It Took a War

It Took a War

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

It Took a War

We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.

The Talmud

I was a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army when I married my husband, an army armor officer. I did not want to be labeled “family dependent,” as they called us back then. I was a pilot, a strong woman, not just somebody’s dependent. For years, I refused to call myself an “army wife.”

Over the next decade, as my husband progressed through the ranks, I begrudgingly wore the required proverbial hats of “XO’s wife” and the “commander’s wife,” hating the titles for what I thought they implied: I was the subordinate sidekick to my husband’s career. I proudly maintained my identity based on my post-army career as a writer.

“Do you think you’re a good army wife?” a young wife asked me one day. I was shocked at her question. Did she think I thought I was? Did she think I wasn’t?

“Why do you ask?” I queried in reply.

“Because I think you are, and I want to be as good an army wife as you are.” I was shocked.

“I never . . . ,” I said haltingly. “I never really considered myself an army wife.”

A few years later, in 2003—now at a new duty station and yet another job position—my husband left for Kuwait and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Over the next few months, I cried, laughed, prayed, worked, played and spent hours on the phone with other “army wives” from my husband’s unit. We tied yellow ribbons, we shared information of our husbands’ whereabouts, and we consoled one another. We handled finances, crashing computers, stalling cars, worried children, midnight crying fests and overgrown lawns. We were the strongest we had ever been—we had no other choice. For the first time in my marriage, I knew what it truly meant to be an “army wife.” And I was proud to be one.

It took a war to make me realize how important the “army wife” is to the military—how important everything is that we, as military spouses, do to support our husbands, the army and our country. I saw that I could have other interests, other careers, and still be a great “army wife.” Everywhere I went, I wanted others to know my husband was off to war, fighting for our freedom as well as those of an oppressed country. Waiting to pick up friends at the airport, in line at the store, or wherever I was, civilians’ chatter always turned to the war in Iraq.

“I’m an army wife,” I’d say to them. “Let me tell you what it’s like. . . .”

Jan Hornung

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