Thank you for your service…
Warning: My usual humor & sarcasm is not added to this post. It is a much deeper topic that is near and dear to my heart. Thanks for reading.
Veteran’s day has a special place in my heart, though I admit it didn’t until I had served in the military myself. Veteran’s Day should not be confused with Memorial Day. On this day, we honor and celebrate those that serve or have served; while Memorial Day celebrates those that died while serving.
I thought this would be the perfect day to tell you a little more about my background and the experiences that shaped me into the woman and mother I am today. I come from a long line of military members (a military brat, if you will). My grandfather was in the Coast Guard, my mom and dad both were in the Navy, and my brother went to a military academy and still serves in the Naval Reserve. So, it felt like I was also destined to join. A lot of people ask me how and when I joined the Navy. I went to a regular 4 year university and studied Nursing. My senior year is when I really had to buckle down and figure out what I wanted to do post college. My parents always envisioned me joining the Navy, as they had done, though as a teenager/young adult you typically want to do the opposite of whatever your parents say. My parents always pushed me out of my comfort zone, to try new things, travel away from home, and take on tough challenges. I’m thankful for that.
I finally decided that this too would be a great decision for me. So I joined as a young adult right out of college. I’m always disheartened when I hear people talk down about joining the military and insinuating that it is a terrible decision. It is quite the opposite. I will say you need to do your research. Luckily, my family knew a lot about the military because my parents had both served. I’ve talked to so many people with a 4 year college degree that enlist in the military rather than applying to become an officer. There is nothing wrong with enlisting, and it is a great avenue if you feel like you aren’t ready for college, but you can be commissioned as an officer with a bachelor’s degree. So consider all of your options before diving into any particular path. That being said, joining the military was the best decision I have ever made. I met my husband, moved to new places, experienced different cultures, and challenged myself professionally.
After spending time apart, me in San Diego and my husband in Norfolk, we moved to Bahrain together. Bahrain is a tiny island in the Middle East, and at times can feel “different” as an American living in a country that has some internal political conflict. I was never personally affected by this, but it was evident living and driving through the local communities. While living overseas sounds exhilarating and exciting, it comes with its own challenges. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed our time there, but you miss the conveniences of living in the states.
Moving around every 2 to 3 years and the possibility of deployment greatly affects relationships. Relationships with family, friends, your own children, and your spouse are tested with each move, each late night, and every missed family event.
Now, I was a Navy nurse for about 4 1/2 years. One reason I decided to get out of the Navy was to start a family with my husband. While it is not impossible to have a dual military family (both mother and father are active duty), it is just not how I envisioned starting our family. Strangely enough, I found out that I was pregnant with Jack just a couple months before I discharged.
Do I miss active duty life? Yes and no. I was burnt out and needed a change. However, I miss the community that goes along with being in the military. It is like an unspoken bond. When you shake a stranger’s hand after you find out they are in the military, it’s like you are acknowledging all their hard work, all their travels, times away from their family, and other sacrifices. You don’t even have to talk about, you just know. I especially miss the community we made in Bahrain. When I was stationed at a big hospital, the only military friends I had were other nurses or doctors. We moved to Bahrain, and that was where I really figured out what the military is all about. Because the base is much smaller, you get to know pilots, supply officers, submariners, SEALS, JAGs, and all the other medical staff. I really started to understand how it all works. And I met some of the most amazing people. You end up going your separate ways, texting or talking every now and then, hoping to run into them again in the future.
I am so thankful for what military life has given me. I was given the gift to travel and see new places, meet so many amazing people, and learn about myself along the journey. I have not totally been removed from the military, and I transitioned to my new role as a military wife back in 2013.
The one thing I have struggled with the most as a military wife is building my own community. I found that while you meet amazing people, it can be lonely at times, in the military and now as a military wife. Right when you feel as if you are getting settled into a new community, it is time to move again. While you learn all about independence, you have to really work at maintaining friendships, and I’m not the best at that. So, if that applies to anybody that is reading this, I’m sorry.
So, thank you to all those who have served and are currently serving. Thank you to those that have been my community over the past decade and supported me and my family. Not just today, but any day you think about it - thank someone that you know that has served. And remember behind every married military member, is a spouse that is strong, supportive, and proud. A spouse whose career is on the back burner because you move so often or just to raise a family. A spouse whose husband is deployed and has limited or no contact with their husband for months on end. That phrase “a house is not a home” is so true to military families. Home is where your family is and that might be in 7 locations all over the world over the course of their career.
I personally have to thank my Papa, my mom, my dad, my brother, my husband, and all the wonderful people that I have met while I was active duty and while being a military wife.
Here is my dad, retired USN Supply Corps Captain. I hope I made him proud!
I’ll leave you with this video made by 2016 Naval Academy graduate LTJG Rylan Tuohy. Enjoy!