March 28, 2012

What is Service?

Tonight I received a comment on a post I wrote on February 11th. called Different Sides. In that post I wrote the following: 

"I am proud of what my family does for our nation. I love my husband, and I love my country. I'm proud that we choose to serve something greater than ourselves.

I would like to thank the person who wrote the comment because it inspired me to write a post that I've been considering for a while. Let me begin by saying that I do not feel the need to explain myself to anyone, but this issue has been such a hot topic in more forums than mine, that I would like to address it now.

For convenience sake, here is the comment that was posted:

"I've really been enjoying reading your blog and have found it interesting, however I do have a comment about something you said: "I'm proud that we choose to serve something greater than ourselves." You don't serve. You are not active duty, you are a civilian, you didn't choose to serve. I find it highly offensive that you have implied that you serve just because you are married to someone who does."

I never implied that I serve my country in a military capacity simply because my husband does. I do not feel the need to "ride his coattails" so to speak, to feel that sense of accomplishment. Nor would I ever try to rob my husband of what he has so rightfully earned and take it for myself. I did not mean what I said as a blanket statement to describe all military families. I meant it only in reference to my family. With that said, my husband's military service affects every single aspect of my life. It affects my marriage, my career, where my home is, my social life, my emotional well being, and my children and the entirety of their lives as well. It also affects how and why I volunteer my free time. Just because the military spouse does not have a contract with the United States government does not mean that we are immune to service or sacrifice. It is my husband's military service and career, but it is our life.

When my husband and I fell in love and chose to get married, I promised to love, honor, and support him. Part of that promise means that I support him in his chosen career. Our marriage is a partnership based on mutual love and respect. His job is in the military but he also takes into consideration how his career choices affect his family. His lumps and bumps are mine too. Everything that affects him, affects me. I may be behind him, left at home while he is away, but I live this life with him. While he trains, deploys, and works hard to defend our nation, I work hard at home to support his unit and the families of his men, in addition to maintaing our home, our vehicles, raising our children, and running a business of my own.

This kind of support is not always official, but it comes in many forms, and varies from unit to unit. Many of the things I have done include volunteering as FRG leader, fundraising for the unit, putting together care packages for single soldiers, cleaning empty barracks rooms prior to the return of the deployed men, hosting holiday dinners, making monthly phone calls to 150 soldier's spouses and families with updates and information, taking care of a soldier's over due cell phone bill, or expired license plates, and bringing hot meals to staff duty. Other times it means being there to babysit someone's children, give rides to the doctor, or commissary, help spouses who are new to the area become acclimated for a smoother transition, mow other's yards, be a friend, an advocate, or just a shoulder to cry on. I've been a military spouse for nearly a decade, so many times I simply share what I've learned along the way. A lot of this is even more important when our soldiers are away. My family has received of this kind of help and support as well. Both my husband and I were very grateful.

Not every military wife does this. It is not required of us. But I do. I do not get paid for my time, I offer it freely. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's work, and many times it's both. It is in this way that I "serve" something greater than myself, and it is because of my husband's military service that I choose to volunteer my time to this cause, and to these people. To insinuate that I sacrifice nothing, and serve nothing because I am not military personnel is insulting.

I do not directly serve our nation in the way that my husband and his men do. I will never have that honor. My choice is to love and support my own soldier, and do my best to support his men and their families. It is not a job as rough, tough, and gritty as the one my husband does. I will never pretend that what I do is harder than what my husband does. I will never pretend that it is imperative to a successful military or a strong nation. But the fact is that military spouses and families are part of military life. Helping and taking care of them is full of it's own unique challenges. Many military wives shoulder responsibilities and burdens that non-military wives often don't, or never do. The sacrifice and service of military spouses who work hard and volunteer their time in support of soldiers, their units, and their families should not be overlooked. I'm proud of my husband's service, and I'm proud of my contribution in support of my husband's service. Nothing and no one will ever change that.


  1. Well said, Stephanie. Any person who could utter the words "You don't serve" to a military spouse I doubt has ever known the feeling of having their spouse deployed multiple times. You are correct; our name is not signed at the end of an official contract, but that doesn't mean that the spouse's role (at least those like what you mentioned) doesn't fall under service.

  2. Amazing blog Stephanie. Seriously can't say how much I appreciate your husband for his selflessness and you for supporting him. It takes amazing people to do what you both are doing. Stay strong!