I'm not in it for the accolades. None of us are. Trust me, the accolades would not even scratch the surface on making it worth it all. We get asked why we do it... In truth I think for all of us is that the price it takes to be with that individual is worth the cost. We're willing to have our significant other leave us for 6 + months at a time with no visit. Some people have tried to compare deployments to business visits. I can assure you that my spouse does not think of it like that. There is no overtime available first of all. Secondly, the hours are not the same. Most of deployment my sweet husband would only be able to sleep 4 hours a day. Sometimes that was long. Business men get hotel rooms, ours - bunks with 3 inch thick mattresses. Even though they are ugly, paintings are on the walls but on the ship all they see is gray. Oh and the food? Plane food is often more edible.
We're willing to be the other woman. The navy is their first wife. When it bids they must go. There is no possibility of saying no, or later. No sick days. Their schedule can change on a whim. It's normal to have to work 36 hours straight. Not once a lifetime but twice a week. It's a military wife's struggle to abstain from telling someone they don't know what they're talking about when they complain about missing their husband after a couple hours.
We learn another language- military acronyms. We know how to sew on patches or send them off to our favorite shop. Having a power of attorney is a normal thing, so is knowing their last wishes. Their favorite beer is always stocked in the fridge- that is when they're home. Phone cards are steadily filled and refilled and we quickly learn how to connect in a 15 minute max phone call. Sometimes only once a week. Other wives teach us their tricks or tips such as numbering emails because they easily get lost somewhere in the transit.
Any commercial, song, video, news report etc that has anything to do with a service member will have us crying. Patriotism has a whole new meaning.
We become the extra shoulder when the day is tough. Willing to never completely understand or know what they have seen overseas but love them in a whole other way. We are willing to never be able to plan anything. Just being with our spouse has to be enough. Theres very little time for vacations. This was something I learned even before we got married. I knew that there wasn't going to be time for a honeymoon. It's still tough though to swallow jealousy when I hear of other people's honeymoons.
We're faced with the reality of the "real world". Do we leave the haven of "free insurance" (trust me we pay for it in other ways), of no layoffs (as long as you continue to make rank, stay fit etc), of commissary's and NEX's and the dysfunctional military family? People telling you both sides. Do it and Don't do it. "I don't know how you can do it" comes into play again but this time not on how we can maintain a household while not knowing where our spouse is, this time its how to completely change our life.
The answer is always the same though: we do it because we have to.