Thursday, April 23, 2009

What it Means to Be a Navy Wife

Whenever I need to tell a little about myself, my first thought is that I am a Navy Wife. I never want to lead off with that however. I don't want people to think I define myself by what my husband does for a living. But in reality, I AM a Navy Wife, and my life DOES revolve around my husband and his career.

My sailor and I have been married for over 13 years. When I met him he already had 2 years in. We got engaged, and then I was under the impression that he was going to get out as soon as his enlistment was up. Uh oh,STRIKE ONE- that was just a bad day when he said that, no- he was staying in. So then my little naive self said that I didn't want to have children and for him to be out to sea while I raise our children by myself. STRIKE TWO- he immediately told me that that was something I would have to deal with when/if we had children.

I went ahead and married him anyway. He deployed about 10 months later, after moving to a new base where I knew no one. I was just 22. One day I received a call about a wife support group. After the 2nd invitation I decided to go to a meeting. There I made fast friends with someone I still keep in touch with 12 years later.

I came to learn very quickly what it takes to be a Navy Wife. You must be independent, you must be strong. You must be able to stay faithful during long separations, and trust that your husband that will do the same. You must be able to assure him that all is well at home so that he doesn't have to worry when he is in harm's way- even if it isn't. You must be able to go long periods of time without any communication from him. You must be able to accept that the Navy comes first, no matter what. He can't come home because you "can't handle being alone" or the car broke down. You have to be resourceful. You can't expect someone to lend a helping hand without searching them out. You must be able to make new friends. You must be willing to try new things. You have to know some etiquette. His career isn't reliant on you, but it doesn't look good on him to have a rude wife, or cause trouble for him at work. You can't let one bad experience or even two sour your whole perception of the Navy. You must love your country. You must be proud of your husband and what he does. Stand by him, and support him. The military is different from the civilian world. He can't quit when he feels like it and can't complain if he is made to work 12pm to 8am every day and/or over 40 hours (without overtime pay). You have to be willing to accept that he may have to work weekends, or stand watch on Christmas Day. You are going to miss holidays, anniversaries and birthdays. You need to make the ones you do celebrate together count. You must be able to play the role of Dad to your children. You will need to keep them occupied when he leaves for a long deployment. You must hide your tears from them lest they start crying too. You must be able to withstand their heartbreaking tears and sobbing as they say goodbye to their Daddy.

It sounds like it is all bad- but it balances out with the good too. You will make wonderful friends, and may even meet them again the next time you transfer. Every time he re-enlists- you will be acknowledged for your dedication. After all, without your support he wouldn't be able to do the job he does. You will feel proud when he walks beside you in his dress uniform, and when an old retired sailor shakes his hand with true respect in his eyes. You will feel the ultimate joy when he returns home. Your relationship will be renewed and you will feel like a teenager. The look on the children's faces will make your heart swell with happiness and love. You will get to live in places you may have never been, even live in a foreign country. You will have a huge support network. You will be in a special sisterhood of Navy Wives. Only the strong will remain, there is no doubt about that.

So yes, my life is defined by what my husband does for a living. I have had to leave behind family and friends. I have missed out on promotions because I was leaving my job too soon due to a move. I have been turned down jobs because my husband is in the Navy, and I have also landed jobs for the some reason. Twice I have run a spouse support group as the president. I also volunteered as an Ombudsman twice (a Navy Ombudsman serves a liaison between the command and the families.) I have watched his proudest moment when he made Chief (promoted to E-7)- and received his anchors. I have felt the appreciation from people who appreciate what my husband does and me for supporting him. I have also stepped on a soap box a time or two when someone put down the military for whatever reason. I am so proud of him, of me, of my children. I know he is proud of me, and he has faith in me. I credit the Navy for bringing us closer together. It sounds cliche- but I don't care- absence really does make your heart grow fonder. I am so glad I married a sailor!


  1. You did it.
    You made me cry. That was truly beautiful. I hope you keep this so that your children can read it when they are marry their chosen ones. They won't have to marry anyone in the military, but your tribute will show them what makes a great marriage work. And that the wife behind the man is the glue that kept them all together. I'm proud to know you. xo

  2. Thank you for that, it means a lot to me. :)

  3. I agree with can't do that to me while I'm at work!! It's amazing that everything you are thankful for in being a Navy wife, is exactly the same reason I am thankful for not being one. I can't believe what a strong resourceful woman you are, because I would want my husband to come home because the car broke down =). I admire you and I'm sure you're husband and children are in awe of you, even if they don't tell you or don't realize it yet!


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