most likely live far away from your family.
As a child, you were familiar with military life, and that was just the beginning! Now that your a military spouse, short car rides turn into plane rides (or sometimes long car rides). It will become more difficult when you have little ones or when you become an auntie. Because you’ll have to watch all the fun and share the important milestones from wherever you are. What will be special from this is that you’ll appreciate the times when you come together as a family that much more. You’ll understand the true meaning of coming home.
Your career path might encounter some bumps.
Here you are at twenty-something, trying to figure out what you want to be – chasing your dreams of career success. You’re working towards a degree in dental hygiene and then comes the swift kick of change! Now what? Well, you learn to overcome and embrace change. You will still move mountains, just in a different field. Every PCS (permanent change of station, the military term for relocation) move will help you grow into the HR professional you were meant to be.
You will live in many different places before you plant your roots.
When you were little, you knew what relocating meant. You remember making friends and then having to leave for some place new. Those days were tough. If I’m being honest, you’ll see that not all military bases are created equal. Some will be in tornado alley and others will take you overseas where you’ll appreciate the culture of other countries. There will be places that are located on the beach that you’ll never want to leave. The take-away here will be that you will build a home, make memories and new friends where ever the military sends you. These friendships will last a lifetime! Eventually, you will plant roots and they will grow far beyond your imagination.
Finally, what is the last piece of advice I’d give to my twenty-something self?
Be strong and have faith.
There will be times when the team you’ve created will be separated. You’ll feel like you’re on your own, and deep down, you’ll be scared. This is when you’ll learn to exercise your patience and how to be strong. The time apart will make you both stronger. Have faith and when the time comes for him to return home, you’ll know what not to take for granted. Just remember, Team Veteran and Military Spouse means two different roles, but as a team you both fit together.
“She who waits. Also serves.”
Although I’ve had to make sacrifices in my life because my husband wore a uniform, I wouldn’t change a moment of this journey. I hope my advice well help a new military spouse (just as I once was) navigate her own path. As you’re out-and-about, and you thank a service member (and you really should), don’t forget to smile at his or her spouse too.