Military Families- What You Might Want to Know

As Michelle Obama said on February 27, 2012, related to her Joining Forces effort for military families, “It is very easy for us to recognize the men and women in uniform because they’re in uniform, but their families serve, too.”

  • Many people express to me, in one way or another, that they think it must be very hard to be a military spouse.  True. 
  • However, they often qualify their statement by adding that I must have known “what I was getting into,” when I married Horatio.  False.

Really, nothing could be further from the truth.

Of course I knew we’d have to move around every few years and I knew Horatio would have to go away from time to time. I knew it was Horatio’s life goal to serve his country in any way he was asked and that he’d do whatever he had to do in order to do his best at any job assigned to him.

When our eldest son, Zack, was born in 1998, Horatio had served 6 years. I remember sitting on the couch, holding our newborn, dreaming of the future, talking about 14 years down the road when Horatio would retire after having served 20 years, and we could settle in one place just in time for Zack to start high school.

Zack will start high school next year and Horatio’s retirement has been put off, indefinitely. That wasn’t in the master plan.

But, Horatio still lives to serve.  I will not deny him his calling.

So, now I lay awake at night wondering, will Zack get to start and finish high school in one place? Will he do Freshman and Sophomore years where we are now and Junior and Senior years somewhere else? Will he attend three high schools???  It’s possible.

That’s the thing that most civilians don’t think about… the military controls not only the military service member’s life, it controls the whole family’s life and does not stop to think about how any of us might be affected by 3 moves in 4 years.

We have moved 10 times in our 16 years of marriage.  The shortest period of time we lived somewhere was six months, in Virginia Beach.  The longest we lived somewhere was three years, in China.  We’ve also lived in Scotland, Hawaii, Washington, Missouri, Kansas and Washington DC.

Zack attended three different preschools and four different elementary schools.  I am happy to say that he attended only one middle school, but we had to make the decision to have Horatio do a geographical bachelor tour in order to make that happen.  We could have relocated to the area where he was based, but knowing he would be deployed for the majority of the time he was based there led us to make the difficult decision to live apart for 18+ months.

Dwight went to two preschools and two elementary schools.  Bob has been lucky, so far.  He attended one preschool during the three years we lived in China and is in his third year at one elementary school.  Harold has only attended preschool in our current location.  But, Horatio’s deployment is coming to an end.  He will be home at the end of July and expects to be in a job at our current location for the next year.  Beyond that, we don’t know where we will be, and while it is my goal to keep us stationary, in the first place that really feels like home, I’m pretty sure Horatio and the powers-that-be have another plan.

These are the crates that moved our household goods from Beijing to Northern Virginia two and a half years ago. The thought of going through that again turns my stomach.

It’s those thoughts that keep me up at night.  Really.  Melatonin, Valerian Root, Tylenol PM — none of it overpowers the worries of a military spouse lying awake, wondering about the future.

  • Military families are very often cycling through periods of stress and anxiety, making life altering decisions, due to demands of the soldier/sailor’s job.
  • According to the Department of Defense, military families move 10 times more often than civilian families.

That’s one reason my role as a military wife has evolved from passive observer to vigilant advocate.

My husband serves the President of the United States. I serve our family.

President Obama is the Commander in Chief of our military but I am Commander In Chief at Home and, in my opinion, the jobs are equally important.

I focus on what is best for our family, so that my husband can focus on what is best for our country.

  • If you are in a bind, ask a military spouse for help.  Military families help each other and all others.

We know what it’s like to be somewhere we know no one and need help: babysitting, doctor recommendations, a cup of flour, a lawn mowed, anything and everything.  So, when we see a friend or acquaintance in need, we are often the first to jump in to help in whatever way we can, and we are happy to do it.

In the past year + that Horatio has been deployed, a fellow Navy wife and I have depended on each other countless times for any number of things.  Most often, it’s an item added to a shopping list when one of us can’t possibly add one more thing to the “to do” list, child care, or an understanding ear.

Yes, we are strong and can handle pretty much whatever is thrown our way, but sometimes, just like our civilian family counterparts, we just want to vent a little!

  • Many people say, “I don’t know how you do it.”  or  “I couldn’t do what you are doing.”  

Of course you could!  You do what you have to do.  You wouldn’t just curl up in a ball and cry and you wouldn’t divorce your spouse just because things weren’t going your way.

Please excuse this baseball cliche, but I’m a St. Louisan, and therefore a life-long fan…

Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and we just have to choke up and give the bat a good, hard swing!  Everyone has “stuff” to deal with and everyone gets through it one way or another.

This is my stuff and while it sometimes makes me crazy, I wouldn’t change the path we’ve taken to get here.  I will be happy to see this chapter of our family’s story come to an end, though— In 100 days and counting.


About Commander in Chief At home

Erin is a military spouse and, sometimes temporarily single mom to 4 boys. She's a parenting coach, writer, teacher, special needs (Autism) mom, and much more.
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2 Responses to Military Families- What You Might Want to Know

  1. Madison says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! Mine is very similar, I’m also a NAVY wife, mother of 2 boys, and counting the days for retirement (10years). No one knows or understand what we have to go through but those who have done it. From one military spouse to another thank you for all you do. Keep sharing and even when you feel exhausted remember You can do it! That’s what I keep telling myself 🙂


  2. Thank you for your kind words, Madison. Hang in there. Like I said, we military spouses are stronger because of what we have done and what we have to do.


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