When we first found out that my husband was being medically retired, I had a wide range of emotions. On one hand, I was thrilled that I would never have to hear the words ‘I’m being deployed’ again. I thought surviving four deployments was quite enough! But on the other hand, I was very sad.
Part of my sadness was that we were leaving so many friends behind. One of the biggest draws (to me) of military life was the fact that it comes with a built in family. You automatically have something in common with so many people. It’s easy to meet new people and there are always activities to be involved with if you wish. The friendships that you develop, especially over a deployment, are much deeper than many of my ‘civilian’ friendships. And it seemed like no matter what, there was a list of people who could be called at the spur of the moment to go out to dinner or go down to River Street.
Part of it was also that there is a certain amount of pride that is associated with being a military wife. I felt like to a certain degree that was being left behind as well. Because my husband had served in a special ops unit, it was going to be more difficult to keep up with the soldiers he served with and continue to support them during their deployments. So it seemed as if, at the time any way, that we would be cut off from the world we had grown to love.
And finally, I felt like I had put a great deal of effort and work into a website dedicated to Army wives and Army families and now I wasn’t even going to be a military wife any more. How would all that work? Would the ladies, fellow Army family members, on the message board feel like I didn’t belong after he retired? Of course, that didn’t happen but there was a sense all around of being thrown to the curb. It’s like you were being kicked out of a club and would forever be only on the outside looking in at what you were at one point very involved in and consumed by.
We’ve managed to keep in touch with friends better than I thought we would be able to. A lot of that is thanks to Facebook. We moved to the opposite side of the state and my husband returned to school to finish his degree. He found a job that was nothing even remotely close to the level of what he was doing in the Army and was surrounded by an almost entirely female staff. That was quite the adjustment for him as well since he had been in an all male special ops unit.
We found it hard to meet people and begin friendships because so much of our most recent life was centered around the Army and its deployments. Our new neighbors and contacts really didn’t have the first clue about the military lifestyle and for the most part, really didn’t care. It was an entirely new situation for us to not be in a military community and we began to miss our past life.
It hit my husband hardest when his unit deployed again. He knew that he should be with them and it was killing him that he was sitting in a classroom while they were overseas. Phone calls from his buddies about their training and what had been going on only made him miss the lifestyle even more. Couple that with the fact the he is attending a military college and takes classes with cadets in ACUs every day.
Every time I logged onto the message board or answered emails from anxious Army wives, girlfriends and family members, I felt that twinge of jealousy. They were able to live the lifestyle that we wanted to live but weren’t able to because of whatever it was that caused his condition on that first deployment.
I get very excited when I see someone with a DoD decal on their car or wearing a proud Army wife shirt. When I went to the doctor and the patient ahead of me in line pulled out a military ID, I felt an odd sense of comfort. It’s a much rarer sight around here and just makes me feel at home. It’s been great when some of his buddies have come to see us or I get to talk to an Army wife who supported me through deployments on the phone. I can talk like what has become normally to me, using acronyms and terms that those outside of the military community just don’t understand. It has been strangely comforting to be around these people again and share stories about the “good old days”.
We both miss the military lifestyle greatly. Yes, it has its downsides. There are definite bumps in the road and I’m not too sure I would really want to endure another deployment. But it also made our marriage stronger and it made both of us stronger and more confident as individuals by dealing successfully with all that we did while he served. It’s rare for a day to go by without one of us talking about the Army and I wouldn’t have it any other way.