From 2003-2005 I was a Marine wife. My husband Sam was stationed in Pendleton, San Diego – but really he spent very little time there. He was deployed overseas to Japan, Iraq, Singapore, S. Korea, and other places for months, often years, at a time.
I remember feeling very – isolated as a new military spouse. We were married in 2003 but it wasn’t until 9 months later I was able to join him in California. We didn’t live on base, and at 20 years old I wasn’t sure how to go about making friends in a city that huge. I knew absolutely nothing about military life, so I wasn’t involved in much. It was there, but 10 years ago we didn’t have the access to email/FB that we do now.
Sam told me one time when I whined about how often he was gone and the long hours he worked, as we were newlyweds, “There’s a saying about if the Marines had wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me one.”
Oh, how very true that was in so many ways. The Marines were good to us, they truly were. I got to know his soldiers and officers well when I was there. When he deployed to Iraq at the height of the war, one of the officer’s wives took charge to keep all the wives and girlfriends up to date as often as she could. Even after I moved back home till his deployment was over she kept in touch with calls to check in.
When he left the service after his enlistment was up, I never thought we would go back. I was perfectly fine with that, his absences were incredibly stressful on our marriage and trying to get to know each other as a couple. I hated the endless wondering about if he was ok and safe.
So after 5 years out, Sam wanted back in. I, much to his surprise, was all for it. We were struggling on our own, insurance was killing us, we’d almost lost our home, I wanted to be a stay at home mom but we simply couldn’t afford it – and he was unhappy at his job. I knew it, he knew it. He wanted that life again, and I wanted him to have it.
This time around has been different in many ways. The Army is much more family friendly – part of the reason Sam joined it. There are get-togethers on a regular basis, we were contacted right away after moving here about anything we needed. Being older, I found women to connect with on and off base, and programs that we could use for different situations. Sam being gone is easier – not easy, and not something either of us like, but it is easier to handle. It helps knowing he loves what he does.
The insurance and pay are the same in all branches – while the ranks vary in name they’re the same in numbers. Their is the same chain of command, the same type of respect that needs to be shown by spouses.
It’s a different, calmer life for now. I never forget that just because we’ve had a year of quiet means that’s how Army life is – I know it can change in a heartbeat. But we are both incredibly thankful to be back in this kind of life.