Deployments, moving, nights in the field, hardship tours – there are lots of reasons to hate the Army. No one promised that Army life would be easy, in fact, everyone said it would be hard. But if it were all bad, if there were no perks, so many of us wouldn't have opted to stay in for 'life' – if by 'life' we mean about 20 years.
In fact, for some of us now nearing that magical 20-year mark, a future spent as something other than an Army spouse is actually kind of scary.
10. It’s easy to find your underwear
Stay with me. You know the really pretty Victoria's Secret thong you spent $17 on just to wear to meet him when he got home from Afghanistan (and you've worn for all the 'good' date nights since)? Yeah, that one. It's on his shoulder, stuck to the velcro on his ACUs, probably as he gets called in to a very serious meeting with his CO.
Same goes for you, male spouses. Your Frederick's of Hollywood elephant trunk thongs will get stuck, too – ugh. Never mind. Let's all try to get that image out of our heads…
Bottom line (pun intended): Every delicate unmentionable you will own as an Army spouse will get stuck to and shredded by the velcro – and mentioned by all the other soldiers – if you wash your clothes with your soldier's. Honestly, just be glad it was the sexy ones. It could have been the granny panties you save to wear during deployments.
'Cause without them you 'would-be' cold. Take a look at your couch. There's no lovely chenille throw and no handmade quilt spread across the end. Oh no, you're an Army spouse. That means you have a green camouflage poncho liner, better known as a "woobie", adorning your relaxing space.
No one is quite sure where woobies come from, they just appear, and then they multiply – like Bebe's kids, or maybe gremlins. Pretty soon you realize that there's one on each of your kids' beds, at the foot of your own bed and even in the dog's bed. But there's no better blanket for sneaking in an afternoon nap and, should you dare to argue that the woobie is inferior in any way, your soldier will set you straight.
8. Eye candy
(U.S. Army Europe photo by Spc. Joshua Leonard)
For reals. We're not supposed to talk about it, but you know you look, we all do. We get to live in towns where the male to female ratio makes sports bars look like wine cafes. And, though there are nowhere near as many female soldiers, mandatory PT tests mean that there's eye candy for the male spouses, too.
Soldiers have to work out for their jobs. Every year at Fort Bragg the entire 82nd Airborne Division runs together, all 22,000 of them, for the Division Run. And you know what the spouses do? We bring folding chairs, snacks and drinks, and get there early so we can nab a good viewing spot. Then we watch.
7. Way off base
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Jordan)
We get to correct the other branches when they call ours a 'base'. One of these kids is not like the others – and it's us. The others have "bases" we have "posts". Why? Who knows? Who cares? Maybe it's so we can annoy everyone else when we call their Base Exchange a "PX".
6. Dibs on ‘soldiers’
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)
Along the same lines, we get to watch the others cringe when civilians refer to all service members as "soldiers". Even though everyone in the military world understands that the word 'soldier' only applies to a member of the Army, this little drop of wisdom hasn't managed to trickle down to our civilian friends – and we in the Army family think that's just hilarious.
"How's your 'soldier' doing on his cruise, Navy wife?"; "There are a lot less 'soldiers' in the Marine Corps, no?"; And, "It must be hard to be on that Air Force Base all by yourself when your 'soldier' is gone." Comments like these always make us chuckle – because we know that a soldier by any other name is, well, not a 'soldier' at all.
5. Size matters
Okay, so maybe the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps families get to live by the ocean and the Air Force families get better, well, everything (don't act like you haven't noticed). We're the biggest. By far. (O'Doyle Rules!) The Army is about the same size as the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard – combined.
In fact, the entire Coast Guard could fit on just one Army post – with room left over for a few Army brigades. Fort Bragg even has an Air Force installation fully contained inside the Army post. So take pride in knowing that we're the biggest. Maybe that knowledge will help you get through a long winter in middle of nowhere, because most Army posts seem to have all been built on the largest piece of crap land the federal government could afford.
4. The military balls
(Photo by Hiro Chang)
(And, no, this is not a rehash of number 8.) Most people get to go to the prom once, maybe twice in their lifetimes. (Three or four times if they were the freshman high school hussy who dated seniors.) We get to go every year. And there's booze. And decent food.
And we can slow dance without being separated by a chaperone, and we're even encouraged to get a hotel room. Military balls give us excellent reasons to go shopping, get our hair and nails done, and have our pictures taken with our spouses. Or, if nothing else, to give the yoga pants a night off.
3. We’ve got friends EVERYWHERE
Ever have this conversation? "Oh, you're from Jeezbekneez, Kansas? I have a friend who lives there." And one in Japan, and one in Hawaii, three in Alaska, two in Italy, four in Germany, one in Korea, and so forth and so on. Grade school classes could use our Facebook friends' lists for geography lessons. Army families move. A lot. The upside: On a lonely night during a deployment we know we can get on Facebook and find one of those friends online, because 3 a.m. our time is 9 a.m. in Germany.
2. Never-ending hijinks
When kids play war, they play Army. Well, guess what? People who join the Army tend to never let go of that wild (ahem) spirit. The Army: Where the boys are men, the men are boys, and the women aren't afraid of snakes. If you're reading this, it's probably because you already love a wild man or woman and are likely to view living somewhere surrounded by jokesters as an adventure.
(Note: This also applies to the Marine Corps, but it does not apply to the other branches. Those who volunteer for boots-on-the-ground duty tend to be a bit more devil-may-care.)
The soldiers around you will be the sweetest, most helpful versions of Steve-O and Johnny Knoxville imaginable, and that makes life very fun – and very funny. Living in an Army town means you will never have to open a door for yourself; you won't linger on the side of the road with a broken down car; and if a disaster strikes there will be more volunteers than there is need.
But it also means your daily commute will resemble a NASCAR race and you shouldn't be surprised when you stumble upon stupid human tricks involving nakedness, port-a-potties, 100-mile-an-hour tape, 550 cord and, occasionally, explosives.
(Photo by Elizabeth Alexander)
Whether you come from a big family, a small family or no family at all, rest assured that you just joined the biggest family in America. Really. Your family is now more than a million strong – Army strong. There is no black, white, brown, red or yellow in the Army – just Green. It doesn't matter if you're from the north, south, east or west, educated or not so much, fresh out of high school or edging towards retirement.
I come from a big, tight-knit, family – and I love my family – but more than once I've cut short my visits "home" to go back to my Army home because I needed the support and understanding only my 'Big Green Machine' family could provide. My Army wife sisters were my newborn daughter's first hospital visitors, they met her months before her own father did.
They opened their arms wide to me when I told them my dad was dying of cancer. They sent flowers to his funeral. They've helped me pack, clean and hold yard sales. They've, quite literally, picked me up when I was too weak to stand on my own. And they have laughed with me – oh, how they have laughed with me. We have watched each other's babies grow, sometimes from afar, and we have shared so much of each other's lives that the word 'friend' is simply not enough anymore. We are family.
A single thread is easy to break, but when you weave a bunch of threads together you get 550 cord, which is strong and secure enough for parachutes. That's the Army. And we are Army Strong – because none of us stands alone.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.