When I was a senior in high school, I decided to take an accounting class to better my real-world knowledge. I didn’t want to be stuck in calculus like the rest of my friends, because I would never be using that in the real world. I wanted to know how to balance a checkbook, take out a loan, buy my first car, etc. I wanted the real deal.
My first day of class, a tall, bald man stood at the front of the room scribbling our assignments on the whiteboard. He was thin, and stood so straight that it made his small frame appear larger. He turned to us as we all got seated, and went over the expectations for the trimester. He was clear, direct, and extremely stern despite the comical smirk that often flashed across his face. And if he hadn’t told all of us that first day, I would have never known he was military.
Back then, I didn’t know what it meant to be “military”. I didn’t know about the acronyms or the closely shaven faces and heads. I didn’t know about any of it, actually. But as he began to share stories of his life with all of us, I got a glimpse into what it all meant. It was intriguing to learn about a life that seemed so exciting and adventurous. I couldn’t see the negatives of it, besides the obvious.
As time went on, he shared his past and current plans with us. He had served active duty for nearly 15 years, and was currently serving the remainder as a reservist in the Air Force. He didn’t give us the finer details, but he was involved in Intelligence, and despite not knowing his rank, I could tell he was a valued asset to them. Then one spring morning he came in and told us that he might not be around for a while. He had been called to duty and would be sent overseas for “who knows how long.”
I remember thinking, “wow, so that’s it? You just up and leave your whole life behind?” I couldn’t wrap my mind around that. He had kids, I thought. Young kids, not even out of middle school yet! How could they do that?
Because they can.
Because years ago, standing at attention with his right hand raised in promise, he swore to defend us in all times of need. And like many others, he kept those promises.
Three years ago I watched Kyle make that same promise. And in those moments, hearing him say those words, I thought of that teacher I had a few years prior. I thought of the day that they called him to duty, and how his whole life stopped. I thought of him going home, and telling his wife and kids that he would be leaving. The fear and dread and pride that they probably felt. I understood a small piece of that now.
What does it mean to love a military man? How is it any different?
In every relationship there is sacrifice; I would be crazy to deny that. But the difference lies within what is being sacrificed. I’ve been on both sides of this lifestyle, and I’ve known Kyle as both a civilian and a soldier. It’s no more romantic than it is terrifying. I think there’s a reality to this life that some people overlook.
Loving a military man is like writing down every single hope, dream, goal, and wish on a tiny piece of paper, putting it in a fish bowl, and letting Uncle Sam choose your fate. And mixed in with all the things you want are the things you don’t want. Places you don’t want to live, jobs you don’t want to have, and separations that no one wants to go through.
Loving a military man means..
Rushing home from work because your phone died and you might miss that phone call you’ve waited weeks for.
Taking care of a home, and children, and yourself, alone.
Holidays by yourself, surrounded by family who keep asking, “When is he coming home?”
Learning the phrase, “I don’t know.” while hiding the frustration in your voice.
Tears that come out of nowhere after you find his sock wedged in the drier.
Loving a military man can seem so hard. I used to think that it was impossible, and that people were crazy to “get themselves into that.” But then I fell in love with a man, and that man fell in love with the military. None of us woke up one day and thought, “Today, I’m going to go find a guy that’s in the military and I’m going to be with him forever.” It didn’t go like that; not for me, not for anyone. I found my person, completely unaware of where the road would lead us. And I can’t begin to explain the good that has come from that, and all of the reasons I love our lifestyle.
Because loving a military man also means..
Getting that first phone call, and knowing that in that moment, everything is right. Everything is okay.
Being reunited and learning how to work as a team again.
Funny carepackages and romantic letters, and learning how to connect on a deeper level.
The pride and joy that you feel when you see that beautiful flag, and all that it stands for.
It means tears of happiness when the distance has been closed, and the separation is finally over.
Being in a military relationship and committing yourself to love a man that has chosen this life is often difficult to put into words. Unless you’ve lived it, it’s hard to imagine the reality of it. But if you ask any military spouse or significant other who’s in love, it’s the greatest choice we ever made.