Living sacrifices: Reflections of a military spouse
The first time I spent the 4th of July outside the United States was in 1991. I was on a mission trip to Ukraine for the entire summer. In 1991, Ukraine was going through political upheaval; they declared their independence from the Soviet Union in August of that year. A crisis of belief cast a shadow on my new Ukrainian friends. They were realizing their government had lied to them and they did not know who to trust, or even how to trust. I remember pulling out an American dollar bill that day, and feeling unprepared for the flood of patriotic gratitude that welled up in me at the mere sight of a dollar. I realized I had been taking for granted the freedom we experience in this country.
Today, I have 22 years of life as a military spouse behind me, as well as two more 4th of Julys and a few years of life outside the United States. I value the freedom in this country even more. I know that this freedom I experience is not actually free. It was paid for by the men and women who have served in the military. We rightly think immediately of those who paid the ultimate price of their lives, but countless others continue to contribute to that freedom by living the military life. They sacrifice personal safety and comfort as well as time away from family due to deployments. Their lives are divided into 2-4 year chunks of time as they move from duty station to duty station, often with little autonomy in the decision of each location. The military life can be exciting, fulfilling, and full of strong bonds, but it is also life of service over self. Service members and their families are living sacrifices in support of protecting the freedoms we often take for granted.
All of this service over self can take a toll on mental health and relationships over time.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result from wartime experiences and impacts not only the person who experiences PTSD but loved ones as well.
Veterans with PTSD often experience problems with relationships, parenting, and family functioning in addition to experiencing the immediate symptoms of PTSD.
Suicide rates are high among veterans.
The rollercoaster of emotions that accompanies deployments also creates strain on each member of the military family, emotionally, logistically, and even financially.
The military offers support systems for the spouses on the home front during deployments, but it can be difficult to manage the stresses of solo-parenting without extended family or long-term friends nearby.
Relational issues and sometimes mere sharing of daily hardships can get put on hold during deployments, causing them to build up over time.
Some partners cope with sexual abstinence due to extended absence by flipping a switch to turn off their sexual drive. This switch can be difficult to switch back on once the couple is reunited – and difficult to talk about.
The way service over self trickles down to family members can leave spouses struggling with identity and autonomy issues, lack of support systems, and limited employment opportunities.
Of course there are other career fields and life situations that carry unique mental health impacts, too, but on the 4th of July, it seems important to take a minute to consider what our freedom is costing those in US military.
I am forever grateful to our Founding Fathers for their willingness to fight that initial fight and take a stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But I am also very aware that the fireworks displays we will watch this weekend will trigger PTSD reactions for many who have seen the front lines in a personal way. I am honored to celebrate the living sacrifices, past and present, that made the foundation of freedom possible for our country.
If you are a military spouse, I understand. If sometimes it gets to be overwhelming, I can help. Contact me at email@example.com or call 717-200-3158 and leave me a message. For more information about me, check out my page on the Sanctuary website.
Romans 12: 1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
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