(Photo Credits: Photo Pin)
How do you go from being the General’s personal interpreter to cleaning spilled milk on aisle seven? Or how does one play the role of Sergeant in the most powerful military body on the plant in the morning, and switch to a minimum wage grocery stalker in the evening? Better yet, how do you deal with a husband who has to do all of the above? To all of those who think the National Guard is just a weekend gig, think again.
I am society’s typical married woman and mother. I have two children under three years of age, I’m in my mid-twenties, I have a college degree in a field I will probably never set foot in and often times I am wearing at least one of my children’s meals on my shirt. Despite my appearance of “normal-ness,” I basically have two separate components to my lifestyle: the citizen wife, and the army wife.
The National Guard lifestyle is far from simple. I get the opportunity (insert sarcasm) to worry about deployments, pay a monthly premium for health care all while not receiving BAH or any other benefits often received by active duty personnel. I also get to struggle through those beloved years of being a college student, and working less than ideal jobs while supporting a small family. I get to step foot in two very different worlds almost on a daily basis, and to tell you the complete and honest truth I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I met my husband during my high school years. He was already enlisted when I claimed him. He had joined the National Guard as a senior in high school (with his mother’s signature allowing him to do so). I remember seeing him in his uniform for the first time and I immediately knew he was a keeper, all 140 pounds of him. He shipped out for basic a year after we deemed ourselves as an “exclusive couple” and I of course did the whole lovey-dovey letter thing while he melted in the Fort Sill summer heat. After he graduated basic training we waited another two years then were married. I really embraced the role of being an Army wife. I was and still am extremely proud to be married to a defender of freedom. I don’t think I knew, however, how difficult it would be to balance the two different lifestyles being in the National Guard requires.
My husband is currently an E5 and belongs to a Military Intelligence Unit. He is also a full time college student in his final semester, and a grocery stalker at Wal-Mart. Last month I literally watched him transition from being a General’s personal interpreter for a Moroccan delegation to the lowest person on the food chain at the empire of grocery and general merchandise. To put it lightly, the role and pay transition is not an easy one. I know he feels insignificant and even at times pitiful because he works long hours for little pay when he works his civilian job. On the other hand, I love watching him do his Army job. I can tell the sense of importance, and personal fulfillment it brings him. We keep telling ourselves that this time will only last a short time longer. After he receives his degree we can strive for something bigger and better, maybe even OCS, or enlisted active duty.
Being a National Guard spouse definitely can be challenging. Balancing civilian life and army life sometimes proves to be more difficult than expected. It’s a role, however, that brews strength, teaches perseverance, and molds character; aspects that prepare us for whatever Uncle Sam or Sam Walton decides to throw at us.