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There Is Room For All Spouses At The Table

When we enter military life, the majority of us are truly clueless about the day-to-day lifestyle we (as people say) “signed up” for. However, what is even more clueless to me is the at times lack of camaraderie and inclusion at times not found among spouses.

Not just the exclusion often that occurs between NCO and Officers spouses.

 

I’m talking about when you PCS to a location where because of your spouse’s career path, and there are not many spouses that look like you.

 

Being a Black senior NCO, my husband is respected; his expertise and knowledge is valued by his peers, chain of command and it’s wonderful to have his years of dedication and education to his career so highly regarded.

On the flip side of the coin, we have PCS‘d to locations where there were very few Army families resided, let alone very few Black senior NCO’s.

Imagine being told by spouses of other branches that “technically”, we shouldn’t be friends because my husband is an officer. However, I’ll make an exception because you fit the mold to make our “club” seem inclusive. 

So, I was placed in the “token black spouse friend” category.

We have PCS’d to locations where we were one of the handful of Black families that attended the local elementary and middle schools and even then, we were placed in the “token black friend” category to make our schools look (to the outside) world as inclusive. 

It’s not a fun category to be in.

 

These spaces that appear to be safe spaces for us are in fact, the opposite.

 

It’s not an inclusive place to be, and it doesn’t leave room for inclusiveness because even though we were “friends”, we were still excluded.

Excluded from feeling like part of a community.

Excluded from developing attachments to people who share in experiences that are uniquely ours. There are not many professions where relying on a spouse friend connection is more necessary than the Military.

Many people of color join the military not only to defend our country, but so many join for opportunities afforded by military service.

 

Being part of Military life mimics a fraternity or sorority where the connections, friendships made here develop into lifelong relationships.

 

It doesn’t matter if you are an NCO or an officer, the bonds created by soldiers, with those bonds you become family. However, being a spouse, (especially a black spouse) the connections you make are sadly more often circumstantial than out of necessity.

Too often I have been the circumstantial friend. The spouse who has knowledge of services, or the spouse of convenience willing to babysit. Sometimes, even worse, I am the spouse included to make a group look more diverse.

Rarely have I been the spouse accepted and valued simply because my husband is also in this brother/sisterhood and our shared existence, disappointments, or joy makes us sisters.

We, as spouses, are connected in more ways than we allow ourselves to embrace.

 

Our lives ARE intertwined in such a way that regardless of our skin color, we too are in the same sorority.

 

Remember when you wrote in a fellow classmate’s yearbook “keep in touch”? Sadly, too often those words don’t mean much because the relationship was conditional. In high-school it was conditional on being the popular, or smart kid.

And in military spouse life it’s conditional on needing an emergency contact. Spouses of color are far too often left feeling isolated, excluded, and forgotten.

Today many spouses’ organizations are run by civilians, and the ones that are not still have so much work to do in creating a safe space for us to be ourselves, for us to be included in the conversation.

 

There is room for all of us at the table.

 

No spouse should feel as though they have no one to turn to for support during their most vulnerable times.

We ARE a sorority…..but in this sorority we all watch our spouses lace up their boots and deploy, go through pregnancies alone, PCS under excruciating circumstances and try to find connections with people who share in those struggles that look like us.

And in the chance we can’t find that at the very least, we CAN surround ourselves with spouses who are welcoming, don’t make us feel like the “token black spouse friend, and just include us.

 

Editor’s Note:We want to thank Tina for sharing her struggle through her beautiful voice. Her passion for this lifestyle and those who serve alongside her is illustrated through her mentorship and love across 27 years of service. Her posts offer wisdom on saving money, raising children, and embracing this lifestyle. You can read more of Tina’s work on her M:M Author Page.



Author

  • Tina Mcrae

    Tina McRae was born into an Air Force family in Mississippi and primarily raised in Philadelphia PA. At 17 she met her amazing husband Rashan of almost 27 years, who whisked her away into the roller coaster ride of Army life that she loves. During their marriage, they have raised 4 amazing children aged 25, 23, 20 & 19 all born up and down the East Coast. Tina holds a degree in Early Childhood Education and found her calling in life advocating and caretaking for her son who was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3. She also has spent many years teaching spouses by hosting coupon and savings classes and showing families how to stretch our service members paychecks without sacrificing life experiences. (As if Military life isn't enough experience).

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Supporting Our Military Children

Supporting Our Military Children

One thing that has been most important to me, as a military spouse, is figuring out how to best do this life while supporting our children with the changes and difficulties. When my children were very small, there were many times that my husband was away, and I had to parent my children alone.

Mission: Milspouse is a
501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

EIN Number: 88-1604492

Contact:

hello@missionmilspouse.org

P.O. Box 641341
El Paso, TX 79904

 

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