On July 4th, we celebrate the anniversary of the original 13 colonies' declaration of independence from England and the formation of a new nation, our beloved United States of America. Independence Day is a day to show pride in our country and our appreciation for the freedoms we've been granted. It's a day for all Americans from all walks of life, but it can take on special significance for the men and women who serve and the people who love them. So there are a few things this military spouse wants you to know this 4th of July.
I never imagined I'd be a military spouse. In fact, I once promised myself I'd never move for a relationship. Then I met the man who would become my husband, and he happened to be an officer in the U.S. Army. I loved him and knew I wanted to spend my life with him at my side, and so I became, well, a military wife. I've been through two permanent changes of station, navigated Tricare, memorized his social security number, learned military time and the phonetic alphabet (kinda), purchased a daddy doll, and made friends all over the country. We're currently on the tail end of a year-long deployment, during which I started two part-time jobs while I cared for our toddler. It's a unique lifestyle, that's for sure.
I've always loved the 4th of July: sparklers and pop-its, hot dogs and watermelon, and friends and family. Now that I'm a military spouse, though, I find it means a little more to me, so there are more than a few things I want those celebrating on the 4th, to know:
Many Of Us Are Celebrating This Holiday Without Our Partners
You know you're a military spouse when you've spent at least two of the following apart from your partner: Christmas, birthday, and anniversary. I've missed my husband on at least one of every holiday on the calendar, and this 4th of July is no exception.
What can you do? If you know the significant other of a deployed soldier, reach out to them and invite them to your party or a community event. Make sure they know they don't have to be alone.
We're Proud Of Our Soldiers
Soldiers (and sailors, Marines, etc.) aren't infallible — far from it, actually. But the mistakes of a few don't take away from the important jobs our spouses do in the military. It might sound trite, but they answered the call of duty, and that's not something everyone is willing to do. They give up time with their families and risk their very lives to make the freedom we celebrate every year on July 4th even possible.
We've Made Sacrifices
Military spouse isn't an easy gig. I moved away from my home state and am raising my child far from much of her extended family. I left lifelong friends. I've had to cobble together several jobs I can do remotely into some semblance of a career. I've promised to pick up my life and move (and find a new doctor, dentist, school, etc.) every three years. I've been handling everything on the homefront and doing life without my husband for the past 10 months, and when he gets back and possibly takes command, I may not see him on the daily until after I've gone to bed.
We Have It Pretty Good
It's really hard, but you know what? I'm doing it and so are thousands of military spouses across the country. We have some valid complaints, but we're not so bad off, really. My husband's job provides a comfortable life for us, and we have access to quality health care. He's out of the country, but technology makes frequent communication possible. We're pretty lucky to live in this country and to have people willing to do whatever it takes to protect the liberties that make it great.
We "Do" Patriotism
You can bet your barbecue that I, and my fellow military wives, will be rocking our LuLaRoe Americana leggings and Statue of Liberty sunglasses this 4th of July. It's not just about wearing the red, white, and blue, though. We "do" patriotism by following proper flag etiquette, sending care packages to deployed soldiers, and organizing meal trains for their families. We also vote because we know people like our husbands and wives sacrificed to guarantee our right to participate in the democratic process.
We Don't Give This Country An Automatic Pass
Don't get us wrong — we love our country, but we'll call it out if we're headed in the wrong direction. I don't think my country is perfect. Sometimes I really want to move to Canada. I believe in universal health care, LGBTQ equality, and religious freedom (the kind that doesn't just apply to Christians). At the end of the day, I don't think it's an either/or situation. I can both love my country and want it to be better.
Keep Your Holidays Straight
Nothing drives a military spouse crazier than a well-meant meme that confuses these three holidays: Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Independence Day. For the record:
Use Fireworks Respectfully
As military spouses, we're acutely aware that many of our combat veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We politely ask that you be courteous in your use of fireworks, which can sound like mortar fire and trigger anxiety attacks and flashbacks. If you see a sign in your neighbor's yard indicating a combat veteran lives there, please be respectful and take your pyrotechnics elsewhere or enjoy a community display (it's safer anyway).
I'm not here to be a downer on your holiday. Military spouses don't want pity, just understanding. We love to party, too, and we wish you a wonderful day of picnics, parades, and three-legged races. Have fun, be safe, and take a minute to raise your beer to those who have made it possible, and the people they leave behind.