Before I was a military spouse, I had all these notions about who, what and how military wives were and acted. Turns out, most of my assumptions were pretty inaccurate!
10 False Assumptions I Made About Military Life
1. All military spouses are women!
So, the term “military wife” is pretty rampant. After all, when you see those warm and fuzzy homecoming videos, it’s usually the female spouses on camera. So if you thought you would be surrounded by ladies, think again!
A 2011 study showed women make up 14.5 percent of active duty troops, with about 51 percent of these service members being married. Accounting for the 48 percent of married female service members in dual-military families, that leaves about 51,000 civilian spouses who are married to female troops.
Yes, that study didn’t account for same-sex relationships because it was commissioned before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Even with factoring that in, there are tens of thousands of male military spouses!
2. Being a service member is like a regular job.
This assumption went out the window real fast! With deployments, constant training missions, overnight duty and random weekends in the field, a “regular” job this is not.
There are definitely some assignments that operate on a more typical 7-5 schedule, but those are few and far between.
Our first assignment, right after getting married, was an immediate months-long training cycle for a 12-month deployment. My husband was never home for dinner and was gone before I woke up. That is, if he didn’t just stay at work.
3. All military spouses are the same.
I will be the first to admit that I went into military life imagining a Stepford-like situation: thousands of very conservative, very religious and very patriotic women.
Totally not the case!
Military spouses span the spectrum on both religious beliefs and political leanings. And the community is so inclusive of everyone. Whether you attend church or not, whether you vote red or blue or purple, there is a place and space for you to thrive.
The patriotic thing though? That assumption is mostly true. Military spouses are definitely proud of our loved ones’ military service!
4. Everyone lives on base.
In our 3 tours, we have lived in on-base housing once. The other two times we rented homes off base.
Military housing, depending where you are stationed, can be hard to come by. There are often waiting lists for newly built or recently renovated neighborhoods. Other times, like certain overseas duty stations, military families might be required to live on base.
Often, houses out in town come with different perks. Some service members enjoy the separation of their work life and their home life. School districts might offer different resources in another town. Or the location, like on the beach or in the mountains, might just not be an option otherwise.
5. Everything is free or cheap.
We have all heard about the much touted military discounts and giveaways, right? From groceries to houses to theme park admissions, it can seem like lots of things are free.
This assumption is definitely 100 percent false.
While there are perks to being a military family, like complimentary admission to certain theme parks or organizations that provide things just for us, we are still just regular families who pay our own way.
6. Every sailor is on a ship, every airman flies and every soldier or Marine is infantry.
Each service member has a different job to do, just like in the civilian world.
Not everyone in the Air Force flies, for example. Some are doctors, lawyers or in charge of moving supplies around. Not every Marine carries a weapon and wears camo face paint. Some deal with the news media, some are in HR and some fly aircraft. And while many sailors are on the high seas, there are also those who serve on land in a variety of positions.
You can’t compare jobs, even in the same branch of service. Everyone has their own mission and objectives.
7. The great officer vs. enlisted debate.
Before joining the military spouse community, a lot of the word on the street was that officer spouses were snobby or that enlisted spouses were young.
I am going on record as saying this is absolutely not true! Literally nothing that you have heard about “how” officer or enlisted spouses behave or are is 100 percent accurate for every single person in that community.
Each spouse, each person, is their own individual self. No one fits a category or mold.
For the most part, every person I have come in contact with on this journey has been kind, helpful and generous to me and my family.
And spouses, unless also serving in the military, do not wear ranks. So, let’s just erase this one for good!
8. Military homecomings are picture perfect.
After waiting an additional few days and then several hot, sweaty hours in the sun, this assumption is definitely debunked.
Yes, military homecomings are usually a time filled with joy and happiness. Your service member is back safe and sound! But these events also come with some serious concerns.
Often homecoming dates and times are changed up until the very last minute, leaving families in the lurch when it comes to planning for child care or what to wear and bring.
Reintegration is a very real challenge. Your loved one has served in very different and often difficult situations for many months. He or she might have gone through hard times, including the loss of a friend or teammate. Sometimes, just rejoining family life is tough after months spent living on the military’s schedule.
9. Saying goodbye gets easier.
It’s not that it gets easier, it just becomes more normal.
You will still miss your spouse when they are gone, whether it is for a week or for a year. It is still hard sleeping alone, parenting alone and eating alone. You might still cry every time you say goodbye.
But with each farewell, you also have the knowledge that she or he will come home. You know the routine and can switch into it more easily.
10. You’ll see the world!
Or maybe just Kansas and Oklahoma.
There are military bases around the world, from right here in the United States to exotic overseas locations like Asia or Europe.
But not every military job or branch is able to move to every military base.
Some pilots can only fly their aircraft from certain locations. Or your family might only be able to receive health or educational services in certain places. Or your spouse’s branch of service isn’t in your dream location.
It totally depends in a lot of factors and the needs of the United States government.
The good news is that every duty station, near or far, has its own set of perks and benefits that can help make it feel like home!