Jul 30, 2016 2:00:00 PM
Military spouses share a variety of experiences. Type "military spouse issues" into Google and you'll be amazed at the articles that pop up. Websites as diverse as the Huffington Post to Military.com to private blogs cover the challanges and problems faced by military spouses. So what about the active duty side of life? The commitment and sacrifice of our service members is sometimes hard to grasp. Now combine the two. Not only a military spouse, but a retired 1stSgt of Marines, Salina White* brings a unique perspective to the life of a military spouse. It is the goal of Relobase to support not only active duty service members, but those who support them. Salina sat down with Dee Maurer, our managing editor, and had a conversation about life in dual military marriages. The conversation was a long one and both Salina and Dee came away with renewed respect and understanding for both sides of the active duty and spouse coin. Of strong interest to both, however, was the reality of balancing work and family both as a service member and as the spouse of a service member.
Dee: What was the biggest difference as you left active service and went from a dual active couple to an active and retired couple?
Salina: Well I think it'd be different if I lived closer to or on base. I'm really detached now. Some days I love it and some days I hate it. I don't get to hear things like when I was at work. I woul do things, pass things on. Now, if I'm not actively looking at Facebook or hearing things from my husband. I don't know anything. So, I'm definitely getting the perspective a young Marine wife who never hears anything. I have to actively seek information myself. That's the biggest difference. Especially going from the admin person for an entire company and having 90% of the word. Again, though, some days that's what I choose. To get away from it. It's not that I was tired of it but it's nice to do my own thing.
Dee: Do you think there is pressure on spouses to be involved?
Salina: I do think there's pressure on spouses to be involved. And I don't like that. I've seen it more in the last couple of years. It's not being "pushed" but it's being perceived that even the Lance Corporals spouse should be involved with all these different clubs or organizations. I think it's great if the spouse wants to do that and as a single Marine I always volunteered. I was cleaning up the playgrounds, I was building the playgrounds, I was volunteering at church but for the ones who don't want to, or have a job or other interests, [that should be okay]. Somtimes I feel that my job [that I have now] is being held against me by some of the other spouses and I'm looked at as "oh you're not doing what you should be doing". There are things that I know I have to do because of my husbands billet and I do them. I do think it depends on the person. Certain people, that's what they want to do and that's all they're going to do.
Dee: What helped your dual military relationship be successful?
Salina: I was single until I was a SSgt. We have been together 15 years, married for 14. It took alot of compromise and sacrifice. I found that for us, the career of one spouse had to come second. It's not that there aren't dual military couples who aren't both rocking and rolling, but for us, I retired. I honestly didn't get to see that side of it until I retired. As soon as my husband became a company Gunny I knew my role had to change. This was back when there was a Key Wives club. It was his first deployment since we'd gotten married and I was pregnant. Stupid stuff started as soon as they deployed. I told them, [the spouses] 'I'm a Marine and I'm not going to deal with this stuff. But, I DO get it.' I was also mature enough to understand that with his billet I had to take an active role in the company. So I dealt with that. I tried to change how it was. The whole swinger thing. Yes. It really was that way. But it does all depend on where you are.
Dee: How has the support of active duty families changed over the last 20 years?
Salina: It's so much better now. I keep hearing about how "we have to do more for the spouses". With the Leadership Education Seminar [on Camp Pendleton] and L.I.N.K.S there are now positive places to be. So it's not so much that we need to do more, but develop what we have to support the spouses and families. Look at how far we've come! The Marine Corps is small and more like a family. For the spouse who wants to be involved, there's so much to do. Sometimes. I wish I lived on base so I could do more and socialize more.
Dee: Salina, thank you so much for your time and willingness to talk with me. It's truly been a pleasure.
*Name changed to protect privacy