Would You Do the MilLife All Over Again?


Imagine a chapel filled with military couples. They range in marital experience from newlyweds with only a few months since their “I do’s,” to a seasoned couple who has celebrated 32 anniversaries. Servicemember ranks range from private to field grade officer. And those couples are all in that chapel for the same reason: to renew their wedding vows.

That’s exactly what happened a couple weeks ago at Fort Stewart. Twenty-one couples proclaimed their love for each other all over again at a “Coin and Covenant” ceremony just before the brigade’s deployment to Afghanistan. Each couple received a coin that was split in half, one half for the husband, the other for the wife, as a tangible reminder of the covenant part of the ceremony when they renewed their vows.

I’m sure you all just joined me in a collective, “Aww, that’s the most romantic thing in the whole wide world!” That was my initial reaction when I first read the story too.

My second reaction? Wow. These spouses are marrying their servicemembers again despite the fact that they know precisely what they’re getting themselves into.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard MilSpouses retell conversations they’ve had with non-military connected people who imply that we have no right to complain about our lives because we knew what we were getting into when we chose to marry into the military. I’ve had a few of those conversations myself, and they’re so incredibly frustrating because my husband wasn’t in the military when I married him. (Then of course, the discussion immediately turns to, “Well why in the world would you let him join the military?” But that’s a whole other blog post.)

Even if my husband had already been in the Navy when I met him, I still wouldn’t have known what I was getting into. There’s no way I could have predicted what military life would look like. I don’t care if you were a military brat who grew up to be a servicemember who majored in Military History and minored in Military Marriage in college. It’s impossible to comprehend what life is like as a military spouse until you’re smack dab in the middle of it yourself.

That’s why it’s even more of a romantic gesture in my eyes that these couples, and any military couple who renews their vows, chose to say “I do” again, this time with a knowledge they didn’t have during their first walk down the aisle. They knew firsthand what they were getting into.

And they did it anyway.

In its own way, military life is rewarding, with opportunities for personal growth at every crazy twist and turn. Sometimes, it’s even fun. But it’s by no means easy. And we’re often reminded of that when we look at our non-MilSpouse friends who live a few blocks over from their entire extended family in the same house they moved into after their honeymoon (because they were actually able to have a honeymoon) and who haven’t lived half their marriages without their other half. On our less than stellar days, when those pangs of marital envy bubble to the surface, it’s easy to wonder what we got ourselves into, to question if we would do it all over again if given a free pass to go back in time and take a different path.

I know what those 21 couples at Fort Stewart think. What do you think? Would you marry the military again if you knew then what you know now? Would you kick off a deployment with a vow renewal ceremony? And how do you respond to people who say, “You knew what you were getting into”?

About the Author

Heather Sweeney
Heather Sweeney is an Associate Editor at Military.com, former Navy wife, mother of two, blogger, and avid runner. She’s the blogger formerly known as Wife on the Roller Coaster and still checks in every now and then at her blog Riding the Roller Coaster.
  • Heather

    I agree, I could never have predicted what our life as a military family would be when my husband and I got married in 1995. We were both enlisted at the time and in our mid 20’s. It drives me kookoo when people say things like you knew what you were getting into. Because quite frankly, we did not. The military/Army was our job, not our life. And up until then, it was rather peaceful. We didn’t begin the roller coaster of military life until my husbands second decade in the military. As for doing it over, of course we would! Do we sometimes wonder if the other fork we could have taken would have been a better choice? Sure we do. But, we chose this path, and we feel our ups and downs have been what has strengthened our relationship. While we are a military family, we don’t label ourselves or define ourselves by this. This is my husbands job/career and he is great at what he does, but he doesn’t bring it home anymore then a doctor or lawyer would bring theirs home.

  • Chrissy

    I’ve only been married a couple years but yes of course I’d do it again. When people say “you made a choice when you married him, you knew what you were getting into” I say this: how did I have a choice? I didn’t make a conscious decision to fall madly in love with him! But I sure did, and all the bad parts to military life are still worth it because I’m married to my one and only. I can only speculate what my life would be like if I had told him I couldn’t handle marrying an active duty soldier. I would have regretted telling him that. But I certainly don’t regret marrying him.

  • Joe Swatzell

    I was active duty USMC for 5 years before I married my active duty Navy wife. That was 23 years ago and we are now in her 28th year of service. You can NEVER “know what you are getting into”. You have IDEAS of what MIGHT happen, but who knew they would be 7 THOUSAND miles from their parents when a medical emergency came up? You handle it, and move forward.
    I married my wife. The military service is just a job; (one that she loves and we are all proud), but it is what she DOES not who she IS. It has been a great way of life and both kids, 19 ans 2, feel the same way.

  • John Murray

    Easy answer to this – In A Heartbeat!

  • Buck

    As a member of both the Army Guard and now the Air Guard, I can say if I had it all to do over I’d never spend 1 minute in the guard or reserves. It would be all active time or nothing. Retirement and benefits are very different, yet the requirements are the same. What a crock.

  • Coho1938

    My Wife and I reaffirmed our vows after 41 years of being married. We were married in Thailand in 1971. I would not join the service,now because of the PC baloney; Homosexuals being jammed down the military’s throat, and the feminized military. I retired 1 Oct 1980, and for about 10 years I missed the Air Force, but not now Now every time I go on base I am glad I got out!

    • Heather

      And that’s fine sir, we wouldn’t want you in today’s military either. Times have to change and evolve, with your archaic way of thinking you would not do well today. Funny thing is, you probably served with several homosexuals and didn’t even realize it. My husband who has over 20 years now is much more tolerant and excepting of people and couldn’t care less whether his female mechanic 10 years ago was a lesbian or whether his fellow officer today has a same sex partner. My parents in their late 60’s, dad served as a Marine in the early 1960’s, and he is also the one who guided me, a woman into the Army as a young adult. He has no problems with homosexuals or women in today’s military. And I am thankful for having been raised by liberal, tolerant parents who except people for who they are.

  • Rosalee

    I cannot address being married and on active duty, but the rest
    YES, of course I would
    It was all I knew
    I am a former Navy brat…………….and I was also active duty for 11 years plus as a line officer.
    Had I not had some medical issues, I would have stayed with it as my father had done.

  • Reggie

    I would do it over, but however i would stay single until after i retired from the Army. The military isn’t for married people, if you don’t believe me look at the divorce rate that includes me three times,yes thats right three times. While i was deployed my ex-wifes felt like they should screw the rear-d troops. So i had to Dx their azzes. Yes it cost me a lot of money time and promotions. So yes i would do the military life again, but single

  • Don

    I married my high school sweetheart after I was in the Navy. She wanted to go with me and so we got married. Truthfully, if I had it to do again, I would never have joined the Navy. But it was Viet Nam and I did not want to be drafted. I could have gone to college but was sick of school. So I became a Nuke in the Navy (hardest school in the world). Great education. Great training. But eventually I just couldn’t go to sea anymore. I was an E-6 over 12 and my family needed me more than the Navy. I looked around and said 7 years to retirement or stay home with my family? I chose family. The detailer kept telling me I would be headed right back to sea after doing back to back WestPacs. (On submarines). No thank you.
    Now my wife and I have been married 37 years and have no regrets about getting out when we were one re-enlistment from retirement.

  • Lawrence Ekdahl,

    Today’s military is not the same as when I served 21 years. I would not want to serve again under the present conditions and would not advise any one to serve.

  • ny435

    I would never do it again. After sixteen years of I love you, the rules changed to I love you to a newly set of people who were twenty years younger. I was beaten and berated on many occasions. Horrible decision I made.

  • Diane

    I would do it again, but knowing everything I know now things would be done much differently.