4 Lessons Military Spouses Taught Me


We live in a society that teaches us not to have regrets. We are told to go all-in, all the time; pour your heart and soul into everything you’re doing.

For the most part, I subscribe to this mentality, but given the chance, there are a few things I’d gladly jump in a time machine to correct. Like the day I got my flip flop caught in a revolving door at my brand new job after changing out of my heels: could have done without that.

More aching on my heartstrings is the first time I received an email from a fellow military spouse, inviting me to have coffee.

A month before my husband and I were married, he took orders to San Diego. Determined to keep my job in Washington D.C., I commuted the first six months after our wedding. We were newly married, but I was living out of a suitcase. Somewhere in there a woman emailed me, introducing herself and inviting me to get together. We were going to be in Guam at the same time, and she had previously lived there. I thanked her, but ultimately blew it off. I didn’t consider myself a “typical” military spouse – whatever I thought that was. I had a good job, no kids, my own identity and a big ‘ole chip on my shoulder. I didn’t have time for coffee.

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Mile 13 in the Deployment Marathon

An installment in the New York Times’ Deployment Diary

The author's contribution to a Navy ship's slide show on what families look forward to when their loved ones get home.

The hardest part of the journey is the first step, right? Respectfully, I disagree; I think it’s the steps in the middle. We’ve just passed the halfway point in my Navy husband’s seven-month deployment (preceded by over a year of constant in-and-out travel for training, called “work-ups”), and instead of sprinting to a finish line, it feels like my 5-year-old daughter, 3-year-old son and I are crawling along a never-ending trail.

During my husband’s first deployment in 2009, I passed the time alone in Guam by training for the Marine Corps Marathon. The day before the race, I went for a “pre-run shakeout” with the running expert Bart Yasso and a group of participants in the Runner’s World Challenge I’d been training with online.

I asked one of the other women in the group, a seasoned marathoner, what the hardest part of the race was for her. Without hesitation she answered, “Unlucky mile 13.”

She broke down the race for me: “The first 10 miles are lined with people. You won’t even notice you’re running. Around mile 10, you start to get fatigued. At 12, the crowds thin out, the cheering dies down, and all of a sudden you’re aware of what mile you’re in. Mile 13, right when you’re halfway there, you’re going to realize how far you’ve come, and how much further you have to go. That’s when you have to dig deep.”

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How to Beat the Groundhog Days of Deployment

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Anthony Quintano via the Creative Commons license.)
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Anthony Quintano via the Creative Commons license.)

It’s been 129 years since the people of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania first allowed a groundhog to predict the nation’s forecast for the arrival of spring. Every year on February 2, the town is flooded with people rooting for a marmot named Phil not to see his shadow. And every year, by the time February hits, the days all seem to run together. As a military spouse going through deployment, I often feel like Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day. It’s easy to get in a rut when every day feels like the one before.

This year, find your groove by using these five tips to dig out of the deployment doldrums:

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Finding a Christmas Spirit Amid Deployment Blues

An installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, until you’re hanging a stocking that won’t be filled, taking packages that belong under your tree to the post office, and sitting at your children’s school pageants by yourself. For someone who loves Christmas, my seasonal spirit has felt about as far away as my husband, a Navy helicopter pilot currently deployed. How do you find the wonder of the holidays when you’re simply wondering how to get through them?

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The Wreaths of Army/Navy

T. T. Robinson's photo.

Side by side we lay their wreaths
Where side by side they lay,
Brothers in arms, they rest eternal
Oh, but not today!

Today they’re storming the heavens
Each taking their side
They raise their colors
Sing their song
And cheer for their team with pride.

Today it’s Army/Navy!
The day of the year that shows
Brothers united
Become brothers divided
Until the final whistle blows.

But long after the touchdowns
Beyond the final score
From the football field
To the battlefield
They’ll be brothers ever more.