Social media has recently exploded with the news: retired Marine Corps General Jame Mattis has been nominated to become the Secretary of Defense for the incoming Trump administration.
That’s a far cry from how many of president-elect Trump’s cabinet choices have been met. People seem genuinely jubilant at that thought of “Mad Dog” Mattis taking the helm of the Department of Defense. And while many of the celebrants are current and former troops, a small but loud group cheering for this selection are military spouses.
But it begs the question: why are military spouses so happy about the Mattis nomination?
The answer? Hope.
Without making it sound like military spouses are a bunch of martyrs, this life is unique and, at times, a major struggle. It’s difficult to ever fully comprehend unless you’ve been there and done that.
Sadly, out of the last four secretaries of defense, only two have served in the military. Many have seen that lack of experience as showing itself through the deafening silence we’ve been met with on military family issues from those men holding the office. It’s no secret, either, that the last fifteen years of war have left not just our service members overworked and depleted – the families, too, feel exhausted and at times despondent.
Military spouses aren’t fighting on the front lines, but we are fighting. Our battles are on the home front. Our service members are coming home with injuries, both seen and unseen, that many feel are not being adequately addressed. We’re taking on the role of caregiver and advocate, two things we learn as we go since there is no real training.
We’re fighting for our leaders to recognize that a “normal” family isn’t the nuclear prototype anymore — that, in fact, there is no such thing as a “normal” family. We’re fighting to make our service to our country acknowledged and respected. We’re fighting to keep food and rent affordable for our young families.
And the most upsetting part of this is that we’re often fighting our own leaders. Many believe that these people who have taken on the responsibility of leading and caring for those under them frequently fall well short of their obligations. It’s an exhausting and demoralizing thing to believe that your family’s stability rests on the outcome of the political games our leaders seem to want to play.
So what makes military spouses think that Mattis will be any different?
He is revered in the Marine Corps and beyond not for simply being an excellent war fighter, but because his leadership extends beyond barking orders. He has a reputation for taking a personal interest in the Marines that he commanded. He wants to work smarter, not harder. He knows that our nation’s security isn’t a numbers game, it’s won or lost on people.
And that gives us hope.
And it’s hope we’re looking for. We’re tired. We’re weary. We’re beholden to a system that is broken and a set of top DoD leaders that say they care about our struggles and frustrations but do seemingly little about it.
We sacrifice too, willingly, just like our spouses — and yet we are the ones that seem to be used as pawns when it comes to negotiating Defense policy.
Maybe Mattis won’t move mountains, upend policy, or deliver the experienced advice needed to make headway on the wars in which we’re still entangled.
But for this moment those of us in the Mattis cheering corner can exhale a bit and revel in a feeling we haven’t had in a long time: a feeling of hope.
Jennifer is a writer and social media manager. Her writing has been featured on BlogHer.com, PowerhousePlanning.com, and SpouseBuzz. She writers a personal blog, WrittenByJennifer.com, that focuses on her personal experiences and thoughts on current events. She has been married to her husband, Tim, (and the Army) for eight years and they are raising two children. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time outside with her family. She is currently writing the second draft of her first novel. One day she hopes to invent the sarcasm font. You can follow her on Facebook.