Written By: Christina Etchberger, Founder of It’s a Military Life
A year and counting at www.itsamilitarylife.com – a milso and vet network community
Be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud.Maya Angelou
It’s a Military Life began as a simple blog to share my thoughts and feelings as a military spouse in an ever-changing military world. My life turned upside down when I married the military. Yes, the military. I happily married my best friend, but I didn’t really understand at the time that the Army is so much more than a job. It is a way of life.
We moved across the country, far from family and friends. It was the first time I ever lived in a different state. I definitely “signed up for it” – a common phrase said to military spouses – but I sure wish we had a handbook and maybe even a course prior to such a big lifestyle commitment. I wouldn’t change a thing, but I was definitely shell-shocked, pun intended when my life was not as predictable as before.
As a newly married couple, navigating the first year of marriage, in addition to the military life, I for sure felt overwhelmed. At the time, I googled the local area to find things to do and relied on my husband to share information about the ins and outs of being a part of a military community. We had no trouble finding the best restaurants in town, made great friends at our new apartment, but I still felt so lost. I understood mostly about what my new life involved, besides my place in the military community.
Back home, I had a very amazing job as a teacher, a wonderful group of friends, and family close by. Everything was predictable and familiar. Now, I felt like I had to start from scratch in so many ways, including my identity.
I went from independent to dependent. Say what? Dependent is a term used in the military to identify members of your family. Wife. Dependent. Child. Dependent. The word did not sit well with me. I know the military did not mean anything by it, but this just did not make me feel very good about myself – a once very independent woman living a very independent life.
I chose not to take this new title to heart, and found joy in a new teaching position, and even auditioned for a musical in town. The musical was completely out of my comfort zone. The last musical I was in was middle school. Why not dive into the unknown and have some fun? This was only the beginning of my journey that led me to learn more about my potential as an individual. I decided to make the best of this new life and embraced the new community and lifestyle.
My husband and I went to events on base, explored neighboring cities, and made our new house a home. We welcomed our first child later the following year, and doors opened up tremendously for us as a family. I got involved with Army Community Services, whose mission is to provide services and programs to assist civilians, soldiers, and family members as they work through the ups and downs of the military life. This meant infant massage, scheduled playgroups, which led to meeting new friends. I loved the opportunities to interact with other new moms, but also to help find a place in the military community. I started to volunteer more, and interact more as a military spouse. I started to understand how I could use this role to better myself and others around me.
The first deployment came once my first born was just about five months old. It was definitely tough. Not having your husband around during that time in your child’s life is difficult, but we wrote letters back and forth and Face-timed often. At the time, we were fortunate enough to travel many times to visit family. Coming back from those trips was definitely hard, but instead of feeling sorry for myself, which is so easy to do, I got out of the house and met some amazing military spouses who became not only my friends but family.
We were not ‘dependas’ but strong women who knew how to depend on each other, as well as become an incredible support system. I later learned this what not the mindset of all military spouses, and even the public’s view of us as a whole. This inspired me to help change the way our community felt about ourselves and how others viewed us, too. I knew there were others out there that felt the same way.
I Found My Voice
The blog began as the world seemed to be in the midst of chaos on so many levels. My husband just deployed, and I was again holding down the fort. Now, with two children during such uncertain times.
It was June, and I decided something significant – at least for me. I chose to treat this deployment as a time for me to grow and become that person for someone else. A person who makes things happen for my family and those around me. I was now the change agent. I had recently attended a USO event – Discovering Your Spark with military spouse Brittany Boccher. She said something to all of us attending that changed my life.
What is your why?
We reflected on our purpose as individuals and active members of the military community. I understood now I could be both a military spouse while keeping my identity as a person outside the military. All I had to do was know my setting may change, but I am the author of my own story.
I had now found my voice.
Another major turning point for me was when I was scrolling through social media, and stumbled upon a post. There was a military spouse who took a selfie that truly broke my heart. She mentioned how lonely she was and how all she could do was hold her husband’s sweatshirt tight and count down the days until he returned. I closed out the app and put down my phone.
Time to make some changes – for that woman and all the other military spouses and significant others out there that are constantly waiting for life to happen. Life is happening, we just need to go live it!
Be the lead in your own story.
You have every right to live a happy and meaningful life, even if you are experiencing a deployment. I have definitely been there – twice. It is tough. During the first deployment, I definitely felt lonely at times, away from my family and alone with my infant. Once I left the social media groups that had more negative posts about the military life and made an effort to follow people and platforms that lifted up the military spouse and family community. What a difference that made! I joined local military spouse groups that led me to three amazingly strong military spouse friends that led to more friendships and memories I will never forget. I never turned back to the days of counting down and longing for the life I once knew.
The blog gave me a voice, then it became a voice for others. Numerous military spouses have been featured, countless communities have been highlighted, and now it is a lifestyle blog turned hub for a diverse community of people experiencing the military life. A hub that is not only for military spouses, but significant others, family members, military kids, teens, and veterans.
Read all the amazing stories and dive into all the incredible resources at http://www.itsamilitarylife.com
Join our communities on Facebook and Instagram! Learn more about the different aspects of IML below. I hope you choose to be the lead in your own story. I did. It changed my life. You can change yours, which will then change the world around you.
It’s A Military Life is a military spouse and veterans network advancing resiliency, community involvement, and forging meaningful relationships.
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