Here’s What This Female Veteran Wants Milspouses to Know

(Photo: US Air Force, Kemberly Groue)

This is an opinion piece that does not necessarily reflect the views of MilSpouseFest.

Dear military spouse,

Sometimes I feel like I play both sides of the fence. You see,  I am a military spouse like you, but I am also a female military veteran. And before I became a military spouse, I was really confused. How is it hard to be a military spouse? The ones I knew made it look so easy. And the ones who complained sounded silly, I just didn’t understand. What was there to complain about? Really, it can’t be that bad.

Then I became one and the grass wasn’t quite as green as I expected. I guess once you walk a mile in someone else shoes, you really get to see all that it entails.

Military life had always been on my terms. I may not have been in the driver’s seat, but I at least was in the front, helping to navigate where my life would go. As quickly as my name changed from “Captain” to “Mrs.” I learned my life was no longer focused on my goals and dreams. Now my husband’s choices would change my life for the years to come.

Instead of going off on the adventures the military sent me, I was left behind to deal with real life. Often that meant a toddler throwing up, appointments here and there, and then we would celebrate Daddy coming home. All the while I was still struggling to keep up with daily life.

Maybe it sounds like I’m the one complaining now, but it isn’t all bad. The times my husband is away, he is missing our boys growing up. Some days we have a lot of fun.

I have come to accept the life of being a military spouse. It isn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be. I was kind of proud of myself for embracing this new journey. Then one day, something happened.

We were at a ceremony and the speaker, in an attempt to honor military spouses, lumped them together with military service members and veterans. I raised my hand because, of course, I am a veteran. But I knew most of the people who saw me there would assume I was a military spouse instead.

Why did I care? Why did it bother me so much that someone would see me as a military spouse and not a military veteran? I knew how hard military spouse life was. It was something I should be proud of, right?

But here is the thing: I am not only a military spouse, I am also a military veteran. The speaker unknowingly took away the honor of military veteran when he put both military spouses and veterans together. It was as if he was telling me that the only way I could serve my country was being a military spouse.

And that really bothers me.

Because we live in a nation today where men and women can serve in the military. And as a female military member I often get looked over or dismissed. I am a military veteran who deployed to Afghanistan for nine months, got shot at, and faced many other challenges.

So, when someone looks at me and says I must be a military spouse, I get this feeling deep inside where I want them to know that I served too. I want them to know about the things women are doing across the globe. I want us to feel honored for the sacrifice we make.

There is this war going on between military spouses and females in the service. I think it really comes down to we don’t understand what the other side is saying. We are using the same words to explain two different things, and instead of listening to the other side, our defenses go up.

Is there a way military spouses and females in the military can start to listen to the other side? Is there a way to support each other and start using words to build each other up? Instead of tearing each other down?

I have lived both lives: Female military member and military spouse. We both face challenges in this thing we call military life. And it isn’t a competition of whose life is harder. Let’s just agree military life is hard on both of us, but it can become a little easier when we choose to listen and support each other. Let’s bridge the gap between military spouses and female service members.

Step one: Listen to the other side.

By Amanda Huffman

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4 Replies to “Here’s What This Female Veteran Wants Milspouses to Know”

  1. Teresa Spruill, HMC, USN, retired says:

    I too am a veteran and military spouse. As a retired Navy Chief my identity was tied to my service and it was important to me. When I became a spouse my identify and value changed. I was no long treated the same way as I was when I was on active duty. It took time for me to shift gears. We had teenagers and my responsibilities with them changed. How the world looked at me changed. I became involved in the “wives” groups and that created some comments both from them and from other active duty personnel. There is resentment between the two groups, some of it is a lack of understanding and some of it is due to a perceived threat. We must honor both groups but the jobs are different and so should the acknowledgement be. After my husband retired and we no longer lived around the military family these differences went away but the knowledge of them lingers. I know women veterans from previous times who were told they weren’t really veterans and they basically didn’t acknowledge the value they had contributed. Times have changed, human nature hasn’t. It will but it takes time, it hasn’t been that many years since we weren’t allowed to remain on active duty if we married or had children. Stay strong this will be a hiccup in the review mirror in a few years.

    1. Thanks for this comment! I’m AF retired and I have diligently tried to fit into the spouses group. It’s not working. I even started selling LuLaRoe to reach out to women. Also not working lol. But my husband is retiring in 12-18 months. We are moving away from bases as well. I cannot wait for this to be in my rearview mirror too.

  2. Janae Willis says:

    I am still active military and married to another military member and we have this conversation often as I am considering getting out to have more quality time with my kids and be able to be more involved in their education and lives and see what I can be other than a veteran. But even still in the military I feel as you do when I am out of uniform and next to my husband (who will also be in civis) and people thank him for his service or only ask him what branch he belongs to like it isnt even a possibility for me to be in one. I love this article! Thanks for sharing

  3. Thank you for serving Amanda. As a spouse, I appreciate hearing your stories and learning more about both sides of this crazy journey we’re on.

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