By Diana Hume, Reservist Spouse Blogger
Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a new feature blogger for AW2. She’ll be sharing her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist. She hopes her blog will help other reservist spouses, as well as inspire and educate others about the unique challenges they face.
When was it again that I signed the contract? This has been a recurring question that I have come to accept and stopped asking myself because I signed the contract 18 years ago when I married an amazing man, the love of my life. Our story, however, began 24 years ago. We met January 1987 while attending college north of Dallas. He was handsome, still is, challenging, outgoing, inspirational, and mysterious. We had so much fun together and within time I learned that part of the mystery was that he was a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves.
In the early stages of our relationship, I learned that he had already been serving for six years. For him it was a way of life, but for me the idea of a “reservist” was as foreign to me as another language. I am not from a military family and Dallas is not a military city. I quickly understood that he drilled once a month by making the trek from Dallas to Oklahoma City per his commitment to the Corps and his country. This all changed when Desert Storm hit.
At this point we weren’t even truly dating yet, we were great friends. With that said, he called one night to share the news that he received orders to go to Kuwait in support of Dessert Storm. We all remember how that war went. First the air strikes, then the Americans threw a few rounds of ammo and just as quickly as they arrived, they were home. It was a blip on the radar compared to what we are experiencing today particularly since practically everyone came home.
Before I knew it, he was back home as quickly has he had left. By now, our relationship had grown and we decided to officially become a couple. Our official courtship was short because we already knew so much about each other. So, a little over five years after we met I signed the contract, our Marriage License in the great state of Texas.
At this point in our marriage we were both full of dreams and plans for our future, much like the future of other civilian couples since in fact, we were a civilian couple. That is the community we lived in and identified with. Our lives were growing and were centered around starting careers and building a family together. We both were working hard to make smart life choices alongside our civilian friends. Our life, so I thought, was our own. We could work and live where we wanted. After all, I was not a military wife, never had a military I.D., and had yet to set foot on a base.
With many years of hard work, both of our careers grew and so did our family. I was at a point where I had an upper level management role within a company I loved working for while my Soldier pursued his path to become an electrical engineer for a great company in North Texas. At the same time, he was still doing his monthly drill obligations, annual training and making the drive to the drill center. In fact, his monthly drills had also become my monthly “me” time! We had it in our routine like clockwork.
Years of living the normal American life became my life, our life. Again, I still did not see myself as a military spouse. I had yet to meet someone who self identified as one. Don’t get me wrong, by this time I had met other reserve spouses, but they were like me. They had careers, kids, and many had not been on a base. We were like peas in a pod. We would talk about our kids and careers and life none of which related to the military up to that point. We would meet annually at the formal birthday balls which were usually held in a hotel ballroom close to the drill center. Each time it was a night away from home and was like a mini-vacation where we could interact with other Reservist families.
Time passed and life was still moving along. After about six years into our marriage in 2000, he made a decision to transfer to the Army Reserves because of the available Warrant Officer opportunities. Even at this point, there were little changes affecting me minus the fact that his drill center would change to a more reasonable 3 ½ hour drive from home. We didn’t have to move and I didn’t have to leave my great career. Life was normal and as far as I was concerned, I wasn’t a military spouse, or so I thought.
The next year our world and specifically our nation were rocked. September 11, 2001. Need I say more? What I didn’t know was how much my own world was about to change. Yet, life kept moving along.
December 2002, we moved into a new beautiful home that we had built, located in a great neighborhood with great schools. Both of us were excited about this new stepping stone in our life. We both had careers and were involved in the community. Kids sports were entering our world and our oldest started kindergarten the next year and our youngest was now 18 months old. After a month of adjusting to our new surroundings and routine, orders came. He was being mobilized to Ft. Hood GSU for the next two years. The news wasn’t great, but it was something we could work through. The plan was that he would get home as often as he could.
I continued to work and take care of the kids, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I was now a single parent. For me, holding it all together was quickly different than my neighbors whose husbands traveled frequently. I never had a break. Work demands changed and I realized my role as a spouse was changing. My love, life partner, support was gone. I lived and planned without him.
I did all I could to keep life normal, but it was no longer normal. I wasn’t like my civilian friends anymore. I didn’t have a group I identified with. With the change to the Army Reserve, I had never met any of the other spouses or even knew their names because we were all scattered across Texas. Now, we all know Texas is its own country – it is big. So, my new world became an abstract blob with a lot of acronyms.
Before 2003 was over, and after struggling to hold it all together, I made the choice to resign from my career so I could be a full time parent. I realized I never saw our children, and wasn’t fully sure I actually knew them because of the demands of my job. This was the right choice for our family, but it was also a new challenge and brought some obstacles I never thought I would have to deal with.
January 2005 came and we had survived. He was home. Back to his career, back to normal, the new normal. Up to this point I had still not met another self identified reserve spouse, ever. Remember, we were scattered. However, I did finally have a military ID and had been on a base.
Our new normal lasted for about a year. I learned he had volunteered to serve in Iraq without consulting me. Needless to say, I was not thrilled with that piece of information, but I understood serving was part of who he is. He was to run the ammunition supply point (ASP) at Q-West for all of northwest Iraq. This was a day I have embedded in my memory. I was truly scared and I knew that our new normal was going away. This was probably the day I first began to understand what it truly meant to be a reserve spouse. It was, and still is a tough day for me to swallow.
What many civilians don’t understand is that for reserves, they begin getting battle ready while still at home (battle ready was a term I had to learn – again never received a manual!) For us, he was being cross leveled from Ft. Hood, TX to a unit out of Billings, MT, which was deployed from Ft. McCoy, WI. Remember, we live in North Dallas. Now I really knew no one in the unit, I was totally alone.
From January 2006 until June, he was coming and going to training while working on getting the unit ready to go. With one foot in the Army and one foot still in his civilian career, there was no time for me. It was at this point that I began my transition from my previous normal to an even more challenging one. A normal where I had to learn what a reserve spouse is supposed to do–keep it all together. Nevertheless, June came fast. The day the kids and I took him to the airport for his departure to Ft. McCoy, WI was traumatic. My heart hurt, tears fell down my cheeks, and I tried so hard to remain together and strong.
Since then, so much more than I ever thought has happened. Our new normal is so far from normal. Our children are now 12 and 9 compared to when they were 4 and 18 months when we received our first set of orders. It’s been a ride. All the missed birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, births and deaths. The stress on our family, our relationship, and careers… these issues were only part of the struggle we dealt with. And when he did come home early from Iraq, it wasn’t to me or the family –it was to Walter Reed where he stayed for two years after being med-evaced out of Iraq. It was just last year when he was finally home in Texas. The rebuilding has finally begun and we are being introduced to our new normal
The road for someone married to a reservist is nothing I thought it would be. Although I may have been blind to the true significance of what our Reserve and National Guard Soldiers truly do to protect our freedom, I still have learned a ton and want to share. Looking back, I was a young spouse to an incredible man, but I truly had no concept of what I signed up for. It’s never explained or truly discussed with us. It’s not like we receive our orders for training. It has been a ride and I wouldn’t change one thing about it because I have learned so much. Nevertheless, life is still happening and I can still look back and realize that time combined with much personal growth has shown me the true meaning of who I am. I am a proud spouse of an Army Reserve soldier. And I say that with all my heart.
I have recently realized that part of my new normal is to share my knowledge and experience. My road of learning what a reserve and wounded warrior spouse is has inspired me to help make the road a little easier for other wounded warrior spouses. This entry is just an eagle’s point of view and an introduction to my story. I invite you to return and share more detail on specific topics. Know you are not alone, we are not alone. I am here to listen, answer questions and help. This is part of my new normal.