Military spouse; staying strong at home

  • Published
  • By Mrs. Sarah Bloch
  • Women's history month committee
Who would have thought that military deployments could provide some kind of benefit to military families? Though it does not feel like a benefit to the spouse experiencing their military member's deployment, one positive result is the spouse's new found strength.

This month is Women's History Month, and while there are women in our nation making highly visible headway toward the advancement of women and equality, including our brave women serving in the military, there are also women doing great things in their roles as military spouses. These spouses can boast accomplishments in their efforts toward building stronger marriages, families, friendships and communities. Gathering perspectives from spouses on base, there emerged a similar theme about strength, which is best said in one spouse's words:

"His deployment made me appreciate him and our marriage more, and I realized I am a very strong person," said spouse Erin Thompson. She went on to say that this included finding that she was very capable of running the house, while also nurturing her son. "I strengthened friendships with those around me in the most amazing ways while he was gone," she said. "I never really felt alone while he was gone because I had a piece of him with me everyday who gave me hugs and sweet two-year-old kisses. And, I had friends who wouldn't let me get down," she said.

Even in the unique role of military spouse, many of these women manage to raise children while also finding the time to devote to their own advancements toward education and career. Many have degrees. Many hold jobs. Many are students. The skills these women develop in their roles as spouses can only strengthen future roles that they will hold. These spouses may become some of those more visible women making headlines, making history.

"You get lonely. You get frustrated. You may even cry. You miss him. The kids miss him. They cry. And your arms are big enough to comfort them and yourself," said Sharon Minton. She said that being a spouse of a deployed member was like having your heart somewhere across the ocean or the country, and feeling as though half of you is missing. "You remain strong and very capable. You learn what you can do. You can shovel snow, get the car fixed, mow the lawn, take care of kids, take care of pets, get a flooded basement cleaned, pay the bills, and create delicious meals. You can handle most anything that comes your way," she said.

The Air Force and this base community have made tremendous efforts toward resources and organizations to best support the military spouses, from the Phoenix Spouse program to the Airman and Family Readiness Center; Web sites and online message boards, such as Air Force Crossroads and Military OneSource. There are also various private organizations including spouses groups to Heath and Wellness Center and base fitness center programs, including the morning mom co-op that allows moms to trade an aerobics workout hour for another day to watch children an hour. Lead aerobics instructor and spouse Rachelle Sian said, "Time to be strong, ladies! Be supportive and strong... be the rock of your family when your husband is gone. Take one day at a time, and lean on your friends for support," she said.

"You cannot do it all alone. You need to rely on the support of friends, neighbors, people in the squadron and the kindness of strangers," said Sharon Minton. "I learned that here at Grand Forks AFB, people truly embrace the Air Force family concept," said Erin Thompson. "You find a strength you might not have known you had, and you learn the most important lesson of is okay to ask your friends for help and support," she added. Both Sharon and Erin are active with their squadron's spouses group, a direct example of how each reaches out.

Some women take on leadership roles in spouse organizations, such as spouse Diane Langhus, the Enlisted Spouses Club President She recounts her first experience when her husband deployed. "I felt so alone and helpless. Mostly, I felt fear for his safety, but secondly was the fact I was going to be alone for several months," said Diane. "I learned you can't shut out the world when you're in this position. You embrace it. Get out there and live your life," she said.

"Having a deployed spouse is tough, no doubt. I think the number one thing is to stay positive for him. He doesn't need to be worrying about you and your happiness; he only needs to be focused on staying safe," said Rachelle Sian.

Another spouse, Lillian Watson said, "I think the hardest thing for me was when I was pregnant, and he was deployed. Asking for help is something I don't like doing and yet, I had to do it at times. The only way I found to keep my sanity was through friends that I made in the spouses group I was involved in." Melly Ramos, a spouse who worked full-time before becoming a mom, said "You become more independent, more humble and learn to express your feelings. The silence grows on you (at home alone) yet you start to like it, especially if you have good communication with God. You reach out and make true friends that care and understand you," she said. Melly recently became a mom and reaps the benefits of experiences learned here that helped prepare her for her new base location.

Anabelle Alden , an active spouse group member with the Officers' Spouses, Foreign Born Spouses and squadron spouses clubs emphasized that the most important part was the spouse's and member's attitudes in knowing what is important and meaningful to each other and their kids. "We count on our husband to do his job for the military so I feel it is our job to do our part when it comes to our family and ourselves," she said.

"When your spouse is deployed, you experience the whole range of emotions, from fear for his safety, frustration in being forced to be a married single parent, longing for his company, to pride in knowing what he is doing to make this world a safer place (and pride in knowing you are helping him do that). It's a truly interesting experience, one that depends so much on your attitude," said Erin Thompson. She said she had struggled through a past deployment experience, where she had learned the difference between negative thinking spiraling out of control to being positive and having a positive experience as a result.

Kelly Childs, spouse and mom, referenced that one of the hard parts was families meshing back together once the spouse returns from deployment. Sharon Minton touched on the whole cycle to include this, when she said, "You appreciate every moment you can touch base with him. You get into a routine, and are proud of yourself for running the house smoothly, keeping the kids and yourself happy and busy," said Sharon. "Before he comes home, you are excited, nervous, and a little apprehensive. You have created a routine, and now need to incorporate him back into your lives," she said. "He comes home, and it falls into place. And life is good," she said.

"Women are strong; we can do anything we set our minds to. I love being a woman, a mother, a sister and most of all an Air Force wife! My husband may have joined the Air Force to help him be the best man he could be, but being an Air Force wife helped make me the strong and independent woman I am today," said Diane Langhus.