Military Spouse Life: A Photo Essay

woman walking in woods

Just after reading Sarah’s post about her deployment letters, I found an interesting article which takes at look at Prince Charles’ life as told through Christmas cards over the last 30 years. The author claims body language in the photographs tell a real life story. None of us really know what goes on in someone else’s marriage and family life. Even so, there’s probably some truth in the commentary. You’ll all be relieved to know that in 2010, Prince Charles finally appears to be at peace, and trouble-free.

I began thinking about my years as a military wife. If my military story were told through a photo essay, what would someone glean from the pictures?

I was not one of those gals who instantly embraced military life. You would not find “Hooah” stamped on my forehead, or even in my vocabulary. I was a bit resistant in the beginning. I wasn’t a military brat and I didn’t know anything about the culture. I had bought into many of the stereo types, the same ones which now frustrate me. I adored my new husband and was thrilled to be married, but I missed my friends and family who were a thousand miles away.¬† In the beginning, I wasn’t sure this whole military thing was going to work out very well. With respect to military life, I didn’t opt to sink or swim. I just checked boxes as I went along. Many opportunities to make new friends and become involved were missed in the early days as a result of my reluctance to adjust to reality.

Conflicted. That’s what my early photos might relay. Loved the husband. Military life? Not so sure.

Putting the “military” aspect of a military marriage on a shelf and ignoring it was increasingly difficult to do.¬†After a few moves to both desirable and undesirable locations, I began to get the hang of military life and feel more confident that I could handle it and that there was a meaningful role for me to play. I learned along the way that I had something to contribute, and something to gain. Military life, as with anything, had benefits and pitfalls. Which would I choose to focus on?

Relaxed and Confident. This is what photos of these years would show.

Then came September 11, 2001. I knew immediately that my life, and your life, would never be the same. My country would not let those attacks go unpunished. My husband, and your spouse, would be called upon to inflict the punishment. Just prior to 9/11, my husband spent a year deployed to a very unstable region. It was clear that trouble could bubble up to the surface anytime, but after so many years of relative peace, I shoved the thought away and became complacent. I couldn’t have imagined protracted combat. War, should it ever happen, would surely resemble the only large-scale experience in recent memory — Desert Storm — in which our military dispensed with the Iraqi aggressors in record time and our troops came home pretty quickly.

Shaken and Unsteady. This is what photos just after 9/11 would portray.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raged on, so many of us turned to the internet. Initially, I sought news and information, but it wasn’t long before I found that the web was more than an information portal. It would become, first and foremost, a web of support. A place where military families could connect and bond. Share our experiences and support each other. In some cases, it’s the sole source of support for spouses. In other cases, it’s been an incredible supplement to the physical support systems available to us. Whatever the case may be, the internet has sustained so many of us in times of great peril. It has given us friends we otherwise might not have and it’s allowed us to create forums where we can discuss the good, bad and ugly with people who really get it.

Grateful. Amidst the chaos, there is beauty.

The lessons of 9/11 are many, but if that tragedy taught me one thing, it’s that we can never be certain of what the future holds. World events dictate our future, and the world has its share of dark corners and unpredictable actors. Life is tough, but so are military families. We’re tired and we’re stressed, but we’ve risen to the occasion. And then some. We’ve lost much. So much. But we’ve gained much, too. Our strength and sanity have been thoroughly tested, and will continue to be.

Cautiously Optimistic. This is where I live today.

I’ve noted there’s no uphill trend here. There are wild ebbs and flows. Military life brings with it the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It’s the nature of the beast. What would a photo essay of your time as a military spouse say about where you started, where you’ve been, where you are and where you may be heading?

About the Author


Andi is married to an active-duty soldier and is the founder and former editor of SpouseBUZZ.

She is the founder of the Annual MilBlog Conference. The MilBlog Conference is the premiere event of the year for military bloggers. President George W. Bush, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, GEN David Petraeus, LTG Mike Oates, LTG William Caldwell, RADM Mark Fox, MG Kevin Bergner, MG David Hogg and The Honorable Pete Geren have addressed previous conferences.

While living in Washington, DC, Andi was the Ambassador to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Sew Much Comfort, a non-profit organization which makes and delivers, free of charge, special adaptive clothing for wounded service members. Andi has worked with several non-profits to help our wounded heroes and their families. She finds that work to be the most rewarding and meaningful of all.

Andi strives to find humor in the good, bad and ugly of life and is a firm believer that laughter has the ability to cure most ills.

  • Maharet

    I’m to new to this, but my photo essay would start off as Resentful…I’m still working on that.

  • d`Arcy

    My photo essay would show , excitment and wearyness as I am brand new to this whole military life and my fiance did not tell me anything and i mean anything not even his unit name so I had to find it all out on my own but that is the military I guess so I am happy and content and very proud of my fiance who is over in afghanistan

  • I’m brand new to the Army life…just 38 days or so away from our first PCS. My photo essay right now would be “Adventerous”. I’m excited about the adventure, yet also curious to see how it all plays out. We don’t know yet for sure where we are going. I don’t know when Hubby will deploy. I know I have a lot to learn and a lot to experience. I want to make sure I jump in wherever I can so that I can make friends and get involved. I want to learn from others that have Been There, Done That. I want to make the best of each situation we are given, but I’m also well aware of hard times that will come. I’m new to this, but Hubby is prior service, and I have 2 dear friends that are Army wives. I know that doesn’t fully prepare me, but at least I have a “heads-up”!

  • Andi

    Midlife Army Wife – That’s a great approach. You’re already light years ahead of me when I was in your shoes. “Adventure” is an excellent adjective. Whether you like or dislike military life, it’s certainly an adventure.

    Maharet – Good luck with the resentment. I think that’s a natural place to be from time to time, but I hope that gives way to more positive feelings soon.

    d’Arcy – You’ll learn as you go along.

    Hope you all learn to enjoy the life. I have, but it took some time….

  • Cassandra

    I too am brand new to this military life. Just married my husband in October of this year, and although I went into the marriage having been through one deployment with him prior, he deployed again 10 days ago. It certainly has been a very difficult transition for me. I am much like you Andi, I absolutely adore my husband and would do anything for him. However, with multiple stressful situations all being tossed at me all at once and not having him here to be by my side to help through them all, I’m starting to wonder if I am strong enough to handle the lifestyle and be everything he needs me to be as his wife. Of course I will always be here waiting on him, supporting him and loving him…but sometimes it just feels like I’m not emotionally strong enough to hold myself together.

  • serina

    They really dont show no pics on here lol

  • sylvie

    Seek friends who will encourage you in the right direction with your family if you are not sure ask God and He will guide .