Mil­i­tary spouses are Canada’s real heroes

They raise fam­i­lies, han­dle bud­gets, and heal us, Gor­don Forbes writes.

Ottawa Citizen - - OPINION - Gor­don Forbes is a re­tired of­fi­cer in the Royal Cana­dian Navy. He has been mar­ried 51 years to a wife who sup­ported him through his ca­reer (in­clud­ing the afore­men­tioned snowfall).

They could be all around you. They may live on your street or in your neigh­bour­hood. There are two on our street and two more who were once part of the group. You may run into them in the gro­cery store or the gym. Who are these strange crea­tures?

They are mil­i­tary spouses, of ei­ther gen­der. They are the real hero­ines and heroes be­hind so many of our mil­i­tary per­son­nel and veter­ans. In this pe­riod of re­mem­brance, they, too, must be re­mem­bered and hon­oured.

We saw, of course, the Silver Cross Mother at this year’s Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­monies, as we do ev­ery year, rep­re­sent­ing moth­ers who have lost chil­dren to war. But we never see a Silver Cross Wife. Most peo­ple have no idea what it is like to lose a spouse in their young years, of­ten with a fam­ily to raise and hav­ing to ex­plain why mom or dad is not com­ing home.

But the real story is with the day-by-day and year-byyear ex­pe­ri­ences of these spouses who see a ser­vice mem­ber through an en­tire mil­i­tary ca­reer. They start the life with op­ti­mism and en­thu­si­asm. Un­like the mil­i­tary mem­ber, there is no ba­sic train­ing for the spouses in their new life. They are not told how to with­stand the long ab­sences. They are not told how to re­act when they hear of death or dis­as­ter; how to tell the chil­dren why a par­ent can’t be there for their school grad­u­a­tion; how to un­der­stand what of­ten sound like inane or stupid or­ders from their spouse’s se­nior of­fi­cer; how to give birth with­out their spouse present; how to sup­port other mil­i­tary spouses when they need help; how to up­root their homes ev­ery cou­ple of years be­cause their spouse has just re­ceived a new post­ing. And they don’t tell you that you will have to do this year af­ter year for as long as your spouse chooses to stay in a mil­i­tary ca­reer.

The re­ally amaz­ing thing is that so many mil­i­tary spouses deal with all that and more. They run the house­hold. They cook the meals. They man­age the bud­get. They pay the bills and do the shop­ping. They get the kids off to school ev­ery morn­ing and to bed ev­ery night. They don’t com­plain (much) when the big­gest snowfall of the year ar­rives two days af­ter their soldier or sailor has de­ployed for the win­ter or for a year.

They get ev­ery­thing ready for the next move, then un­pack ev­ery­thing at the other end. They at­tend the par­ent-teacher in­ter­views. They keep the small, daily dis­as­ters a se­cret from their serv­ing spouse when that per­son is away. They know ex­actly what to do when the fur­nace breaks down.

They do this all by them­selves be­cause you, the serv­ing mem­ber, are busy fight­ing ter­ror­ists or pi­rates or help­ing out in a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter; be­cause you are do­ing your job.

And for some of them, the day comes when they have to tend to your dam­aged body or mind, or they have to ar­range to have you buried. They de­serve our praise be­cause they al­low our sol­diers, sailors and air­men to pro­tect our coun­try.

So when you shake the hand of a per­son in mil­i­tary uni­form, give their spouse a big hug too. Here’s to Mary and Barb, Lynne and Verna and Pat and Mon­ica and Bev and Mar­lene and Alice and Sue and De­nee and John. God bless them all, and so many more.


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