Do Military Spouses Serve?


I came across an interesting discussion on a forum earlier this week and read through the responses with great interest. The question which began the discussion was, “Do you consider a military spouse someone who has served this country?What a great question, I thought. While spouses don’t have an official role; they don’t wear uniforms and they certainly don’t wear rank, I think they do serve. I know I’ve been guilty of saying that “spouses serve, too” on occasion. But what I meant, and what I believe others mean when they say this, is that we serve in an unofficial, unrecognized, supportive capacity.

I found myself agreeing (in part) with the commenters who stated that we sacrifice, we don’t serve. I say “in part” because although it’s true that we sacrifice, that term means that we’re giving up something. And we are. We do. But with all that we give up, (perhaps the most precious of all is the months and years we spend without our significant other. Time we will never get back), I think we get a lot, too. I am biased, I admit, but here is the single best article I’ve ever read about military spouses and sacrifice.

The spouses keep so many things on a military installation running efficiently and effectively. We are, after all, chronic volunteers. Furthermore, in a post 9/11 world, the military recognizes the importance of keeping mama (or daddy) happy. As Mrs. Casey, wife of General Casey told us, it’s absolutely a readiness issue.

I’ve never been to a promotion ceremony of a married service member in which he didn’t stress the vital role his spouse has played over the years. And while we don’t sit around expecting praise and thanks,  I think most everyone is aware of the positive affect spouses have not only on the family unit, but on the greater military community.

So what do you think – do you serve? If you answer yes to that question, what does “serving” mean to you?

About the Author


Andi is married to an active-duty soldier and is the founder and former editor of SpouseBUZZ.

She is the founder of the Annual MilBlog Conference. The MilBlog Conference is the premiere event of the year for military bloggers. President George W. Bush, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, GEN David Petraeus, LTG Mike Oates, LTG William Caldwell, RADM Mark Fox, MG Kevin Bergner, MG David Hogg and The Honorable Pete Geren have addressed previous conferences.

While living in Washington, DC, Andi was the Ambassador to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Sew Much Comfort, a non-profit organization which makes and delivers, free of charge, special adaptive clothing for wounded service members. Andi has worked with several non-profits to help our wounded heroes and their families. She finds that work to be the most rewarding and meaningful of all.

Andi strives to find humor in the good, bad and ugly of life and is a firm believer that laughter has the ability to cure most ills.

37 Comments on "Do Military Spouses Serve?"

  1. What struck me most about that forum was that people seemed to be working off the definition that serving your country equals serving in the military, period. I don't buy that. Teachers, cops, firemen, civilian govt employees, etc. are all serving their country in some way. I guess my definition of serving your country is sacrificing (whether that's your personal safety, comfort, or just accepting less pay than you'd make in the private sector) for the better of your country. And in that sense, I would have to say that I am serving my country — by re-evaluating my career plan to move around with my husband, by letting the Navy take my husband every time they need him, by keeping my husband's mind at ease that everything is ok at home even though he's gone. There's more than one way to serve your country. I don't serve in the same way that my husband does of course, but I'm still helping my country.

  2. I saw that discussion when it first went up and was slightly appalled at how many people flat out said spouses don't serve. I may have been more appalled at how they said it so very matter-of-fact and with no ifs, ands, or buts. It may be that I'm still a new military wife, but I truly believe spouses serve their country, too. They/we are just behind the scenes, sacrificing things and taking care of matters on the home front. It's just a different kind of serving. Granted, I would never ever go around saying that I serve in the military, but in a way I think I do serve our country by being here for my husband, our home, and his job.

  3. SemperSteen | March 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm |

    I think of it as direct service vs. indirect service. My husband took the oath, wears the uniform, carries the M16, wakes up at 5am every morning and serves his country in a direct way. I'm his #1 morale booster. I keep that Marine as happy and healthy as I possibly can, because on top of being my husband and the love of my life, he is also a weapon, and weapons need care. A military spouse is the rubber band that bends, stretches and holds things together because they're the only one that has the ability to be flexible in any capacity, and flexibility is required to keep a marriage strong.

    For these reasons I do believe spouses serve. If you are a supportive spouse of a military member, you are by extension serving your country.

  4. redcamolove | March 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm |

    I think we do serve. We are our men's back bone….and we do serve as you said in a unoffical, unrecognized way.

  5. And many spouses do serve in a more traditional sense, too…as leadership within the FRG, as USO and Soldier's Angels volunteers, etc., etc. So saying that spouses DON'T serve is kind of ridiculous. Personally, I don't really consider myself to be "serving my country" by simply being married to my husband, but by participating in the FRG, helping out other spouses, and making sacrifices for the benefit of my family and my country, yes, I am "serving" in some sense, though as others have said, in an unofficial, background kind of capacity, rather than on the front lines.

  6. Yes spouses do have an official role. They may behind the scenes, sacrificing things and taking care of matters on the home front. They are the number one morale booster for the serving member whether male or female. They run the FRG, USO, Soldiers Angels Volunters. Fightin their own Battles with Champus, Tricare, Schools, Landlords the list could go on forever. I'm Retired Military of 23 years service, if it had not been for the love and support of my Spouse and all that she did and still continues to do it would have been a rough road to travel. These Military Spouses need to be Thanked & Appreciated for all they do. God Bless Our Troops & Spouses._

  7. richard cranium | March 25, 2011 at 6:09 pm |

    if the term serving your country exstened to the spouse…then what do u call the spouse who divorces their other while he is serving his country?

  8. (Continued) I have coached a young Navy wife through the birth of their first child, and actually tried to explain to my little girl why Santa couldn't bring Daddy home for Christmas. So the critics who say I do not serve, technically might be correct. I do not wear digital camo, but I am, WE ARE ladies, the heart & soul of every mission, deployment & humanitarian effort here & abroad. We play a pivotal role in supporting our husbands/fiances, and we do it w/out fanfare, expecting monetary payment, but as an expression of love to our men and devotion to our country! You rock ladies, keep up the excellent work! :)

  9. My husband did over 25 years in the Corps in a combat role, and yes, I would like to think that Marine spouses help serve our country, albeit without the same degree of physical danger. Spouses of firefighters and other similar professions no doubt worry about their husbands/wives, but most of them don't go through childbirth, funerals, and other important family events when you long for the comfort of your spouse and know that he is needed more far away. I can remember crying myself to sleep when I would see a news headline about Marines killed in the area where my husband was serving currently, knowing that if not me…it would be some other Marine wife getting bad news. Marine spouses know our role going into the marriage but I can tell you that there is never a moment that we do not worry ourselves about answering the door to a chaplain in the middle of the night. The Marine Corps is a wonderful support system of such a small family (we number only about 300,000, I think, in active duty/reserve Marines) and that makes all the difference. I know my husband and our Corps appreciates us so that is really all that matters, even if civilians don't have a clue.

  10. StepInOurShoes | March 25, 2011 at 10:57 pm |

    When a couple announces "We're pregnant!" does that mean the husband will not be as great a parent as the mother since he didn't physically carry the baby in the womb? They both play different roles, but both will be 'parenting'. Military spouses serve through self-sacrifice. Whether that's through giving up a career, income, _____ (pick a passion, job, holiday, birthday, dream and insert). Most folks can't fully comprehend what spouses take on in times of war, ordeals they have to endure & overcome, or the struggles to maintain sanity from the fear. My husband is currently serving his 9th deployment. So, yes, my service to this country has come into play via self-sacrificing even a fighting chance to start our own family over the years. Other Americans are living the American dream; raising their families in a free country, worshiping freely on Sundays without fear of terror and live out the simplistic routines of everyday that we only wish. If I sound negative, that's not the intention at all. I am proud…want to get across that unless you can walk in our shoes during deployment, your opinion means nothing to me.

  11. No. Or at least not directly.

  12. As the spouse of a Reserve officer (currently deployed)/ corporate business leader, I would like to comment on this from the cilivian as well as the military side. I, too, have compromised my career and moved around the country for him (in his _civilian_ job), been his greatest cheerleader, kept the household running during all of his absences (both military and civilian), been to more corporate and military functions than I care to remember, etc. Yes, I serve, but I am serving our family.

  13. Renee L. Ten Eyck | March 26, 2011 at 11:17 am |

    I feel a rant coming on… I think that, typically, the wife/mother is the glue that holds together and keeps any household running effectively. Over and above that, my husband doesn't know what meds my kids are on, doesn't handle school issues, doesn't keep the grocery list, doesn't take care of his soldiers' spouses and families while he's home, let alone while he's gone. He doesn't track appointments, meals, or juggle computer/appliance repairs with UPS deliveries that require a signature. He doesn't make excuses to the neighbors why the yard isn't as kept as it should be, or jump into action when a soldier's kids from his exwife are suddenly thrust in the soldier's lap and his family needs clothing, a bed, and bedding, among other things.

    In addition to being an Army spouse, I have worn the uniform, and am retired, and I can tell anyone, in no uncertain terms, that being the spouse is much more challenging than being the one in uniform.

  14. I believe that us military wives do serve bc we sacrifice our men time and energy to serve our country and to others.

  15. Most women veterans from combat support MOSs can't stand the image of a base bunny who wears her boytoys uniform during weekend romps like a 50s post card pinup.I can see how some vets are upset, My friends and I definitely get annoyed that women try to wear their husbands rank, or try to enjoy through association the respect and honor of the service member through some kind of relationship based osmosis.We feel this is particularly insulting when other women are serving and fighting as hard as the men, because lets be honest , there are few male spouses their are aren't raising hell at the housing office and threatening MPs at the gate with "I am Mr/Mrs Col so and so."
    P.S. I wont sign my full name because my military career plans are not over and I don't want some Cols wife whispering in ears to sabotage my future.

  16. SSgt. Orange (USMC) | March 27, 2011 at 6:52 am |

    Negative… DEPENDENTS do not serve. Not unless they went through MCRD, BCT, BMT, OCS OTS or any other recruit/basic training, they are civilians.

  17. C. Hendricks | March 27, 2011 at 4:28 pm |

    I used to be enlisted in the Marines. Towards the end of contract I decided to not re-enlist. At about this time I metmy wife. A few years after we got mrried she decided to enter the Navy Nurse Corps as an RN. Her job, although she doesn't deploy much, still requires sacrifice on both of our parts. I actually find the job of being a military spouse more difficult than when i was Marine Infantry, especially now that we have children. Do spouses serve. Absolutely. Now, ifonly I could find a spouse group that is accepting of men occupying a role dominated by women.

  18. Interesting – not even sure why anyone would argue semantics regarding whether we spouses are serving. Nope, we can walk away anytime, while our spouse is the one that signed on the dotted line. However, do we sacrifice? Do we do everything we can so that our spouse can accomplish the mission? Do we work as hard as we can? I sure hope so.

    Any even more inane argument is to listen to surviving family members argue about $$ benefits based upon his/her spouse's service. That one death is more worthy of benefits than another. Dead is dead whether is is from a parachute malfunction at Ft Benning, a rollover in Iraq or a sniper's bullet. In the end we are just the family members. We are not in the arena.

    I am not the one who pulled leeches off my legs, ate maggots when the zone was too hot for a rescue, and looked in the mirror and saw fragments scars on my face, or dodged bullets. I am the one who prayed for you, loved you and the one to whom they handed the flag when we buried you.

    Thank you to all you serve. And thank you to all who stand by those who serve.

  19. Served as a wife, yes. Served our country, I don't think so.

  20. I’ve been on both sides also, as the Soldier and as the spouse of a soldier. I say generally yes.

    By my wife giving me the support, it enabled me to be able to do my job. She provided a service to the country. Much as it was when the roles were reversed.

    I’m not going to argue the point about the “base bunnies”. Heck I know of some soldiers who haven’t “served” their country. Went through basic, went through AIT, got to their unit and spent the rest of their time at sick call or on profile. I say all this to bring up the point that you can’t define something looking at the exceptions.

  21. I serve my family foremost, and then I serve the military community. I try to make life just a little nicer for the soldiers in my husband's unit, and I volunteer for a lot of stuff on post, as well as off. I am active in the FRG. I am trying to be the best I can be. But do I serve comparable to my husband? No.

    My husband was in the military before he met me, and he was as good a soldier then as he is now. The only difference is that he has someone waiting for him at home now, someone who looks out for him and takes care of him.

    HOWEVER, I do appreciate when soldiers (!) tell me thanks for my support and help that I provide as a spouse. And my husband often thanks me, in private and in public, for all that I do for him, and yes, it makes me feel good and encourages me to keep doing what I do :)

  22. I was very upset to hear all the negative comments about military spouses (base bunny? really?) And I believe people are taking the term "serve our country" in relation to the military spouses too much to heart. No one said we were running around saying "I serve my country, now respect me!" It was more a discussion on sacrifices made by military spouses and if we feel they mean we serve our country in an honorable way by supporting our spouses. No one was trying to detract from wounded veterans by saying that we have given life or limb. I would say, however, that I while I have not given my life or limb for our country that I certainly have given my career, my sense of security, my friends/family, and sometimes my sanity! I would never say that I serve our country but I also wouldnt say I serve my husband either. I love my husband and he loves his job so I have rearranged my life to support him. I am a stay at home Mom of two kids in diapers with a B.A. I can't use cause there would be no one to watch the children while I was away since he gets deployed every 8 months to a year.

  23. One deployment for every year of marriage (on our sixth as we speak) and he has often told me that he thinks that it is harder for the person that stays. He goes to a new location that has a new routine and can immerse himself in 12 hour shifts six days a week and meet up with old friends. While it is not a walk in the park by any means (I cannot begin to imagine how much he misses the kids), and his job is not combat related, I just appriciate that he acknowledges the difficulties I face as well. Which I think was more the point of the question. Its not who does more by what you do its a totally different kind of sacrifice and/or stress. We always say "I couldn't do what you do" and the reponse is always "Neither could I". And I would like to add that the comment about not signing on the dotted line and that spouses can walk away is not fair. Any spouse worth their salt would not walk away and moves to another country with their children in tow because that is what you do when you love someone.

  24. I do believe firmly believe that a spouse serves, I know from experience when my husband was in the marines and he was away a lot, we had 5 children, but he could serve his country knowing his wife was keeping the household together and his children were taken care of , and when he returned we would be there with open arms to welcome him home… Thye need to know they can leave with peace of mind that whne they are serving their country , thier spouse will be handling the homefront

  25. To Serve is by definition: a : to be a servant, b : to do military or naval service. Serving in the military and being a military spouse later I would never have said I served the military by just being a spouse to a man that I chose to marry. I do not think a spouse serves the military, but they support their spouses. I am not saying that in any way it is easy to be a spouse of a military personnel or that spouses and families do not sacrifice any less, however spouses do not earn rank through their wife or husband. My husband wrote a comment on here about me, my service, and him being a military spouse. I feel the same way he does on this discussion, spouses do not serve the military. They are a support system in which they do have to sacrifice just as their military spouse does. I have had to deal with spouses who state I am Mrs. Col So and So. I would look at them and flat out tell them to their face to go away I would not see to their needs before my soldiers. Sorry, but they are Base Bunnies and I despise that kind of person. It was easy just being a spouse. I dealt with everyday life, plus helping with military functions and also volunteering my time to help the surrounding communities which had no military ties.

    I do not see why there are those that believe that they serve too because their spouses do, it is frustrating. When I became a spouse and was discharged I still had to deal with spouses that thought they had rank. When they tried to pull that on me, I would snap. Again I dislike those who believe they are something by right and not by earning. I do not put up with people like that and the best way to describe their attitudes is tween. I dislike Sarah Smiley and personally went after her after she discredited her husband by admitting in her book that she had romantic feelings for her gynecologist and how she hated him for having to go on tours. She is by definition a Base Bunny and gives a bad name to military spouses yet I have witnessed first hand that several spouses act that way. It is because of those action I disagree full heartily with this article, spouses do not serve. They may sacrifice and support but no they do not serve.

  26. I know I serve my country everytime they take my husband over seas he get frustrated and I do every thing I can to keep him calm and make him feel good about his role in the military and how great he is for doing this for his country. I think troops without the moral support of their loved ones wouldn't be able to make it all that time away mentaly it would brake them so yes I say us spouses play a big role in this military weather army, navy, marine or air force I do believe we serve our country.

  27. DeeAnn_armywife | April 3, 2011 at 5:01 pm |

    I have to agree with Nancyjmen. As a former military service member and now army spouse-spouses do not serve. I appreciate when other civillians ask me to thank my husband and also thank me for my service, but I do not feel that as a dependant I am serving. I am not obligated to stay anywhere the military sends us. I did not swear to uphold and defend our nation. I support my husband in his job the same as I would any job he chooses. Freedom isn't free and I am thankful there are so many men and women who feel compelled to serve in the military forces and keep us that way.

  28. DeeAnn_armywife | April 8, 2011 at 4:24 pm |

    Yikes Renee,
    That's very harsh, since you don't know my involement with the military. I still have to disagree about spouses serving. Dedication was not questioned. Spouse's may serve their families if they choose to, but they are not obligated to lay their lives down for their county.

  29. I think they make a sacrifice others can't imagine. I have multiple family members who serve or who have served. We are currently giving a free photography give-away for a lucky military wife. It's just are way to say thanks.

  30. No they don't. Most military families live better than your average American family. How many children have dads overseas in wars etc? Alot, but they get paid and still can at least financially provide for their wives and children. And when they are home, these women have husbands and the children have fathers – and even when he is away, they know they are loved. And many children have dads who have just flat out abandoned them? Wives have been abandoned? More than have dads serving overseas. How many have dads in jail? Or are just deadbeats and have skipped out emotionally and financially on paying out alimony and child support/? If the military spouse/father dies, at least financially the family is taken care of care of through benefits. If the deadbeat dad dies, goes to jail or skips out, the family may get a small amount of social security each month- but more than likely will get nothing. How many women are raising their families why there men are overseas? Probably alot, yet they do get the financial support and emotional support from their husbands when they do have contact, and from all of the base and family and friends. Now who many women are raising families on their own finances with no support system???? Now you tell me why I am supposed to feel like military wives and children deserve more than children that have been abused or abandoned? Yeah, you can't think of a single reason, can you? EXACTLY>

  31. YES. Only people who are in this position should have an opinion because they know first hand, and the answer is absolutely YES. Single Mom when he is deployed for long periods of time(going on 3rd deployment), training cyles, CQ duties, and night training.

  32. we pack boxes for those overseas, give up valuable time, take over full time parenting because of the job, I don't know how that isn't serving

  33. Independant in LA | May 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm |

    In no way shape or form do they serve.. why is it that these spouses feel they should be commended or rewarded for the sacrafice their spouse make for all of us. It's bad enough they don't do anything with the resources and education they get. Then they have all these kids and wonder why they have no money and have to get handouts. What nerve to think your doing something special when you chose this when you married him. I have no sympathy for these lazy woman who think being a military wife is a career.. Pathetic!

  34. Yes we served. While hunny was in OCS,Flight school, VIET NAM, I was there for him raising our son and carrying on with NO support like what is received today, all we got was scornh

    He was a hero ib Nan he is gone now and I m LEFT PENNILESSbut once again NAM vets are forgotten

    Life is a small apt no car no va benefits and no one who cares and too much red tape for A 70 YR OLD WIDOW TO WADE THRU
    He was awarded the DFC AND BRONZE STAR but I lost the papers and no one will help so they can go on his grave

    Yes we served we gave the parties played hostesses, put up with military protocol glady for our men

  35. Not in a million years do we as spouses "serve". We serve as wives, and confidants but that is ALL. It's kind of like being married to upper management, you are in charge of the social stuff and listening to the griping, no difference except I see a lot of fellow wives wearing like it's their "job"….get over it, it's not.

  36. This isn't directly answering the question about spouses serving,but rather the perception of a military vs. civilian spouse.I'm the wife of a military reservist who is deploying and is going into law enforcement in his "civilian" job,and I was raised in a law enforcement household.The role of what is considered the wife of someone serving is broad.My mother didn't have to worry about my father dying in another country, but when he went on a SWAT call, the tension of worrying that he wouldn't return home was still great. The same goes for all first responders, as well as contractors who are deploying to the same countries in which the military serves.Some active duty military families don't even recognize reservist families because we live outside installations and don't have to move around, but the revervist deploys to all of the same places, for a year, sometimes multiple times.There is a lack of acceptance and support, especially if the base where your spouse is drilling is far from home.The days of 1 weekend a month,2 weeks a year are long gone,but because no one has been informed of this,many continue to think it's an easy gig.

  37. I am on the fence with this. I feel that spouses should be recognized or at least respected for the sacrifices made when their service member is deployed. Some of them do a bang up job with volunteer groups and the like. Their are also quite a few who fail miserably. I know that my wife has had her hands full keeping the homestead running and worrying endlessly about me in my combat infantryman role. I give her all the respect in the world for keeping it together. Im sure she would do the samething though if i was a on the road salesman, she loves me and supports me. She doesnt wear my rank but she does act the part of a senior NCOs wife so as to not bring discredit on me which im thankfull for. She takes care of me and keeps my head in the right place,,I guess thats service enough.

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