Giving thanks to military spouses

  • Published
  • By Col. Frederick Schaefer
  • 18th Medical Group
On May 9, Military Spouse Day was observed nationwide to honor the sacrifices made by spouses of military personnel. While having a special day each year to recognize spouses is admirable, these unsung heroes of our military deserve our thanks every day. 

The media has finally begun to bring to light the huge burdens our spouses shoulder while we deploy. Day in and day out, they serve in their very own AOR by juggling careers, taking care of the children, paying the bills, getting the car licensed, paying the rent...you name it, they do it! 

As a deployed Commander, I can tell you there is absolutely nothing more distracting to a deployed member than when their spouse is experiencing difficulty on the homefront. Leaders have realized the importance of our better halves, and have tried to bolster support with the creation of the Family Readiness Flight and the implementation of programs such as pre- and post-deployment briefings, deployed spouses dinners, 
Readiness Assistance Volunteers, and the list goes on. 

Back in the states and even here at Kadena, you can see yellow "We Support Our Troops" magnets that many of our spouses have on their cars and yellow ribbons tied around trees honoring loved ones serving in harm's way. Wouldn't it be nice if we had magnets and ribbons -- you name the color -- symbolizing "Thanks to the Military Spouse" right next to the yellow magnets and ribbons already out there? Why not a lapel ribbon symbolizing this recognition! 

While the burdens on our spouses are significant while we're deployed, our spouses also face major challenges in an effort just to cope with everyday life in the military. The multiple moves, the boxing up of belongings, the depersonalization of lifelong accumulations by calling them "household goods." Have you ever see the wind go out of your spouses' sail when they see the moving truck pull up out front? 

Frequent moves also mean pulling children out of schools, leaving friends behind and trying to get them settled in a new town. It means setting up a household all over again, knowing that in a few years, they'll have to do it all over again. There are not many people who could put up with this more than a few times in their lives, but think of the number of times spouses do it. 

In addition to disruptions to the home life, many military spouses deal with the challenges of trying to maintain a career while married to a military member. Numerous moves in the military make dual employment challenging at stateside assignments and almost impossible overseas. We see many of our spouses making tough choices to either defer their own career ambitions to move overseas with the Active Duty member or to stay in a stateside location and pursue their chosen profession while the service member moves to an overseas assignment. These are choices most civilians are never faced with and cannot comprehend. 

Here at Kadena, the operational tempo isn't invisible to our spouses either. How about those long LORE and ORIs? "Alarm Red" announcements and sirens at how many decibels? As Active Duty members leave home to participate in these exercises, the last thing we do is change the TV to the Commanders Access Channel to make sure we can even get to wherever we thought we were going. Our spouses absorb it and become used to it, sometimes I think even better than we do. How do they do that? 

As fewer and fewer Americans proportionally become members of the Armed Services, so do the number of families that experience the highs and lows of military family living. Explaining this lifestyle is difficult, but through my 26 years of service, my parents, brother's and sister's families have grown to appreciate the burden our spouses endure. Hopefully, our entire nation will one day truly appreciate their sacrifices. 

So to all of our spouses, I want to say thank you again for everything that you do. For our married service members, I encourage each one of you to take a little time every day to thank your spouse for their support for you, the military and ultimately, the mission. For those who give so much, it's the very least we can do.