First and foremost, my husband is not stationed in Afghanistan. He is deployed. If he were stationed somewhere; he’d be safe and we’d be with him as a family. He is not safe; he is at war. So are 68,000 other souls.
Second, the 68,000 loved ones left behind aren’t ‘holding down the fort’ so much as they are keeping the damn place from burning down. It is true that we do pull double duty. Like single parents, we pay the bills, care for the lawn, repair the car, maintain the home, feed the children and run all the errands. Also, like single parents, we work because we can’t afford to live in places like Jacksonville on a military salary. But working and pulling double duty, it turns out, is the easy part.
We ‘hold down the fort’ while wondering if today is the day we will open the door to see a uniformed stranger holding a folded flag from a grateful nation. Military spouses wake up dreading what they might see on TV. We doubt ourselves every moment; did we share too much with the children or was it not enough. When good things happen, we choke back tears when we say “Daddy would love that.” When bad things happen, we comfort with a story or a song that “Mommy sang to you when you were little.” We answer over and over the same question – “how many more days?” – not knowing if we are telling the truth or not.
Because our spouse is at war; we are more likely to see our marriage implode. Because the person we raise children with is at war; we are more likely to see our child drop out of school before graduating. Because our spouse is at war; we are more likely to face life alone after suicide. Because our spouse is at war; we have to worry about rape, maiming, PTSD and death. We don’t simply ‘take over’ we ‘take on’ much more than can be imagined.
At night, after everyone else has drifted off, we pray. We pray that our spouse comes home. We pray that if they come home differently-abled we are strong enough to take care of them. We pray that we can love them enough to heal their invisible wounds. We pray that they will find meaningful work so we can get back to living the American dream. And we pray that – whatever their needs – our country won’t abandon them in their hour of need.
Had I taken the oath of office, I would have followed in Congresswoman Gabby Giffords footsteps, as the only military dependent Congressional representative. But I shouldn’t be the last. If military families are to be better understood and better represented then we must run for school boards, state seats and federal offices. We must run because America deserves people in office who know how to keep the place from burning down.
Beaven is a Navy veteran, Army wife, surf mom and an entrepreneur. Her husband, Douglas, is currently serving in Afghanistan with the USAR 993rd Transportation Unit. They live in Palm Coast Florida with their two daughters.