“They don’t get us.”
“How could they possibly understand?”
“They don’t know what it’s like.”
Time and time again, I’ve heard comments like these from friends and strangers online and in real life. The military-civilian gap is real. You can feel it when you live in the community and when you live outside of it. The truth of the matter is that most people are so far removed from military communities and those that serve that they truly don’t understand what a deployment, TAD/TDY, or PCS is like.
And that’s okay. After all, why would they? How could we possibly expect everyone to understand the military life when they haven’t lived it themselves? That’s not fair, and it certainly isn’t helpful in making that gap any smaller.
I reached out to some military spouses–both Jo, My Gosh! readers and blogging friends– and posed a question: What do you wish folks knew about military life?
Here’s what they said:
1. We have little control sometimes.
“[It’s] not about ‘when we can’ or ‘when we want’ to do things (like trips to visit family, even sometimes medical appointments or so) everything its about when our spouse is ‘able to.'” -Maria
2. Your words matter.
“Saying ‘this is gonna be so hard on you’ when discussing deployment is NOT helpful. Or that ‘you knew what you were getting in to when you married him’ is not appropriate to say when I’m having a bad day while he’s deployed.” -Brhe Anne
3. There are some off-limits topics.
“When my husband is gone the LAST thing I want to talk about is his chances of dying while deployed.” -Cortnie
4. I’m not trying to be a flake.
“Sometimes I have no control over when I can and can’t work if I can’t find child care on short notice because…we are stationed nowhere near home or friends.” -Manda
5. Guard families deal with deployment too.
“Being ‘just National Guard’ is NOT what it used to be. With the reduction of our active duty force structure, the national guard is being called on to deploy just as frequently.” -Brooke
6. I didn’t know it would be like this.
“It’s so much harder than I ever could have imagined.” -Becca
7. We fell in love… but I wasn’t expecting this.
“I did NOT know what I was getting myself into. Military life has so many challenges but the only thing I was focused on when I married my husband was just that. Marrying my husband. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. The military was just part of the package. And sometimes I just suck at keeping in touch with friends or family and I’m bad at asking for help when I really need it.” -Keating
8. Saying goodbye is always hard.
“It never ‘gets easier’ to say goodbye and you never ‘get used to’ being apart.” -Cindy
9. I’m better because of this life.
“The military lifestyle changed me into a better, stronger person.” -Trista from A Purpose Driven Wife
10. You should say hi.
“We may move a lot, but we do like making new friends. And it’s OK to get to know us, we are pretty awesome people!” -Sybil from Mamas and Coffee
11. We don’t just go with the flow.
“Although we sacrifice a lot, we are still very driven individuals. We have our own dreams and aspirations that we adapt to fit this lifestyle. ” -Amanda from Away We Run
12. We’re driven.
“That being a self-employed military wife doesn’t mean I don’t have a desire for a normal career. It means I’ve taken the circumstances and made them successful on my terms.” -Rachel from RachelBrenke.com
13. We’re not the same.
“The military is diverse- we have diverse beliefs and political views and opinions. We don’t agree with every decision made on our behalf.” -Heather from Only Passionate Curiosity
14. It’s not free.
“We don’t get free anything. We sacrifice everything everyday for the small luxuries that we are given.” -Trisha
15. We’re no different than other folks.
“We’re no stronger than anyone else. We simply take life’s circumstances and work with them.” -Pamela from the Coastie Couple
16. It’s an adventure.
“Military life is hard and challenging, but it’s also the greatest adventure of your life. It’s afforded us so many opportunities that we would otherwise miss. We’ve traveled the world, experienced emotional highs and lows, creatively made tough situations work, and met the most amazing people along the way. We wouldn’t change it for the world.” -Lauren from The Military Wife and Mom
17. We want to be accepted.
“We don’t expect, or feel entitled, or want sympathy or special treatment, if anything we are just looking for the chance to be accepted into the communities we join so we can do life together like everyone else.” -Kim from She Is Fierce