Sisterhood of the Service

Cat_243_dover by Mary Jo

Several weeks ago, I attended a tea held by the officers wives club at Ft. Meade, which occupies a large chunk of territory between Baltimore and Washington.  Kathryn Falk, founder of Romantic Times magazine (now the RT Book club— http://romantictimes.com/ ) is a long-time supporter of the troops, and she told a romance-loving member of the club that she’d be happy to be a guest at a meeting.  Since Kathryn knew that the area is home to a good number of romance writers, she suggested inviting more of us, and An Event was born. 

Though opinions vary dramatically about the war, just about everyone supports the troops and their families, so the event inspired much goodwill.  My publisher, Ballantine, contributed 80 books each for two different Ballantine authors, and other Cupcakes publishers also made book contributions.  Each tea table was presided over by the wife of a senior officer who established a theme and provided refreshments.  The lady in charge of my table could easily go for a second career in catering; she had made half a dozen different treats, including tiny cupcakes with icing flowers on top, heart shaped tarts, and more.  And they tasted even better than they looked.  (The cupcakes on the right aren’t hers, but they give the idea. <g>)

But below the trappings of a first rate party, I also sensed the bonds between these Army_tank women.   Military life is hard, with long deployments, abrupt moves, and its own culture.  I got the sense that these spouses and family survive and flourish because of their mutual support (as well as innate strength.)

But I have little experience of the military. Though I looked up some books on the subject ( http://tinyurl.com/yr4b8h & http://tinyurl.com/2v55ru ), there is no substituteChicken_soup_for_the_military_wifes  for real experience , so I decided to ask an authority on the subject about what it’s like to be a military wife.  Here is a statement from the woman who did a lot of the organizing for our tea: Kimberly A. Lowe, Major, Air Force Reserves: 

Like most college freshmen, I pledged a sorority in the hope of finding life long friends.  I did not realize then that it would be another 15 years before I would join another sisterhood that would provide me with the life long friends that I sought in college.   

After graduation, I moved to Boston as a Lieutenant, then Germany as a Captain.  As a Air_force_jets single officer, I was footloose and fancy free.  Although I could be deployed at any time, I was only responsible for myself, not a family. 

But my sorority sisters’ lives were changing.   Two of my "sisters" married and had children.  I felt abandoned.  But my turn was next.  From Germany, I moved to the Pentagon, met my future husband, and married him at Ft Myers.   Nine months later, I was a mother working midnights shifts in a command post.   I chose my family over my career and never looked back.  I joined the ranks of my sisters as a wife and mother.  But something still set us apart – the career paths of our Navy_destroyer husbands.

My sorority sisters bought houses in manicured neighborhoods; they started second careers; their children attended private schools.  They bought new SUVs as I was shipping my Civic to Amsterdam for my husband’s assignment to NATO (European streets do not accomodate American cars!). 

For the first time in my life, I was entering a new sisterhood alone – the sisterhood of military spouses.  I found common ground with new acquaintances – damaged furniture, deployed husbands, and foreign neighbors.  In fact, I was sad to leave after three years overseas.  I felt a connection with these spouses that I had never felt before, even with my sorority sisters.

I now live on a large post near Baltimore, Maryland – my house is the size of my sorority sisters’ garages.  But I interact with spouses from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and even the Coast Guard.  I use my leadership skills from the Air Force to organize luncheons to improve morale during ongoing deployments. 

More important, I use my personal experience as a military spouse to reach out to Army_tank_2 those in need in these tough times.  Some of my neighbors are Martha Stewart, Suze Ormond, and Cindy Crawford rolled into one.  I am not.  But I am accepted for who I am – a military spouse – and for the unique talents that I can contribute to our military community.  The Secret handshake for our "Sisterhood of the Service" is to be oneself.   And that is the best lesson one could learn in life.   

Kim

I originally thought of this blog as a meditation on sisterhood.  Someday I’ll do more on the subject, including what it was like to ‘follow the drum’ during the Napoleonic Wars, and also the sisterhood of writers. 

Separated_by_duty But for today, I’ll concentrate on our contemporary Sisterhood of the Service.   Thanks so much, Kim.  Being part of a military family has special challenges and special rewards.  As an American citizen, I’m grateful to all of you. 

Mary Jo

20 thoughts on “Sisterhood of the Service”

  1. In one of my previous incarnations, I was a Realtor in SE Connecticut. I worked with many Navy and Coast Guard families. My admiration equals yours, Mary Jo. Kim’s writing was eloquent. Please tell her thanks for all that she and her husband do.

    Reply
  2. In one of my previous incarnations, I was a Realtor in SE Connecticut. I worked with many Navy and Coast Guard families. My admiration equals yours, Mary Jo. Kim’s writing was eloquent. Please tell her thanks for all that she and her husband do.

    Reply
  3. In one of my previous incarnations, I was a Realtor in SE Connecticut. I worked with many Navy and Coast Guard families. My admiration equals yours, Mary Jo. Kim’s writing was eloquent. Please tell her thanks for all that she and her husband do.

    Reply
  4. In one of my previous incarnations, I was a Realtor in SE Connecticut. I worked with many Navy and Coast Guard families. My admiration equals yours, Mary Jo. Kim’s writing was eloquent. Please tell her thanks for all that she and her husband do.

    Reply
  5. I really feel for the spouses of reservists as well as active duty career officers. Many of them do not have that tight network of support from others in the same boat, yet they face the same issues. Being in a military family can be very hard but also extremely good. It’s just difficult to “hold down the fort” alone while the spouse is deployed and then readjust when the spouse comes home.

    Reply
  6. I really feel for the spouses of reservists as well as active duty career officers. Many of them do not have that tight network of support from others in the same boat, yet they face the same issues. Being in a military family can be very hard but also extremely good. It’s just difficult to “hold down the fort” alone while the spouse is deployed and then readjust when the spouse comes home.

    Reply
  7. I really feel for the spouses of reservists as well as active duty career officers. Many of them do not have that tight network of support from others in the same boat, yet they face the same issues. Being in a military family can be very hard but also extremely good. It’s just difficult to “hold down the fort” alone while the spouse is deployed and then readjust when the spouse comes home.

    Reply
  8. I really feel for the spouses of reservists as well as active duty career officers. Many of them do not have that tight network of support from others in the same boat, yet they face the same issues. Being in a military family can be very hard but also extremely good. It’s just difficult to “hold down the fort” alone while the spouse is deployed and then readjust when the spouse comes home.

    Reply
  9. This post made me ponder the roads not taken. One of my older brothers is a retired Lt. Col., a graduate of the West Point Class of ’80, the first one to include women cadets. He entered the Academy the same year I started kindergarten, and he was my idol, so all I could talk about was going to West Point when I grew up, just like him. As I grew up my goals and interests shifted, and I ended up choosing a very different collegiate experience. While I was an undergrad at Penn, he was a math instructor at West Point, and I’d catch the train up the Hudson to visit him and his wife when I wanted a weekend away from the city.
    Weekends at West Point were always fun because in such an overwhelmingly male environment all you had to do was show up to get all kinds of flirtation and flattery. But I always held myself a little aloof, because I was afraid of falling in love with one of those handsome boys in gray. I didn’t want to be an officer’s wife, you see, because it seemed to me that it was so hard to pursue your own career and interests when your husband belonged to the army and had to move around at their command.
    Anyway, I feel like that with a few different choices along the way, I might well have followed in Jim’s footsteps and gone to West Point, or met a cadet while visiting there who would’ve overwhelmed all my defenses, as it were. On the whole, I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not really good with chains of command, and I tend to reflexively question and even distrust authority. I suppose if I’d entered West Point at 18 or married a newly minted lieutenant at 21 or 22, my life would’ve taken on a different shape and those aspects of my personality would’ve been suppressed instead of encouraged. And I do have all kinds of admiration and respect for the courage and patience of the men and women who’ve chosen that route.
    Anyway. I think the fact that I come from a family with something of an army tradition has driven my interest in the military side of the Regency. I like writing about the Napoleonic Wars because I can write about soldiers and their lives without getting into the kind of thorny present-day political issues that occasionally lead to shouting matches at my family reunions. (My mother has taken to greeting her four children–two Democrats, two Republicans, all outspoken and opinionated–at the door with “no politics!”)

    Reply
  10. This post made me ponder the roads not taken. One of my older brothers is a retired Lt. Col., a graduate of the West Point Class of ’80, the first one to include women cadets. He entered the Academy the same year I started kindergarten, and he was my idol, so all I could talk about was going to West Point when I grew up, just like him. As I grew up my goals and interests shifted, and I ended up choosing a very different collegiate experience. While I was an undergrad at Penn, he was a math instructor at West Point, and I’d catch the train up the Hudson to visit him and his wife when I wanted a weekend away from the city.
    Weekends at West Point were always fun because in such an overwhelmingly male environment all you had to do was show up to get all kinds of flirtation and flattery. But I always held myself a little aloof, because I was afraid of falling in love with one of those handsome boys in gray. I didn’t want to be an officer’s wife, you see, because it seemed to me that it was so hard to pursue your own career and interests when your husband belonged to the army and had to move around at their command.
    Anyway, I feel like that with a few different choices along the way, I might well have followed in Jim’s footsteps and gone to West Point, or met a cadet while visiting there who would’ve overwhelmed all my defenses, as it were. On the whole, I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not really good with chains of command, and I tend to reflexively question and even distrust authority. I suppose if I’d entered West Point at 18 or married a newly minted lieutenant at 21 or 22, my life would’ve taken on a different shape and those aspects of my personality would’ve been suppressed instead of encouraged. And I do have all kinds of admiration and respect for the courage and patience of the men and women who’ve chosen that route.
    Anyway. I think the fact that I come from a family with something of an army tradition has driven my interest in the military side of the Regency. I like writing about the Napoleonic Wars because I can write about soldiers and their lives without getting into the kind of thorny present-day political issues that occasionally lead to shouting matches at my family reunions. (My mother has taken to greeting her four children–two Democrats, two Republicans, all outspoken and opinionated–at the door with “no politics!”)

    Reply
  11. This post made me ponder the roads not taken. One of my older brothers is a retired Lt. Col., a graduate of the West Point Class of ’80, the first one to include women cadets. He entered the Academy the same year I started kindergarten, and he was my idol, so all I could talk about was going to West Point when I grew up, just like him. As I grew up my goals and interests shifted, and I ended up choosing a very different collegiate experience. While I was an undergrad at Penn, he was a math instructor at West Point, and I’d catch the train up the Hudson to visit him and his wife when I wanted a weekend away from the city.
    Weekends at West Point were always fun because in such an overwhelmingly male environment all you had to do was show up to get all kinds of flirtation and flattery. But I always held myself a little aloof, because I was afraid of falling in love with one of those handsome boys in gray. I didn’t want to be an officer’s wife, you see, because it seemed to me that it was so hard to pursue your own career and interests when your husband belonged to the army and had to move around at their command.
    Anyway, I feel like that with a few different choices along the way, I might well have followed in Jim’s footsteps and gone to West Point, or met a cadet while visiting there who would’ve overwhelmed all my defenses, as it were. On the whole, I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not really good with chains of command, and I tend to reflexively question and even distrust authority. I suppose if I’d entered West Point at 18 or married a newly minted lieutenant at 21 or 22, my life would’ve taken on a different shape and those aspects of my personality would’ve been suppressed instead of encouraged. And I do have all kinds of admiration and respect for the courage and patience of the men and women who’ve chosen that route.
    Anyway. I think the fact that I come from a family with something of an army tradition has driven my interest in the military side of the Regency. I like writing about the Napoleonic Wars because I can write about soldiers and their lives without getting into the kind of thorny present-day political issues that occasionally lead to shouting matches at my family reunions. (My mother has taken to greeting her four children–two Democrats, two Republicans, all outspoken and opinionated–at the door with “no politics!”)

    Reply
  12. This post made me ponder the roads not taken. One of my older brothers is a retired Lt. Col., a graduate of the West Point Class of ’80, the first one to include women cadets. He entered the Academy the same year I started kindergarten, and he was my idol, so all I could talk about was going to West Point when I grew up, just like him. As I grew up my goals and interests shifted, and I ended up choosing a very different collegiate experience. While I was an undergrad at Penn, he was a math instructor at West Point, and I’d catch the train up the Hudson to visit him and his wife when I wanted a weekend away from the city.
    Weekends at West Point were always fun because in such an overwhelmingly male environment all you had to do was show up to get all kinds of flirtation and flattery. But I always held myself a little aloof, because I was afraid of falling in love with one of those handsome boys in gray. I didn’t want to be an officer’s wife, you see, because it seemed to me that it was so hard to pursue your own career and interests when your husband belonged to the army and had to move around at their command.
    Anyway, I feel like that with a few different choices along the way, I might well have followed in Jim’s footsteps and gone to West Point, or met a cadet while visiting there who would’ve overwhelmed all my defenses, as it were. On the whole, I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not really good with chains of command, and I tend to reflexively question and even distrust authority. I suppose if I’d entered West Point at 18 or married a newly minted lieutenant at 21 or 22, my life would’ve taken on a different shape and those aspects of my personality would’ve been suppressed instead of encouraged. And I do have all kinds of admiration and respect for the courage and patience of the men and women who’ve chosen that route.
    Anyway. I think the fact that I come from a family with something of an army tradition has driven my interest in the military side of the Regency. I like writing about the Napoleonic Wars because I can write about soldiers and their lives without getting into the kind of thorny present-day political issues that occasionally lead to shouting matches at my family reunions. (My mother has taken to greeting her four children–two Democrats, two Republicans, all outspoken and opinionated–at the door with “no politics!”)

    Reply
  13. Thank you Mary Jo, for the lovely post, and to Kim for her words and for her service. Our extended family will come to know what it is like to have a loved one stationed abroad very soon because my brother Matt is being sent to Djibouti on active duty with the Navy in May. I have such admiration for those who choose the military life with all its hardships. Those who serve our country are always in my prayers.

    Reply
  14. Thank you Mary Jo, for the lovely post, and to Kim for her words and for her service. Our extended family will come to know what it is like to have a loved one stationed abroad very soon because my brother Matt is being sent to Djibouti on active duty with the Navy in May. I have such admiration for those who choose the military life with all its hardships. Those who serve our country are always in my prayers.

    Reply
  15. Thank you Mary Jo, for the lovely post, and to Kim for her words and for her service. Our extended family will come to know what it is like to have a loved one stationed abroad very soon because my brother Matt is being sent to Djibouti on active duty with the Navy in May. I have such admiration for those who choose the military life with all its hardships. Those who serve our country are always in my prayers.

    Reply
  16. Thank you Mary Jo, for the lovely post, and to Kim for her words and for her service. Our extended family will come to know what it is like to have a loved one stationed abroad very soon because my brother Matt is being sent to Djibouti on active duty with the Navy in May. I have such admiration for those who choose the military life with all its hardships. Those who serve our country are always in my prayers.

    Reply

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