This is to you, the one who married the uniformed man. To you, the one who stands beside him. You, the one with whom he links arms, but not hands, because, of course, intertwined fingers aren’t authorized while in uniform.
This is to you, the one who planned your wedding alone while he was across the globe. To you, the girl who met him at the airport and drove straight to the rehearsal. To you, who spent one week with your new husband before he boarded a plane and flew away for the first six months of your marriage.
This is to you, the one who plans your career around being transient, knowing you won’t stay anywhere long. To you, the one whose resume is a mile long, but not because you can’t hold a job. You, the one who works at the bank, the salon, the retailer, the clinic, the studio, logging long hours to supplement military earnings.
This is to you, the base housing goddess. The one who reuses curtains, rearranges furniture, and transfers the pictures from one faded white wall to another. The one who hopes for an address in the good neighborhood, prays for quiet neighbors and crosses your fingers for appliances constructed during your lifetime.
This is to you, the off-base dweller. The one who dreams of paying a mortgage instead of rent. The one who forms community with people who don’t always understand the demands on your life, people who have family nearby, people who don’t plan to move away in three years. You, the one who ensures the military clause in your lease, ever prepared to break the contract if you’re ordered to move in less than a month.
This is to you, the one who hasn’t been home in two years, because your parents are thirty hours away and plane tickets are expensive. To you, the one who sends photos and plans Skype dates when new babies are born. You, the one who spends Thanksgiving with friends you’ve met at church.
This is to you, military wife, the one who delivers a baby without him. The one who calls your friends to drive you to the hospital, to hold your legs while you push. This is to you, the one who talks to him on the phone, tears staining your smile as you describe to him his newborn’s face.
This is to you, for when you felt yourself slipping, darkness pressing close, and everyone told you to buck up, told you it was just stress. To you, the one who heard that weakness is failure and that admitting it would harm his mission. To you, for when you went to the clinic doctor anyway and were strong enough to ask for help.
This is to you, the one who stands in the dining room, wiping the table with a rag the night he comes home and announces he has orders. To you, whose heart drops to your feet as your eyes lock with his. To you, the one who breathes in sharply, who feels your throat tighten. You, the one who wipes tears and stands taller and feels ill and immediately begins to compose a mental checklist.
This is to you, the one who wakes at 3am and bundles the little ones in blankets. To you, the one who drives him to an empty blackened parking lot. You, the one who waits in the cold while he loads his sea bags, gathers his weapons.
This is to you, the one who clings to his neck, who kisses his lips, who waves your hand high while he drives away on a full white bus.
This is to you, the one who waits for a call, who keeps your cell phone glued to your hand. To you, the one who checks the mailbox incessantly and refreshes your inbox ten times an hour. You, the one who quells the ever present pit in your stomach and refuses to listen to the news.
This is to you, the one who holds your little ones when they don’t understand. The one who explains why Daddy is gone again, or why he’s working so late each night, or why it’s time to say goodbye to their friends yet again. This is to you, the one who steels yourself, for them, when your own heart breaks.
This is to you, the one who maintains the routine, who moves through the days, who sits in the quiet of the evenings. To you, the one who pays the bills, mows the lawn and takes the car for its tune up. You, the one who falls asleep on the couch, who tries to fill the bed by sleeping diagonally.
This is to you, brave military wife, the one who counts the days and then the hours and then the minutes until he returns.
And then he does.
This is to you.
This is to you, the one who makes it to ten years, and then to fifteen, and then to two or three decades. To you, the one who thought he’d be out by now. To you, the one who remains as he reenlists, as he pins on rank, as he earns medals. You, the one who holds him close, knowing he’s yours, but sharing him every day.
This is to you, Marine wives, Army wives, Navy wives, Air Force wives, Coast Guard wives. I raise my glass to you, the brave and proud ones, strong and valiant ones, veterans in your own right.
This is to you.
This is to us.
Thank you to the women who shared their photos and personal experiences for this post. You are heroes.