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Military spouses face unique challenges as loved ones serve our country

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By VANESSA MARQUETTE, Syracuse University

Military Spouse Appreciation Day is celebrated on the Friday prior to Mother’s Day each year, and that fact is not lost on me. Being in the military is very much a family affair. Both of my parents are retired Air Force veterans. They were away more often than being home. In a sense, that prepared me for the life of a military spouse. I was used to learning new things and becoming independent at an early age. What it didn’t prepare more for, though, was the struggle to come after college.

My husband has deployed twice since his first duty station at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2012.

While I went through deployments and long trainings with my parents, these deployments became a bit tougher, as I was alone in another state. We had less than a month’s notice for both deployments. The second was just seven months before our wedding date (luckily, he made it home in time!).

It’s not just being away from your significant other that is hard on the spouse, it’s what you experience during deployments and various training exercises that would be hard for the civilian world to fully understand.

For me, and I’m sure every other spouse, I was nervous every single day something bad would happen to him. It was hard to watch the news. That’s not all — terrible things can happen when they are gone, too. This last deployment in 2015, our dog died tragically, and a college friend died, all within two months of each other. The hardest part was not being able to be with each other during those hard times and having to go through those things alone. I was lucky to make close friends at Fort Bragg during that time and had family and friends visit, but not everyone is able to get that same experience. Many have to take on these horrible things alone, plus being a parent — which is one of the reasons military spouses are so resilient. They are able to manage difficult situations and face forward.

Finding a job is not easy for a military spouse. I was very fortunate, after many months of searching, to find jobs at all his duty stations. But it was a struggle. People didn’t care about my master’s degree or internship experience. I can’t count how many times I was asked in an interview if my husband would be deploying and if I would stay in the area — or how long will he be stationed there, and will I stay if he goes. I knew I was defeated. Again, I was extremely lucky to land the opportunities I did because it all landed me to where I am today.
Now, my husband is stationed at Fort Drum in northern New York and I’m able to work at a place where I’m appreciated and valued. Honestly, coming home to Central New York (I’m from Rome), being able to work at Syracuse University (after being a fan for my whole life), my husband being stationed nearby, and being able to give back to veterans and military families and inform the world why military spouses should be hired — it is a dream! I know I’m a lucky
military spouse because I’m one of the very few able to live their dream.

I would say another thing you learn as a military spouse is to cherish every moment and not to sweat the small things.
A difficult thing for me sometimes is not having my close friends understand what I’m going through. I am usually able to relate more to families in the military since they have a better understanding. At some point, you realize your civilian friends won’t always understand the struggles you face, and that’s OK. This is our calling, and we do it gratefully and completely. It’s part of honor and duty.