I was sitting at work when the things that I wanted to write began to settle from obscurity in my mind- I picked up an orange sticky-note and began jotting down my thoughts. I took time to notice the beautiful irony of my writing utensil- a pen patterned with pixelated camouflage and the slogan “Army Strong” printed in bold letters. I had used that pen about a thousand times during the course of the year, but only more recently has it meant something more to me. Was God preparing me through subtleties such as this to become an army wife? As I wrote, I took a careful mental note of what that pattern and bold printed letters meant to me now: a new life full of adventure and possible danger, with the overarching reminder that a family in the army, and more importantly, me- a future army wife, must be “Army Strong” to be successful and happy.
I have no authority on the subject of what being an army wife is like, I’m not there quite yet. But the journey of coming to terms with, accepting, and deciding how I will respond as the wife of a soldier is what I’m going through right now. These are some of the realities that are now a part of my life: I’m going to have to adjust and become acquainted with a whole new culture with its own language, rulebook, taboos, and traditions; my soldier will have to leave me, sometimes often and for a long period of time; my soldier will not be able to tell me everything that is going on in his career, he’ll have to keep secrets and carry the weight of those secrets; my family will be very different from most other families, particularly the family I grew up with, where I understood the function and roles of that traditional family. Though these are not all of my new realities, they are some of the bigger ones, and each one has required me to adjust my ideals and expectations that I had for my future husband, marriage, and family. Paradigm shifts aren’t always easy, but when I fell in love with my soldier, God taught me a valuable lesson: true, honest, once-in-a-lifetime love requires sacrifice, but those sacrifices should never be a burden, they should be a joy. I have never felt peace like I have felt as the Lord softened my heart to accept and embrace the new realities of my wonderful new life with my soldier.
The most vital thing that the Spirit has coached me on over the past months is who I personally need to become, both now and through the coming years of our life, in order to be the support, the partner, the “help-meet”, and the comfort that my soldier needs in his life. I have been reminded by Him more than once that this journey through a life in the military is not just going to be hard for me, but it is going to be hard for him too. My attitude, then, as his partner in crime, needs to be one of personal faith, humility, and strength. I have often found myself thinking of the description of a strong woman outlined by Proverbs 31. I will paraphrase this one because I have found personal meaning in it that may or may not be directly quoted in the scripture: “A woman who radiates virtue is worth more than rubies. Her husband trusts in her fully, and she has earned that trust through her goodness. She is anxiously engaged in good causes, and when the going gets rough, she relies on her faith in the Lord and cheerfully pulls up her bootstraps. She sees that her efforts produce great results, and those efforts never cease. She reaches out to help those in need, and she is always prepared to protect and serve those whom she has stewardship over. She takes care of her outward appearance, which reflects her inward commitment to the Lord and her family. She is clothed in strength and dignity, and laughs without fear of the future.” This is the type of Army wife I want to become, and not because I feel that I have something to prove, but because my soldier, and our future family, needs me to be just as strong as he is.
For you women out there who are preparing to become Army wives too, I would advise that you take time to decide now, right here and now, what kind of support you will be for your soldier. Will you be the type of woman who seeks to be comforted when your soldier leaves? Or will you be the type of woman who seeks to strengthen him while he’s away? Will you be the kind of woman who feels entitled to do as she pleases? Or will you be the kind of woman who works to become all she can be to bring the Spirit into her life and home? Realize now that the life you build with your soldier can be a blissful one based on the decisions you make now.
Do not think that I mean that your marriage is completely contingent upon you; you are only half of the team! However, I do feel strongly that the effort you personally put into the relationship is the fulcrum for happiness in the years to come. Martin Luther said, “Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” A marriage, any type, not just in the military, requires both partners to be fully committed to the other’s happiness. This is a relationship of service, support, hope, and faith.
I have received a lot of comfort as I have begun to make friendships with the wives of my soldier’s friends. Through them, I have gained some support that I have needed. They have already gone through the adjustment of learning what the Army is all about; they have already been through the long periods where their husbands were on a deployment; they know what it’s like to feel like the black sheep in this new crowd. Maybe something that we, as the wives and future-wives in the Army, should not take for granted is that we’re all in this together, and we don’t have to experience these things alone. Marjorie Pay Hinckley explained this need for support and unity amongst ourselves when she said, “We are all in this together. We need each other. Oh, how we need each other. Those of us who are old need you who are young, and hopefully, you who are young need some of us who are old…We need deep and satisfying and loyal friendships with each other. These friendships are a necessary source of sustenance. We need to renew our faith every day.” Let us, together, be the type of women who are not only supportive and strong for our soldiers, but also strong and supportive for each other.
The slogan, “Army Strong”, has become a small mantra for me as I prepare to become an Army wife: strong in faith, strong in patience, strong in loyalty, strong in love. A successful life and marriage is perfectly attainable, despite the unique trials of being a family in the military. The first step is to decide what kind of wife and mother you will be; the second step is to work to become that woman. The Lord wants nothing more than for our families to be strong, unified, successful and joyful, and he will support our pure desires to mold our families into just that. El. Dallin H. Oaks gave a series of talks on “becoming”, which have touched me deeply and have helped me shape who I am now. In his talk, The Challenge to Become, he said, “Now is the time for each of us to work toward our personal conversion, toward becoming what our Heavenly Father desires us to become. As we do so, we should remember that our family relationships… are the setting in which the most important part of that development can occur. The conversion we must achieve requires us to be a good husband and father or a good wife and mother… Exaltation is an eternal family experience, and it is our mortal family experiences that are best suited to prepare us for it.” Let us take time to remember the greater picture, who we are, who we’re trying to become, and incorporate that into our lives. Be the “Army Strong” woman for your soldier, but even more, for the greater cause of building an eternal family.
~The Little Redhead
- A Strong Woman (bumpyswings.wordpress.com)