The Agent’s Wife

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Sometimes the truth about what my husband does for a living wraps around me like a corset and makes it hard to breathe. He is in danger. He travels all the time with and without advance notice. He has done multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the kind of places where they don’t have Marriott or Starbucks. This time next summer my husband will be back in Iraq.

But my husband is not in the military any more. Now he is an agent. After going to college he opted for a career that combined service, danger and (in all honesty) the ability to run around the world with a really big gun and find the bad guys.

So I live a life that is like (and yet unlike) the life of a military spouse.  And I envy you all, in a good way.

I envy military wives because you have a place. You have a role. I see that when I meet you and you say proudly, “I’m a military spouse,” or “My husband is in the Army.” I can feel your confidence in the job you know you have as the backbone of America’s military. I see your connection to one another. You bond over the silly things civilian wives say to you or the major pain in the ass of moving all the time. Most importantly, you have a sisterhood that is strong enough to lift someone up when that terrible knock at the door is heard.

We agent’s wives don’t have that. I do know other agent’s wives, but everyone moves around a lot.

We don’t have homecomings. My husband simply comes home from the airport. No one holds a flag aloft and thanks him for his service. There is no ceremony, no news crew angling to get the shot of the hero embracing his wife after a long separation. He just comes through the door, we hug for a really long time and then we try our best to resurrect the routine we had before he left. And we do that until he leaves again.

This life is lonely. He and I have each other.  Yet when our world went pear-shaped and we were suddenly not with one another and under a kind of stress I could never imagine, it broke my heart to realize how little we matter to others.  It shocked me to see how truly alone we are in our service.

That’s not to say we should be pitied. We make a good deal more than the average officer in the military, which is nice. We have better access than most with regard to communication when our loved ones are downrange. Our men aren’t always in danger. Some assignments, like in the military, take agents to pretty normal places or they do a tour of school or command center that make life seem ordinary for exactly 12-24 months.

What jars me the most is the reaction I get from civilians who, when hearing my husband is in Iraq or Afghanistan for a year say, “Oh is he military?” When I say he is an agent their faces fall in disappointment–as if I am unworthy of their support because the fabric on my husband’s back is not a uniform.

Some people ask me if I am afraid he’ll be killed. I am. You know I am.  But I did not freak out when I heard about a bombing that I knew he would be responding to even though insurgents were still in the building and shooting at the good guys. I did not cry when he called me (again) to say he was disappearing for a week or so in Afghanistan and that he would call me.  Later.

Even on the day I opened up Yahoo news to a car bombing that included the name of a person I knew, I did not fall apart. I frantically searched the pictures online to see if I could identify anything: a boot, a haircut, anything to let me know if he was in that picture and not somewhere else in a body bag.

He was there. Bending over the bomb blast crater with his M-4 slung across his back, face averted from the cameras he knew were there.  Amid a heavily protected band of brothers with every gadget known to man, my guy was wearing cargo pants, a NorthFace shirt and a bulletproof vest. Not the cool kind. The clunky kind with his blood type written in bold across the back.

Even then I did not cry from relief or fear of what could have happened. I couldn’t. I can’t. If I let that emotion out it won’t stop and I will start to worry and cry when he goes to the gym for a workout. I can’t allow myself to be afraid of anything or I’ll be afraid of everything when it comes to him.

He thinks I am tough. When I tell him I’m fine on those so very long-distance calls he says, “That’s my girl” and I melt. I will not give in to worrying because he’s proud of me for being strong. I live in a perpetually suspended state of emotion that makes it hard to feel when he is home because I spend so much time trying to ward off the devil of emotional vulnerability.

Why am I telling you this? Because someday you might meet me or one of me and I know that you military spouses are among the best people in the world. You are kind, strong, welcoming, and you have hearts the size of Texas. I count so many of you among my friends and I am a better person for it. You offer someone like me a place to be honest about my life. You let me admit I’m lonely and sometimes not very good at ignoring the dark whisper at night that tells me we are crazy to live this life and his number is up soon.

The sisterhood of women who marry men who move toward the danger and disaster and death encompasses more than military families.  Bond with us as women who marry men who defend. Your understanding of what it’s like to fear and carry on at the same time is a priceless gift.  I  know I haven’t thanked enough of you for that sisterhood. I thank and thank and thank you now.

Editor’s note:  The writer of this post prefers to remain anonymous.

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  • jacey_eckhart

    So well written. I often think that there are a lot of other spouses out there who are not military spouses, but who understand what it means to be married to that kind of person–agents and cops and firefighters and everyone else who “defends” for a living. What would we do without those brave individuals putting their lives at risk?

  • Jill

    Thank you for your and your husbands service. Most of us are aware that “agents” serve right alongside our military! Unfortunately it can’t be as widely reported/acknowledged obviously for security reasons, but we salute you too! If we ever meet, we can share a drink and service stories :)

  • Heidi

    You are correct…your life is like, and unlike, that of a military spouse. Thank you for your sacrifices and support of your man!

  • Katie

    Thank you for this post. The emotions you described toward the end encompass all of the feelings I have had rush over me. I’m new at this military spouse thing so I’m not sure how I’m supposed to or allowed to feel. This was exceptionally written and I’m so thankful for you, your husband, and the selfless service you provide to each of us!

  • Raven

    I don’t ever comment on blogs. However, this post really touched me. Thank you and God bless you and your husband! We would gladly welcome you into the military spouse world!

  • Dan

    I’m retired Navy guy,
    I greatly appreciate the sentiments of the author. Well said & written.
    I wish I had written it. All I can add is thank you to the husbands of those who serve & all the children too.
    Serving be it military, police or whatever can b difficult and stressful. Having your loved ones “got your back @ home” makes it all worthwhile. God, USA, Mom (& wives) & apple pie.
    Peace b with u.

  • Evett Kilmartin

    You’re in my heart girl – you have company. Support always to you and yours. Drinks, tears, uncontrollable laughter because it really is nuts and midnight rambling emails totally accepted. Big hug and warm smile to you.

  • Kerry-Ann Ellington

    This is such a touching article. I’m a Marine Corps spouse and reading this made me overwhelmed with emotions. I never thought about the wives who support and sacrifice time and their own life’s path for that matter, just to love and appreciate their husbands who are agents. We military spouses say “THANK YOU” for your dedication and sacrifice to this country. Thanks for being so honest and open with this article. Blessings to you and yours.

  • Leroy B. Williams

    As a Retired Navy Man, and Patriot, I salute the Writer, her husband, and ALL who serve!! Thank You!!!

  • Guest

    There are not homecomings for all especially those that go out in onsies twosies. There is not support in all fields. Most spouses are forgotten as are the military members. Squadrons do not check on there deployed members families. They are on there own. We are alot alike the public is not told all of this. You hear the team the team. It is mostly crap.
    Thank you for your family’s sacrifice and support. My husband is currently deployed and I appreciate what you said

  • Jane

    I am sorry, but what is an Agent? Is it a job with a private security company supporting government?

  • LetsLobRob

    Isolation,you say, sign me up.

  • Bill

    “a career that combined service, danger and (in all honesty) the ability to run around the world with a really big gun and find the bad guys.”
    Truth hurts. To hear the other side of this choice is sobering. The unspoken fears of parents, wives, and children of those that make this choice are easily drowned out by flag waving and patriotic banter. To many times the stresses of that choice break the bonds to those in waiting.
    The easier path is the one down range. The path back home is slow and uphill on the good days. Thank you for expressing yourself.

  • Amie

    my heart hurts and rejoices for you..I know the feeling…I FEEL your feelings. HUGS to you…and to many of our faceless, un-named agents (and their families)

  • Jim

    No response? The reasons I ask….I have many co-workers and friends who are GS-1811/ Criminal Investigators who had previously gone down range (myself included) and worked with many contractors claiming to be “Agents.” While I have no issues with contractors, I am often reminded by contractors themselves, they’re there to make money PERIOD! If you’re husband is a government vested employee working overseas because his agency require him to do so…then I applaud his effort and commitment in keeping our safe country. God bless and stay safe!

  • Anon’

    There are some great suggestions here, however it is very difficult to start a support group. You cannot simply log onto typical social media sites and look for a group to join for obvious reasons. Being the wife of an agent, can be very isolating. There is no base setting, just civilian life, therefore spouses are spread all over geographically and due to the sensitive nature of their work, one cannot simply chat with the neighbors. One of the main differences I find between that of an agent’s wife and a military wife is the lack of organizational support. A military installation, for example has welfare services and so on…their sole purpose is to ensure the family at home is supported and functioning in order for the deployed spouse to be effective on his or her job. The spouses of agents do not have this at all. If the agent’s boss remember’s to check in to see how things are going, or another work colleague. then that is about all there is. However, due to the lack of enforcement policy in this area, there is really nowhere in day to day routine of the boss or other agent, to support this, other than their own personal time. Well, they have lives and families too! There are no family picnics, no get togethers, no stress relief nights out. In all likelihood, the family of an agent is far removed geographically from the extended family members, much like that of a military spouse. The spouse of an agent has no base privileges to at least meet with other military spouses. There are similarities…but the rest could not, unfortunately be further apart. God bless to ALL those who serve and to the families.