It was summer of 2016. I was 20 and working full time at a physical therapy clinic, while taking the maximum amount of credit hours of summer school at Texas A&M University. My husband, Tim, 23, spent the first half of the summer finishing up his final field training for his degree from Texas A&M, and the second half working full time for a construction company. It was a new season of life for us – we had become engaged just 2 months prior. The wedding was only 2 months away.
Discouraging Advice for a Military Wife
We both decided to enroll in a one-on-one pre-marital class with another older couple through our church. When our mentor couple found out that we would be spending over half of the first year of our marriage apart they advised that it would lead to genuine marital unhappiness. After the first session, we found ourselves in the kitchen (funny how these sorts of talks always seem to happen in the kitchen) and agreed that what we had been told that evening simply would not be the case.
August rolled around and with it brought transformation. Tim graduated from Texas A&M, commissioned into the U.S. Navy as a freshly minted Ensign, and we were married. Did I mention all three of those events took place within six days of each other?
Flash forward a bit. It was Halloween. Tim, our dog Ava, and I were perched on the front porch with a bucket of treats an arm’s reach away. The three of us had just returned home from an evening photo shoot in a nearby pumpkin patch. It would be the last photo of us as a family for the next six months. Tim had received his first official orders and was headed 1,500 miles west. I would stay in Texas because, despite working hard to graduate two semesters early, I still had one more to go until receiving that treasured diploma.
Twists in the First Year of Marriage
The next few months flew by. On February 14th a phone call came in. Tim’s name was on the caller ID. It was a little unexpected as we were only able to talk on the weekends but I thought he had pulled some strings so he could wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day. My man is clever like that. I was tickled pink. It would later unfold that he had been badly injured and was calling to inform me that he was going into an emergency surgery in an hour with a skin graft to follow. The wind must have redirected Cupid’s shot, I’m sure.
This was how our first year of marriage went. Unexpected surprises, twists, and turns. I discovered what it truly meant to be married to the military. I also discovered what being married young entailed. These were roles that I hit the ground running with, but I have grown to cherish. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary, despite only being together five of the twelve months.
Life as a Military Spouse
I am no expert but I can offer this to military spouses, seasoned and rookies alike: We wear the hat of ‘military spouse’ and we do wear it proudly. No doubt about this. But what is a military spouse really? I was once told, “A true military wife’s life is full of preparation, training, knowledge, and skill. It is seriously hard work…not glory.” When my man was gone, I was up to bat. There were home run days. There were also days where I confused Tricare and USAA (Tricare customer service so sweetly explained that they simply could not send me over some checks.) But every day is a whole new opportunity to trust. Both of you will change when your partner is away — and it is a new gig every time, getting back into rhythm. But you can, and you will, and it just gets better and better.
Written by Kayla Wilcox.
Photographed by Ashleigh Mitchell.
You might also enjoy reading: Four Ways Military Families Can Embrace Optimism.