"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

To the Junior Officer Spouses From a Fellow Officer Spouse

I spent much of my time while I was teaching, sitting after courses, listening to complaints and concerns between the spouses of different ranks. I received emails from co-leaders talking about their counterpart, not knowing that same counterpart was calling asking how to handle the other.

One of the best experiences I had the honor of participating in was sitting on a panel during the Company Commander/First Sergeant Spouses Course at our last post.

I have wanted to write about the complexities existing between the different ranks and how that intermingles with the spouses world for some time.
I'm not quite going to take that on - not yet, anyway. But I am going to speak to the Junior Officer Spouses if I might for a moment.

When I met my husband he was undergoing the transition of having been a "sergeant" to becoming a "sir". He was commissioned weeks after I had met him and no part of my life has been lived as an "enlisted spouse" but nearly half of C's career has been as an enlisted soldier. It may be the fact that my mindset was a certain way when we started this journey, it may be the mentors I have been blessed to have from every aspect of the Army, it may be that C and I had a clear discussion about what we never wanted to be when we first started this journey - whatever it is, I have seen enough harm done by spouses just entering this life to last all of C's career. If I could ask anything of those just entering this life, I would ask this:

Be humble. 
Nothing that you have done grants you special privileges or perks or recognition. Nothing about you makes you above another spouse - and definitely not above any soldier. Your spouse has been commissioned to lead his men; you haven't. Your junior enlisted spouse counterparts are undergoing the same trials, the same difficulties, the same separations, and they are doing it while trying tirelessly to make ends meet on a paycheck far below your spouse's.
You hold nothing over them. 

Enter with a servant heart. 
Your spouse has taken on one of the most selfless services anyone in this nation can undertake. Serving a nation does not sit solely with the one who wears the uniform. Serving a nation takes the heart of the entire family. If you choose to partner with your spouse in service, you lay yourself at the feet of the spouses of those who serve beside your own. Serve your families. Stand without judgment, without expectations, without price, and give what you have. Give your time. Give your talent. Give your gratitude, your understanding, your camaraderie. Whatever you can give - if you can give - give.

Be a Seeker of Knowledge.
Seek out mentors. Listen to and watch those who have been through this for over a decade. Learn from them. Ask questions. Ask opinions. Ask for help. Look to the Senior Enlisted Spouses - the wealth of experiences these incredible pillars of our community possess is more than you can process on your own. Spend time with them. Get to know them. Let them be your partners in this life. Look towards your Senior Officer Spouses and follow their lead. Pay attention to partnerships between leaders' spouses - find a strong one - and learn
Too often Senior Enlisted Spouses are disrespected by young and new Officer Spouses who think they somehow have something over those who have done this longer, been through the reality, and triumphed. Please don't ever make that mistake in thinking.
We need mentors in this life. We need strong spouses who can lead and guide and empower. You need to be that one day, but you have to learn first.

Be Present.
If you cannot volunteer in all things, try to be present whenever possible. Let people know who you are. Be open. Be honest. Be sincere in your actions.
Be graceful. Be kind.

Be Worthy of Respect.
I am going to say again, "be humble". There is a chain-of-command, a system, a code, that warrants where your spouse falls in the line of respect. His education, his training, his commission, demands a respect that must be recognized. But even with that, even with the "sir" uttered when addressed, he will have to earn the true respect of his soldiers. Great men die in defense of the leader they follow. A good soldier - a good officer - must be worthy of that respect, that honor.
You must earn the respect you wish to be given. Nothing about the rank of your spouse guarantees that or warrants it. Your actions, your choices, your words, have everything to do with how you are perceived. Live in a way that is worthy of the respect of the servants of this nation. Live in a way that is worthy of the faith of your families. Live in a way that breaks down barriers and removes walls. Live honorably. Give fully. Be worthy.

You are not above any spouse beside you. You are their equal. Their partner. 
You are fighting the same battle. 

Open your eyes, open your mind, open you heart.

Welcome to the journey, now choose the way you live it.