I have exactly one more week with proof I am a military spouse — they are taking my ID and decals.
I don’t know why this portion of the separation process is bothering me so much but it is. I love that I have access to this gated area of our community — that I’m part of that special group of people with access to Fort Hood. I love that this one little card — featuring a horrendous picture of my smiling face — comes with so many benefits. Health insurance, tax-free groceries, discounts at Which Wich; it really does everything.
In seven days, that card will be gone. I’ll just be a spouse — a happily married one, but still just a plain, old wife of a civilian.
As sad as I am to say goodbye to this life — the only married life I’ve known — I’m so ready for the next chapter. No, we still have no idea what exactly that will be or where, but the time has finally come. The change that has slowly been creeping up is staring me right in the face.
But it’s not even really the benefits or the title of being an Army wife that I will miss — it’s the people. These past four years have exposed me to some of the best people this world could offer. I’ve met so many other women willing to give up the often limited time they have with their own families to reach out to others in need.
I will never forget my first real interaction with another Army wife. I was driving in the big truck I borrowed from my mom when we first moved to Killeen, when my cellphone rang. On the other end was the friendly, genuine voice of the wife of my husband’s battalion commander inviting me to a “hail and farewell.” Even though my husband was supposed to invite me, she wanted me to know she too was extending an invitation. I had no clue what this social event was, but I knew I was welcome.
Upon arrival, I was confused. Every other wife (this was before women were allowed in combined arms battalions) in the room was wearing a garder on her leg, many over their blue jeans. Living in New York City, I’d seen some strange fashions, but never this.
During the “hail” portion of the night, the battalion commander read from “The Order of the Yellow Garder,” and then I was given one of my own along with the other new wives. It’s to be worn “three fingers’ distance from her dainty, left knee,” as a symbol of “life with a trooper.”
At that moment, even though it seems silly now, that is when I first felt like an Army wife and part of some special community. More than when I got a card giving access to guarded gates, and more than when I discovered discounted Michael Kors at the PX. It was right then, when I put on a homemade yellow and blue garder, which still hangs in my room with a framed copy of the order.
Thankfully, I don’t have to give that back.