If my life is like that of a military spouse, and my husband serves … aren’t I a military spouse? The answer is confusing.
Early on in our marriage, the MyCAA program was announced. I was young, anxious to further my education and desperate to find a career that I knew could move with me wherever my husband’s job took us. So I called up to register. In all my eagerness I had overlooked one small detail — that the program was offered by the Department of Defense.
In other words, as the spouse of a Coastguardsman, I was ineligible. Yes, since March 2003 the Coast Guard has fallen under the Department of Homeland Security, but, just like Sojourner Truth said of herself in her infamous “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, ain’t I a military spouse?
As a new bride, one of my first activities was to register for an ID card. I flashed my proudest Coastie wife smile and signed my new last name with the ease of one who had been practicing for months (I had). And then my husband took me on a tour of the base — two piers here, a restaurant there, an Exchange the size of a mini-mart, and a handful of small-boats and cutters. No spouses’ club, no clinic, no rec center and definitely no base housing. It was nothing like I had expected, but it was still a base and ain’t I a military spouse?
Five weeks after our wedding I gave the love of my life one last long kiss before watching him board his cutter. He set off for four months to the Mediterranean and Black Seas. “At least it’s only 4 months,” they’d say and I would nod with relief. Yes, four months gone, two months home, and then gone again just when we started to get back into a good groove. Another deployment, home again for a few weeks, and back to sea soon after that. No, while we thankfully haven’t been apart for seven months straight, we instead had to deal with seven months spread out over the first year of our marriage … and getting used to living with each other for the few weeks we were allowed in between. I was the on-call wife, springing into action after turning on my heel at the pier, but willingly giving it all up – the bill paying, car maintenance, and house projects – as soon as his cutter returned.
Ain’t I a military spouse?
And when that ship returned? Oh, when I anxiously pounded the pavement straining to spot it on the horizon. When there were no news cameras or reporters waiting to break the story. No music or banners. No crowds. Just a handful of us, mostly strangers to each other, but all fighting back the same tears, drawing on the last of our reserves and trying to appear as strong as the rest of the world believes us to be, at least until we finally get our Coastie home. To miss someone that much, and be so close that the only thing between you and the person you love most in all the world are a few feet of water, a brow, and the formality of military pier decorum. Oh the agony of the wait and the joy of reuniting! And to do it all over again every few months … ain’t I a military spouse?
My husband hasn’t fought in overseas campaigns, he hasn’t been one of the many with boots on the ground in the Middle East, although volunteer opportunities occasionally come up in discussion, and I don’t often fear for his life. But I’ve certainly done my share of worrying. Whether it’s the War on Drugs, dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane, search and rescue missions, or enforcing fishery laws – my Coastie is a fighter. I’m grateful his efforts are generally close to home, but ain’t I a military spouse?
Often, those of us in the Coast Guard community feel like outsiders. We fall under a different jurisdiction. Our numbers are small. Our deployments are short. And our mission is much more local. But similarities do exist. I am proud of my husband, proud of his sacrifices, and proud of his service to our county.
I am a military spouse.
Janine is currently living the dream with her Handsome Coastie in Annapolis, Md. for the next two, three, or maybe six years. She’s a work-at-home mom to Jack (3.5), Jude (2), and Julia (6 months). She often vents about life with three little ones over at www.coastiemamalogs.com.