A Military Wife’s Experience
As a young bride of a brand-new Ensign I had many emotions; I was proud, happy, lonely and had so much to learn. Most of the new wives had jobs to keep us busy during the days but the nights were difficult to bear.
We would see the ships depart and there was nothing worse than watching it move away from the pier with our loved ones standing there and listening to the mournful sounds of the whistle. Then my life without my husband would begin. I would write letters every night and wait days before mail from him would be delivered to me.
Of course, when the ship was due to come home to port I would check by calling the base to get its ETA and plan to be at the pier long before the ship was due. When the ship came around the bend it was almost like a movie and you could almost hear the theme from “The High and the Mighty” play as you tried to see your loved one standing there. One thing for sure – sea duty was like a Honeymoon every time he came home.
I was extraordinarily lucky to have my husband home for the birth of all our five children. Many women went home to their mothers to have their babies but all of mine were Navy-borne, except the last one who was born at Valley Forge Army Hospital.
After we had children and my husband went to sea it seemed as if that was the signal for one or all the children to get sick. If the children were on the mend quite often things around the house went on the blink. That’s when we’d have plumbing problems or appliances break down. I certainly had to learn how to wield a hammer, screwdriver or wrench as well as a spatula, blender or sewing machine.
In the early years there were matters of protocol we had to learn. We were married to “Officers and Gentlemen” so we were expected to attend coffees and luncheons and to be active in other ways. I worked for Navy Relief by knitting baby outfits for layettes that were given to young wives of seamen. Also, I baby-sat in a clinic for mothers who had doctor appointments because that was something I could do and take my own children along as well.
We all were pretty intimidated by the Admirals’ wives and tried to make a good impression for fear it would make our husbands look bad if we didn’t; it was as if we had a fitness report to pass as well.
Years later it was amusing to me after my husband reached the rank of Rear Admiral, everyone of lower rank and their wives felt free to call us Joe and Ann. How times have changed!
I understand there are many avenues today that are available to young wives for themselves and their children that were not there years ago. For any problem there is help now which has to be a relief for husbands and wives alike who have to be separated from their loved ones.
You have to keep busy and pray a lot when you know your loved one is in harm’s way. Military life takes a very special kind of woman to be able to bend to every facet of her husband’s moves. You have to be willing to move every 2 or 3 years; get settled in a new house, new neighborhood right away. Your children have to learn to make friends quickly and easily.
What I felt was most important – when the children were young my husband was out at sea more so we sent tapes back and forth. It was really very helpful for them to hear his voice – it was much better than just a letter. Even though it was difficult to have him gone then it meant he was home when they were teenagers and truly needed him more then.
Military life is hard – would I do it again? You bet!