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The Benefits and Challenges of Being a Military Spouse

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Many people wonder how military spouses endure the long deployments and frequent moves that go hand-in-hand with living the military life. With three young boys, I often hear, "I don't know how you do it!" or "You are one brave Mommy!" Yes, the deployments have been extremely difficult. Living oceans apart from our family and friends has been challenging as well. However, I would argue that it is the little day-to-day things that add up over time and pose the biggest challenges for me as a military spouse.

As I write this, my family is in the midst of the biggest transition of our lives -- that of leaving Active Duty military and joining Corporate USA. Even though Matt will continue to fly for the CA Air National Guard part-time, we officially are cutting the cord and growing roots in Southern California. With an offer on a house and Matt's corporate job in full swing, I now have the luxury of reflecting on my "career" as a military spouse. I find myself grateful that I do not have a deployment on the horizon or an upcoming PCS (Permanent Change of Station) to prepare for, though I must admit that I also miss the friendships and opportunities that took place when we were closely embedded within the military community.

When first introduced to the military lifestyle in 2000, I may not have understood the scope and frequency of the deployments; however, I knew that they were a fact of life if I was going to be a military spouse. So even though I did not look forward to them, in many respects, I knew what I was getting in to. What I was not prepared for was how unsettling and disruptive the frequent moves would be.

In the last 11 years, I have called nine different places "home". As we prepare to buy our first home, I am most looking forward to putting our personal touch on it -- that is, painting the walls, buying a piece of furniture that fits the space perfectly, shedding the many pieces of furniture and artwork that we have held on to "just in case", and so forth. To many, these gestures may seem small and insignificant; however, to me and many other military spouses, this is a real treat. Even though we make an art of turning our current house into our "home", we still know that within 1-3 years, we will be packing up again and starting anew. In addition to feeling unsettled, it is also hard to build such close friendships and know that it is only a matter of time before we will be saying "farewell", many times going years before crossing paths with these dear friends again. Without a doubt, being constantly uprooted definitely takes its toll.

With that said, I firmly believe that the military life presents many benefits that far outweigh the challenges. Even though the farewells are difficult, I am forever grateful for my large extended family as well as the numerous opportunities we've been given to travel the world. When stationed abroad, our squadron friends were our family. We supported each other through deployments, celebrated birthdays and holidays together and shared in memories that will last a lifetime. Additionally, due to three overseas assignments, Matt and I have also had the luxury of experiencing the world firsthand. This travel gave me a much better appreciation for foreign cultures and allowed me to truly immerse myself in the both the Asian and European ways of life.

Many times I am asked, "If you knew then what you knew today, would you do it all over again?" Without hesitation, my answer would be "Yes!" I admit that I will not miss the frequent deployments and the numerous times I have had to say "farewell", however, when I look back on our "career", memories of celebrating Oktoberfest with our friends in Munich and getting away to the beaches of Malaysia while stationed in Korea far outweigh those of deployments and farewells to our friends. Thanks to these experiences as a military spouse, I have grown to be the person that I am today. And for that, I am ever grateful.

SLIDESHOW (photos by Rick Horn):

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