The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


June 25, 2010

Name: Andi
Posting date: 6/25/10
Spouse: Returned from Deployment April 2010
Milblog: Spousebuzz

It seems with military life, we're always "settling." I don't mean settling in the "settling for less" way. I mean settling in the sense that military life is ever-changing. Military families are always moving and settling in a new house and a new community. Settling into new friendships and relationships. Our spouses are often gone for lengthy periods of time so we settle into a routine when they leave. And when they return, we settle into another routine.

Settling. We do a lot of that.

SpouseBUZZ LIVE is an event for military spouses, a day to bond with one another and discuss our lives as military spouses. At our very first SpouseBUZZ LIVE event in Killeen, Texas several years ago, we featured a panel which focused on the emotional part of military life; combat deployments, reintegration, etc. Young spouses lined up in droves at the microphone. Some simply wanted to be heard. They spoke of crackling phone calls from the FOB which were interrupted by incoming mortar rounds. Phone calls are generally rare and cherished during a combat deployment, but these sorts of calls left the spouses feeling helpless and afraid. 

Others sought advice. Do you really tell your spouse what’s going on at home if it’s bad and there’s nothing he can do about it? There wasn't a dry eye in the house and the collective, “I hear ya, sista” support was palpable. This went on for quite some time and we finally had to end the session because we simply ran out of time. The next few events followed much the same pattern. Spouses yearned to talk about the tough stuff.

After each event, we send surveys to attendees and ask their opinions about the program to see how we can improve it. Over the past year or so, I've seen a trend develop, both with the surveys and in person at the events. Spouses aren't nearly as focused on the emotional aspect of military life. They want to laugh. They want to be entertained. They want to bond. But they don't ask many questions or offer many stories about the harder side of military life. And when they do, it’s generally presented in a humorous way.  Granted, this is not a scientific study and to be fair, we’re talking about a five-hour event that takes place a few times a year. But, there has certainly been a sea change, at least with these events. This is interesting to me.

The military community had to pivot overnight after September 11. Combat deployments became the rule and not the exception. Pre-9/11 spouses had to adapt to an entirely new way of life. Newer spouses married into a military fighting two major wars. It seemed everyone was on shaky ground in unfamiliar territory.

We've been at it almost nine years. The fear, worry and sleepless nights will never go away while we're at war. Separation and reintegration will always be huge issues for military families to cope with, but based on what I've witnessed, I'm wondering if the collective community has "settled" into a new normal?

Could it be that the shaky ground has finally given way to firm ground? That once unfamiliar territory is now recognizable? Have spouses adapted and settled into the new normal?

I think it’s possible. As one young spouse recently told me, “War is all I’ve known.”

None of us are chomping at the bit to experience a separation from our loved one, but we’ve done it before. And we’ve survived. Many have even thrived. For all the heartache, loneliness, uncertainty and fear, most of us have become stronger and we’ve found that for all the downsides a deployment can bring, there are also opportunities. This, in my view, is a testament to those on the homefront, often referred to as “The Silent Ranks.” They don’t don armor, they manufacture it from within.

Even so, I’m sure many of us look forward to the day when we can settle back into a boring, training-only existence. But now that I think about it, that means relinquishing total control of the television remote, going to bed at a decent hour and having to actually cook on occasion. Well, there are worse things...


It's a difficult time for spouses and it's great to see efforts put towards dealing with these hardships. I also like the advice given here:

Hope all is well for everyone and hang in there!

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