Most days (the 50-60% of the year that my husband might be home) being a military spouse feels to be far from extraordinary. Well, as long as I forget that it’s why I’m raising my toddler in England right now. And as long as I don’t make the trip to the commissary, where the blast of fighter jet engines is a constant reminder of my ties to the Air Force.
Some days he goes in early or stays late. Some days he works weird hours. As the daughter of a CPA and a former third-shift worker, it seems to me that’s just life.
I just go about my business like a normal person. We live off-base and I have very few reasons to ever make the 40 minute trip to it (the primary reason being cheap food). After nearly 8 years of living with him, I’ve finally stopped thinking of Top Gun when he comes home in his flight suit. I’m sure I would have imagined some sexy corporate office movie if he came home in a suit suit every day. Or Grey’s Anatomy if he came home in scrubs. So on, so on.
But there are two very military instances that always remind me that we don’t lead a normal life.
One is when he comes home with that look on his face. It’s the “I know we thought I’d be home for a while, but…” face. It’s the “this isn’t just a relay” face. The “you know I don’t like going there as much as you don’t like me being gone, but it’s what I have to do” face.
I know that face well. I’m running out of fingers to count the times I’ve seen it.
The other is that rare occasion when he needs me to verify that his wings and medals and name tag and rank are all situated correctly on his service dress. I stand back and study all of the pieces to see if they’re parallel with the right planes, a half-inch from the proper point.
Each time there seems to be more rows of ribbons, more oak leaf clusters, something new and blingy. The new star over his wings I find quite impressive.
They all tell a story – not just of his career, but of our journey through it as a family. The hours. The tours. The conflicts. I’ve been there through it all, waiting on the other end. Just as my friends have been through the same with their spouses and families. Our normal.
What strikes me most about this occasion is that it’s usually for something special. Like a wedding, where we’ll be displaying that this is our life to a blissfully clueless audience. Or for a new headshot for hanging on the wall over the “CGO of the Year” placard in the squadron.
This is the moment when I fill with pride and love for the hardworking, intelligent, level-headed man I married. When I feel that all of our sacrifices – and those of hundreds of thousands of other military families – must seem important (and understood) to someone. When it’s very clear that the military is our life.