Growing up military.
My parents were both born and raised in the Philippines. Ten days after they got married, my dad enlisted in the United States Army, went off to basic training, then received orders to Korea. A year later I was born and my dad visited as often as he could.
My mom stayed behind.
When I was almost three years old, we moved to North Carolina. We lived in tiny base housing, then bought our own house in a friendly cul-de-sac. My mom was a nurse on the day shift. When she worked nights, she would sleep all day but would be up in the afternoon to take care of me if my dad had to work late.
When I was seven, my dad received orders to Germany. We loved the area and traveled often. My dad worked on the base and my mom worked at the Army hospital across the street from our apartment. My dad left for training in the U.S. several times and also a long deployment to Iraq during the Gulf War.
After seven years, and my second brother was born, we moved to Colorado Springs and my dad eventually retired there. About six months after retirement, he went back to work as a contractor in several Middle Eastern countries for better financial opportunities.
And my mom stayed behind.
I went off to college in Arizona, got married, divorced, and remarried. My husband is currently active duty in the Air Force and we just celebrated our tenth anniversary by renewing our vows in Hawaii. We’ve survived three deployments together, crazy work schedules and countless temporary duty assignments (TDY’s) every few months.
Today we have two amazing boys and a spunky little puppy. We have no immediate family in Oklahoma, but we’ve been blessed with the most wonderful friends, neighbors, and church staff who have filled that void.
But I’ve always stayed behind.
I love being a military spouse, truly I do. I love the sense of community and extra support we have, and the wonderful friends we’ve made along the way. And I can’t forget the helpful amount of military discounts available to us.
But…I cringe inside when I hear, “Oh, your husband’s gone again?” I fight back tears during school events that my husband’s missing – again. I hide in my car during lunch at work to yell at the steering wheel when I’m having a bad day – again. I walk slowly through the hospital halls to my next appointment for my health issues while he’s gone – again. I get angry when an appliance breaks while he’s gone – again. I lock myself in the bathroom when I just need five minutes from the kids while he’s gone – again. Then I pray about it, fix my makeup, and put on a smile because I don’t want anyone to have pity on me that he’s gone – again.
Over the years, I’ve thought back to my parents and wondered how they made it all work for us growing up. Being separated several times on different continents, while both working and raising three kids. But what I remember most was never feeling the stress of separation, sadness, or seeing my mom struggle each time my dad was gone. I wouldn’t say my brothers and I were spoiled, but more so protected and unconditionally loved. There was always laughter in our house, affection, delicious food to eat, and excitement for our next family adventure.
Being a military child and a military spouse are two different worlds. Because of that, I’ve grown to have so much more respect for my parents – especially my mom. I’m sure there was frustration, anger, and sadness, but my brothers and I never sensed it. Maybe it’s not healthy that we didn’t, but then again – maybe it was. But that was it. My parents worked hard for us, and loved on us harder.
My parents worked to provide for us and did their best to make sure we had a happy, healthy childhood, despite all the separation. They went above and beyond to try and keep things “normal” and made sure we always knew we were loved. I admire them for that. It gives me strength each time my husband’s gone. I’ve learned that it’s okay to cry and be angry when I need to. I’m human – with real emotions. It reminds me how much I truly love my husband, respect him for his hard work to provide for our family and how precious our time is when we’re together. Sure we bicker every now and then, but we grow from it. It’s taught me to love on our kids harder and to enjoy every second, every hug and every kiss. All just the way my mom and dad did.
My parents have been together their entire lives – literally. They grew up down the street from each other and went to elementary, middle school and high school together. Then my mom went to medical school and my dad joined the Army. This year, they will be celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary. And that is what I strive for today. Their love, commitment, and dedication to each other – through all the good and bad that’s made them stronger.