Since Doctor Helen got me thinking about all the soldiers who end up divorced paying child support for kids they never see and alimony for a dang long time, I thought I should tell the other side of the story about successful marriages.
Being married to a Soldier is no picnic. A military spouse has to be able to be a single parent on demand. A military spouse must know how to live within a budget. A military spouse must be able to "figure it out" when a pipe breaks in winter, or the AC goes out in summer, all the while living with the fear that any given morning two Soldiers in dress uniform might knock on your door to express the regrets of the Secretary of Defense for the death of your spouse.
I thought I was a smart guy so I had a pretty short list when it came to the type of woman I wanted to marry. She had to be able to stand on her own two feet. Because often I wouldn't be there to lean on. She had to be stubborn. People fall out of love, they don't fall out of stubborn.
I found that woman, and there have been plenty of times when she had to stand on her own. And there were a couple of times that only mule headed stubbornness on both our parts kept us married. Now some readers are thinking, "where in the world will you find an independent stubborn woman who is also dumb enough to marry you?" and if the answer to that was easy then fewer military marriages would end in divorce.
So, if you happen to be looking for a spouse here is where I think is a great place to start looking. Small town girls. If she knows how to bait her own hook, clean a fish, and grow a garden you are doing good. Secondly girls from military families. They usually know the score, know that it is tough keeping things together and have some grit.
Now, the girls you want to avoid. Strippers. I'm sure there are plenty of them out there with a heart of gold, but in my experience it doesn't end well for Soldiers. College girls. Sure they are young, pretty, and smart but they also haven't had the chance to try out their wings by themselves. Girls right out of high school, anyone who hasn't had a bit of living under their belt to let them have confidence in their own abilities. You want to marry someone who doesn't need you, who is choosing to link her life with yours in spite of not needing you. A woman who can walk into marriage knowing that she can hold up under the strain of not having you there.
There are women that impress me greatly. Full bird Colonel's wives who remember where they came from and helped out that new Army bride as best they could. A Light Colonel's wife who rode with me all over the base to check on spouses when her husband hadn't been able to get in touch for a few days. A First Sergeant's wife who turned a company FRG around like magic. My wife, who in two years with the unit kept three different FRG programs limping along as we were shifted around the battalion to fill gaps in the line.
Up until last year I had never failed a PT test in my career. But I picked up a lung infection that was bad enough for my wife to put her foot down and take me into the ER while I was on leave. It wasn't even five weeks later that I failed the run during the "diagnostic" test at the beginning of my current school. I just couldn't breathe during the run, it felt like wet cement was packed into my chest. School policy is that if you fail the "diagnostic" you get dropped from the course but the cadre made a mistake and did the final cut by year group before hand. This really is just back story to tell you that I didn't bring my wife with me to this school.
My orders authorized my family to come, but my wife was seven months pregnant at the time and I chose to leave her back at Lewis in order to maintain continuity of care for the last two months of the pregnancy. My wife has been superwoman, taking care of a toddler on her own in the last trimester, and now being a single mom of a newborn infant and two year old.
So there I was, rooming with a buddy, trying to get over a lung infection, praying to God that I wouldn't be dropped, praying to God my wife would have a healthy and safe birth. I got to go home for Christmas, and that time passed too quickly. The day after I returned to Fort Benning my second son was born. He will be almost two months old before I meet him in person. Then I got orders assigning me to a unit that is currently in Afghanistan. I will graduate this school and be hanging out on the Pakistan border shortly after.
Next month my wife will pack up the kids in the truck and come out to spend a few short weeks with me. If I knew that the pregnancy would go off with no complications I would have brought my family here (our first son had a complicated birth). But now we will get to spend a few weeks together before an eight month separation. As you can see, there is a LOT of uncertainty being married to a career soldier. This isn't the Air Force with three month deployments, or the Navy with regularly scheduled sea service. Even the Marine's have a shorter rotation cycle through combat zones (but they also go to sea with the Navy).
I know my wife can handle it. And in the end, when a Soldier finds that woman he can rely on utterly it will be a successful marriage.