Funny how things turn out…

One day I was reminiscing and it hit me how I was almost an Army wife to another soldier many many years ago. My high school sweetheart proposed to me when I was 19 years old (just a month before my 20th birthday)…. after he decided to enlist. I was in Statesboro attending Georgia Southern and he was at home working full time and going to school when he decided to join the military. He came to visit me one weekend, told me of his plans and popped the question. I said yes despite feeling it was too soon.

Fast forward a few months…. he was in basic training getting ready to graduate and I of course was still in school. He would call when he could and we wrote each other about every week. With graduation approaching he wanted to know if I would be able to attend and initially I’d hoped to be able to go, but I couldn’t miss that many days of class. He was constantly calling and asking if I was going to come with his parents and I even got a call from one of the officers asking would I be coming and when would we be setting a date for the wedding.

Setting a wedding date was the furthest thing from my mind at that point because like I said I was 20 years old. During one of our weekly phone calls I told him so. When we talked about marriage prior to the engagement we agreed to wait until my senior year to get engaged and planned to get married some time after graduation and to me it seemed he was trying to accelerate those plans. Unfortunately, me being a chronic people pleaser did me no favors in this situation. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I would always put him off, but during this particular conversation he was determined. He pressed me for a timeline and he also wanted to know if I was going to move to where ever he was stationed after graduation. I told him that IF I could find a job I would but I couldn’t see myself following him around with no job and being dependent on him. He said ok, but I knew he was disappointed. About a week later he wrote a letter breaking it off… a day or two after the letter arrived he called apologizing and wanting to make up. A part of me wanted to accept his apology and stay with him, but the other side of me was so relieved!

We continued to write each other and promised to see each other when he came home in August. In the meantime I got to live!! Really live and not worry about anyone but myself. During that first year and a half while I was in college he tried to give me a curfew and screen my friends  from 200 miles away. I was suffocating!  Finally when I saw him in August the thrill was gone… which was actually a good thing because he proposed to some chick 2 months later! LOL!!!

I am not sure why this randomly came to me, but I had to chuckle at the memory, because here I am doing exactly what he wanted me to do with someone else. I guess it was my destiny to be an Army wife after all just not his….

The choices we make

I am a wife. This one fact does not totally define me, but in a sense it does. My husband is in the Army and he has been for 13 years. We’ve been together 9 years and married for 6. In our six years as a “legal” couple we’ve moved twice, which I think is pretty good in terms of Army life. As an Army wife I had to decide early on if I was going to be the wife that accepted my husband’s orders as my own and relocate with him OR if I was going to move to one place and stay there seeing my husband when he could get away for weekends or long holidays. I can’t say I thought long and hard about it because I didn’t. We’ve lived through 3 deployments and countless out-of-state trainings that separated our family so making the decision to pack up my life when he did seemed like a no-brainer. There are several military families that choose to settle down and find their “home” while the military spouse travels from place to place and they are able to make it work quite successfully, but at this time I don’t think it is the move for us. In a few years when the kids are older we are definitely considering finding a home base and staying there while he finishes up his last few years of service.

Growing up I watched my dad travel constantly for work and although he and my mom weren’t together we used to see each other quite often until he was promoted. After he started moving up he began to travel almost weekly even now when I call him I never know where he will be.  As I got older I started to consider his wife and I wondered how she felt with her husband being gone all the time and  I thought I wouldn’t want to live like that… funny how life turns out though.

Probably the most difficult part of being an Army wife (besides the obvious things like deployments, etc) is job hunting  when we move. I realize when I decided to move with my husband I also made the decision to put his career first.  I can’t say that was a conscious decision, but clearly I made a choice. Unfortunately, I do not have a “portable career’ so pretty much it has been back to square one. I have a Masters in Public Health and my heart is definitely in the field so at times it is hard to find just the right job. It took some time, but eventually I found a position in Columbia and I am hoping to do the same here in El Paso.

Recently, a Soror and fellow Army Wife told me about the Priority Placement Program with the federal government which helps military spouses find federal employment IF they had to leave their previous job due to a PCS move. All this time I’d been thinking checking the military spouse box on the USAJobs applications was enough!!!! HR specialists review your resume and determine which job codes (up to 5) you qualify for and they notify you of job openings on post. Not only will they notify you of the position your name is also placed on a list of candidates to consider which is sent to the hiring officials. It sounds simple enough, but believe me there is a lot more to it and the rules are very strict. One mistake and you are out of the program. On the bright side it  looks promising, because they have already contacted me about a job they wanted me to submit my application packet for and of course I did so immediately.

So while unintentionally that’s how being a wife took precedence over my career. I don’t regret the choices I’ve made thus far and I am looking forward to seeing more of the world at my husband’s side.

 

No One Told Me it Would Be Easy….. My Life As An Army Wife (Part 1)

My grandfather served in World War II, my uncle in Vietnam, and my cousin in Operation Desert Storm. Despite having more than a few family members in the armed forces nothing prepared me for dating and marrying a soldier. Being in a relationship with a member of the military is unique and presents its own set of challenges in addition to those experienced by a “civilian” couple.

Just a few short weeks after my honey and I officially became a couple he was deployed for the first time to Iraq. He was there for 2 months before the war began. I spent every waking moment either worrying or writing him letters. At that time I was in school and I had difficulty concentrating because I was so focused on what he was doing. At this time phone calls and emails were few and far between. I carried my cell phone with me at all times I even slept with it so I wouldn’t miss him. I recall there was a period right after the war started that he didn’t call and my nerves were frazzled. I am normally looking for the positive side in every situation, but for some reason I was extremely tense and waiting to hear some sort of bad news. I prayed every night he would be okay, but I had no idea what to expect.

I didn’t know any other women dating a man in the military so there was no one who I could really talk to that understood my situation. It was difficult dealing with the questions from friends, especially when I had no answers. I was obsessed with watching CNN. I think that year I watched CNN more than I’ve ever watched it in my life. After a number of sleepless nights and waiting till the last minute to finish school work I gave myself a little pep talk that basically amounted to me telling myself to snap out of it. The only thing that kept me sane was writing those letters and sending care packages. Imagining his reaction to his gifts and hoping that he knew how much I loved him gave me so much hope.

I thought once he came home that would be the end of all of my anxiety; however I had no idea what dealing with a soldier after war would entail. Let’s just say the next year was an emotional rollercoaster. I had no idea what to say or do to help him and honestly because I wasn’t there I couldn’t begin to relate to his experience besides he didn’t share it with me either. By the time we got our footing and seemed to be on the right track I was 4 weeks pregnant and he was getting ready to deploy again!