8 Unexpected Ways to Find Gratitude in Military Life

Last night, as I lay beside my husband, I couldn’t sleep. He was leaving early the next morning for field exercises. This is not new to me, but some things don’t go away. I always ache, sad that he has to leave us to go do this job that impacts our lives. As I lay there, I began to count the unexpected ways that I’ve found to be grateful for this crazy Army life.

  1. Separations make us live better.
    We fit more in the day, we are present and try to make the most of the time we have together. Case in point: My husband took our son camping on one of the hottest days of the year, it was one night with some family, they were eaten up by bugs, no one slept a whole lot—but he spotted an opportunity to share an experience with our son, so he grabbed it.
  2. I get to miss my husband.
    So many people never have the privilege of missing their spouse. It makes us appreciate one another on a whole different level. Yes, I said privilege. I know more civilian wives at this point in our career than military ones. Although it’s tough, it also makes me appreciate him in a whole new light.
  3. We say things.
    We don’t hold back or wait because we might not have time to discuss an issue—so we communicate on tough things and easy things, even when sometimes it would be easier to just push it under the rug and pretend like the topics aren’t there. We’re open and honest.
  4. Our communication is stronger.
    By communicating often and openly, we’re often on the same page before we even need to get there. This makes things easier for big decisions. Generally by the time we get to making a decision, we’ve already talked about bits and pieces along the way, so we just put the plan into action.
  5. The remote is all mine.
    OK, seriously, I totally command the TV when he’s gone. I watch all the girly TV I want, then by the time he’s back home, I’m ready to watch “our” shows again!
  6. Cereal for dinner? Again?
    Yes. Totally OK. My son loves a more relaxed meal schedule. I love not having as many dishes. Win-Win.
  7. Lighten up. 
    I’ve learned to be easier and kinder on myself when he’s gone. I’ve also learned to be kinder and easier on him. We’re both moving in different directions so often that, without good communication (#3 & #4!), I think I might be more likely to snap at him. I still have my moments. But when we remember that we’re on the same team, that we’re working towards the same goals, we turn from snippy to supportive.
  8. Independence
    I’ve learned how to do things I never thought I could! In fact, we just got word of our very first PCS move. My husband has been in the Army for 18 years, 16 of those have been active duty with the National Guard, but now a spectacular opportunity has opened up. And guess what? This 10-year-mil-spouse-veteran is about to learn a whole new trick. Am I scared? Yes. But I’m also excited. I’m thankful that the Army forces me into uncomfortable situations (with limits!), but it has taught me how strong and independent I can be.

I’m a better person than I was before I married my husband a decade ago, and the Army is a large part of shaping me. I still have some things to learn and some growing to do, but we’ve still got a few years left, so I’m sure the lessons will continue!


About Jolene McNutt

Jolene McNutt is a writer, editor, and graphic designer. She co-owns a business with her retired teacher dad creating hands-on resources for elementary and middle school teachers. Jolene has been married to her extroverted husband, Phil, for nine years. Phil is serving as part of the Active Duty Guard Reserve (AGR) in the Wisconsin Army National Guard - possibly the best kept secret in the Army! They have a six-year-old son, Finn, and a 90-pound lap dog, Odin. Jolene enjoys traveling, reading, and making allergy friendly recipes for Finn. Despite her introverted nature, Jolene loves hosting friends and family. Find her on Instagram @jolenemichelle1.

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