Today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. The following is an essay I wrote not too long after September 11, 2001. It is published in Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul. Please keep all military members and their spouses in your prayers today.
SPOUSE OF A SOLDIER
It was 1990. The winds of war were swirling fiercely. My husband was an F-16 pilot. I knew he would be leaving soon. I had received many words of support and comfort for which I was very grateful. Still, terror gripped me. I knelt in church on Thanksgiving Day and felt the warm stream of tears flow. A small age-worn hand grasped mine. This tiny, frail woman next to me understood. She had sent her husband to World War II, her son to Vietnam, and now her grandson, my husband, to Desert Shield. From this diminutive form I drew great strength. For the sake of my husband, my children, and my country, I could now hold back the tears.
Not long after the new year dawned my husband and his comrades strapped on their jets and headed over the ocean. We wives banded together. We laughed together and cried together. We commiserated over all the household catastrophes that only happen when husbands are away. We didn’t speak too much of our fears. Those were understood.
Inside I quaked with every scud launch. Every report of a downed plane wrenched my soul. Yet, before anyone else could see the strain in my face, one of the wives would see it. She would speak no words, but would grasp my hands. I would do the same for her. We understood.
The day came when our husbands returned. I had heard that they were coming, but was afraid to get my hopes up. Part of me was steeled for my husband to be missing. When I saw him, tired and worn, step into the hangar I felt like a new bride.
After the band stopped playing, the parade was over, the hugs and kisses were given, and he was home, I could only cry and tremble the way you do after a near-miss head-on collision. I thanked God for my husband’s safe return. I thanked God for the loving support of family and friends. I thanked God for the strength of the wives. He understood.
Ten years later we are spouses not wives. The last decade has wrought many changes. Some things, however, remain constant. Whether husband or wife, we are still married to soldiers. When duty calls the soldier will answer. In fact, he may seem eager to leave those he loves and fight the good fight. It is hard to be married to a hero. The spouse of a soldier is called to understand. Understanding makes you a hero too.