On a recent Friday, I had a hometown friend tell me that her husband was leaving the next day for a work conference, and she would not see him again until the following Tuesday. I gave her a moment to vent a little, and I could hear a bit of sadness in her voice, but the truth was, I was annoyed. What I would give to have my husband leave for only three nights. When my husband leaves for a work related event, I will be lucky if I see him in six months. I am a military spouse.
The strength of a “milspouse” is second-to-none, and the military lifestyle is truly not for everyone. The women I have met are strong, independent, and adaptive to change. We all handle this lifestyle differently: the deployments, the detachments, the moves, and the ever-changing work hours. Some spouses find distractions such as throwing themselves into their own careers, while others are stay-at-home moms. However, there is one thing that stands firm – our comfort in each other. There is a reason that milspouses become so close. Unless someone has physically lived this lifestyle, most civilians will never truly understand, and because of this, we milspouses have a core connection to each other and where words often are not necessary.
We naturally bond in countless ways. Our husbands’ careers may have brought us together, but it is our love for each other that keeps us close. We compare the number of times each person has moved, and all the personal items that have been destroyed by movers. We talk about cities where we have lived and what we have loved (and loathed) about each one. We find that we know many of the same people, because even though the military can seem immense to outsiders, in our community, it is quite small. We make fun of our husbands’ jargon and how they gesticulate when telling stories. We also have to share with each other the birth names of our husbands, since they only use call signs. Quite honestly, I do not always know who “Twinkie”, “Omaha”, and “Broke” are! We even make sure to tell each other where our military discounts can be used! But none of this is not what sets military spouses apart from others. It is the connection we have with each other when the unexpected happens. Without asking what to do, or being nervous about what to say, a military spouse will step in to help another during the worst of times.
On December 8th at 6:40 pm, F-18 fighter pilot, Jake “Red Stripe” Frederick, who was stationed in Beaufort, was killed while performing a routine mission off the coast of Japan. The last words the crew heard over the radio were, “I am ejecting.” His body was found 20 hours later. He left behind his eight months pregnant wife, Kiley, and his three-year-old son. Within a few short hours after Kiley was notified, her squadron’s wives started pouring into her home. For the next several days, they stayed right by her side, bringing food, helping pack up her house, praying and comforting her in any way she needed – even if she did not say anything specifically.
News of Jake’s death spread quickly through our military community, and within a couple of days hundreds of Facebook profile pictures had been changed across our nation with the VMFA-115 logo (Jake’s squadron), a Go-Fund Me page had been created by one of Kiley’s closest friends in the squadron, and pages with updates of different suggestions for helping Jake’s family were being shared thousands of times.
It was no secret that Jake and Kiley were Christians, and her faith carried her through these dark days. On the Sunday after Jake’s death, Kiley and Jake’s families gathered in her home, along with dozens of spouses to hold a small service. Songs were sung, stories were told, and prayers were lifted. Several days later, Jake was laid to rest in his home state of Texas. Kiley made a specific request: she wanted her military spouse sisters to sit with the family at the funeral.
This is the strength of a spouse. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, and when your husband is a United States’ Marine, there is an extra concern for his safety, but you will rarely hear complaints. In a way, we chose this life. We knew this life would not be easy; we could have walked away, chosen a different path, but we stayed. We became military spouses, through the good times and bad. We know we have each other to lean on, and we make each other strong.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.”