I’ve been in the Army for 24 years. For some of it, I have been married and for some of it, I haven’t been married. One thing I did have constantly while serving was someone else who was serving with me - be it a spouse or a family member or both. Without starting a big active duty vs. reserve component fight, I will say that being a reservist has unique challenges that active duty does not. Active duty personnel have a set schedule in garrison, while reservists tend to have to do much of their work in evenings and weekends - prime family time. It’s time they want to spend with you, but instead it turns into time you’ll spend away from them. Thank them for this, and thank them often. It’s a strain on them.
I was married to my late wife for ten years. I met her in the Army, and we served together for a bit before she left the service herself. For three of those ten years, I was on active duty. For the rest of it, I was actively drilling in the reserve component. There were many weddings, birthdays, cookouts and parties she had to attend by herself. She was strong when I was gone, and she knew the procedure. If she wanted to go on a trip or vacation together, she would first need to consult my schedule. I couldn’t make the trip while I had annual training or monthly battle assembly. And then, even if we could get away, there was a possibility that I could get a call and have to respond to a situation. She sometimes would make it a point to tell me how this would make her unhappy. There were other times that she would tell me how proud of me she was that I was able to attain what I had and that my job, while inconvenient, was very important to the country.
After my wife passed, I served alone for a while. I had regrets. One thing I was sure of was that she served just as honorably as I did, even though she was not on active duty. She stood by my side at unit functions as the First Sergeant’s wife, and later as the Sergeant Major’s wife. She managed the house when I was off on whatever adventure the Army decided to send me on. She kept crises from me when I was not in the position to help so that I wouldn’t feel bad I wouldn’t be able to head home to take care of things. She was my hero. If you have a spouse like this, make sure you hug them, and thank them. They contribute to your successes.
I recently had my company organizational day. We had the token Disney characters there, and Santa was also there to greet the families. We had the pleasure of a distinguished visitor who talked to the soldiers and families. My new wife and children were in attendance. I, however, had to split my time between Battalion business and making sure my family was taken care of. Though I do have guilt about not being with them as much as I should, my wife told me she understood and the kids had a great time getting presents and meeting a princess, and for that I thank her.
What things do you do to thank your significant other for letting you serve? How do you make it up to your family?
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