There is a debate going on about whether military spouses should say, “I serve too.” Depending on whether you are a military spouse or a military service member can determine your perspective on the answer. As both a military spouse and a veteran, I know both worlds well. Do military spouses serve in the military? No. Do military spouses make sacrifices? Of course. Being a military spouse is a lot harder than people expect or imagine, but serving in the military is a very, very different experience.
Military wives face a lot of unfair stereotypes, often get a bad rap, and are unfairly treated. Male military spouses are often completely forgotten about or not supported. Women serving in the military are often degraded, cast aside, or ignored. We face regular challenges of having to continually prove our worth each time we show up to a new assignment. Sometimes superiors look down us and don’t think we should be serving, but we’re here to stay.
Women serve in the military
To be honest, sometimes we find it hard to relate to women who are military spouses. Once when I was in the service I introduced my friend to my mom as “a military spouse.” My friend said she didn’t like to be introduced as just a military spouse. And I really didn’t understand why. Was I intentionally insulting her by saying who she was? Was I undermining her importance or value by introducing her as a military spouse? My first reaction was to be offended. I didn’t mean to hurt her with my words.
Years later I remembered this situation and understood how she felt. When someone takes all your value and worth and ties into only two words: military spouse. I wish had taken the time to understand what she meant. To know her side before standing in her shoes. Military spouses and military members use the same words, but those words don’t always have the same meaning.
Spouses often say, “I serve too.”
Please understand that as a military veteran, when I hear those words, I hear you saying you are trying to take away the service that I made. I hear you say that you feel that your sacrifice of staying at home is the same as someone who risks their life to give the ultimate sacrifice.
As a military spouse, you might hear me saying that your role doesn’t matter – that the military could survive without military spouses. Or maybe you hear me and think I can’t understand so I must be wrong.
It’s hard getting both sides to listen.
To hear something that is different than what you believe and trying to come to the middle to understand what the other side is saying and why they are saying it. This inability to communicate and listen is causing a great divide between two groups of women who actually have a lot in common. And instead of pointing the finger or fighting with each other we should be working together and supporting each other.
So instead of saying I serve too, let’s agree that both women in the military and military spouses play important roles in the military community together. Women in the military are doing amazing things. And more doors are opening as time goes on, and we continue proving that we can do what others may not have thought possible. We keep proving ourselves as more than worthy.
Everyone should know the military could not continue without military spouses. It is the people who support our servicemen and women that make it so they have the ability to continue on. The sacrifices military spouses should never go unnoticed.
What can we do to make a difference? How can we change the culture?
First, if you are a military spouse stop saying, “I serve too.” I know it feels okay to say it, but since you don’t actually serve in the military stop saying that you do. Change the words to “I make sacrifices too.” If someone doesn’t agree with that statement then you have words and circumstances to help support you and possibly get someone to listen.
Second, if you are a female in the military and don’t think military spouses play an important role, get to know a few of these spouses. Find out the issues that are actually affecting them. Not just the ones you hear about in the gossip chain. You will find out military spouses are doing so many amazing things for the military community as a whole.
If we team up together and start listening and supporting each other, we can make such a positive impact. Let’s be the positive voice for change that the military community needs.