Published: April 28, 2011
Sara Horn married her military husband, Cliff, in 1998, but she said it took a few years for her to fully comprehend that she was a military wife.
A journalist, Sara was on board the U.S.S. Truman covering the beginning of the Iraq War in the spring of 2003 when she received news that her husband, a Navy reservist, could soon be deployed.
“He had been in seven or eight years, but I didn’t feel like a military wife at all,” Sara said.
The Horns didn’t live in a military community, and Cliff’s training base was far from their home. Sara said she was barely aware of the intersection of their family life and military life until deployment loomed. Her husband’s departure was delayed, it turned out, and Sara’s job took her back to Iraq before Cliff went there.
“I went back to Baghdad in November of that year for about 10 days as a photojournalist and talked to soldiers about their experiences,” she said.
“It definitely opened my eyes. It helped me understand the role my husband plays. As a reservist, sometimes you’re so far removed from it that you have no idea.”
The experience of guard and reserve families can be very different from those on active duty. My family living overseas is fairly immersed in a military culture. Most active duty families live near enough to a military installation to use the clinic and the commissary. Reserve families often live in a civilian world that barely recognizes military families are there.
Sara had a desire to connect military spouses from all branches with each other and with resources that could help them, so she founded Wives of Faith, a web-based ministry at wivesoffaith.org.
“You just have to get on the computer and you’re there with other military spouses,” she said. “I know for me during our first deployment, the Internet was my lifeline to other military spouses.”
The connection reminded Sara that she was not alone.
“That is the biggest key for spouses and families to realize we’re all in this together and this is not something each of us is going through by ourselves. We’re all facing these challenges.”
Another struggle for guard and reserve families is maintaining civilian employment. Sara’s husband was laid off after he returned from his first deployment to Iraq.
“You have such a broad spectrum of what civilian employer will do,” she said. “Some still pay a service member’s salary and healthcare while they are gone, other (service members) are just hoping they’ll have a position when they get back.”
But guard and reserve families stick it out, she said, sometimes seeking more deployments as a way to support their families as well as the military.
“The majority of guard and reserve families are doing it because they love their country and they’re serving their country,” said Sara. “There’s purpose and a reason behind it, not just because they want to make a little extra cash. We are no longer weekend warriors.”
As a writer, Sara has turned the challenges of military life into books. She wrote “God Strong: A Military Wife’s Spiritual Survival Guide,” based on her first deployment experience.
She said the title reflects that she learned to depend on God’s strength, not her own during the months of separation from her husband.
When she found out another deployment was coming, she wanted to be ready.
“We always prepare the house and the paperwork before a deployment,” she said. “How many times do we look at it from God’s perspective? I really wanted to spiritually prepare.”
Sara’s latest book, “Tour of Duty,” is a Bible study specifically for spouses during deployment. Now in the midst of another deployment herself, she has been leading an online version of “Tour of Duty” on the Wives of Faith website.
She encourages wives to look at a deployment as an opportunity for growth, rather than simply a test of endurance.
“Our husbands are always preparing, getting training before they leave,” she said. “We just fall into it and go.”