Why didn’t you tell me you didn’t know about the military spouse sisterhood? In my 25 years as a Military Spouse, I have come to fully believe that, “Yes Virginia, there is a Military Spouse Sisterhood” (no matter what this poll says).
I have always heard people say that the military takes care of its own. That is not what I mean by “sisterhood.” I am not referring to programs set up for us or ways for the Military to help us be “resilient.” Certainly those bases have been covered. I have also been so grateful for all the support I get from civilian friends and family.
Instead, I am referring to the true meaning of Sisterhood according to the following definition, “(1) A bond between two or more girls, not always related by blood; (2) The sharing of knowledge that there will always be someone around whom you can trust to support in crisis or in need; (3) The feeling of kinship with and closeness to a group of women with shared interests and concerns.”
This is the Sisterhood I want to share with you here.
In times of tragedy
I could reach back many, many years and share the numerous examples of kindness, hospitality, support and friendship that I have personally been afforded but I’m going to begin with the day of September 11, 2001.I was 36 weeks pregnant with our son and was awakened by the phone ringing early that tragic morning.
A military spouse was on the line asking if I was ok? Had I spoken to my husband? Did I need anything? I was struggling to get out of bed and turn on the television to see for myself, but whatever it was, I was apparently going to be well taken care of, if need be.
Later on that day, I gathered with my neighbors (military spouses, who I had only known a few short months) in our tiny cul-de-sac in Leavenworth Kansas, we shared our fears, and a yes, a few tears, as we recognized that our own world had been so dramatically changed that day.
In times of war
Later, with my husband deployed during OIF I, I sat in my living room with other military spouses, as we watched the attack on Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait, unfold in real-time on television. We watched as our husbands’ faces flashed on the screen, their names and units openly discussed and we witnessed as the gurneys carrying injured (our husbands, friends and Soldiers) were publicly shared with the rest of the world.
I can think of no other place with no other people I would have preferred to have sat with during that horrible experience and in the days that followed. It was inconceivable and devastatingly sad and scary. Yet, I was surrounded by women who were living the same moment and feeling the same emotion. No one else could understand that moment like they could.
In times of bereavement
When my father passed away after a prolonged illness, the first call I received was from a military spouse. Our home was flooded with cards, letters, meals, offers of childcare and errand running or whatever I needed.
The very same held true when my Mother passed away nine years later. It was a military spouse who called and simply said, “Go, I’ll take care of everything here.” Whatever “everything” is in these kind of instances, I have always known that I had a friend (military spouse) who I could count on to help manage it.
I drove off, in those two situations, with my husband deployed or in the field, and my child only knowing he would be picked up from school that day and well taken care of until I could return.
In times of change
When PCSing, the first knock on my new front door (and there have been 14 of those new front doors in the last 25 years) has always been a military spouse.
Usually they are holding a pan of brownies or an offer to provide a meal. They offer a “welcome to the neighborhood” card with everything I ever need to know about them in the foreseeable future. They issue invitations for play dates to my son, information on the community and schools, and all the local fun.
Occasionally, there’s a bottle of wine accompanying those brownies, but I’ll get to that.
In times of injury
A few deployments ago, I had the painful misfortune of falling down a long wooden staircase while my (at the time) 5 year old son watched. I am certain the sight terrified him. I managed somehow not to break my neck, while my leg was awkwardly folded behind my back and my shoulder was hooked behind my head.
He stood there at the bottom of the stairs with his five-year-old friend, both in tears, and quickly picked up the cell phone that I had dropped on my way down in the fall.
The other little boy ran out the front door, down to his house and got his mother, another military spouse. Who happened to be the same person I had just speed dialed on my cell phone. She walked in, calmly helped me into the car, dropped me off at the local Emergency room, drove off with my child and waited to hear from me.
Another military spouse said, “Go. I’ll take care of everything.”
Only a few months later, with my cracked ankle still encased in an air cast, I managed to have a run in with a brown recluse spider. Undoubtedly a serious incident, it was a military spouse who looked me in the eye and said, “You seriously need to go to the ER. I got this.”
She stood in her doorway, holding my son’s hand, as I got in my car and pulled away from her curb. The next day and only hours before emergency surgery and before any family member could drive the 10+ hours to Kansas on such short notice, it was also a military spouse who showed up in my hospital room and said, “Give me your house key. I’m going to get your dogs, straighten things up and grab some groceries before your family arrives.”
This happened while another military spouse grabbed my son’s clothing and the necessities he needed for the next few nights.
>Another military spouse stood watch at my hospital door, like a Centurian guard, making sure nothing questionable occurred as I was in and out of consciousness and not in any kind of lucid state to decipher much of anything else. She was also the first face I saw, standing over me, the next morning when I woke up from that surgery.
In times of worry
There have been too many times when my husband’s unit experienced casualties and lost lives. I am one of the lucky ones whose husband safely returned home.
All those days, those long nights of worry, and concern, sadness and fear– I shared them with other military spouses who felt every bit of what I was feeling.
We have cried, we have laughed, we have shared that bottle of wine ( remember?). We have sat in silence, and in prayer, and also in mourning, together.
The times when I have felt overwhelmed and have poured out my heart, feeling uncertain or needing advice, and reassurance, it has always been to another military spouse who sat quietly and listened, without judging, with an outstretched arm and a box of tissue.
In times of greatest joy
There have been happy long-awaited homecomings from what seemed like endless deployments. I’ve sat in the cold wind on metal bleachers, under the hot sun and humid heat of covered stands, and in large crowded hangars anxiously waiting to hear the speakers boom “They are on their way! Just a few short miles to go! Get ready! Here they come!”
I have watched as long white school buses pulled into parking lots and huge airplanes landed on airfields, emptying of Soldiers and hoping to catch a glimpse of my own.
Each of those times, I shared that first collective exhale with my Army Sisters standing all around me. Each one fully knowing the other’s joy, excitement and gratitude for that minute’s immeasurable emotion of “He is home, safe, once again.”
I know we are not a perfect group. We disagree. We argue. We don’t easily trust. We are a wily bunch and yes, we judge and compare. Just like everyone else.
But is there a thread that ties us together like nothing else? Is there a bond, a kinship that compels us to step in, to step up, to take care, to protect one another and be decent to each other, above all else?
Yes. I believe there is. It wasn’t always the person I expected, but in the moment, it was the very person I needed. If that is the definition of a Spouse Sisterhood, then yes, beyond a shadow of doubt, beyond any argument otherwise:
Yes, Virginia, the Military Spouse Sisterhood exists. Look around, look closely, reach out, reach over. Look here.
Jill Crider is a former Soldier, Army Brat, DA Civilian Employee and Army Wife of 25 years. She most recently served as the Senior FRG Advisor to the First Brigade, Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the Third Infantry Division of Fort Stewart, Georgia. She is also a graduate of the Master Resiliency Training course for Family members and is currently continuing in that program as a future trainer.