Packers will arrive at our house in a few days to begin the last move of our family’s active-duty life. Since my writing often comes from my own life, my husband’s retirement after 30 years brings my weekly column about active-duty military life to its logical completion. Of course, the larger story of military families goes on.
Military life touches the consciousness of our nation, mostly through events that grab headlines, through stories that are heroic, scandalous or tragic. As military families, we know the quieter days — when no one is watching — are just as indicative of our lives. In this space, for more than eight years, I’ve covered some of the big headlines touching our lives. I’ve also tried to shed light on the ordinary days of life on the homefront.
Those outside our community count the cost of war in dollars. We measure it in lives that have been lost and the ways our lives have been affected. We’ve been forever changed by our experiences in war and peace, by personal losses and victories. The events of our day-to-day lives tell this story, as revealing as those that make the front page.
I began writing Spouse Calls in 2007 as a Q&A column, but the format soon evolved to make room for broader coverage of military life. I’ve written about spouses and families who are making a difference, making waves or simply making their way the best they know how.
Often when I was working on a column, the events of my own life would stand at my elbow and whisper — or shout — that they were part of the message, too. I had no choice but to listen, and write. Overall, I’ve probably asked more questions than I’ve answered. I’ve told a few stories, and I hope I’ve started some conversations.
Sometimes I’ve been a reporter. More often I’ve been a recorder of the life I live. I’ve encountered wounded warriors while walking the halls of Walter Reed and Landstuhl, but I’ve never been to either hospital looking for a news story. I was there for a mammogram, perhaps, or to take one of my children for an eye appointment. This is where we live, in the intersection of crisis and the commonplace. This is the crux of military life and the best place to find messages from the homefront.
I’ve written hundreds of Spouse Calls columns, but even thousands could not convey the whole message of military life, because there isn’t just one message or one story. There’s one for every person who lives it. By writing about what I’ve seen, where I’ve been and about those I’ve met, I’ve tried to present a faithful picture of our military community, to replace stereotypes with real people.
The story of military life is lived out by the small percentage of Americans who serve and their loved ones. Too often, it’s a story we tell only to ourselves and to each other; but it should not be a life apart. Military life is a part of the fabric of our culture, the history of our nation. It’s a story that should be told and heard beyond our community.
It’s been a privilege to share pieces of my life and my perspective as a military spouse in Stars and Stripes, which has been part of our history and continues to record it as it unfolds. My writing and my voice for military families will continue in new ways and in other places, but it began here. I’m grateful for that.
I’m especially thankful for the readers who have become friends, and to the friends who have been contributors to this column in ways both seen and unseen.
The story of military families began long before I wrote the first word of this column, and it will certainly continue long after the last word is read. I'm glad I could contribute a chapter or two to that story, to share some of the messages from my military life with you.