8 Little Ways to Hold Your Ground as a New Military Spouse
By Mindy Brewster for Military Spouse. Used with permission.
That one phrase has so many different meanings and jobs. It is a way of life. They deal with everything on the home front.
Well, new military spouse, every 3-5 years you may be uprooted and have to learn a brand new area. You deal with deployments, change of address, saying good-bye to friends and family. You may not be able to stay in one place for long periods of time.
One of the hardest things to do is find out about your next duty station. You ask yourself, “How will I make friends,” “What are the houses like,” “What type of school will my children attend,” and “Is there shopping?”
I grew up a military brat; however, my father spent 19 of his 21-year career stationed in one place: Key West, FL. I knew no other life outside of this island. I watched families come and go. So many goodbyes, while I stayed in the same spot.
In 2003, I married an amazing man in the U.S. Navy. I got a chance to join the amazing club known as Military Spouses. I thought to myself, “This is going to be a breeze since I already know the military.” Wow, was I wrong. First of all, two weeks after I got married, my husband was shipped off to Iraq for the “Shock & Awe Phase” of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There I was 3 months pregnant and newly married, a brand new military spouse, and my groom was off to the desert on a mission to build the first American hospital on Iraqi soil. What the heck was I supposed to do, sit home and knit? I was scared; I watched the news way too much. My friends kept saying, “Quit watching the news.” YEAH RIGHT. While my husband was in harm's way, I was worrying myself sick.
Where we were stationed was supposed to be a shore duty, so of course there was no need for deployment support groups, not that I knew what those were to begin with. So my Google search began for support. I came across a special person known as an Ombudsman. Our nearest one for my husband's group was in Pensacola Florida; I am in Key West. Want to talk about an awkward conversation?
“Hi, my name is Mindy and I am pregnant and my husband is with your guys at fleet hospital in Iraq and I have no support and I have no idea what to do or where to turn and what do I do?” YES, that is a run on sentence and I was crying. Joanne was her name, and her first words to me where, “Hello Mindy, it is a pleasure to talk to you; do me a favor and take a deep breath.” From then on she was my lifeline.
Eventually, I became friends with a few spouses from the command. My friend Crystal and her husband David were lifesavers. They came to all my appointments, came to see me and took care of me in the hospital and even had me move in with them when the Doctor made me move closer to the hospital. They rearranged their entire life for me. This is when I learned a valuable lesson. THE MILITARY IS MY FAMILY. Without these special people in my life as a new military spouse, I would have probably given up and lost all hope.
Then, finally, my husband came home and not a moment too soon as we welcomed our first child, Cheyenne, into the world. Want to talk about the weight of the world off my belly? From that point on, I made it a mission of mine never to allow another spouse to go through the fear and very hard start to Military Life that I had. I became SUPER SPOUSE. Or so I thought.
PCS Move. What the heck is that? Well, that is the point of time in the military life where they tell you to get your crap and move. This new military spouse is lost and worst of all this little island girl was getting sent to Iceland. WHAT?!? You have got to be kidding me, right? Nope, the Navy does not joke when it comes to orders. Sun, sand, and ocean view got traded in for heavy coats, snow boots, and 4-wheel drive. I froze my butt off. I knew nothing about where we were going, who we would meet, what I needed to do. I now have a 1-year-old child and I am being sent to the Arctic Circle, and all my friends were laughing. Remember the scene from Cool Runnings, where Sanka is about to leave the airport in Canada? Yep, that was totally me.
I wrote down every single thing I did while going through the planning, staging, packing, and moving process. I didn’t want to screw up anything, after all the horror stories about PCS Moves I heard from my friends. You know what I am talking about, and you are nodding your head right now.
Since that time, I have PCS’d many many times and met many new people and done a lot of amazing things. I have learned that my role as a spouse is very important and that it is my job to make sure to keep things spinning in our world while my husband is defending our freedom. I have stood along side my Seabee in Battalions, Deployments, C-schools, recruiting duties, and various other commands. I have met many spouses and even became an Ombudsman myself. I strive to welcome new spouses and new families into this amazing military life. Along the way, I have learned tricks of the trade and ways to be efficient.
We are now set to retire in just one short year. Our journey with the military is almost over, and a whole new “scary” world of civilian life is right around the corner. Will we settle down? Will we take a government job and still move around? What are our plans? These are the questions I am heralding now, but the first questions in the top of this article still come my way. Some answers I may not have, but I work very hard to find that information the spouses need. So here is my advice to you as a new military spouse or as a seasoned spouse to share with a newlywed who comes your way:
1. Never be too proud to ask for help.
2. “Seasoned” Spouses know almost everything, so find out what they know!
3. Never bottle yourself up; there may be someone going through the exact same thing and you both can learn together.
4. Other spouses can become your family.
5. Don’t be scared; there are plenty of resources and people out there to help you.
6. Reach out to anyone and everyone. They need your help just like you may need theirs.
7. You don’t have to be a rock 100% of the time; you are entitled to go nuts every once in a while.
8. Find the ombudsman, FRG leader, Key Spouse. etc. They are trained and ready to help.
Good luck, New military Spouse, and welcome to the amazing world of Military Life. It is a pleasure serving with you!