Saver to Serve

Thursday, October 1, 2015 by Sunshyne Baumgardner

While married to the Marine Corps, I really did not believe it would be that difficult to leave the military and venture out into the civilian world. I had worked in the civilian world many years before I met my husband. I really didn’t think it would be that much of a transition back into the world I had lived in many years before becoming a Marine Corps wife. I really didn’t believe, at that point, that they were two different worlds. I was wrong.

     Prior to meeting my husband, I was 100% liberal. I knew nothing about the military whatsoever. I believed that our government spent too much money on the military and they got all this stuff for free while the rest of us had to work for it. I thought the only people who joined the military were not smart enough or didn’t have enough money to go to college. And do you believe, I thought I was a really smart and kind person saving the world because I was a social worker with a graduate degree and license? Thank God I’ve grown up a bit since that time!

     While my new husband was deployed, I started to embrace my new surroundings. First, I started by meeting other military wives. The women I met were from all over the world and had very different backgrounds from myself but they all loved their husbands. It wasn’t a big deal for them to move every couple of years and adjust back and forth from completely independent and running the show with their households and children to having their husbands back and readjusting. They were planners yet were able to go with the flow of constantly changing plans. There was a lot to admire about these women. I thought I was a strong independent woman. Once I met these women, I learned quickly that I had a lot to learn if I was going to be a successful military wife. Hearing some of these women’s stories, I was blown away with what they were able to handle and come out successful. My life at that point had been a cake walk comparably. I was humbled. 

     I was used to being in control of my own life. I had the illusion that I was in control. The military started to be the one in control, hence the married to the military saying. They first started with moving my husband’s deployment up 6 months so our plans to get married when and how we wanted were completely canceled. 

     Then they took their sweet time getting my paperwork signed off so I could start a job I was hired to do on Base. It took 3 months for everything to get signed. I called pretty much every week to check on the status, thinking that may influence things to move faster. It didn’t. 

     Then I was moved into a house, not of my choosing nor on my timing. Then I was moved again to another part of base because they decided to knock down my current house. I asked if they could wait the 3 weeks until my husband got home from deployment. They said, No. Not my choice, not my timing. 

     Living on base was yet another adjustment. I was used to coming and going to my own house whenever I wanted including having people over whenever I wanted. Living on base is a little bit different. First you have to go through a gate and have to present your military ID each and every time. You can also be stopped and have your car searched whenever the military decides they are going to up the security. They don’t care if your going to be late for something. Also, if you have a friend that isn’t military and they want to come visit, they can’t just come over. You have to meet them at the visitation center and stand in line to get them a pass on base.  Again, your life is not quite your own.  To add to the differentness of living on a military base, there is the constant sound of helicopters and artillery being fired. Oh, and they don’t ask your permission when doing a military exercise to see if the sounds will bother your sleeping baby or scare the pants off of your mother who is visiting. My poor mother thought we were being invaded when artillery started being fired making our house shake. I had lived on base a few years at that point so I didn’t even notice. It was quite funny for me, not so much for her. It also was not uncommon for us to randomly see a man running around the neighborhood in his uniform for the day and a gas mask on, training.


Transition to Civilian Life

 For those who have been military and have lived on a military base, none of this sounds abnormal. Come to find out, these are not “normal” things that occur in the civilian world. When you talk about these things, civilians WILL look at you like you just turned into Medusa and have snakes coming out of your hair. 

     Civilians don’t even know about half of the things that occur everyday for a military family. They don’t understand not seeing your spouse for a year. They don’t understand the control the military has over your life. They don’t understand that you no longer make a lot of decisions for yourself. They are made for you. They don’t understand about not being able to choose your own healthcare provider. They don’t understand not being able to pick out your own home or which State or Country you will live in. They don’t understand how you rely on your husband and God and that is it because family is never close. They complain about their husband leaving for a few days. They complain that their mother couldn’t babysit for the weekend. Most do not know what it is like to sacrifice for their Country and most never will. 

     What is the point of all this you ask? Given all of these differences in lifestyle, it can be extremely difficult to make friends in the civilian world once you have been a military family. My personal experience has been that civilians with no interaction with the military, just can’t understand. While having lunch with a friend and explaining some of our experiences, she asked about the pay and benefits of the military. I explained. She then commented, “That doesn’t seem like a good deal to me. Why would anyone want to join the military?” At that moment I knew. I knew that she would never get it and never care to try to get it. It made me really sad and a bit hopeless regarding making friends in this non-military area. 

After several failed and frustrating experiences with civilians over the last almost 3 years, I have come to a conclusion. Not everyone is chosen to serve in the military, be a military spouse or military family. God chose us for a reason. He gave my husband and I the heart to live for something outside of ourselves. He gave us the heart to sacrifice the autonomy and comforts of the civilian world to serve so others won’t have to. He did not give everyone the same heart. Just like when you follow Jesus, most of the world will not understand you and may even hate you. 

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

John 15:19

Being a veteran family in a civilian world is very similar to what you experience as a follower of Christ. People hate what they don’t understand. You can’t make anyone want to experience something or try to understand something they have no interest in, especially when it has seemingly no impact on their life. That is okay. You and I know that we’ve been chosen and set apart on a mission to not only serve God but also our Country. 

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