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The air was crisp that bright autumn day, not unlike the uniforms of the hundreds of Marines who had gathered to mark the passage of a sacred occasion. A sea of faces filled the outdoor stadium under the blue Carolina sky as Marines and their families were regaled with tales of their beloved Corps. A portrait of the past came alive as, one by one, battles were remembered, tales of heroism were retold and a legacy of honor and bravery were unveiled. As the ceremony drew to a close, the Colors were marched across the field. The stadium fell silent.
It was a day of beginnings. The occasion marked the 220th anniversary of the formation of the United States Marine Corps by the Second Continental Congress on November 10, 1775. For me, it was the dawn of a new life, the day I would be asked to marry a Marine and become a military wife.
Several months and a marriage license later found my new husband and I oceans apart. He was deployed on an imminent danger mission to a place that had no name. Communications were scarce and I wondered if he’d come home alive. I wondered if I could bear the months of waiting.
Through it all, were the careless and often heartbreaking remarks of well-meaning civilian friends and co-workers who questioned how I could stand being married to someone with a job like his. In my darkest hours, I did not know if I could.
Yet hours gave way to days, and days became weeks and eventually months. My husband came home, and I came to a realization: I had gotten through each day of our separation because I had to. There was simply no other choice. The man I chose to spend the rest of my life with chose the Marine Corps before he married me. Life as a military wife was not always going to be easy. Yet the months apart had sparked an epiphany for me. I was stronger than I realized. The deployment had pushed me to the edge of my limits, but I discovered untapped reserves. I had always been proud of my Marine husband, but had now found reason to be proud of myself. I had found the proverbial rose amid the thorns of military life.
As military spouses, we wear no rank on our collars nor earn any medals for a job well done. Yet along with our military husbands and wives, we also serve the nation; the lives touched by our own, immeasurable. From the first Continental Army during the Revolutionary War to our present day, military spouses have shared in a legacy as rich and proud as that of the service men and women they have supported. We are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines without the uniform.
Had I not married my Marine husband, I would likely never have known I was strong enough to leave my family and the little hometown where I was raised. Were it not for deployments, I would not have known my marriage had the strength to face months of separation and still come out better than before, nor would I know the purest joy of being reunited with my husband after long periods apart.
I would not have a collection of love letters from every corner of the world to testify to the bond my husband and I share and to leave the grandchildren we hope to have one day. Most certainly, I would have missed the places I have seen, the things I have done and some of the best friends I have ever known.
Being a military wife is an experience like no other. We are united together in the common bond of service to our country and to our families. In doing our job, we allow our spouses to do theirs. As military families, we live together and work together; we rejoice together during times of victory and homecoming, and when tragedy strikes, it is together we mourn.
Our unique kinship grows in the heart day by day as we share our lives together. It happens as we shop at the commissaries and exchanges, iron uniforms, sew patches and shine boots. It is a shared sense of pride that bonds us together as family, a family where each and every service member is one of our own, and all of us matter.
Thinking back to that November of long ago, a lot of things have changed since I said “I do” to my fresh faced Lance Corporal. Yet, for all that has changed, there is one that never will. I am a Marine Corps wife, and I am proud.
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