"Yet you told him to go, Mother, and didn't cry when he went, and never complain now, or seem as if you needed any help," said Jo, wondering.
"I gave my best to the country I love, and kept my tears till he was gone. Why should I complain, when we both have merely done our duty and will surely be the happier for it in the end?"'
I am a military spouse married to a naval aviator, and I was raised as a military brat, the daughter of a soldier. It's a lifestyle of constant change, a lot of flexibility, and an incredible amount of waiting.
As a child, I had to be reintroduced to my father at 18 months. He was a tall uniformed stranger who appeared one day offering me a chocolate Santa Claus in hopes that I wouldn't run away to my mother after his being away, serving a year's tour in Vietnam. I quickly adjusted to having my father home again - I was his little princess and he was my hero. But, when he would leave each day for work, I would fall to pieces, crying hysterically. Finally, after weeks of this, my parents figured out that it was his briefcase that set me off - I thought it was a suitcase and that he was leaving us again. The problem was solved easily with my father leaving his briefcase in the car, and carefully putting it back before I awakened each morning.
I was raised to be Daddy's little soldier, aways wanting to make him proud of me. As I grew older, I knew not to cry when he left, but to always give a kiss goodbye as you never knew if that would be your last opportunity. I waited for letters, and the occasional phone call. I crossed off days on calendars and said nightly prayers to keep him and the other soldiers safe. Our homecomings were always sweet and joyful. I loved watching my dad march in on a parade, and saluting him back. I would ask him about his medals and I always gave him one of my hair barrettes to take with him to the field while he was away. We traveled to different countries, tasted new foods, spoke new languages. For a kid, I had some incredible experiences! But there was the downside. I often would tell my parents that I wanted to be like the other kids in my school - the ones who grew up in the same house, and played with the same kids each year. I was so jealous of the kids who didn't have to move every 2 - 3 years. I hated walking into class and having everyone staring at the new kid, me. I know that had to be so hard for my parents to hear. My mom would just hug me tight as she went through the same thing when she was a little girl as my grandfather was also a soldier.
As an adult, it's a lifestyle that I swore I would never marry into while I avoided prospective dates with all service members as much as possible. I planned on living in one place through retirement. I thought I knew what I wanted, but little did I know... until the day I met my darling husband.
We dated 11 months, and were engaged for two (a typical military engagement). We were married and moved overseas within a month. Two and a half weeks after I moved to Japan, I said goodbye to him as he left for his first deployment. And then I waited... I waited for e-mails each day, for phone calls at agreed upon times that we discussed in code due to OP SEC (operational security), and later, finally, for the call from the squadron that would let tell me when to be ready for his homecoming and fly in. Those phone calls were precious and you waited for them, scared to take the garbage out or the dog for a walk, lest you miss that call. So many times I cried in silence. The emails needed to be positive so he wouldn't worry about me. How could he do his job, if he were concerned about me? I needed him to be safe. I never complained to him how hard things were for me being in a new country having left behind my career and friends. Even when I was told by the doctors that I was infertile, I kept my cool with him on the phone. I couldn't let him know that I was coming unraveled. I needed him to be mission ready and I was fine (sort of). There was one comfort - that I was not alone. There were other Navy spouses and we helped each other through the good and the bad. They are my sisters so to speak, and I love them for it.
Even now, with shore duty orders (meaning he lives with me and not on the ship during this tour), I wait. I wait for him through long days that begin at 5:30 a.m. and end with dinners after 21:00 (9:00 p.m.). I wait for him as he works air shows on holiday weekends and cross country flights on my birthday and other special anniversaries. I wait for new orders to tell us where we move next. Some of my non-military friends question how I do it. I never have questioned it. I do it out of love, honor and pride for my husband, my country, and God. I do joke around that I lost my mind, but in reality, I lost my heart to my true love. And I continue to wait...