Toughest Job in the Corps?

Let me start with my dislike for this bumper sticker as a description of a military wife. I’ve played both roles so from experience, I can state it’s not true. However, a military wife is nothing to look down upon. It is unquestionably one of the tougher spousal positions. Voluntarily loving a service member is signing up for time physically apart on top of all the emotional implications created through distance. As I experience a deployed spouse, I am grateful to have communications apart from waiting for the daily arrival of the postman. I can only imagine the frame of mind while awaiting letters during World War II. If I wore hats, they would be off to those ladies.

The military, as beneficial as the organization is, straight up sucks sometimes. Personalities can make a tour memorable, for both positive and negative lasting impressions. A healthy home life can balance out the severe mind games played at work. The games are strong with this one, and can at times be enough to make punching a random passerby in the hallway seem acceptable. This is when a spouse becomes paramount to a service member’s career. Males are hard-wired to be needed; to have a purpose in whatever role they are filling and be successful in that endeavor. When both environments, home and work come crashing down, this can strip a person from recognizing their purpose. The statistical prophecy of suicide dangles as a release.

Suicide is never an act to place blame on another party. Events may have led up to the choice, or emotions may have pushed someone over their threshold for life but still, it is never anyone else’s fault. Suicide is 100% the choice of the person who made it. If someone tries to say otherwise, it is most likely tied to guilt or a misunderstanding of the situation and seeking a source to absorb their anger. So what is the solution? How do we protect those we love from allowing the dark to permanently decide their fate?

The solution is not to avoid conflict; a marriage will inevitably encounter turmoil. If it does not, I would bet highly one person is not speaking entirely in truths. To participate in healthy conflict, one must change the mission. A good rule of business which is highly applicable to relationships states, ‘a problem should never be presented without a solution to explore.’ Without the focus on resolution, the problem will be the concentration, hashed out from ever angle possible resulting in an unavoidable escalation of emotions. It becomes a game of daggers; who can throw the best? A spinning cylinder during Russian Roulette; who will get the last shot before explosion?

It takes a powerful woman to sift through the mass of undue stress thrown at her feet without reacting from a place of hurt but rather taking a role of understanding to determine the root cause. To love his hardened exterior, exposing the vulnerable sides of an alpha male. Safeguarding those vulnerabilities; hosting a dialogue only the two of you share. A memory enticed by his smile from across a room allowing those deep moments to replay like a movie and experiencing a fraction of those sentiments again. To in detail know the chapters he keeps in the restricted section is a sexy privilege to have. To have him, all of him, and to protect your king. This role from a spouse can keep his head above water. To keep him focused on the future even if the present is bearing down on his chest. To not highlight his imperfections as headlines for the masses. To encourage his growth and avoid the trending attitude to #staypetty.

As a prior service member, I look back now with gratitude to never having deployed. At the time I was serving, I wanted to deploy. It was easy to feel inferior without the deployment experience in an organization where women only made up ~8% of the population. To not perform at equal standards as men is understandably frustrating. In reflection, I would not be the same had I deployed. The images would undoubtedly haunt me while I sauntered down the dangerous rabbit-hole of ‘what ifs.’ As women tend to have their emotions forefront, men typically compartmentalize. It is easy to feel healthy when undealt memories are pushed deep down to avoid the emotions they provoke. The conscious brain can exhibit high levels of will power, prohibiting thoughts on a certain subject. The subconscious does not play by these same rules. The nightmares, involuntary spasms, the cries into the night lacking any morning recollection. PTSD.

I loved a man once with PTSD. As he was slowly losing his controlled demeanor, I encouraged him to seek help. His therapist wanted him to write down the situations plaguing him the most. He would email me the documents so I could ‘proofread’ but those attachments were confessions in disguise. His way of opening up. What he experienced on humanitarian missions surprisingly affected him more than wartime encounters. When his roommate called me frantic one night at 3am, part of me knew what to expect. Driving down his road, the red-flashing lights disrupted the otherwise peaceful sky of this fishing town; his sister on her knees in the driveway wailing while his best friend held her. The act of suicide creates a permanent desire to understand what the final push was? Thought? Could anything have changed their mind? An emotional unknown incapable of fully healing. My pain does not linger for myself but it does for watching the challenges his family faced after his passing, and the responsibility his brothers-in-arms felt.

Still, his life made an impression on me. To stop wasting a life allowing the negative aspects to take hold. To stop allowing trivial matters to earn a reaction. Every time a friend, acquaintance, fellow veteran is reported as a statistic, my thoughts go to the wives. The wives who will forever hold onto the questions about how they lost their husband, or how he changed so drastically from the man she married. Burdening the pain on herself to lessen the impact for their children. Losing someone I allowed close to my heart convinced me to never love another military man. The pain was too intense and we were just in the beginning stages of our romance. What if years had gone by? Had our lives been established? My daughter involved? The risk was too high to allow it again.

But yet, here I am. Head over flats in love with a Marine, and not just any Marine. He is undoubtedly the only man who should have ever affected my heart. Sitting next to him couch side, getting ready to watch a show, most likely Vikings. He smiles at me from under his end of day hair with eyes so blue I did not stand a chance of holding it together. He will ask what’s wrong, knowing all the reasons already. Regretting a minute progression with him scheduled to leave in the morning. Theory of Relativity in full force. My answer to his question, “your stupid face, that’s what’s wrong!” Maturity is my relational strong suit.

As I’m hugging him goodbye, I tear up knowing the transparent moments we’ve allowed ourselves to share. The intimate moments where I am trusted in protecting his heart. The vulnerabilities he shares allows me to encourage his best. The best way to keep this man grounded is to love him unconditionally, faults and all. A true testament to the vows I stated to him, before God. I fall for Dennis on the daily, no exaggeration. The questions that are difficult to ask, I will ask them if needed. The accountability he needs, I will say it regardless of my comfort zone. Skimming the wave tops will never provide those moments of naked vulnerability; full transparency between a husband and wife. For in those moments, transformation and growth occurs which filters to all aspects of our relationship. The closeness we achieve acts as an adhesive in the moments where it is really needed and matters.

I think we all feel a sense of pride snagging a military man. Marines are sang about; they are the inspiration for truck stop ‘novels.’ The wives of the military, the ones accepting at any moment they could lose their husband for a world the media has highlighted as ungrateful. A spouse can make or break the spirit of a service member. The home can either be a safe haven or viewed as a warzone. The ‘family friendly’ Corps will only do so much for our men in the avenue of support. CHOOSE him. Be that voice of encouraging praise allowing him to stand taller. Don’t deflate him, especially not publicly. Protect the sanctity of your marriage. Pray for your husband, above all things, this has brought me the most peace. Now, the fact that I love to be led by my husband does not detract from my inner Destiny’s Child. Those who know me are aware I’ve been doing the #bosslady thing for years. I however feel there is so much to gain from trusting your husband as head of household.

So military spouses, not a job in the Corps BUT a vital aspect to facilitating a healthy career and positive outlook towards the Corps. I’ve watched some Marines handle the worst conditions at work with positivity because of their home life. On the flipside, I’ve watched some of the best Marines lose everything they’ve worked hard for because of issues at home. The Marine Corps is a pool of Alphas swimming around eachother cautiously and the second one shows a sign of weakness, the others attack. I’ve observed this over the span of 11 years, the only thing that changes are the nametapes.

Hold it down ladies, marriage is worth it! With that, let’s start the conversation of how to hold things together, how to cope when it’s tough. Military Spouses tend to get a bad rep from the actions of some when there are some real baddies out there.

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