When Service Comes First


When we got married, he told me that there would be times when the military would “come first.”  That seemed reasonable; I understood that if he were deployed or on a temporary duty assignment there would be things he’d miss: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc.  What I didn’t realize, was that there would be times I would be RSVP’ing to events as a party of one, or taking two kids under age four solo while he stayed behind. Whether it’s due to unapproved leave, inability to take leave, or a lack of leave days, there are times when a service member misses some of the big events in life, but that doesn’t mean that spouses must miss them too.  Here are some ways to make the best of, and prepare for, the times our service members can’t be there:

1. It’s Not Their Fault

It’s frustrating when your spouse misses another wedding, reunion, or trip. Keep in mind it isn’t their fault.  It can be easy to be upset, mad, or hurt by your spouse being unable to attend due to their service commitment.  Remember, most of the time they want to be there , but are simply unable to. The military requires a unique commitment from our spouses, and it is important to remember a missed event is often out of their control.

2. Make It Count

When attending a special event, like a wedding, without my spouse I still make a point to make it count!  As a mother, it’s important to me that our kids have strong bonds with family, no matter where the military takes us. I make a point to be present at major family functions with them.  Instead of feeling sad my husband can’t attend, I spend time with family members I rarely see. Find your happiness in these times, even if you are missing your spouse, and make memories that you will cherish.  Eat some cake, dance, smile, and be present.

3. Be Prepared

Many of these events are joy-filled, but there will also be hard times when your spouse may not be able to attend.  If a death of an immediate family member occurs, it is important to be prepared if the service member cannot be present in legal or estate matters.  Having a special power of attorney to act on your spouse’s behalf in these matters, is helpful. This is something we have been through, and knowing that I was able to act in estate matters on his behalf, provided my service member with peace-of-mind as he returned. Keeping an open communication channel with your service member is beneficial (when circumstances allow), and helps the grieving process. Being separated from your spouse by these circumstances is tough, but being prepared to handle them well, helps ease the process.  

There are times when service commitments will come first, but military spouses are resilient. Even when our service members can’t attend, be understanding, present, and prepared. Most of all, live, and make the memories.

Carlie James Petrovics is a freelance writer originally from Georgetown, Delaware.-4.png