A Spouse Calls blogger writes:

Q. Ladies, don’t you get tired of (what) the Army likes to shovel out to us spouses? We may be home alone, but that doesn’t make us helpless. Are we only defined by what our husbands do? I hope not. We are strong women who take care of business while our husbands are gone and get no credit for it. Wives should get medals too. It isn’t all about the men. And we girls need to realize this!

Stay strong, girls. We are more than just wives of Army guys.

— J.B.

A. I agree that military spouses are far from helpless, and far more than “just wives,” but I disagree with your assessment that we get no credit. Many people, both inside and outside the military, have a high regard for the abilities and contributions of military spouses.

No, we don’t get medals, but that kind of decoration is not our objective. Our mettle is proven in the thousands of things we do every day as military spouses, whether at home or at work. Our greatest strength lies in our willingness to do what we do for those we love, with or without recognition.

Our contributions behind the lines — earning a second paycheck, caring for our children, community volunteer work, all of the above and more — help our military members to focus on their mission.

When we participate in this full partnership, we know the medals pinned to our loved ones’ chests are also placed on our hearts.

Servicemembers who are wise express pride, love and loyalty to the spouses who stand beside them at home and who are behind them when they are far away.

Yes, spouses are independent and strong. We are an essential military resource and even more invaluable to our families. Don’t listen to anyone who would deny it.

Medals, maybe not — mettle, in abundance!

Q. Our local paper, The Free Lance Star in Fredericksburg, Va., publishes the Stars and Stripes each week. We read it faithfully. We have a grandson who has just deployed to Afghanistan. Our church would like to adopt his unit. Can you tell me the things that would be appreciated by the men and women in this unit? Our local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter would also like to do something. Any suggestions you might have would be gratefully appreciated.

— Joan and Tom Poland, Dogue, Va.

A. Your grandson is blessed to have so much support from family and friends back home.

He is also the best person to answer your question. Conditions at deployment locations vary from remote outposts with only the basics to large installations with more amenities.

Sometimes an exchange is available to provide needs and wants, but high demand items might still be in short supply. What is most needed will vary from place to place.

My husband has been deployed several times, and his requests have varied with each location. At one austere base, toiletries and good books to read topped the list for his care packages. At another, he requested coffee and DVDs. At other locations, movies were readily available, and he most wanted letters from home and perhaps a favorite snack food.

When considering reading material to send to deployed troops, don’t overlook the personal touch. My husband says the best things to read when you are far from home are handwritten letters from loved ones and a hometown newspaper.

So ask your grandson and his buddies. They will gladly tell you what they need most and will be grateful that you are so supportive.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at and see the Spouse Calls blog here.

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