On our last day in the military…

One of our first dates in 2005: an outdoor country concert

I’ll never forget the elation I felt when Vinnie and I first started dating back in 2005. I was amazed at how easily the relationship flowed; there was no awkwardness or guessing games—we were just suddenly spending all of our time together even though we went to different colleges. We made it work. (And I thought an hour drive was long distance back then…pshhhh.)

I’ll also never forget the simultaneous heart-sinking disappointment I experienced when I learned that Vinnie was in the Army. I knew what the Army meant, and I didn’t want that kind of life.

Yet, here we are.

Eleven years later (minus the one year in there that we were broken up after a particularly rough 15-month deployment), we are married with a child and two dogs, and we are out of the Army. I say “we” are out because anyone with military knowledge understands that the whole family is “in.” And after all these years of Vinnie fighting for everyone else’s freedoms, it’s nice to finally be able to enjoy some of our own. Here are some things we can now do that we could not do (at least not without great difficulty) while in the vice grip of the military:

  1. We can live anywhere we want to. Over the past decade plus, Vinnie lived in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, overseas, and a few other states in between for various schools and trainings. I mostly remained in New Jersey where my job was and traveled to stay with him during vacations and summers, but I also moved around quite a bit as well between various apartments with different roommates. We only started living together consistently in 2013 when we rented our first house together in Clarksville, TN. Our options were limited to a small radius around Fort Campbell. Now, we are house hunting and the whole northeast is our oyster.
  2. We can see each other on a regular basis. Particularly in the last position Vinnie held, he deployed frequently and without much notice. I spent the last 5 months of my first pregnancy working and living alone in Clarksville. We were lucky that he was able to come home for Nina’s birth, but he had to leave again for 4 more months right after. Even when he was home, he worked so much that we hardly had any time together. “Date night” didn’t exist for us, but we enjoyed our outings as a family of three when we had the time. Following a normal schedule and routine in civilian life is going to take some getting used to.
  3. We can make plans. It’s like the old saying: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” But really, it should go: “Make plans and the military laughs at them.” This was our life countless times. We couldn’t even plan our wedding with confidence since Vinnie’s deployment date kept getting shifted around that summer.
  4. We can attend more family functions. My cousin called me on FaceTime one afternoon, and I realized it was the day of my brother and sister-in-law’s gender reveal baby shower. Good thing I picked up the call! The cake was pink. It would have been so great to be there in person, especially when my niece was born a few months later.
  5. We can put down roots. As a teacher, community is so important to me. The military is a community in itself, but it always felt unnatural to me. I am thrilled that our kids will have stability and be able to stick with a school system that we chose for them and to make friends who will be around for the long haul. I’m excited to get to know our town and to be involved in the activities there. Clarksville felt a lot like a revolving door with families coming and going constantly–even non-military families.

I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate the life we had while we were in the military because I am very proud of it. We also met some of our very best friends through the Army. But I have to be honest about the hard parts because there are military spouses out there who are too proud to acknowledge the difficulties. I think those people do a disservice to the struggles and sacrifices made by all military families. Yes, you must have a positive perspective (or you’ll go insane), but you also have to be real. A lot of things about being a military wife truly suck. So when I see memes and posts like this one,

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I have to restrain myself from calling these people out. Really? You wouldn’t have it any other way?

Everyone knows (or should know) that the military lifestyle is extremely hard; divorce rates reflect that. Even the strongest spouses succumb to frustration and anger as they live life apart from their partners, growing and changing but not together, waiting endlessly for their husband or wife to come home. If deployment wasn’t obstacle enough, I have also known a few married couples who are stationed in different states, so even when they aren’t deployed, they still aren’t living together (ridiculous). They might not complain about any of this, but they can’t tell me that they “wouldn’t have it any other way,” because if they were being honest, they would love to have it ANY other way than the way it is when they haven’t seen their spouses for months.

Military families deserve all the credit and respect in the world for the sacrifices they make every day of their lives. Maybe it’s true that a select few really do enjoy being married to the military, but for the majority, we just make it work and try not to complain (even though there are myriad valid complaints). I am proud to have been a member of this elite community of true American citizens and heroes.

This will be my first, last, and only “military life” post because that label no longer applies to me. I’m happy to be living the civilian life now and can’t wait to see what our future holds!

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