What It's Like to Be a Member of the Military Family

Military FamilyMy name is Beth. I have been living the military life for every bit of my 27 years and have been blessed abundantly. Come on in!

If you step into my home -- I am a proud Marine Corps spouse who was raised as a Navy brat -- typically there are any number of people from my "dysfunctional family" around. The make-up of this family is extraordinary. They are active-duty Marines, Navy SEALS, sailors, soldiers and their spouses and children.

I am often humbled by the people that sometimes walk through my door (and right at this very moment I have goosebumps just thinking about it). You see, my goal here on the home front is to support, love, laugh with and care for as many of them as I can -- to make sure they understand how much they are appreciated.

An admirable family

My immediate family is chock-full of military. My grandfathers both served in World War II. My father was a career Naval aviator. My brother and sister are active-duty Navy. My husband is a Marine (as he says, "SOMEBODY had to join the varsity team!" which always stirs a good laugh out of my all-Navy family).

Our "brothers" are extended family with whom Uncle Sam blessed us. They are all 6-foot plus, in ridiculous shape, forever the opposite of politically correct, hard-charging, tattooed "crazies" who would likely be terrifying if you passed them on the street. On the inside, they are the most incredible patriots you will ever meet. They love and care for this country we live in more deeply than anyone you will ever come across. They're gentle, ambling, storytelling, polite warriors (but you didn't hear that from me!).

My dad deployed when we were kids, and my mom would plaster a big map up on the wall and chart the path of the carrier he was on with dates. Each day before we went to the school bus, we would look to see where Dad was. My brother, sister, mom and I would sit and write letters together at the kitchen table (this was before the days of Skype, e-mail and FedEx and about the time when use of the satellite phone was around $10 per minute -- oh how spoiled our military children are now!). I can only imagine what incredibly important information I had to share with him!

Mom tells a story of when we were very small, when my dad came home from a deployment. She was so thankful to have him back to share the parenting load, as we were ages 4, 2 and a baby at that point. But when Dad would call us for a bath, we just refused. We would look at him and say, "But Mommy will do it!" My mom, of course, had done everything for six or eight months while he had been gone, so we just couldn't figure out why Dad didn't get it!

Counting the days

When he was deployed, we counted out the days he would be gone, multiplied by four and put that number of M&Ms in a jar. Every night we would each eat one and watch as the candies got fewer and fewer, knowing that when the jar was empty, Dad would return.

We moved a lot -- changed schools, made new friends, left new friends, shared bedrooms, threw away stuff at every move, lived on little, loved a lot and built ourselves to rely on, love and befriend our family!

My most important lesson to share about my childhood is that if you are military, your children will not be scarred from their life as military children. After all, each of my parents' three children grew up to continue the military life. These are paths that we all chose for ourselves and of which we are righteously proud. I'm really good at moving, too, and love it!

An incomparable life

My husband did two combat tours in Iraq before we met. When we met, he was a drill instructor and carried the battle scars from his deployments. He's a grunt -- tough as nails, no-nonsense, squared away and steely eyed. I am incredibly proud of him. The saying goes that God found the strongest women and made their match a Marine, which was likely a wise decision on God's part (and that applies to any military spouse, actually).

This lifestyle is not for the weak, meek or wary. It requires incredible independence, strong will, love, patience, understanding and tenacity. It also requires us (the spouses) to be just as -- if not more so -- dedicated to the job at hand than our warriors. We must understand the cause behind which our loved ones go to war. We must believe in it. During World War II, just about the entire country was behind the war effort. Nowadays, many of the civilians living just down the street from us don't even understand what is going on. Many don't know where Kandahar or An Nasiriyah are. We know those towns and the news about them as if they were just down the street, because that information is as important to us as what's going on in our own city.

When you see a U.S. military warrior, please thank him or her. Be aware EVERY day of what so many families are sacrificing to protect this amazing country. I wouldn't trade my life for anything. God Bless America.

You can learn more about living the military life on my blog at www.camplejeuneliving.com and I share blogs of others often there as well. Semper fi.

Next: Military Families Week

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