I thought I knew how to answer this question.  I mean, I have the experience.  I’ve called myself a member of the military spouse community for more than 18 years. I’ve spent time with hundreds of military spouses from all branches of service.  I’ve volunteered with military spouse organizations.  I’ve laughed, cried, and prayed with military spouses through all the challenges of this life.  I’ve faced deployments, health scares, and housing issues.  I worry about the same things military spouses worldwide are concerned with.  Yet, when asked by a civilian friend what a military spouse is, I couldn’t think of an appropriate answer.  Why is that?

Statistically speaking, it’s easy to tell you what a military spouse is.  According to a 2017 survey by Public Opinion Strategies, published in a report on uschamberfoundation.org, a military spouse is one of 640,000 women and men married to an active duty servicemember.  If you want the simple picture you would see that a military spouse first and foremost is a female.  92% of all spouses are women.  51% are under 30, but the average age for all military spouses is 31.5.  There are a lot of children in the military community, but only 41% of military spouses have dependent children.  Those dependents tend to be younger.  70% are under the age of 11.

I don’t know if these statistics are still accurate, but they do paint a picture.  They show that a military spouse is a woman in her late 20s to early 30s with the proclivity to have a family.  They give us a snapshot of what we might see when we walk onto a military base. For the most part, if you went to a group gathering of military spouses, this is probably what you would see around the room.  But, in my mind it doesn’t answer the question.  What is a military spouse?

Maybe that’s not the right question.  Maybe he should be asking something else?  “What” is too general.  What is a military spouse?  It’s a person married to a servicemember.  There’s no information in that.  If you asked my civilian friend to draw a picture, chances are you will get the statistical picture above.  You’ll get the young female that is pregnant or holding hands with a young child. Again, there’s very little information in that.  It doesn’t tell you anything about the actually military spouse.  Maybe he’s asking the wrong question.  Maybe he should be asking “Who” is the military spouse.

Who makes it more personal. Who makes you think about the individual person.  When I joined the Army in 2001 most depictions of military spouses were little old ladies who sent the Greatest Generation to Europe to fight Nazis in World War 2.  Even though they weren’t little old ladies back then, that’s how we were taught to see them.  But military spouses aren’t little old ladies, not even close.  Military spouses are everything.  That’s why I don’t think he can ask what a military spouse is.  I think he should have asked who each military spouse is.  Maybe, to answer the question my buddy is asking, I need to tell him who I am as a military spouse.

I am a former Soldier.  Heather and I joined the Army together, four months before 9/11.  I completed my enlistment contract, while she decided to reenlist and become an officer.  I am a military spouse who finds joy in supporting her career.  I like cooking, cleaning and doing anything I can to take tasks off her plate.  I am a military spouse who, after 10 years of marriage, realized that making the bed every morning can be therapeutic and life changing.  I’ve made it ever since, and I know how to fold a fitted sheet into a perfect rectangle too.  I’ll do whatever she needs whether it means taking the dogs to the vet or switching cars for her oil change.  It is absolutely the very least I can do

I am a military spouse who’s spent time trying to figure out who I am as a military spouse.  After my four-year stint as an Army Broadcast journalist I did a lot of different things.  I was a bar manager, a morning show radio DJ, and a direct sales consultant. I have a Masters in Religious Education, am an ordained minister, but I refuse to go to church.  I’ve tried stand-up comedy, performed in musicals, and written plays.  I’ve learned that I love volunteering especially when it comes to causes related to female Soldiers or other military spouses.

Today, I’m a military spouse who plans luncheons for the spouses’ club, and brunches for my friends.  I’m a military spouse who will take getting a cup of coffee with another military spouse over pretty much
anything else.  I love moving new places, but not leaving old friends.  I believe in learning from those who’ve been there before and teaching those who are new. I am a military spouse who knows I have to be available for others.  I want military spouses and their families to be able to count on me, and I hope I can count on them.  For the most part that’s been true.

The main thing, I’m a military spouse who is a pretty average American.  I like going to the movies and watching sports on TV.  I struggle with my weight because pizza and cinnamon rolls are delicious.  I believe politicians lie, the media is biased, but most people are good.  I’m a husband who doesn’t listen as well as he should, who wants to be left alone during the game, and who tries to avoid upsetting his wife at all cost.  It doesn’t always work because I don’t listen as well as I should and she sometimes needs things during the game.  I’m trying. In 19 years of marriage, hopefully I’ve gotten better.

In essence, who I am as a military spouse is exactly who I am as a person just with a military twist. That’s the community in which I live. If I wasn’t a military spouse, I’d still try a lot of different things to figure out who I was as a person.  I’d still fold the laundry so she wouldn’t have too.  I’d still want to watch the game in peace.  Being a military spouse adds certain challenges to that, but it doesn’t change me.  It just gives me a different reason for being who I am.

As I look over my social media contact list, I can see that same sentiment in the dozens upon dozens of women and three men who share this military spouse life.  They are moms and dads.  They are Christians, Jews, Wiccans and atheists.  They are gay and straight.  They are full time employees and stay at home parents.  They are who they are, with the added benefit and struggle that comes with living in a military community, and they can’t be put into a box labeled military spouse.  What is a military spouse?  It’s a person.  Who they are? Most likely, they’re folks you should get to know.

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