“Will You Ever be a Normal Family?”

One purpose of this blog is to help civilians better understand military families and the demands on their lives. Several military members, veterans and their spouses contribute to that end. Here’s an entry from a new contributor who I met through the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club.

Michael and me on my 21st birthday, May 2006.

By Alexandra Fuller

While talking to a neighbor about my husband’s current deployment she asked me many of the normal questions that a civilian wants to know.  “Will he be home soon?”  “Is he in a dangerous area?”  “Do you miss him?” But, one of her questions really stood out.  “When will your husband get out of the military so you can be a normal family?”

She meant no ill will by asking this question.  To her, our life is not normal.

I have been asked many questions about our life and his career.  Yet, this particular question really made me stop and think: What is the definition of a normal family?  I met my husband after he had already enlisted as active duty Air Force. So, I do not know any other life.  To us, our life was normal.

I married, Michael, the love of my life in  September 2007.  At the time, he had been active duty for more than five years and had completed many deployments.  Shortly thereafter, our newly-wed stage ended and reality appeared when he received orders to deploy.

Fuller Family pictures April 2010.

I had never been properly introduced to the lifestyle of a military wife.  So, I decided to be proactive and learn the ropes on my own.  I made friends with many spouses in my husband’s unit.  I attended spouse functions and volunteered as much as my school and work schedule would allow.  The participation in the activities made the transition into the military lifestyle so much easier and eased the pain of not having my husband close by.

I have to thank each of the spouses from the 823rd Security Forces unit and all of the other spouses that befriended me at Moody Air Force Base for helping me through that trying time.  Without them my life would have been miserable.  They taught me what true strength is.

Fast forward almost two years:  another deployment and homecoming had come and gone. Michael and I found out that we were expecting a little one.  We were over the moon. But, due to the rapid deployment nature of his unit at the time, we prepared ourselves as if he not be home for the majority of the pregnancy and birth.

Most of wives in his unit had given birth by themselves while their husbands were deployed.  Several of the spouses I knew had been alone for the birth of all of their children. It was not an easy pill to swallow. Yet, we continued to enjoy the time he was at home.

He had to leave several times during my pregnancy for different training exercises.  Yet, he made the majority of my appointments and was there when we found out that we were having a boy.  Closer to the end of my pregnancy we began to realize that we were going to be among the lucky few who were able to remain together through most of my pregnancy.  We were truly blessed and did not take a moment of it for granted.

Daddy and son, Cason, on the day he was born in 2009.

When our son, Cason, was born in November 2009, Michael was there to hold my hand through the entire scary, but wonderful, experience.  He was the first person to hold Cason.  Yet again, we knew how blessed we were.  So many military families are separated during this time in their lives.  Yet, they don’t complain.  They make do with the communication that they have and push forward.

Michael deployed again in late fall 2010.  He missed our Cason’s first birthday by three days.  He missed his first steps by a week.  It was a very hard time in our lives.  Before we had Cason, deployments seemed hard.  Little did we know, the intensity would just increase after he was born.  We both knew it would be hard. I personally hoped that having a child would keep me on my toes and allow me to focus on something other than my husband not being home for several months.

I did not factor in the pain of hearing Cason cry for his Daddy or Michael missing so much of his son’s life.   Michael, as all parents, hates not being here for everything.  We take hundreds of photos and chat online as much as possible.  But, with the rather bad internet connection on Michael’s side, it is hard to video chat.

Christmas 2010 with Daddy who was 8 hours ahead of our time, yet he stayed awake to web cam with us.

We were truly lucky that the internet held up on Christmas so he could see Cason opening his gifts.  Michael was glowing with pride as he watched Cason tear into the gifts that he had picked for him from half way around the world.

The military lifestyle has a lot of situations and terminology unknown in the civilian world.  Sometimes, as a military spouse, I forget that not everyone understands. To many, deployments seem like extended business trips.  Though, to those who endure deployments, they are life altering experiences.  Some are worse than others. They all mean months or years away from your loved one.

My husband’s profession, like all members of the Armed Forces, is not one that he leaves at the office.  It can be stressful, frustrating and heart breaking. It also can generate the greatest sense of pride from knowing that he is sacrificing so much for his country and for people he does not know and will never meet.

We are truly blessed. To those who live this life, it is normal. To us this life is normal.

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