I sat down this morning and actually tried to count all the veterans I know. I stopped counting when I realized that I hadn’t had nearly enough caffeine to try to count that high this early in the morning. I am a military wife…I spend my days surrounded by military members of every kind…active duty, retired, discharged, spouses, brats. I know thousands of vets.
I remember sitting down and talking to my dad about becoming a military wife. He said “It’s a hard row to hoe”. At the time, naive and so in love with my soon-to-be husband, I thought he was being overdramatic. What couldn’t be conquered and overcome with love?
I was so freaking adorable then.
Maybe I’m jaded and cynical now, maybe I’ve seen too much, maybe I’m just old. Love does not overcome 5 children with salmonella while Husband is deployed. Love does not help one bit when your grandmother’s china is shattered to bits during an overseas move. Love doesn’t take care of the dog and the cat and the kids and the house while Husband is getting someone else to do his laundry and cook him steak and lobster. That, my friends, is duty.
Fortunately, most military people are good at both love AND duty, so we’ve got that all covered. And for the most part, lots of people recognize that military members are good at love and duty, and Veterans Day is one of those times when people are quick to praise.
You know what people miss? Do you know the secret, the thing most people don’t know?
I have superpowers.
I have military wife superpowers.
My dad was right, it is a hard row to hoe, being married to a military man. But look at all the things I’ve learned, the things I’ve earned, the things that naive little me didn’t know all those years ago.
I can identify a B-1 bomber, an E-4, a KC-135, a C-130, and about half a dozen other airframes, simply by sound.
I know the difference between a chopper, a huey, and a helicopter, and I know that an Osprey is none of those things.
I can carry on a conversation entirely in acronyms, and I know what they all mean. Even if I did spend 8 years thinking Husband was talking about his SCI instead of his SEI.
I know that you have to wake up early the morning of an air show so that you can remove every picture from the walls, especially if you live on a bomber base. I can also identify people who have neglected to do this. They are usually the people cursing the sky while holding a dustpan full of broken glass.
I can fix broken toilets, broken toys, broken furniture, broken houses, and broken hearts when a child realizes that Daddy won’t be home for his birthday AGAIN.
I know automatically when it is 2 minutes until 1630 (that’s 4:30pm for you civvies), and I can quickly decide if I have time to get into the commissary before the music starts, or if I need to stop my car and wait for the music to be over.
I know the difference between the BX and the PX and the NEX (there isn’t one), and I know what days they stock the shelves. I have also learned the “if you see it, buy it because there is no guarantee you will ever see it again” rule.
I can deal with cattiness and politics and backstabbing. Remember junior high? Imagine never getting to leave, the bell never rings, the busses never take you home. That is life on a military base. I haven’t gotten really good at juggling it all. Then I go home and shake my head and tell Husband I’m glad I’m old.
I can move to a different country, on a different continent, and within a very short amount of time I can build myself a support system and family just as strong as the one I was born to.
I can measure my life in duty stations. My memories are filed by assignment. The base where I was pregnant with Boy3. The house where I met my best friend. The TDY when the cat died. The deployment when the kids all had chicken pox.
I can host a Thanksgiving for 60, a Christmas for 75, a 4th of July for 90, even the year I sliced my thumb open and had to get 10 stitches. That was the year I really did make Thanksgiving with one hand tied behind my back
I can, with about 2 hours notice, make a dinner to take to a family tonight, one for them to put in the freezer, and lunches and snacks for a couple of days. You want a military wife’s recipe book. We know what freezes, what soups to make to best be individual, easy-to-reheat servings, we know exactly what to make when you have a baby, lose a baby, have surgery, wake up to the big black SUVs parked outside to turn your entire world upside down with the news that he’s not ever coming back home. Military wives show their love in casseroles and cakes. In times where we cannot do anything to make it better, we can make sure you don’t have to cook dinner.
I can pack up all our belongings, move to a different house…a street away, a state away, an ocean away…and once I start unpacking, in about 3 days it will look like we have lived here forever. I can build a home anywhere. I have to, because as a military family, our home is everywhere. And our home is nowhere.
I can recognize that I will never feel at home again, because that is the price I have to pay for loving people all over the world. My family of origin is in the midwest. My family of choice is everywhere. 40-some-odd states, 8 countries, 4 continents…that’s my one family.
I can handle the dog and the cat and the kids and the car and the house and the bills and I can do it all by myself. I’ve never lived close enough to ask my dad to come mow my grass, or drop the kids off with my mom while I run to the grocery store. I’ve spent more years as a geographically single parent than I have with a live-in co-parent. I can do it all. It’s pretty nice when Husband gets to come home and sleep next to me though.
I can enjoy the days when Husband comes home from work because I know they won’t last forever, and another deployment is always looming. So I am extra grateful on the days he is here. And when he’s not, I stand in my closet and smell him, and know that deployments don’t last forever either.
I can do so many things I never thought I would be capable of. I’ve learned so much. I’ve gotten so much stronger. That row is hard, Daddy, and I never really liked to garden anyway, but I’m building enough muscle to be good at it.
I’m a goddamn superhero.
But even superheroes must have heroes of their own.
That’s why there are veterans.
Happy Veterans Day.