Words of Wisdom for “New Recruits”
Okay, just kidding ladies. But seriously, in 29 days I will shed my Army Girlfriend title and finally join the ranks of Army Wife. It all happened rather quickly, so I’m assuming I’m still a Private…maybe just First Class but none the less, I have so much information and advice to my fellow girlfriends and people thinking of beginning a relationship with a service member. Again, my intentions of writing this blog is not to act like Einstein here, but just to offer up what I have learned and what I do know. I was inspired to write this because a friend of mine asked me a few questions because she’s finding herself falling for a friend who is about to PCS to Germany for a year. This will be an expanded version of what I told her. Some of it may come off as a little brash, but I am one that feels honesty is always the best policy.
One of the first questions she asked me was, “How do you deal with not seeing him. Not kissing him. Not hugging him?” My answer to that might vary for all of you, but personally…I’m a very independant person. I’ve been headstrong majority of my life. So for me, being on my own and doing my own thing comes pretty easily. This helps A LOT. It’s completely okay if you’re the type who is more in need of someone beside you frequently, BUT you should know that makes it REALLY REALLY difficult to be in this type of relationship. You can’t pick up the phone and call him when you’re having a bad day or when you’re super excited about something and want to include him. You sometimes won’t know where he’s at or even if he’s okay. You might not hear from him for days or weeks at a time. Yes, I’m very serious. See where I’m going? You have to take the time to learn to be yourself and be self-sufficient.
Obviously, there are times when you’d trade your soul for even 2 minutes of his scent, his touch, or his voice. Like literally. There were times I wish there was some kind of fairy who could teleport him for 2 minutes. It makes it tough to walk around and see other “normal” couples hugging and loving on each other when you can’t. You have to march on. It doesn’t mean you can’t cry, breakdown, have a fit of rage, we all do it. But you can’t let his deployment consume you. For me, it gave me great comfort knowing he loved me so much and was always thinking of me. In my moments of loneliness, I would remember that no matter what time of day or if he was sleeping, he spent time thinking about me and missing me too. Remind yourself of that.
The worst thing in the world is to put demands on your soldier. You have GOT TO BE REALISTIC. This is not Paris, France or New York City. They are in a war zone, a danger zone 24/7. I hate to say it, but even on base they are not safe. You need to be reminded that they are there to do a job, one that needs to be done and one you should be EXTREMELY proud of. Each FOB (Forward Operating Base) or Camp is uniquely different. Some of them are more “with it” with tons of amenities while others are very rugged. My soldier was blessed with the ability to have an actual room to sleep in, others sleep in tents. Some have to shower outside using water bottles and others have access to showering facilities. Some are provided with MWR (Morale, Welfare, & Recreation) centers that have access to telephones and computers, while others are able to get internet directly in their room for a fee of about $100 USD per month. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t get angry and upset with them when they only write you a few sentences, call you for 2 minutes, or you don’t hear from them for a while. When you do, be happy, smile, tell them how much you love them, how proud you are, and how you can’t wait to see them again. Listen to them too. That brings me to my next topic.
From the very beginning when we were just friends, I wanted him to know that he could ALWAYS talk to me about ANYTHING. Day or night, he could call me and didn’t need to worry about anything. I wanted him to know he had a shoulder and a set of ears. If he had a rough day, if he experienced something terrible, if he couldn’t sleep, if he was upset…I was there for him. Be sure to let them know you are there for them 100%. It helped him a lot knowing that and although he never told me super intense war stories, he was able to share with me when he was having family problems back home. I just sat and listened. I let him get out whatever he needed. He still talks about that today, that it was so comforting to know I cared so much. It helped him pass the days and get through it all.
Don’t push them to share things. If you pick up any book or talk to any veteran, they’ll tell you the same. Am I curious about what he’s seen and what he’s gone through? Yeah I am. He did share some with me while he was here on R&R, but I never pushed. There was one story he said he wasn’t ready to share yet, but he would in proper time. I am grateful he even mentioned that. I remember as a child being told by someone to never ask “Have you killed someone?” It seems rather juvenile to me now to consider asking that. I’m going to be honest with you for a second: Anytime someone has to take the life of another person, it’s difficult. Whether or not they are a “bad guy” or not, it’s hard. You can never understand it unless you’ve done it. Just like you can never understand how it feels to have bullets flying all around you and know you’re a target. Just assume they have. I did.
At first, I kinda struggled with the notion that my boyfriend probably killed someone. I’ll be very honest. I’m a Christian so to me I wondered how God felt about it. Would He punish him for it someday? Did He look down on him for it? How can he go from “taking care of business” to being a sweet, loving, boyfriend with the snap of a finger? Eventually, it stopped being a part of my thought process and I’m no longer curious. I know that he’s been called upon by his country to take care of business and do a job that only 1% of the population can or is willing to do. He’s made a promise, a commitment, a vow to do whatever is asked of him to defend our country and protect our freedom. This makes me immensely proud. Knowing that his job is tough physically, emotionally, and mentally…yet he still does it and marches on. Someone has to. So, if this ever crosses your mind, it’s normal. Don’t feel crazy.
This should be an obvious one, but I’m gonna say it anyway. If you’re expecting Tiffany’s under the tree every year and sportin’ a new BMW…I got news. You don’t get rich in the military. These guys do this job because they love it and they love our country. The military does take care of it’s people, but again…you won’t be living the high life off of military pay.
One of the great benefits is the immense amount of pride you feel when you are with them. Even when my FH hasn’t been around, I’ve been accused of being “overly prideful.” He actually calls me a dweeb about how patriotic and proud I am. In my book that translates to “I’m so proud to have you as my FW.” HAHA My mom “warned” me that when he came for R&R, I would feel very proud walking around with him. It does feel really great. It made me so happy each time someone stopped and thanked him for his service. I wanted to yell “THAT’S MY MAN! WOOT!” You know that the sacrifices he and you are making are for a much greater cause.
It is also our job to act as their “sponges” and defenders. There might be some things we want to let fly off our tongue in a moment of rage, but choose your battles. Some things just aren’t as important as others to mention when they are in a war zone. Try to keep additional stress at bay. I had to step in and intervene when I felt like my FH’s family was causing him to be very distressed. And I mean VERY distressed. Spilling family drama on someone who A.) Can’t do anything about it from 7,000 miles away and B.) Has bigger things to worry about…is completely out of bounds.
One of the best things I ever did, which I speak of frequently, is educating myself. The more you know, the better off you will be. I have a stack over a foot high right now of books and guides about military and Army life. I have a TON of websites I’ve plugged into. I’ve reached out and became a volunteer with the Army and with another military organization. I’ve gotten connected with other wives and girlfriends on Twitter and Facebook. PLUG IN! CONNECT! REACH OUT! You’ll be amazed at how much it helps you AND it also helps your service member. It gives you a sense of calm and peace about many things.
In a nutshell, only you can know if you’re able of dedicating your life to someone in the military. It’s a huge sacrifice and one that SHOULD NOT be taken lightly. I don’t want to scare anyone thinking of it, but again…this life is a crazy one. Things happen you never expect both good and bad. In the end for me, I can truly say every moment has been worth it. Okay, I just got a text saying his roomie in the barracks is playing beer pong and it’s loud so we can’t Skype. Maybe I re-track my statement. JK 😉 Just know that you aren’t alone. There is such a wonderful support group of other women (and men too!) going through the same things you are going through. It can really be a life-changing experience if you let it. It may not always end up the way you thought, but it could end up being even greater.