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News > Feature - Everyone has a story: spouse joins Air Force
Everyone has a story: spouse joins Air Force

Posted 11/14/2012   Updated 11/14/2012 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/14/2012 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- Editor's note: This story is part of the 2012 Joint Base Langley-Eustis fall series, highlighting individuals with interesting stories.

Some people joined the Air Force with little-to-no interaction with the military. Others might have been children of service members who had some experience with the military through their parents.

But in some cases, spouses of military members decide to take their silent service to the next level.

Airman 1st Class Michelle Garrett, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management apprentice, came to that conclusion after almost three years as a spouse.

"It's not easy to be a military spouse," said Garrett. "There are a lot of things, as a civilian, I didn't really understand when it came to my husband's job."

As a spouse, Garrett often missed out on her husband's events when they occurred at odd hours and he sometimes had to leave her during gatherings at her office if he was on call. At the time, Garrett didn't understand why he always had to work.

"I would be upset that he couldn't make the change," Garrett said. "But now, I see that it was a sacrifice to miss out on those occasions, not the other way around."

In addition to his absence, Garrett struggled being so far away from her family in Florida while she and her husband were stationed in Hawaii. She said that it requires a lot of strength to be a military spouse.

"If I had to tell myself back then what it would be like to be a spouse, I would let her know she needs to be strong," Garrett said. "I would say she needs to understand how and why she will always move around and make other similar sacrifices."

The life of a spouse isn't one of only sacrifice, however. Garrett found respite knowing that there would always be food on the table for her while she pursued her own goals.

"If I lost my job at the bank, I knew I would still be alright," Garrett said. "After working two jobs and going to college back home, it gave me a real peace of mind."

Unfortunately for Garrett, her educational grants did not follow her to Hawaii, and her husband was not eligible to share his Post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefits yet.

At that point, Garrett decided to join the Air Force.

After living active duty for nearly a year, Garrett has seen the Air Force from both sides of the "I do".

"I like what the Air Force gave me when I enlisted," Garrett said. "Now I understand what really happened while I was a spouse."

Garrett said the role of a spouse is one of support and understanding. The spouse has to understand that there will be hardships when your significant other doesn't work an average "nine-to-five" job. Sometimes, the service member doesn't have a choice on the work schedule and sacrifices are required.

That being said, Garrett spoke about the role of the service member in the relationship. She said it is important for the service member to recognize what the spouse has to go through. The appreciation to the spouse can make all the difference during a hardship.

"Now that I see both sides of the relationship, I hope other people can strengthen their relationship and continue to hold each other up," she said.

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