Cynthia Lambert Cheshire
Our So-called Military Life
Writing about Veterans’ Day as a military spouse is always a tricky endeavour. Do I go sentimental? Patriotic? As a scholar, writing about ideas of war feels a bit squiffy and too complicated for a blog. Do I focus on the Veteran who lies sleeping beside me at night and the hardships he faced as if I could ever fully understand them as my own?
No, this year the theme I think I’ll embrace is reality.
Military life is having about 8,000 pairs of green socks to match during laundry each week, and none of them are the same shade of green.
Military life is having the government tell us that it’s not green socks anymore, it’s brown socks now, so you must buy 8,000 new pairs of socks even though nobody will ever actually see said socks.
Military life is having endless arguments with the Finance office.
Military life is standing in the doorway of the closet holding a dress shirt saying, “I know you’ve worn a uniform your whole adult life so you don’t understand this, but that polo shirt does not qualify as ‘cocktail attire’ can you please just put this on instead?”
Military life is knowing that when you go out for a date, your spouse will always want to sit with their back facing the wall at the restaurant so they can keep an eye on the place.
Military life is walking into the student union building of the college where you work and promptly dissolving into tears when you see the military recruiter standing at the table down the hall because your husband has been in Afghanistan for the past three months.
Military life is wondering whether the recruiter would think it’s weird if you asked him for a hug, because burying your face in that familiar camo would help you feel just a little bit closer to your spouse.
Military life is answering, “Well it’s something to do with IT and Communications but I’m not really allowed to know anything beyond that” when people ask what your spouse does for work.
Military life is buying a new car while your spouse is deployed because they’re paid more while they’re in an active war zone, so you can finally afford it, and then being told by the dealer that you don’t get the military discount because, “He’s in the military, but you’re not.”
Military life is wanting to smash a cream pie in the face of the car dealer because he clearly doesn’t get it.
Military life is constantly refreshing the news to see if Congress passed the legislation to postpone a government shutdown, because if they didn’t you won’t be paid in a few days, but he’ll still be required to go to work.
Military life is knowing which utilities will wait awhile before they threaten to shut you off and which need to be paid right away during aforementioned government shutdown.
Military life is having some really great sweatpants to steal from his stash of PT gear.
Military life is getting a couple free meals on Veterans’ Day but knowing that your spouse will be a little mentally absent that day.
Despite what is portrayed on the card the propane company sends to our house each November, the reality of military life and military service isn’t all flag waving and homecomings. It’s not all deployments and frustration, either; there are some genuinely wonderful moments. Life with a Veteran is, like so many things, full of complexity and contradiction, so this Veterans’ Day when you stop a Veteran to shake their hand, take a look to their side and thank their spouse, too.