Last week, I had an amazing opportunity to spend the week in a leadership workshop with 15 other women: Three facilitators and 13 participants in our group alone. Of the 16 ladies in my group (sorry, Toad, but only women chose to participate) present on a daily basis, six were married to service-members from other countries and two were raised in other countries but are married to American service-members. So, to recap, in a small classroom, of the 16 women present, there were nine countries represented!
As the week progressed and we became more comfortable with each other, some wonderful discussions took place. At the end of our official time together, many of us didn’t want it to end. We ended up going to the base club together and from there to a local restaurant for dinner. Conversation was engaging, thoughtful, fun and illuminating.
It didn’t matter that our backgrounds were far-flung. We had representatives from Malaysia, Italy, Mexico, Australia, Bangladesh, France, Japan and Germany. In addition, among the American mil-spouses present, we had representatives from the National Guard and the Reserves, as well as the active-duty Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Yes, there were some cultural differences. But not as many as you might think. What mattered was that we had one huge commonality: we were all sisters in the same family, the military family
I was reminded of how I felt when I first lived in Civilian Land. I experienced more culture shock going into a civilian community than when I moved overseas to the Far East. The reason is simple. As military spouses, regardless of language, country or culture, we share common bonds and experiences. Everyone in the room understood when the French military spouse spoke of deployments: “It just is. You can’t do anything about it.”
I’m so glad I took this opportunity to meet and get to know these women! And I would encourage all of you to do the same whether it is with foreign spouses or spouses from other services or simply other spouses from your command that you’ve been too shy to approach.
We can only be enriched by these experiences. I am never surprised but continually amazed by the strength, humor, inventiveness, and beauty exhibited by my fellow mil-spouses.