From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul


Just remember, we’re all in this alone.

Lily Tomlin

“So, you’re a military wife?”

This doesn’t sound too flattering coming from a civilian who has no concept of military life. My father was a marine for thirty-one years, and I married a marine. When I said, “I do,” twenty-six years ago, I knew what I was getting into. Most people don’t understand what it takes. They don’t realize that we, the spouses, are just as involved. We make more sacrifices in twenty years than most people do in a lifetime.

We wring our hands when our husbands don’t come home some evenings, knowing they might be on spontaneous maneuvers, but no one will tell us for sure. So we sit and wait, gripped with the fear that when the door opens, we’ll see a captain standing there in his dress blues, his cover in his hand and regret in his eyes. It wasn’t “playing marine” this time. It was for real. We imagine the things we might say to our children if we ever had to have those conversations.

From Desert Shield to Desert Storm to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the nation needed the Corps and it was there— trained, ready and willing to give the ultimate sacrifice. The world witnessed the support that has always been there, in us, the other half of the Corps.

I get a lump in my throat when I hear the “Marine Corps Hymn” or the “Star Spangled Banner.” My shoulders pull back and my chin lifts a little higher when I see my husband in his uniform or when someone asks me what he does for a living and I say with great pride, “He’s a United States Marine.”

I heard a civilian woman say to my mother, “Oh, how fortunate are military families: free housing, medical and dental care, the commissary. . . .” My mother replied, “Nothing is free. It’s compensation.”

It’s compensation when they take the husband, the father, and, more often now, the mother and wife, for a year at a time to serve in some remote location that’s strategic and secret and has no name. Yet, it’s little compensation when you pass by a house after a terrorist attack on the marine barracks—and see a black wreath hanging from the door. You know inside there is a widow with children. And I know that widow could have been me.

The marine wife is a special breed. She’s a strong woman. I owe a lot of my strength to my mother. I saw her cope with hardships that would have made any man fold.

What would you do if you found yourself stranded in a New Jersey airport in ninety-degree weather with three children under the age of five, dressed for your destination in Iceland with no passports, no lodging, no luggage and no help? I’m proud to say she overcame this and we met my father in Iceland, a little ragged—but together.

Mom showed me how to look for things that most people don’t see: the young marine away from home during the holidays, missing those home-cooked meals in a family surrounding, or the expectant mother who is frightened and wishing her mom was close so she could ask her questions she thinks might be silly.

We take care of our own, and hope that when our loved ones are in a similar situation, someone will reciprocate.

Giving thanks takes such a small effort.

A point of advice to young marine wives: seek the support of other marine wives, enlisted or officer or in the links program. Experience is the best teacher. They were in your shoes once before and know what you are feeling. Ask. They know all you need to know: the tricks to a smoother moving day, quarter inspection, medical facilities, the schools and definitely the best shops. And if they don’t know the answer to your specific question, you can be certain they’ll know where to find it.

If I sound as if I’m glorifying the marine family, perhaps I am. We’re just as good at what we do as our marines are. We are not simply wives and husbands and children. We are a part of the marine team.

Amy J. Fetzer

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners