By Nicole Hope The Milspo Project, Co-Founder
I am a third generation military spouse. Three generations of women loving a handsome man in uniform, three generations of teary goodbyes and joyous homecomings, and three generations of a unique patriotism – a pride in our country and history that brings us to tears when we hear Lee Greenwood's “Proud to be an American.”
In the three and a half years that I've been married, my husband and I have lived in three houses and endured three deployments. We've spent almost as much time apart as we have together! During each of his deployments, I've started a new business. I also ran my first half marathon and took up sewing during the last two separations. While business and hobbies keep me busy and focused when I'm missing him, my real strength comes from the women in my life who have come before me and given me hope and long term vision for our lives together. Through these women, I have learned three qualities that sustain me and bring me courage when the military wife life gets difficult.
My grandma met my 22-year-old grandpa when she already had three small children and he was a handsome young Petty Officer. They were out dancing, and he thought she was cute, so they spent the evening talking with each other. After she went home to relieve the babysitter, my grandpa's friend told him, “You know she has three kids, right?” He said, “Really? That's a lot.” Shortly thereafter, they were married.
My grandpa was a young sailor in the Navy with frequent deployments and a small paycheck. He took on an extra job (and sometimes two) to make ends meet, but my grandma still had to work to ensure the best for their family. The farm girl from North Dakota courageously moved across the country from California to Florida to follow my grandpa's career all the while persevering, overcoming, and growing through multiple PCSs and deployments. In the sixties, there was no Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber. When he was on tour and she hadn't heard from him, she kept on with persistence and bravery. She is one of the most hard working and loyal women I have ever met. Her determination to provide a better future for her children and to love my grandpa abundantly through their military life inspires me every day. From my Grandma, I have learned courage and perseverance.
My “mom-in-love” didn't even speak English when she married my Father-in-law. She was a young Spanish girl quietly (probably NOT so quietly if you know her ;) ) minding her own business when she struck up a friendship with an American Air Force pilot stationed in Spain who began attending her church. After he moved away, they began writing letters. Two years of letter writing and a friendship deepened through their shared faith, and he flew back to ask for her hand in marriage.
My mother-in-law may single handedly inspire me more than anyone during the times that are most trying. As a military spouse, she moved to three new countries, learned a new language, raised three children an ocean away from her support system, learned to drive, and all the while had joy through her faith in God. Through countless combat deployments and never knowing what country her husband was in, she was strong and persevered through it all. She raised my husband into the loving man he is today and instilled in him the same faith that kept her grounded and gave her hope. I'm thankful to her for teaching me to keep the faith and walk in the light when life seems dark and hopeless.
My mom married my dad right out of college. They were young, adorable, and in love. My dad hadn't even considered the military until several years after graduation, so my mom truly had no idea what she was getting into when she committed her life to him. Shortly after my dad was commissioned in the Air Force, I was born, and my young parents moved from Florida to New Mexico with a two-week old.
Throughout the next 22 years, my mom would lovingly give of herself sacrificially to her children, husband, church groups, and friendships pouring that love into everything she touched. I remember as a five-year -old during one of my dad's deployments, hearing “Somewhere Out There” from An American Tail on the radio and seeing my mom start to cry. She smiled and looked at me and said “I just miss your daddy. I really love him a lot.” And during those times when she missed him most, she poured love into others completely embodying the phrase “grow where planted.” My mom is the most loving person I know. It is from her that I learned what true love is. Love is giving to others when you are hurting, love is being a good listener and a helping hand, and love is always having a sure hope for the future.
This Friday, thank a military spouse. Let them know you appreciate their perseverance, courage, faith, and love. Let them know what they have specifically taught you and that you are thankful for their life. And also, give them a big hug :) From all of us at The Milspo Project, THANK YOU and happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day!