Yes, you can thank military spouses for their service

(Photo: U.S. Army, Daniel Yeadon)

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

Every Veterans Day, the military spouse community has a familiar debate: Is it okay to thank a military spouse for his or her ‘service’ when they are not actually service members?

Here’s my answer: Yes, a military spouse knows that they aren’t a veteran (unless they, too, were active duty). But it never hurts to say “thank you” to the family members who make military service possible.

Before you get crazy let me explain:

A spouse’s service doesn’t equal the service member’s

I am well aware that my ‘service’ as a military spouse does not equal my husband’s military service. He’s the one who has faced the bullets. I have not. He has killed people and watched friends die in combat. I can only imagine those horrors. He has sacrificed his body and the past 16 years of his life in service to the country. I have just tagged along for the ride.

So yes, I “know my place.” I’m not a veteran, not a service member. I would never ask to be treated like one or to be honored on Veterans Day. I’m not the military hero. I’m “just a military spouse.”

‘Just a military spouse?’

That, my friend, is where the conversation goes wrong — when we say “just a military spouse.” It makes it sound like the spouses are invisible and insignificant, as if not being the one in combat makes your contributions worthless. As if the spouse doesn’t sacrifice, too. But every military spouse sacrifices something. Here’s what it means to be “just a military spouse:”

I’m just the reason he joined the military in the first place — because he wanted to marry me and have a family together.

I’m just the one who sent countless emails, letters and care packages that kept his spirits up and his head in the right place while he was on those combat deployments.

I’m just the one who gave birth alone, painted our house alone, mowed the lawn alone (while pregnant) and raised our children alone while he deployed those seven times.

I’m just the one who keeps leaving jobs to move to new states and new countries, always putting his career ahead of my own.

I’m just the one who holds our family together, helps the kids transition to each new home, celebrates holidays single-handedly and makes this military lifestyle possible.

I’m just the other half of the team.

When people argue about whether or not it is appropriate to thank a military spouse for their ‘service,’ they often forget that the service member and their spouse are a team. When my husband enlisted in the military, the Marine Corps ended up with both of us. For better or for worse, we are a team. Together, we support and encourage each other through this military life. If one of us wants to give up, then that’s a choice we would make together.

My husband wouldn’t still be here going on deployments if I didn’t agree to it and hold up my share of responsibilities. Is keeping up with laundry the same as facing bullets? Absolutely not, and I understand that. But my husband and I don’t compete over whose job is harder. Neither one of us wants to switch places, and we each try to do our best with our own responsibilities.

When someone thanks you for being a military spouse

There are several occasions when someone has thanked me for my service as a military spouse. In the beginning, I was quick to correct them and say, “Well, my husband is the service member.” They usually responded with, “Yes, but we know that you sacrifice too!”

It took me a while to admit that it is absolutely true. Military spouses sacrifice too, even when they are “just” the other half of the team being supportive in the background. I’m not one to go out of my way to seek praise or recognition. But if someone stops me to thank me for being a military spouse, I have learned to accept their kind comments graciously. I now say something like, “I really appreciate you saying that! And I’m very proud of my husband for his service.”

Yes, it is okay to thank a military spouse for their service or sacrifice.

Most don’t expect it, but almost everyone will appreciate it. We give up a lot to when we are married to a service member. Often, spouses are the ones who make the service member’s service possible. This Veterans Day, please thank a veteran for their service to our country. And if their spouse is standing right there, then don’t act like he or she is invisible. Go ahead and thank the military spouse too.

By Lizann Lightfoot,

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15 Replies to “Yes, you can thank military spouses for their service”

  1. Stopbeingadepena says:

    You are what makes spouses look bad. Seriously you didn’t serve and yes your husband can still be a service member without you. Many soldiers are single.

    1. Wow, this is incredibly harsh. Of course servicemembers can be single, no one thinks otherwise, but the point here is that the choice to be a military spouse comes with inherent sacrifices that exist because of the servicemembers service. Yes, there are SMs serving unmarried. Yes, there are single parents parenting alone, doing Holidays alone and yada yada, but what is unique to the military spouse is that they are doing these things in support of a military member and as a service to the mission that military member has committed themselves to. Are you perhaps getting confused by the fact that the word “served” can have two meanings? The author is not suggesting that spouses “serve” in the same way, just that they support the mission in their own way that includes sacrifices. I am reminded of the WWI and WWII posters that encouraged the men and women on the home front to do their part to serve their country through freedom gardens, working in the munitions factories and doing whatever they could to support their country and their soldiers during the war. News flash: we’re still at war and there is a population of military families making sacrifices on the home front. You’re not thanking them as service members, your thanking them as a support network and for supporting the mission and our troops in many ways.

    2. What that spouse is doing is to support her Service Member that has nothing to do with the Military as a whole. If they want to be recognized, they need to take that up with their Service Member but don’t come at the Military. I’m sorry but that spouse can choose to leave and do whatever she wants but that Service Member has a written obligation to stay and I’m sorry that Service Member can’t say “Hey I quit because my spouse isn’t happy”. Even if they get out, do you think they are irreplaceable? Sorry the Military may say “You will Never Be Forgotten” but they never say “You’re Will Never Be Replaced”. You want to be acknowledged for your service suit and boot up, if not, then support your spouse.

    3. What the spouse is doing is to support their Service Member has nothing to do with the Military as a whole. If they want to be recognized, they need to take that up with their Service Member about acknowledging them for what the do for THEM, but don’t come at the Military. I’m sorry but the spouse can choose to leave and do whatever they want but that Service Member has a written obligation to stay and I’m sorry that Service Member can’t say “Hey I quit because my spouse isn’t happy”. Even if they get out, do you think they are irreplaceable? Sorry the Military may say “You will Never Be Forgotten” but they will never say “You’re Will Never Be Replaced”. There are thousands of Soldiers that can replace your Service Member within hours. You want to be acknowledged for your service suit and boot up, if not, support your spouse.

    4. BuckeyeandSoldierandMama says:

      You are 100% correct, and not harsh at all. Facts.

  2. USMCvetUSAspouse says:

    I can’t even… I was in the service before I met my wife. I’ve been a spouse for 12 years since I got out. I currently DO NOT SERVE. In fact, I lead a fairly awesome and amazing life. Do I have the career and work history I wish I could? Probably not. But I also know not to bitch about it, or think that I am really “sacrificing” anything. Being a spouse is about 10000 times easier than being a Marine was, no matter what your spouse tells you to your face, or their commanders spout off at madatory fun, “make the spouses feel good” events. This life is nothing I need to be thanked for. If someone wants to thank me for my veteran status, feel free. I get a bit embarrassed about it, but hey, I at least am one, and when I’m in the States, I’ll take my free meal or whatever.

    I have however decided that when my wife retires, and we get back to the States, I’m going to open a restaurant, and offer a 15% discount for military and veterans (20% for Marines, because, Ooh-Rah!), while tacking on a 10% fee for any spouse (non-veteran obviously) who comes in asking because “they served too”.

    1. BuckeyeSoldierMama says:

      Hooah! I agree!!! Thank you!

  3. BuckeyeSoldierMama says:

    Oh, hell no! How can you thank someone for their service when they did not serve? Thank them for the support, sure. Certificates and plaques, really? I guess a salute, too? Again, I state: oh, hell no!

  4. Nikisha Melendez says:

    I’m a retired Army Veteran that’s also a spouse, and like you, I knew what I was signing up for EACH time.
    On Veteran’s Day, I honestly don’t worry about having someone say thank you to me. If they say it to my husband, he’ll tell them I’m a Vet, and they say thank you, and we go on.
    It is not Military Spouse Day! On Father’s and Mother’s Day are you going to rally the kids to be thanked for being birthed? You probably would.
    Just so you know, you have no control over whether or not your husband goes on deployment. That’s decided well above his pay grade. You even making that comment is disrespectful and delusional.
    You make military spouses sound bad, because you’re complaining about doing laundry, and taking care of kids, while he’s DEPLOYED and being shot at and taking indirect fire!
    So you have to change your job every few years. So does he, but it’s even more impactful for him, because he has to be able to trust these people with his life. While you’re sitting in a nice little office, he’s trying to train some young idiot that might not know a 50Cal from a can of paint, and he’s going to have to be able to provide cover for your husband. So I guess your career moves could be countered by you focusing a bit more instead of complaining.
    And it sounds like the things that you do for your husband are toiling, instead of being done out of love. I honestly wouldn’t want any of it if I were him.
    My husband completely disagreed with the things that you said, and since I’ve been on both sides, I do too. Instead of complaining and looking at what you have to “give up ” all the time, try looking at what he has to truly how through and give up. You’ll see that it’s more than what you’ve previously noticed if you give it a chance.

  5. “My husband wouldn’t still be here going on deployments if I didn’t agree to it and hold up my share of responsibilities.” Yeah that’s not how that works. Would you not do all of these things if he was a firefighter or a corporate exec or in construction, ect? It sounds to me like you have been a great wife and your husband should thank u. But whether or not u do laundry or send emails to him has no bearing on the rest of the country. My mother does these things for me when im deployed but she does not expect special accolades. Because she does not do it to serve our country, just like u dont. She does it because she loves me.

    1. You are true. I’m a single military female and my mom does not get recognized for raising seven children that have served or taking in my dog and cats every time I deploy, she just does it cause she loves me:)

      On a side note, it would be nice to meet a guy that is willing to uproot his life in order to support my career. Doing everything on your own cause he’s not home, lots of women do, but starting your own career while dealing with the constant PCSing can be tough. I respect women that put their own careers on hold to support their husbands.

    2. USMCvetUSASpouse says:

      I’ve been doing it for 12 years now. There are more of us guys than you think.

  6. Girl bye! This why people think the way they do about spouses. They always need a pat on the back for doing something they should do as a spouse. I serve and my husband is a truck driver and I support him with all my being. Not because I need praise from his company or fellow drivers but because I love him. Please have several seats with this thank a spouse BS!

  7. The picture on this damn article is so misleading. She is being recognized for volunteer service NOT because she is a spouse 😂😂😂😂

  8. SFC US ARMY RET. says:

    Are you high? This is why people make fun of military spouses. You sound like you are the poster child for “dependapotamous”. Military spouses do not SERVE. Did my wife have to cover down on my not being home? YES. But that is part of our marriage especially since I was in the military before we were married. She did not SERVE the United States. She did not swear an oath. She did not put her life on the line to defend this nation. I appreciated my wife and on many occasions Thanked Her for her support and SACRIFICE.

    I am so tired of spouses like you. You are the reason awesome spouses like my wife who would help family support groups in a second DOES NOT.

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