As a military spouse, I’ve experienced a unique kind of loss in my life. Yes, my husband and I have been married for 11 years. Yes, we have a beautiful 6 year old daughter. Yes, we own our home and our daughter goes to a wonderful school that she loves. What’s missing is him. He’s on yet another deployment, he left in January and will make another one next year too! For us, that’s 3 deployments in 4 years. Yes, this is our home, and this is our life, but he’s not here. These are the same experiences Rachel Starnes has had. In The War at Home she talks about life as a military spouse, and explains how this is the life that she never wanted.
It’s not a life she was unfamiliar with. Growing up, her father worked on oil rigs. He spent weeks – sometimes months – away from the family. She watched what she calls a dance between her parents – and even between her parents and her and her brother. Comings and goings, goodbyes and homecomings. It was a constant emotional rollercoaster – one that she didn’t want to be a part of, one she didn’t want to continue in her adult life. As a military spouse, she does this dance with her husband – a dance that just gets harder to do once her son is born.
There are so many parts to this story that I identify with. As a Navy wife I have gone through struggles similar to hers, and this book was even more personal because her husband is an F-18 pilot and my husband has worked on F-18s for 24 years. We have been stationed at the same bases, probably even in some of the same squadrons (though probably not at the same times). I understand her struggle to support his career, while still trying to have a normal relationship.
She talks openly and honestly about what its like to be a military spouse, and that’s refreshing. Reading stories like this, and hers isn’t the only one that I’ve read and loved, are somewhat reassuring. Military life is hard, being a parent in general is hard, but being a single parent while your spouse is deployed is seriously challenging. It’s okay to feel like you’re not going to get through it. It’s okay to feel like giving up (though hopefully get through it). Outsiders may not understand what military life is like, but Starnes offers a window into this world.