November 11, 2010
By Jacey Eckhart
Whenever anyone has thanked me for “all you do as a military spouse,” I secretly feel kind of embarrassed. It is really nice of them to think of me. It is so sweet of them to include me in the Veteran’s Day festivities. But I am already being thanked. A lot. With gusto. By my own sailor.
See, what’s crazy is that he actually thinks that I am his reward for deployment. Yeah, little ol’ me. I’m his reward for having the duty all the time. I’m his reward for working Christmas Day. I’m really the only benefit he cares about.
That sounds incredibly vain, doesn’t it? Or it sounds like I must devour every sex tip in Cosmo or Maxim. But that isn’t the case. When I’m talking reward, I’m not talking about sex exactly, I’m talking about acceptance, encouragement, self-sacrifice.
I’m talking about, well…love.
That isn’t one of the things Congress can really list in the military benefits package. Because it isn’t theirs to give. Just think of your own life. What is better than having someone love you the way you are? If that wasn’t important to human beings, it wouldn’t make such a great eHarmony commercial.
People really do want to be loved for their true selves. Even military people. They want to be loved for having a great sense of humor and for always doing the laundry and for bringin’ home the bacon. But I think they also want to be loved for that part of them that is military. They want to be loved and admired for the part of them that is well suited to protecting and defending and waging war.
Think about it: How cool would it be to have someone who truly knows you—knows you well enough to clean your hair out of the drain and ignore your constant jiggling and kiss you even though you dip and spit—how cool would it be to have them love you anyway? How awesome would it be to have someone who listens to your whining when your sick and your complaining about the unit and still thinks that you are worth waiting for—five months, eight months, a year?
That’s showing some love, man. These military spouses go ahead and move around with their sailor even though it costs money. They pack up their lives and give up their jobs to be with their soldier. They move to Alamagardo, NM with their airman. They wrestle with the school system in San Diego for their special needs child just so they can be with their Marine. They tell the kids that Mommy can’t come to the swim meet because she has an important job to do in Afghanistan.
And what about these military couples who are both in the military? Shoot, they have to be both warrior and reward. That’s a job.
We Americans can offer our military members bonuses for dangerous duty. We can honor their courage. We can stop them on Veteran’s Day to shake their hands sincerely. But know that the real military reward, the one that lasts, comes from our service members’s real relationships with real people. It comes from military spouses and military children. From boyfriends and girlfriends who wait. From parents who honor the adult that comes home. And that’s the reward that they deserve.Jacey Eckhart is a military life consultant in Washington, DC. She is the author of "The Homefront Club" and the voice behind the award-winning CD "These Boots." Facebook Jacey or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.