When I was about eight years old I watched my first United States Marine Corps commercial. I remember it vividly. I was sitting on the floor doing my physical therapy when the TV faded to black. From seemingly nowhere a loud orchestra sounded and then the screen opened to a massive chess board that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. A silver knight perched high and proud on a horse entered the shot proudly. He battled all the other game pieces that were dressed in black. There were also some corny flashes of neon blue lightening, but it was the 80’s so that was to be expected. I will never forget this commercial, because it set an ideal of the perfect man. And that man for me is a Marine. To me, it’s an absolute privilege to be able to call myself an author. It’s an honor to be called a mom. But, the title I work hardest at is the title of Marine Wife.
“What’s it like?” A friend of mine from home asked of being a Marine Wife. “I hear about the serious things on the news all the time, but what are some of the funny things that make it different from other marriages?”
Her question kept me thinking throughout the night. To be a Marine Wife (or military wife in general) it takes an incredible ability to adapt and overcome to all challenges thrown your way. And Christ all mighty, tests are thrown in your direction. It’s a job that’s ever changing and never boring. More often than not I feel as though I’m enlisted in the ranks, too. Pack up your life and move to another country in three months? Sir, no problem, Sir! I’ll get started right after dinner, sir!
But, what the heck are the unique aspects about being a Marine Wife? I’m pretty sure many will agree with that these are tell-tale signs of the life of a Marine Wife …
You know you’re a Military Wife if… your nights consist of buttons, holes and ticks—Oh my! On some nights it’s not uncommon to burn the Irish penance on my husband’s combat boots. On others, I’m either reinforcing the loose buttons on his cammies with thread or patching the holes over his knees torn from training with consertina wire. Double checking his naked body for ticks when he gets home from the field and saying the words (hopefully), “You’re good to go” is also part of the adventure I call, Military Wifedom.
You know you’re a Military Wife if… you mistake thunderstorms for artillery training fire. Not too long ago one of my best friends, Mark flew down from Providence to stay with me at my house near Camp Lejeune. Together, we sat on the deck outside and enjoyed a few glasses of wine. I shared with him the latest page I wrote in my memoir, Dwarf and he shared with me more memories of us in college. When the sky erupted with a loud bang that echoed for miles, I didn’t flinch. But, Mark grabbed his glass and bolted for the sliding glass door. I was certain that it was only artillery training in the distance and argued the point until the sky opened up and rained on my assertion. Too often I just can’t tell the difference. Even when the pictures on my wall become crooked from the percussion, I barely notice the loud roaring overhead.
You know you’re a Military Wife if… you stop referring to your local Harris-Teeter as a “grocery store.” In fact the term grocery store will leave your vocabulary all together! Four months into my marriage I was visiting home and said to my mom, “I need to go to the commissary.” She looked at me funny, not because she didn’t know what it was, but because I had never spoken that lingo before. Hats were also no longer hats. I needed to call them covers. A bed became a rack. A shirt needed to be called a blouse. 72’s and 96’s are only to be used when referring to periods of time off duty and when I needed to use the bathroom on base I had to phrase it like this, “Can I use your head?” And this was only the beginning. Eventually I had to learn to decipher acronyms, too! BAH’s, EAS, BAS, CMC—It’s enough to make you need Advil STAT!
You know you’re a Marine Wife if… During your husband’s yearly Oleoresin Capsicum (or OC Spray) qualification you become subjected to level two contamination. I’ll never forget the night when around 6PM my husband came walking in our front door looking excited and relieved to be home from work. All he could think about was getting in the shower and that night, all I could think about was joining him. When I tip-toed into the bathroom anxious to surprise him there was an odd mist filling the air. It peppered my throat and made my cheeks flush, but I ignored it. When I pushed aside the shower curtain and surprised Eric with a kiss his eyes widened. “No, no babe!” He said loudly. Seconds later my lips burned and my tongue felt swollen. My eyes stung and watered and my nose began to run uncontrollably. Unknown to me, the shower reactivates the OC spray and I had just become contaminated! My frisky plans were flushed down the proverbial toilet. It was that night I also became more familiar with Marine Corps vernacular—OC spray is also called, Devil Piss.
If you can relate to any of these (and there are so many more I want to share) then it’s official, you are a Marine Wife. And you always will be. It doesn’t matter if you’re still currently serving alongside your husband or you’ve been long retired after years of service, the point remains—Once a Marine Wife always a Marine Wife. Semper Fi, ladies.