YDU: Don’t Believe the Spouse Sisterhood?

YDU swimmers

Why didn’t you tell me you didn’t know about the military spouse sisterhood? In my 25 years as a Military Spouse, I have come to fully believe that, “Yes Virginia, there is a Military Spouse Sisterhood” (no matter what this poll says).

I have always heard people say that the military takes care of its own. That is not what I mean by “sisterhood.” I am not referring to programs set up for us or ways for the Military to help us be “resilient.” Certainly those bases have been covered. I have also been so grateful for all the support I get from civilian friends and family.

Instead, I am referring to the true meaning of Sisterhood according to the following definition, “(1) A bond between two or more girls, not always related by blood; (2) The sharing of knowledge that there will always be someone around whom you can trust to support in crisis or in need; (3) The feeling of kinship with and closeness to a group of women with shared interests and concerns.”

This is the Sisterhood I want to share with you here.

In times of tragedy

I could reach back many, many years and share the numerous examples of kindness, hospitality, support and friendship that I have personally been afforded but I’m going to begin with the day of September 11, 2001.I was 36 weeks pregnant with our son and was awakened by the phone ringing early that tragic morning.

A military spouse was on the line asking if I was ok? Had I spoken to my husband? Did I need anything? I was struggling to get out of bed and turn on the television to see for myself, but whatever it was, I was apparently going to be well taken care of, if need be.

Later on that day, I gathered with my neighbors (military spouses, who I had only known a few short months)  in our tiny cul-de-sac in Leavenworth Kansas, we shared our fears, and a yes, a few tears, as we recognized that our own world had been so dramatically changed that day.

In times of war

Later, with my husband deployed during OIF I, I sat in my living room with other military spouses, as we watched the attack on Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait, unfold in real-time on television. We watched as our husbands’ faces flashed on the screen, their names and units openly discussed and we witnessed as the gurneys carrying injured (our husbands, friends and Soldiers) were publicly shared with the rest of the world.

I can think of no other place with no other people I would have preferred to have sat with during that horrible experience and in the days that followed. It was inconceivable and devastatingly sad and scary. Yet, I was surrounded by women who were living the same moment and feeling the same emotion. No one else could understand that moment like they could.

In times of bereavement

When my father passed away after a prolonged illness, the first call I received was from a military spouse. Our home was flooded with cards, letters, meals, offers of childcare and errand running or whatever I needed.

The very same held true when my Mother passed away nine years later. It was a military spouse who called and simply said, “Go, I’ll take care of everything here.” Whatever “everything” is in these kind of instances, I have always known that I had a friend (military spouse) who I could count on to help manage it.

I drove off, in those two situations, with my husband deployed or in the field, and my child only knowing he would be picked up from school that day and well taken care of until I could return.

In times of change

When PCSing, the first knock on my new front door (and there have been 14 of those new front doors in the last 25 years) has always been a military spouse.

Usually they are holding a pan of brownies or an offer to provide a meal.  They offer  a “welcome to the neighborhood” card with everything I ever need to know about them in the foreseeable future. They issue invitations for play dates to my son, information on the community and schools, and all the local fun.

Occasionally, there’s a bottle of wine accompanying those brownies, but I’ll get to that.

In times of injury

A few deployments ago, I had the painful misfortune of falling down a long wooden staircase while my (at the time) 5 year old son watched. I am certain the sight terrified him. I managed somehow not to break my neck, while my leg was awkwardly folded behind my back and my shoulder was hooked behind my head.

He stood there at the bottom of the stairs with his five-year-old friend, both in tears, and quickly picked up the cell phone that I had dropped on my way down in the fall.

The other little boy ran out the front door, down to his house and got his mother, another military spouse. Who happened to be the same person I had just speed dialed on my cell phone. She walked in, calmly helped me into the car, dropped me off at the local Emergency room, drove off with my child and waited to hear from me.

Another military spouse said, “Go. I’ll take care of everything.”

Only a few months later, with my cracked ankle still encased in an air cast, I managed to have a run in with a brown recluse spider. Undoubtedly a serious incident, it was a military spouse who looked me in the eye and said, “You seriously need to go to the ER. I got this.”

She stood in her doorway, holding my son’s hand, as I got in my car and pulled away from her curb. The next day and only hours before emergency surgery and before any family member could drive the 10+ hours to Kansas on such short notice, it was also a military spouse who showed up in my hospital room and said, “Give me your house key. I’m going to get your dogs, straighten things up and grab some groceries before your family arrives.”

This happened while another military spouse grabbed my son’s clothing and the necessities he needed for the next few nights.

>Another military spouse stood watch at my hospital door, like a Centurian guard, making sure nothing questionable occurred as I was in and out of consciousness and not in any kind of lucid state to decipher much of anything else. She was also the first face I saw, standing over me, the next morning when I woke up from that surgery.

In times of worry

There have been too many times when my husband’s unit experienced casualties and lost lives. I am one of the lucky ones whose husband safely returned home.

All those days, those long nights of worry, and concern, sadness and fear– I shared them with other military spouses who felt every bit of what I was feeling.

We have cried, we have laughed, we have shared that bottle of wine ( remember?). We have sat in silence, and in prayer, and also in mourning, together.

The times when I have felt overwhelmed and have poured out my heart, feeling uncertain or needing advice, and reassurance, it has always been to another military spouse who sat quietly and listened, without judging, with an outstretched arm and a box of tissue.

In times of greatest joy

There have been happy long-awaited homecomings from what seemed like endless deployments. I’ve sat in the cold wind on metal bleachers, under the hot sun and humid heat of covered stands, and in large crowded hangars anxiously waiting to hear the speakers boom “They are on their way! Just a few short miles to go! Get ready! Here they come!”

I have watched as long white school buses pulled into parking lots and huge airplanes landed on airfields, emptying of Soldiers and hoping to catch a glimpse of my own.

Each of those times, I shared that first collective exhale with my Army Sisters standing all around me. Each one fully knowing the other’s joy, excitement and gratitude for that minute’s immeasurable emotion of “He is home, safe, once again.”

I know we are not a perfect group. We disagree. We argue. We don’t easily trust. We are a wily bunch and yes, we judge and compare. Just like everyone else.

But is there a thread that ties us together like nothing else? Is there a bond, a kinship that compels us to step in, to step up, to take care, to protect one another and be decent to each other, above all else?

Yes. I believe there is. It wasn’t always the person I expected, but in the moment, it was the very person I needed.  If that is the definition of a Spouse Sisterhood, then yes, beyond a shadow of doubt, beyond any argument otherwise:

Yes, Virginia, the Military Spouse Sisterhood exists. Look around, look closely, reach out, reach over. Look  here.


Jill Crider is a former Soldier, Army Brat, DA Civilian Employee and Army Wife of 25 years. She most recently served as the Senior FRG Advisor to the First Brigade, Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the Third Infantry Division of Fort Stewart, Georgia. She is also a graduate of the Master Resiliency Training course for Family members and is currently continuing in that program as a future trainer.

About the Author

Why Didn't You Tell Me
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  • the first mel

    Loved this article! It brought back all those times when those in my community were there for me. Thank you.

  • Sarah

    I happen to notice these posts and stories and the people agreeing are coming from “seasoned” spouses. Don’t take offense by that, the stories are usually prefaced with, “in my 25 years…”. I am not opposed to any sort of sisterhood but I really truly have not heard any of the types of stories you offer here happening to anyone I know in my short four years as a spouse. Truly, I think “social” networking has a lot to do with it. It’s not very social at all and it’s a lot easier to join a Facebook group and say, “let me know if you need anything” than it is to knock a new neighbors door, which used to be the only way you knew who was living there.

    • Jess

      Try being a military spouse newlywed (particularly one in your late 30s) living at your first installation.

      • Guest

        I feel like I am in the same boat. I call myself an older navy wife because I didn’t marry my husband until I was 36. So many of the wives I encountered during my 1st PCS had been with their husbands for much of their lives. I felt like I did in high school, awakard and out of place.

    • Amy_Bushatz

      I’ve been a spouse six years now. I think sometimes these sisterhoods develop in times of collective hardship. A unit I was a part of right after getting married wasn’t very close at all. Then people started to die. Those women are still some of my closest friends.

      I hate that bonds grow tighter sometimes ONLY through tragedy. But … at least they do instead of getting weaker.

    • love622

      I am a army wife.. I loved my community down in Kansas at fort riley, we pcsed up to Alaska. while my husband was deployed I flew into Kansas and my hubbys CO’s wife picked me up at the airport and bought me some minor food and utensil items.. I offered to pay her back but she said no worries.. later that year I was given a certificate of appreciation from the FRG. there is deff a sisterhood in the military

    • Christy Eakin


      I am not one of those ‘seasoned’ spouses….my husband re-joined the Army when we had been married for 4 years. He already had lots of experience in the military in the Navy but as a single soldier, and I was new to the whole military spouse thing… But, I made sure that I became as active in the military community as I could, and I have meet some of the most amazing people! We have only been in 4 maybe 5 years at this point! But, the best advice I can give is volunteer, either in the unit or within your post! It has been an amazing experience!

  • aubreyann325

    Jill, I just want to point out that you did a fantastic job of including military women like me in this sisterhood. Not every milspouse I met felt that women in uniform had a place in their groups, but you definitely did. I think our Brigade was especially blessed to have that kind of inclusive network.

  • Jill (The Other One)

    This was a wonderful read – so glad I saw it. If it is okay, I will share it with my niece, who is early in her journey as an Army spouse.

  • Cassie

    Absolutely love this. I can think of numerous times over the years when my “sisters” were there for my family and myself. While I have only been a military spouse for twelve years, and I do find with more social media outlets becoming the norm for communication, the sisterhood is still strong.

  • Ivey

    Great read done by an admirable prior-military, now mil-spouse! I can relate to almost every word and have countless mil-spouse ‘sisters’ I could name for each experience.

  • Carol Dupin

    As the sister to miltary spouse ( in this case, Jill ) more times than not the trip is at a 10 – 12 hour drive, or a 22 hour trip as i speak, so I’m so very grateful that my sister has sisters all over the world!

  • Ana B

    Jill, like many senrio spouses, I have seen your dedication to help many young spouses in the military. It’s unfortunate not all spouses will see or experience what you have done in the military community. I seen you in action , your motivation and dedication during your stay in 3ID. Spouses like you are inspiring mentors to young spouses. Keep up the great job you are doing. And thank you…

  • ophiolite

    That doesn’t work for everyone and the assumption that those who don’t feel it are just not trying hard enough doesn’t really help those who feel like they are on the fringes.

  • Annie

    Its there, and like I tell many of new wives “you may be home by yourself, but you are never alone”. Some one will always be there to provide assistance or lend a shoulder to cry on. What I have seen over the last 21 years is that there is a lack of mentoring being done. I had a conversation with our Commander’s wife about how you can fault the new wives if no one is there to teach them the ropes.

  • Army Wife

    Great read, I agree and disagree. As a Army spouse I have many “sisters” but where are they in times of personal turmoil. I have experienced times of personal turmoil and where are my “sisters” then. I have had “sisters’ turn their backs to me, not return calls, totally ignore me when trouble arise. Trouble when I needed a sister, especially when I was on the other side of the earth from my real family. Across seas, different states and no “sister” was there. They talked behind my back speculated, giggled, lied, and down right acted as if I did not exist. I not only experienced it for myself but saw it first hand with other military wives. I have learned as a military spouse the only one to depend on is God, especially when you are away from your real family. Do not put too much into your “sisters”, because there will be a time when all you need is some one to listen and they will not be there or in my case they will listen and tell every one else. No I am not bashing the Military Sisterhood, because there are some good ones out there, but just be careful at who you call a sister.

    • TheOtherMel

      I don’t call them my Sisters unless they are my friends first. It doesn’t sound like any of the women you are describing are actual friends. Keep looking … they’re out there! There ARE good people (military wives) in the world who will do things for others simply because it’s the right thing to do.

  • http://www.ausa.org/family Pattyb

    Jill, thank you for writing this! I just wanted to address the ” seasoned spouse vs “new spouse” comments. Young spouses, yes, this is a different world than the one I grew up in but some things still remain the same. Give it time… Soon You’ll find yourself calling a ” sister” to get the low down on the new installation just prior to a PCS… You’ll be at a Spin or Zumba class and start to look forward to meeting up with that “sister” that makes you laugh and brightens your day… You’ll be purchasing Longaberger or Pampered Chef from a “sister” and start a lifelong friendship you never saw coming… The “sisterhood” evolves in many ways,many times without fanfare or purpose, but the bonds that develop with certain connections will last a lifetime… Well after, in my case, when the uniform is hung up in the closet for good.

  • Guest

    I must be an anomaly, my sisterhood, and people I can truly depend on have no affiliation with the military. And it’s not saying that I haven’t tried but most of the women I’ve met, always seem to have their hand out on how I can help them, watch my kids all the time,listening to woe is me during deployment, let me tell you what my husband did etc. But I’m looking forward to the influx of new brotherhood the military has a afforded due to the repeal of DADT.

  • wife&veteran

    You are very lucky. I have not had any military sisterhood as a spouse. I was in for four years in the Navy and I had great friends and most of them I didn’t work with but met shortly after I arrived and kept for two years and 4 yrs after that until we just moved too many times. When I got out of the Navy as active duty I was a Navy spouse for 13 yrs. We moved to many different bases on base and off base but near by. I found out the best two places were from Norfolk, VA and Italy. I did hear Germany was the best But, I was never there for more than a vacation. Both places you had to be near back to get the ffsc was right down the street. They would put out info that was helpful. With more military families going through deployments they had support groups. I have found that if you live near smaller bases they didn’t have many going on deployments or husbands gone off to a ship while you stayed. So no one understood what I was going through and no help from ffsc. No one was there to help mow the lawn when my lawn mower broke down and I already let it get too tall. Just for an example. Maybe when we get to a new base they should tell the active duty person to have the spouse show up for a welcome to the town event. I bet there were many new people who arrived to San Diego but to just many different ships. So I never met any new spouses, only ones leaving.

  • Georgia Peach

    Having both a military network and a civilian network are so valuable. It is not an either/or situation; both are critical to feeling mentally strong. I am grateful for civilian friends who put up with a language that amounts to nothing but letters, who befriend me knowing I will leave them, who remind me that it is not just military that has hard struggles but everyone. I am grateful for military friends that know what I am saying even when it is nothing but letters, who befriended me even though they were leaving showing me just enough to be settled, and who remind me that it is ok to admit I am not always happy with this life and that it is ok to be that way. In my early duty stations, I did not think I was building a sisterhood, it is only now, several moves later, that I see it.

  • Floral

    I think that part of why the positive comments usually come from “seasoned” military spouses is because they know how to get in that sisterhood and make it work. Not only that, but they have way more experience to draw from. Sometimes friendship can only come from shared experiences.
    I am not even a spouse yet, but feel already as if I have been warmly welcomed into a community, maybe because I had to relocate my family often prior to becoming an army girlfriend. I know how to start over. Like anything, you get out what you put in. I don’t go in anywhere expecting there to be people knocking on my door with brownies (though, I would have forks at the ready to dig in). Like any new home, I make the effort to get involved and get to know people. I make the effort to be that sister to someone else and know it will be returned if necessary.

  • TheOtherMel

    I am standing up and CHEERING for you Alice! BRAVO for your excellent comment! You are 100% correct! You have to BE an Army sister to HAVE Army sisters. And yes, it takes a lot of work but it’s so worth it. Everything you do comes back to you in spades … if you are reaching out to others with caring and strength and love, they will reach out to you!