When we were first married, friends asked if being an Army spouse was a big adjustment. The honest response: No. Being a medical spouse was a big adjustment. Other than long lines for IDs and healthcare, marrying into the Army barely changed a thing in my mostly civilian life in a mostly civilian city. Then Carl got PCS orders (Permanent Change of Station to those who don’t speak acronym). Military movers hauled away our worldly goods and we loaded the car for a cross-country drive that landed us here.
The Netflix suggestions homepage shows a list of local movie favorites for our town: three military programs, Andy Griffith, an African-American comedy show, and a documentary on tornadoes. The U.S. census couldn’t summarize our town any better – three parts military, two parts southern, and one part still scratching its head over April’s destructive storms.
Artillery raps out the daily rhythm. It barely blips on my radar anymore and I often don’t notice it until someone else mentions the noise. Tornadoes aside, bad weather doesn’t register immediately because I subconsciously file the noise of thunder as target practice until lightning streaks across the sky. Obsessive-Compulsive housewives beware: if you live here, your pictures will constantly slip askew from the vibrations.
Every other man at the grocery store wears his hair high and tight. Almost one-fifth of our church is deployed at a time. Ninety-five percent of our friends and acquaintances are active-duty military, dependants, or retired military. The post office runs a separate desk for APO/FPO mail. The library display table focuses on re-integration after deployment. Carl deployed, and for the first time I found myself in the military family network that takes care of its own. Forget CNN or FOX – housewives on Facebook here knew which unit took out Osama bin Laden a good six hours before major news sources ran the details. The military spouse grapevine passes on insider tricks and how-tos as we mutually navigate the beaurocratic morass that is the Army.
I’ve heard multiple people talking about a new TV show featuring surprise reunions after deployments. Using strangers’ emotional reactions as entertainment seems odd to me, but that’s nothing new for reality television.On the one hand, it’s nice that they’re taking a positive look at military families. On the other hand, I couldn’t handle watching it and that seems to be the sentiment coming from other military families as well. Ironic that the demographic featured on the show may be the least likely to watch it. A coworker from another state told me she like the show because “it makes you cry and then you’re happy.” Pretty sure she just summarized 1) why Lifetime primarily attracts women, and 2) why men find females bewildering.
Two years after friends first asked, my answer has changed. Sometimes this life is an adventure. Sometimes it makes your hair go gray. Either way, yes: being an Army spouse is very different.