Steven A. Arrington

In May 2001, Colonel Steven A. Arrington (USAF Retired) was apparently the Vice Commander of the 17th Training Wing at Goodfellow A.F.B., San Angelo, Texas.

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THE DIFFERENCE
Reproduced from the Goodfellow Monitor, May 11, 2001

Over the years, I’ve talked a lot about military spouses… how special they are and the price they pay for freedom too. The funny thing about it is most military spouses don’t consider themselves different from other spouses. They do what they have to do, bind together not by blood or merely friendship, but with a shared spirit whose origin is in the very essence of what love truly is. Is there truly a difference? I think there is. You have to decide for yourself.

Other spouses get married and look forward to building equity in a home and putting down family roots. Military spouses get married and know they’ll live in base housing or rent, and their roots must be short so they can be transplanted frequently.

Other spouses decorate a home with flair and personality that will last a lifetime. Military spouses decorate a home with flare tempered with the knowledge that no two base houses have the same size windows or same size rooms. Curtains have to be flexible and multiple sets are a plus. Furniture must fit like puzzle pieces. Other spouses have living rooms that are immaculate and seldom used. Military spouses have immaculate living room/dining room combos. The coffee table got a scratch or two moving from Germany, but it still looks pretty good.

Other spouses say good-bye to their spouse for a business trip and know they won’t see them for a week. They are lonely, but can survive. Military spouses say good-bye to their deploying spouse and know they won’t see them for months, or for a remote, a year. They are lonely, but will survive.

Other spouses, when a washer hose blows off, call Maytag and then write a check out for getting the hose reconnected. Military spouses will cut the water off and fix it themselves. Other spouses get used to saying “hello” to friends they see all the time. Military spouses get used to saying “good-bye” to friends made the last two years.

Other spouses worry about whether their child will be class president next year. Military spouses worry about whether their child will be accepted in yet another new school next year and whether that school will be the worst in the city… again.

Other spouses can count on spouse participation in special events… birthdays, anniversaries, concerts, football games, graduation, and even the birth of a child. Military spouses count on each other: duty comes first; it can be no other way. (Some of us learn this the hard way.)

Other spouses put up yellow ribbons when the troops are imperiled across the globe and take them down when the troops come home. Military spouses wear yellow ribbons around their hearts and they never go away.

Other spouses worry about being late for mom’s Christmas dinner. Military spouses worry about getting back from Japan in time for dad’s funeral.

And other spouses are touched by the television program showing an elderly lady putting a card down in front of a long, black wall that Have names on it. The card simply says “Happy Birthday, Sweetheart. You would have been sixty today.” A military spouse is the lady with the card. And the wall is the Vietnam Memorial.

I would never say military spouses are better or worse than other spouses are. But I will say there is a difference. And I will say that our country asks more of military spouses than is asked of other spouses. And I will say, without hesitation, that military spouses pay just as high a price for freedom as do their active duty husbands or wives. Perhaps the price they pay is even higher. Dying in service to our country isn’t near as hard as loving someone who has died in service to our country, and having to live without them. Military spouses deserve America’s gratitude for all they freely give. And if you know one, let them know how much you appreciate their sacrifices.