The problem: It’s thanksgiving, is this military spouse thankful? Inside you’ll find all that I appreciate about military life.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. It’s a time when all Americans can celebrate the things that are most important to us: family, friendships, and oh yeah—great food! But if your spouse is deployed or you are homesick for your family, it can be hard for military spouses to get in a spirit of thankfulness.
For sure, there are a lot of challenges to military life. Catch me on a bad day, and I will admit that military life is almost unbearable. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem fair how many challenges are heaped on our shoulders, and how many ‘normal’ enjoyable things we are denied, all because of our spouse’s military service.
“There are a lot of challenges to military life. But on a good day, I will tell you it is all worth it. ” ~The Seasoned Spouse
And yet… on a good day, I will tell you that it is all worth it. The challenges are temporary, but the joy and the love and the pride are so much greater. Earlier this month, I wrote about all the people I am grateful I am NOT—people throughout history who have faced much bigger challenges than modern military spouses. This week seems like a good time to remind ourselves of all the things that make a military spouse thankful.
7 things that make every military spouse thankful:
1 The holidays we ARE together: Sure, we have celebrated way too many holidays in separate time zones. But the times my husband is home are times I really treasure. We make an extra effort to spend time together, create family memories, and establish traditions… because we have to make each celebration count for the next year too.
2. Friends who are like family: Raise your hand if you have met some amazing friends because of the military. Yep, me too! I literally have friends around the world—many military spouses, some civilians, some from other countries. My friends have helped me through childbirth, natural disasters, and all kinds of daily struggles. They have mowed the lawn for me, given me meals, watched my children, and even cleaned my house. The military community is the village that helps my family get through this crazy life. Friends make this military spouse thankful!
“The military community is the village that helps my family get through this crazy life. Friends make this military spouse thankful!” ~The Seasoned Spouse
3. “Seeing the world”: Haha, when your service member signed up, did the recruiter say something about how the military would let them “see the world?” Have you since spent a lot of time in obscure parts of the country that you never wanted to see? Yeah, thanks recruiter. But even though we don’t always get the dream assignments, (29 Palms, California???) I am thankful for all the places the military has taken my family. We have seen and experienced parts of the country that I never imagined. My kids were lucky to grow up in Europe and learn Spanish at preschool. I didn’t see that coming when we sat in the recruiter’s office 16 years ago.
4. Hand-written letters: These are simply the best. Anyone who was a girlfriend or spouse during Boot Camp or deployment probably has a precious stash of letters. My husband and I dated long-distance for 7 YEARS. Our box of letters is overflowing. In the age of texts and emails, hand-written letters are a dying art, one that military spouses and girlfriends proudly keep alive.
5. Learning how strong I am: When I met my husband, I was a shy and insecure teenager. Military life has stretched me and forced me to grow in so many ways. They weren’t always easy, but now I have confidence and strength to handle almost any situation. Car troubles? OK. Sick kids? Yep, I’ve been there. Moving across 10 time zones? Let’s do it! I’m sure our military future still has a few curveball surprises, but I am also thankful that I will have the courage and resources to face them.
6. Homecomings: Not only are Homecoming days filled with excitement and the joy of reunion, but in the back of my mind I have always been aware that there are some service members who don’t make it home. My husband and I have shared Homecomings after 7 deployments, plus several others after Boot Camp and trainings. He has made it home to me every single time, mostly in one piece. For that, I will always be grateful.
7. ‘Free’ housing and healthcare: I know, nothing is truly free; our service members pay for the benefits they receive. As much as military spouses like to complain about the tiny old houses on base and the long wait times at the base hospital, (I just waited an hour this morning for flu shots!) we should always be appreciative that we get to use these benefits. Not everyone in America has affordable housing and healthcare. It is a perk of military life that I have learned to appreciate as I have gotten older and watched my civilian friends struggle. I am thankful for my spouse’s military service, and the way it allows him to provide for our family.
So those are some of the things I am celebrating this Thanksgiving. And I hope that they encourage you, even if you are struggling through a deployment or separation. What are you most thankful for this year?