Thoughts from a military spouse on the home-front:
A few weeks ago I attended a Ball benefitting the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. In his remarks to the audience, General Amos (the Commandant of the Marine Corps) discussed how he remembers living paycheck-paycheck as a young 2ndLt and chastened the audience to put themselves in the shoes of young enlisted families whose paychecks are much lower. His remarks went on to discuss how families, who even with the best budgeting, can still have unexpected needs that arise that they are financially unable to meet on their own. Of course his comments were geared towards raising funds for NMCRS but they are accurate all of the time.
My husband is a Marine. And after 18 years of service we are able to meet all of our financial needs and even save for retirement and set more aside for our kids to go to college. But when my husband deploys, or is away for training/classes/conferences or other duty, or when he is called in to create a response plan for another global crisis I have to figure out how to balance all of the things that he does for our family with all of the things I do. Do I hire someone to mow our lawn and take care of the “handyman” items that arise, do I pay someone to help with light house-cleaning, and do I fork-over even more for more childcare so I can still balance home and work and maybe even get a minute to myself? If I choose to pay for these things, what am I going to sacrifice in return? Or should I just suck it up and do everything on my own?
I have been on my own for 8 out of the past 12 years. On my own I have mowed the lawn(s), cleaned the house(s), unclogged toilets, fixed garbage disposals, and patched drywall. On my own I have kissed skinned knees, read bedtime stories, and raised 2 children. On my own I have started a business and worked into the wee hours of the morning to get it all done. I have done all of this so that we could save for retirement and college, I have done this so that we could travel to visit with family, I have done this so that we could take a vacation, I have done this so that we could own our own small piece of the country that my husband has fought for.
I have done this with discipline, and integrity, and pride in my role as a military spouse.
As a military spouse I have also participated in family readiness and resiliency programs. I have volunteered for different military family organizations. I have built my global network of friends. But at the end of the day I am still on my own.
On my own I watch the news after the kids are in bed so they won’t hear about the attacks near the compound where my husband is working. On my own I mourn for the friends we have lost and guiltily thank God that I am preparing meals for others and not thanking them for preparing them for me. On my own I clean my house after storms and disasters so that my husband can help with humanitarian relief efforts for others who have lost everything. On my own I raise kids to know and love Daddy even though he has been away for over half of their lives. On my own I write love notes to my husband and read those that he has sent me from thousands of miles away. On my own I hold my family together because one day we will be.
I believe in my husband. I believe in the job he does. I believe in his oath. I also believe in our love, partnership, and family. And I believe that my husband is better able to serve because of our support.
But then I listen to lawmakers bicker over how much my husband is paid for his service. I read articles from military leaders that talk about how they have to choose between salary and safety. And I watch as programs that support military families are stripped away.
And then I find out that my husband has been extended in his time away from us because drawdowns mean fewer people to do the job. And as I review our family budget I realize that the reduction in our housing allowance means I have to reduce our retirement contributions. And when I call my local base to see if there is a support group for families like mine I find that there is nothing to support Geographic Bachelor and Individual Augment families. And so on my own I feel the impact of all the decisions about manpower and salary and benefits.
We are told that tough choices need to be made. We are told that training and equipment are so costly that salaries need to be cut. We are told that less pay equals better discipline. But we are also told that families matter, that Marines can’t do their jobs without support on the home-front.
Well I am the home-front and I have been carrying the load for a long time. I have been strong and resilient. I have been disciplined and compassionate. I have done everything required of me, and more. But I am tired and I am now also disheartened.