Spouse Confessions: From the Wife of An Ex-Pilot

Editor’s Note: All of the pieces in this series are written by anonymous writers. This allows them to talk about subjects that are sometimes tough to discuss. Please keep in mind how difficult it was for this writer to share these thoughts when commenting.

My husband loves his job. He sleeps, eats and breathes it. After a long day, he knows he’s making a difference in this world and that the long hours are worth it. His unit patch is on almost all of our kids’ clothes and ours. Models, drawings and pictures of his work cover our table surfaces and walls. He’s also one of the most qualified in his field, putting him in the top 2 percent nationwide of people who do the same work. My husband is going to quit his job. My husband is a Marine, more specifically, a MV-22B Osprey pilot.

“Why?” you must be asking! “If he loves his job so much, it must be the wife that’s making him quit!” Not true. His work and our community run deep within me too. I love being a Marine wife. The community is amazing. My friends are more like family, and from them I have only become a better person. I volunteer regularly with the base spouse clubs, go to all the squadron events, and am on every social networking support page I can find.

I try to help my fellow spouses when they are feeling down and out about this lifestyle and it’s many challenges. True, at times it’s hard putting on a brave face when I feel like I come second to the Marine Corps. And yes, of course the long hours and deployment separation itself is painful. In the end though, I wouldn’t trade our time in the Marine Corps for anything because of whom it has made me as a person.

So why is he quitting?

For the first time in all the years we’ve been in the Marine Corps, articles are being published that shine light on a glaring problem within the military’s system of retaining pilots. Because we have lived through it, the content in these articles does not surprise us. The fact that it is being published to the masses does. I saw Headquarters Marine Corps say in one article that their goal has always been to have Marines deploy and come home with a 3:1 ratio, three months home for every month deployed.

My husband, currently gearing up for a deployment, will have deployed and come home three times in four years by February 2017. With each deployment varying in time from six to 10 months, and adding in workups, cross-countries and unit exercises, my husband averages being gone at least eight months a year. In addition to these times being gone, he is at work at least 10 hours a day, leaning more towards 12 most days.

We do okay when he’s gone. I’m not overly needy and we have been lucky in our communication abilities every deployment so far. The distance isn’t the problem.

The problem is the math doesn’t make sense. When my fellow military spouses and I discuss it, one word comes up again and again: unsustainable. It is impossible for any family to sustain this lifestyle for an extended period of time. Like a paper clip that gets bent back and forth over and over again (Semper Gumby!), it will eventually break….