This weekend our nation will celebrate Mother’s Day. It is a special day and I look forward to reinforcing with my mother how special and important she is in my life.
However, this year, another day on which I am focused is Military Spouse Day, which falls on the Friday before Mother’s Day and has since 1984. I am focused on that day because I am currently deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division in northern Iraq while my wife is at home in Georgia with our children.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey recently told Soldiers in Afghanistan, “We have an Army where ordinary folks repeatedly do extraordinary things.” He could just as easily have said that to a group of Army spouses and been talking about what they do every day.
Military spouses often have to do the work normally done by two, especially as our nation fights overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. They do so extraordinarily capably and without complaint.
If people were to rely on the stories that prevail in the news, they would be concerned about the strength of many military marriages. While a Pentagon report last fall indicated military divorce rates rose slightly for the second year in a row – and this is a concern, it is only part of the story. The other and less often told part is about the strength of military marriages, the couples who persevere and come out of a deployment with a stronger marriage.
My marriage grows stronger every day while I am deployed. We’ve gone through some very tough times on this deployment – an emergency appendectomy, potential hearing loss for our young son, three family member deaths and cancer diagnoses in two others – yet we have grown closer through our emphasis on communication, both in talking and, often more importantly, listening. I credit this to the strength of my wife.
I work long hours and have a singular focus on doing my job here. She is at home taking care of our children, running our household, sending me care packages and teaching 13 pre-schoolers. That might not sound difficult to some, but it is exactly what makes her special. Her strength, resilience, individuality and love enable me to effectively do my job here, halfway around the world, while she does hers – and mine – at home.
Her military life began when we moved to Fort Campbell, Ky., from Washington, D.C., facing the certain prospect of deployment to Iraq. She could have said “no” but she didn’t. She said “yes” to serving her country by marrying a soldier, knowing it meant I would be gone a lot. She serves the country by enabling me to serve. She knows when I return from this second deployment there may be more in the years ahead, yet she willingly looks forward to our future. She, like so many other spouses, is proud of what she does and is proud to be a member of the U.S. military.
One of the top reasons our armed forces are in good hands is military spouses. “Thank you” to my wife, I honor you on Military Spouse Day. “Thank you” to the many spouses serving today and to those who have served in years past. The work military spouses do for soldiers does not go unrecognized and is appreciated. Every day we grow stronger because of you.
Clarke now makes his home in Richmond Hill