Once a Marine Wife

When I first met my husband, John, over 10 years ago, we were both in our third and final year of college. I knew he was different from the first moment I saw him at a party. For one thing, his shirt was tucked in. I appreciated that he was always clean-shaven, that his clothes were ironed and his apartment was tidy. I thought it was cute that he wanted to be a fighter pilot.

Looking back, all those good habits were clearly the result of the ten weeks he’d just spent at Officer Candidate School (OCS), literally months before I met him. I suppose I have the Marine Corps to thank for the fact that he opened doors for me and walked on the outside of the sidewalk. Back then, “fighter pilot” meant Top Gun the movie; today, it means Top Gun the school. I envisioned John as Maverick in his flight jacket and aviators. I didn’t give much thought to Meg Ryan’s character.

Now, after almost seven years as a military wife, it’s hard to remember my life before the Marines. The Corps has been such a big part of our lives, dictating where we’ve lived, who we’ve met, even my career. (Who’d have thought I’d be writing for a Marine Corps magazine one day?) It seems almost inconceivable that in less than a year, John will become a civilian. Still, as far as other Marines are concerned, John will always be a Marine. Yes, he’ll leave active duty and earn the esteemed title of Veteran, but he will always belong to the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of the Marine Corps.

But what happens to a former Marine wife? It’s not like I’ve gotten so many perks over the years (the occasional discounted movie ticket; great insurance), but I have felt incredibly proud to be the wife of a Marine. As any military spouse will attest, there is a certain sense of responsibility and duty that comes with the job. Our servicemen and women serve our country directly, but their families also play a very important role. We make it possible for them to do their job and do it well, knowing they have a family who loves and supports them and a safe place to come home to after a long deployment, or just a long day.

Just as I had many preconceived notions about the military, I had more than a few ideas about military wives. I was somehow convinced that nothing had changed since the 1950s, that most military wives were Suzy Homemakers with five children hanging from their apron strings. The minute I joined the wives club of John’s squadron, however, I realized how wrong I had been. These were educated, intelligent, independent women with careers of their own. Several of them remain my good friends six years later. Yes, there were times when things felt a little too retro (“Wives do silly things,” John was chastened when I sent out an e-mail that was deemed inappropriate; I quickly learned that there was a double standard between how Marines behave and how their wives are expected to behave.), but for the most part, I was proud to call myself a military wife.

Of course, it’s not like we’re being cut free of the government entirely. John recently passed the Foreign Service orals, and assuming everything goes well, he will go directly from the Marine Corps to the State Department early next year. Where we live and when we move will continue to be out of our control. All hopes of me having a traditional career went out the window a long time ago. Fortunately, I’ve learned to adapt.

I remember when John went off to The Basic School (TBS) nearly ten years ago, how I dreamed of the day when he’d finally get out of the Marine Corps. Now that the day is almost upon us, my feelings are surprisingly bittersweet. True, I won’t miss deployments and do-it-myself repair jobs, military movers and missed holidays. No more long-winded Birthday Ball speeches or an incessant stream of acronyms to memorize. There are a lot of things about the military that I won’t miss.

But having the privilege of calling myself a Marine Wife is not one of them.

Mara Rutherford is a former staff writer and editor of Leatherneck Magazine. You can read more about her life as a military spouse, mother, and writer at Scribble Babble.

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8 Comments to “Once a Marine Wife”

  1. Deborah says:

    Mara

    My guess , once a Marine Wife, always a Marine Wife. You earned it , a title and special club that you belong to forever. There is even a greater sisterhood among the larger “Military Wife” club . Yes, we know to say, “Military Spouses” etc, and I appreciate the guys that have also filled that role, but it is the wives that I have known in all branches of service that truly share an unbreakable bond for life. The good news is , life after military service can be great . You are off to a new adventure in the Foreign Service , but the Marine Wife will remain and you will be better able to support your husband , your community and your family because of it.

    I hope you will have a great life and reach out to many other spouses in your new community. Foreign Service is different, and seems to be divided up even more so by rank than in the military world. I say that as an observer. My experience is based on 20 years with a fighter pilot dad in the Air Force and 31 years with a Naval Aviator husband. It was the best of times and also the worst of times.

    4 counties, 11 states,25 major movies, plus a few minor ones, lots of great trips and two children later, I find it is civilian life that is the most foreign. I find instant rapport with other military wives (spouses) former and current. Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard- Officers Wives , Enlisted Wives , all have something that helps me recognize them quickly for the very special people they are – they have soul, empathy, energy for others. They have appreciated , worried for and worked hard to support their own spouses , families and communities. They have stood on their own feet alone at times, but also with the support of their military family.

    They are fearless. Or maybe I should say they act fearless, because 99% of the time they do what is right, just, needed. They welcome the stranger, they clothe the naked , they feed the hungry, they comfort the sick. They are the best of friends. Hold fast to that code.

    It is a bitter sweet moment, you are wise beyond your years to remark on it. But you will be fine and your husband will appreciate the sacrifice and effort you have given to him, to your children, to your country. I appreciate you and I just “met” you. Thank you to both of you for your service.

    As we say in the Navy, ” Fair Winds and Following Seas”. Best of Luck on your new adventure together.

    God Bless.

    Deborah

    Navy Wife

  2. Paul Roy Jr says:

    My hat goes off to the 25% of spouses that fight to save marriages through deployments and military service. In my opinion, if you are in it to the end then you will always be a Marine Wife, because after-all we are always Marines.

    Semper Fi, and thank you for being there for your husband.

  3. Michael Carl Tanner says:

    In 2004 my Wife, Christine picked out her wedding dress. On that same day I got my marching orders to Iraq. From 2004-05 I served with Delta Co. 101 Cav. 256 BCT, Camp Victory. My wife put up with watching the news and people asking questions regarding Iraq. It is not easy being a military wife and I pay homage to all those wives out there. Your’s is not an easy job. I salute you all.

    Check out my page at Facebook or
    contact me at miketannerr@aol.com

  4. Steve Shea says:

    What do you mean, “No more long-winded Birthday Ball speeches…?” Hopefully you and your husband will continue to attend USMC Birthday Balls. We all have to suffer through the speeches, but it is always a great night.

    Fair winds and following seas in civilian life. And thank you both for your service.

  5. Michelle says:

    Hi there thanks for the post. Here is something that might benefit the readers. Check it out!
    Engagement

  6. My hat goes off to the 25% of spouses that fight to save marriages through deployments and military service. In my opinion, if you are in it to the end then you will always be a Marine Wife, because after-all we are always Marines.

    Semper Fi, and thank you for being there for your husband.

  7. brianna says:

    my bf leaves for marine bootcamp in 3 weeks and we plan to get married when he comes back next year. im 18 going on 19 soon and i dnt kno wat to expect. do u just go to the military base and move into the house after the training or how does this work?

  8. simper fidelis wife says:

    I love my soon to be ex husband hes the best and is a marine n no matter what i feel i should always help marines and be proud of what they do for us! unfortunately i cant say my marriage worked at the end i am now 21 and have known my husband since i was 16 got married at 18. Yes very young but so much in love, But after problems with his family and with him not wanting a family we have decided to end our marriage and i still think of myself as a marine wife!!! i still wear my marine shirts sweat shirt dog tags whatever it may be i still respect it! ill always be what i am and thats a marines wife yes i have the one and only marine wife tattoo “simper fidelis”. Which i always was to him no matter what i love that man and if he was to ever call me id be there for him!!! All i can say to any of yawh is im proud to share that in common and i know we all go through hard times, and things always well get better! ive gone the 7-9 months of him deployed n not talking to him its hard but respect all of ya for what ya are doing! My marriage might of not worked but i hope all of yas does Respect to all of yawh and remember the worst thing to do is cheat and learn to always forgive!
    GOD BLESS ALL …. OORAH SIMPER FI DO OR DIE