“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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87 Responses

  1. Thank you for writing this. As a civilian, I had never looked at deployments in this way. Very eye-opening!

  2. You appear to be a perfectly “normal” family in a completely abnormal world. Congrats — and thank you all for your sacrifices.

    🙂

  3. Really powerful post! Thanks for shedding a little light on the lives of military families!

  4. Wonderful post. A sincere thank you for all you do.

  5. I hope that you are able to find lots of support while he is gone. I know that we, as civilians don’t always get it but know that we (most of us) really do want to be supportive and understanding even when we ask sort of strange questions. The intention is, in some small way , to support you and your families. God Bless.

  6. We Americans do not seem to appreciate the sacrifices made by our military families! The whole family sacrifices, not just the one serving. I am thankful for those who serve and their loved ones who go through it with them. THANK YOU for your work on the home front! To all the spouses, moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of those who serve THANK YOU!

  7. I was raised military. Fortunately my mom’s unit never got deployed but most of my friends spent a lot of time missing a parent. I knew that my family was part of a minority on base and because of that tried very hard not to take my mom’s presence for grated. Even now, ten years after the fact when a civilian tells me I was lucky to have my mom around my response is usually “yes I was, but even if she couldn’t be there all the time we would still be a family.”It has been my experience that military families redefine “normal”.

  8. Great to read this post. Enjoyed hearing things from your perspective. We civilians can’t thank you enough for the sacrifices you make.

  9. I’m also glad you were able to share this post. Military life is a difficult one for all involved. You’re right that frequent deployments now are a normal way of life.

    I’m a civilian. My father was in the military over 20 years and I have about one dozen relatives and friends that are still active duty.
    As civilians we have to remember that military personnel chose to go into the line of work to assist our country. We will continue to support our troops and their families.
    Stay strong.

  10. Thank you for posting this. I am a “new” military spouse and it’s difficult for me to understand at times. I was “fortunate” to not meet my husband until after he did his time in the desert and we have not been away from each other for more than three weeks at a time b/c of “business trips” . . .until now. This is his first long deployment since we have been together. For him, it is “normal”, for me, it’s not so much. We do not have children together, but we each have children from previous marriages. There is that certain “romanticism” associated with deployments from the civilian side, but it is harder than they know in some ways and easier in others.

  11. I found your blog on Freshly Pressed today. This is such and excellent entry. I commend you for not being offended by the “normal” family question. It’s sad that someone even thinks that, and it reflects this dissonance much of the civilian population has with our military. So few of us are connected to the military anymore.

    Many thanks to you and your family for your service.

  12. That has to be really annoying, being asked the same question over and over again “Will he be home soon? Do you miss him?” At times, though, I am a bit annoying because I ask questions 😦 lol

  13. Great post!
    Congrats for being published on Freshly Pressed!

  14. First off-Thank you so very much for all you do. I am the product of a military family. I was born in 1954 in a military hospital and lived my young life, until age 17 as an Army brat until my father retired. I completely understand how you feel. Trust me, you are the normal military family. When my father retired, and I became a civilian for the first time in my life, is when I discovered how normal we were. We are different in that military families are a very close and family means everything. I always thought my civilian friends were the abnormal ones. They seem to take more things for granted. I still feel that way. I could create a whole blog about the culture shock I went through after the military life style, but when I look back, I would not change anything. The time we spent in Berlin back in 1961, as scary as it was, I’d not change anything. I loved that life and miss it so much. You are part of a special family now. Document your experiences and savor all the special moments that are going to come your way. One day you too will look back on your military experiences as some of the greatest memories you’ll ever have. God Bless you and your wonderful family.

    • One other thing – You might find this interesting as I tell the story of my life living in Berlin as a brat during 1961. Those were scary times for a little seven year old, but again, wouldn’t change it for anything. Here is the link: http://wp.me/p17r6L-bU

      • I have been reading your story. I love it! Thank you for posting the link!!
        Also, thank you for the kind words.

  15. Thank you for your sacrifices for our country. You guys are in my prayers. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

  16. Soldiers & normal/conventional behavior have co-existed for eons; especially during conventional warfare. The neighbor has not been around that long.

    The discipline integral to life in the US military is alien to neighbors who sleep until the afternoon, anyway, that’s why I seldom listen toi them, but live and let live.

  17. Thanks for sharing! I can related because two of my sisters are army wives, and both their husbands are now deployed (one of them just had a baby, too . . .).

  18. My best friend’s dad is in the military. He was overseas when I met her, and we had to endure another few months of his absence a couple years later. Walking through those moments with Emily made me realize that I don’t have what it takes to be a military wife. What an amazingly strong woman you are to endure the time spent without him.

    And as far as being a normal family… I believe that you have a better relationship than most “normal” families for you have learned that you cannot take your husband for granted as so many people do. Most families don’t realize the blessing they have in each other. So in that case, I pray you never become a “normal” family.

  19. You are right in questioning the definition of a ‘normal’ family. I have know people who missed out on kid activities because their work demanded they be elsewhere. Fields must be harvested, cows milked. And someone has to cover that sporting event. My husband has missed stuff in the past which makes him want to be around for whatever he can do. In the end, I wonder what people think is ‘normal?’

    • Normal – definition can be found in an “Introductory Psychology” text. It consists of three or four common if virtuous human traits.

      A normal trait were “independence”.

      Does that make any sense?

      Being normal, however, does not always sell allotta concert tickets at Caesar’s Palace.

    • Missing events because you’re deployed is completely different than missing events because you have to harvest a field or milk cows. As military spouses, we spend weeks, months and even a year+ away from our loved one. When they are deployed they are in a danger zone…we never know when we’ll hear from them next or if we’ll even hear from them again. Homecoming dates get changed with the flip of a coin – could be this week, next week, next month or in 2 months. Not to minimize the sacrifices that others have to make because of work but the military members and their families have to make MANY sacrifices – missing anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, births of babies, deaths of loved ones, not being able to hug or kiss or talk to the ones they’re missing, not seeing their child’s first steps or hear their first words. We live an amazing life and like the writer said, for us it is normal. It is so different than the civilian world that not many can even begin to fathom what it is like and we can’t expect them to. We just have to know that we are strong enough to endure everything we are put through and we do it because we happened to fall in love with a man who loves his country.

  20. My sister’s husband is deployed in Iraq for a year. They have 3 children: ages 6, 3 and 1. My sister is working a full-time job and juggling raising all three of those children on her OWN. It is the women and children who are left behind who are the real heroes.

    Thank you for posting this!

  21. A family member of mine has been in your shoes. I do think it made them stronger.

  22. Thank you for honestly sharing your experience of normal, even at the painful points. I especially like how you pointed out deployments are not just extended business trips but life-changing experiences.

  23. This is such a touching post. You have a beautiful family. THANK YOU for all the sacrifices you and your husband have made for our country.

  24. Thank you for this article. I was once a military wife many years ago and my husband missed the birth of our daughter. He saw her 1 month later. I admire your family for hanging in there. Thanks for your service as you support your husband.

  25. First I commend both of you as people, a military family AND parents for what you are doing. In the eyes of some, it may not appear “normal,” but for you and your life’s journey, it is just as it needs to be in this moment. As a counselor trainee, I can tell you that there is no real normal. Each and every one of us is different and unique. We create our lives and then we learn to live those lives hopefully to the best of our abilities. My grandfather and uncle were in the military, but I can’t say I was brought up around such things. I’m currently a news reporter at The Times-Gazette in southern Ohio and I love writing stories about our military families. I’m always so amazed at the strength of not just the men or women serving, but their entire families as well. Thank you both for doing what you do and maybe some day Cason will follow in his daddy’s footsteps! Congrats on his birth BTW.

    Sincerely,
    Meredith
    http://www.thissideofthecreek.wordpress.com

  26. “Normal” is different for everyone. Thank you for the “normal” you live so our county can be safer – all of you: husband, wife, son. Your sacrifices mean so much to so many people.

  27. This was wonderfully written I’m very grateful for your openness.

  28. I’m happy that you and your husband are still together. I know when I deployed for OEF, more than half of the platoon had girlfriend/wives issues. It’s good to know that military relationships do work.

    -Joshua

  29. As a former military wife, I understand the hardships your family faces. I gave birth to our first child when my husband was out of country. So many well-meaning people just do not understand military life. So congrats on being normal and brave and everything a military spouse must be! Thank you to your husband and you for sacrificing for the rest of us!!

  30. I agree, that it is hard sometimes to get back to normal. I had to miss out on my daughter’s first year while I was overseas. It is hard but with the right people having your back and God then it all works out. My wife and I have had our struggles but we keep on holding on and we have been married for 13 years, and that was being married young at 19/18 and fresh in the Corps.

    God Bless You All!

    Semper Fi!

  31. It takes a strong person to be married to someone in the army. I commend you for that. Check out my blog at http://www.ournote2self.wordpress.com

  32. You are very lucky to have a strong bond with your husband, so many families are not able to bear the stress and do not succeed in staying together under the deployment requirements of todays military.

    Michael, good luck with your career.

    1SG USA (Ret)

  33. Touching. And a nice family.

  34. You have a more “normal” life than many who are always “together”. Congrats on a well deserved Freshly Pressed.

  35. This is a great story and perspective on the military family lifestyle. My dad was Air Force, so this brings back memories of growing up in a military family. Stay strong – Family and service is worth it!

  36. Great story! I live in Hawaii and meet a lot of military families, their lives seem so different. I hesitate to get involved in a serious relationship with a man in the military because I know he will go on deployments leaving me, and our future family alone, the thought is scary at times and I wonder if I could handle that lifestyle.

    jennicinparadise.com

  37. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by geekosupremo, Andy Android. Andy Android said: “Will You Ever be a Normal Family?” http://dlvr.it/GLlFk […]

  38. This was a great post. I don’t know how military families do it. Hats off!

  39. I was a flight attendant for five years and met my husband during that time. Right now, because of some unusual job circumstances, we have the closest we will ever have to a “normal” life. For the first five years of knowing each other, though, we rarely saw each other more than two days in a row.

    Sometimes I would feel bad for myself and then I would have a soldier as a passenger. They were usually either ecstatic (headed home) or in tears (leaving.) It humbled me and helped put my life (and the week or so I would go without seeing my loved ones) in perspective as well as realize that the sacrifices military people make are every day sacrifices as you have stated. I appreciate what your husband does, and I appreciate the sacrifices you make to support him. Thanks for sharing.

  40. As a military wife of several years, this is probably the most annoying question I get asked. When will people learn that differences don’t mean “better” or “worse” – just different?

  41. Loved this post. Thank you so much for your service (you are serving as much as your husband is!) and a big thank you to your husband! Be safe and strong. Best wishes!

  42. God bless your family and your husband for his service.

  43. I never knew anything about how a military family works, until I read this. This was a definite eye-opener for me. The only things I knew came from reading books and watching movies, and I’m sure that’s not how things really work. Thanks for being such an eye-opener. This post is worthy of being Freshly Pressed.
    Ashley, aka TheEverydayMuser
    http://www.theeverydaymuser.wordpress.com

  44. I would like to thank everyone for such a positive response to this blog entry. The comments have shown me how much the military and its families are supported.
    I appreciate you taking the time to read this and understand a bit of how our lives work.
    God Bless.

  45. My closest friend is a military wife. They have two boys, 3 and 1 1/2, with one on the way. We never know when their status will change and that is just the way it is. The most profound thing they have taught me is that military personnel are not free (truly, their lives are not their own) precisely to protect our freedom! I never take that for granted. Thank you for your service to this country and to me as a free civilian.

  46. This is an amazing post! Thanks so much for writing it. I’ve seen the unfortunate break up of a family because of being a military family and I have seen another family flourish! It’s amazing what wives, husbands, and children all deal with. It has to be very difficult at times. Thank you for your support towards your husband, which is SO important- and should never be left unseen; and thank you for your husband who puts his life on the line for me, and all other Americans! Thanks again for this post!

  47. Thank you for what everyone in your family does for our country!! God bless you and this great country!

  48. Great post — and how heartening to read these comments. I admire women willing to make the commitment to men (and vice versa) serving in the military. I know I would not be able to stand the daily stress of worrying about their safety while away. Good for you and thanks for reminding us civilians what “normal” is for millions of others.

    The word itself is useless and insulting anyway…

  49. Have you seen the movie Saving Private Ryan? I think that you should watch it.

  50. Thank you for a glimpse into your family! May God bless you and keep you all safe!

  51. I can’t even imagine what y’all go through. I hope your husband stays safe.

  52. Great post and interesting blog working with and around so many military personell it’s good to see this freshly pressed. I feel for you and your family and appreciate your husbands service. Keep writing it is truly inspirational to read. And your family is better then normal all this will and can make your family stronger then the normal. Who really wants to be average or normal anyway. Thank you and your family for the sacrifices you guys have made for this country

  53. Very Heart Touching post..
    Very Inspirational…

  54. Wow thank you for that perspective, I’ve never looked at it that way before. Keep it up!

  55. I think this is an awesome post and I never realized how it was, only that it was definitely beyond hard and heart breaking to have a loved one deployed. I hope he stays safe and you guys can be together again soon!

  56. This is a really beautiful/touching post! Just goes to show how strong military families are/have to be to get through the tough times. I hope our husband comes back home soon so you all can be together again 🙂
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  57. hello thanks for your post.As an Iranian I think that a normal life is the life which love exists among the members of the family.Although being remote from each other is difficult,closing of our hearts is the most important thing.
    ِ

  58. very nice….wow

  59. I love the way that you describe your normal life and the way that you have adapted. I wish you well and much happiness in the future
    Stay safe

  60. What is normal? To love and be loved. To do what you know is right, no matter what others may say or what pressure they may try to put upon you to do otherwise. Life is tough and may end in tragedy, but we are judged by those we know and love by what we do for them and others in whatever time is given to us.

  61. […] “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. By Alexandra Fuller While talking to a n … Read More […]

  62. Wishing you and your husband, love, trust and growing together in appreciation of each other’s gifts.

    Do understand there are families where 1 spouse is living in another city because that’s where the jobs are…it’s not unusual in non-military families anymore. And even more so these days, because women are working outside of home and accepting positions outside of their home city.

    You will find this in the construction engineering sector for large, expensive engineering projects. I worked with many men who’s families stayed in their home country or they uprooted their families from country to country as one project ended and the next project began.

    I didn’t meet alot of female engineers who choose the international work circuit, but I’m sure they exist.

  63. Thanks for an insightful post and for the sacrifices your family is making for our country. My father served our country as a Marine for 26 years When he was deployed, we communicated with him through letters and cassette tape recording. Thankfully, technology has made the stress of deployment a bit more bearable. However, I think deployment are more frequent than when my father served. May God bless and protect your husband and bring him home safely to you soon.

  64. I was so happy when I saw this blog. Being a military wife it seems like NO ONE understands unless you are a military spouse yourself. It is hard, but it is always worth it. I enjoy everyday of it. I get to meet new people and travel to places I would never get to see if I had no married my husband. This life is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it is for me.

  65. If it makes you feel better, even those of us whose husbands aren’t in the military don’t always feel “normal” sometimes. You have to define that for yourselves. If you are happy and loved, that’s all that matters. Thank you for serving in the military.

  66. Great and genuine post! Normal is a quality that should be put into perspective. Life itself is very contextual. Happiness also something that can only be judged by those who experience it.

    Sharing this will help people understand better about families in this particular profession.

  67. Thanks so much for your story, It is very inspirational. I don’t think I’ve met a normal family yet, is there really one? My point is that I feel that your family is a special one, and I thank your family for all of its sacrifices and its protection of this country I love. You have a beautiful family and God be with you.

  68. Very well done. You’ve summed all of it up & then some.
    My husband is retired USAF & it was an amazing time for us. His unit pulled around us when our oldest was born & spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit. We felt like we were just as important as the missions happening @ that time.

    Best wishes for y’all on your “normal”. After 8 yrs out we still miss that “normal”.

  69. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate every one of your sacrifices. I have friends who are in different branches of the military and friends who are military wives. Their strength is incredible! They have amazing grit, and pride in their husbands and country. I can’t say enough thank you’s for all they do!

  70. HAPPY V-DAY…!!!…: P…<3…~~~

  71. Good tips – thanks for sharing!

  72. I think the definition of the normal family as a nuclear family has been dated for a while. That said, you are very strong to be able to endure such long absences by your spouse.

  73. Love the Blog. My Son-In-Law is in Boot Camp and we are unsure of what is to come.

  74. This is simply powerful and touching, bravo for coming out to tell the world about what is happening. Its a beautiful post

  75. I completley understand everything you are saying. I’ve been an Air Force wife for the last 5 years, and g/f for the last 8. My husband has missed both of my daughters birthdays. Luckily he has been home for both our children’s births and Christmas’. Deployments are hard, but having a group of friends to support you is the best answer 🙂

  76. i get your life! i was born, served in and now a mil wife. my husband grew up in one town – i love the extended mil family!

  77. Oh my God normal family?

    I tell you….
    Although my husband has been out of the army for over 10 years, he still works with the army as a da civilian and even I’m trying to get it, it is one of the most secure places to be now, job wise.

    But. I have seen the perks of staying in the army and I know the perks of being out. Some people need the army and some dont. I’ve known my husband since high school and ive seen him grow from being in the army. We never traveled when he was in the army, but now we are living in Germany. My husband was able to use his gi bill and vie known others who the army was very beneficial for them. I never joined but I know if I did, I would have been proud to be a soldier….

    Normal family… Who says being in the army isn’t normal for a family. Yes, there are certain downfalls, but right now I am mad at your neighbor lol.

    My husband went to Iraq for a year – he was not in the army at the time, but I was proud of him none the less..

    (I normally don’t read other blogs, but the title of this one caught my eyes and when I read then first paragraph I thought to my self WTH. Lol

    Great blog and I am proud of you and your family and everyone else who is in the armed forces now!

  78. […] (US) – Will You Ever Be a Normal Family? – Blog post about someone’s experience being married to an air force […]

  79. […] “Will You Ever be a Normal Family?” (offthebase.wordpress.com) […]

  80. Great to read this post. Enjoyed hearing things from your perspective. We civilians can’t thank you enough for the sacrifices you make

  81. […] “Will You Ever Be a Normal Family?” – Alexandra Fuller, another member of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, shared some typical questions she’s fielded from civilians. Her blog entry is a good read because sometimes civilians can say something that may seem harmless yet ends up being hurtful because of the civilian didn’t know any better. You can read the full entry or here’s a portion of her blog entry: […]

  82. I admire your strength and positive attitude. I wish I shared the same allegiance to the Army. We’ve been in 7 years and I can’t take it anymore. I want the “normal” life. My family is from nh and no matter where we get stationed it’s a plane trip away. I’m close to my parents and siblings. I want to raise my kids near them. I can take deployments, and field time, but i can’t take missing out on precious time with the people i love most in the world. I wish I had known what I was getting into when I married into the military. I was blinded by love. I would have made a different life choice. Before you marry a soldier really think it through because it’s not an easy life!!!!

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