"Hard" doesn't even begin to describe it.
Ask any military wife what it’s like to be married to a member of the armed forces and you’ll hear the same word: “tough.”
Taya Kyle, wife of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, is no exception. She’s detailing her experience in her new memoir, American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith, and Renewal.
Chris Kyle, credited as the most deadly sniper in U.S. military history, published a memoir in 2012 that was turned into the Academy Award-winning movie American Sniper. Chris was murdered in 2013 by a troubled Marine Corps veteran.
Taya’s book details her memories of life as a military wife, as well as how she struggled to cope after her husband’s death. She tells the Dallas Morning News that she sees the book as a tribute to all wives and mothers who have had to keep their families together in trying times.
There are about 84,000 military couples in the U.S. who have had to cope with deployment, frequent moves, and the constant struggle of being a military spouse. We asked Women’s Health readers to share their stories:
“I'VE BEEN A MILITARY WIFE for eight years now. My husband has been deployed several times during our marriage. It can be tough, but we just view it as a way of life. We are lucky that we get to communicate frequently. We can send each other messages throughout the day, and we get to video chat once or twice a week. It's hard knowing that he can be in danger, but I try to stay away from the news, and I don't think about the potential threats he may face. It can be hard to adjust to him coming home. I think it's harder on me than him because I'm so used to taking care of everything by myself that it's hard to give up some of the household duties for him to do.” —Beth D.
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"YOU TALK TO THEM WHEN YOU CAN and keep living your life because you now have to play the solo role of wife, husband, mother, father, plumber, mechanic, financial planner, etc. You learn to thrive as an independent woman, but when they come home it is hard to allow your S.O. to help around the house again since you are so used to doing it all yourself. My husband literally begs me to give him chores so he can help. You count down the days until they come home, browse news articles to make sure there are no potential threats they might be sent into, and visit family as much as you can. We don't have children yet, but many of my friends have given birth this last deployment, alone. They raise their kids on their own and have to remain strong. Kids always ask when their mommy or daddy is coming home, and they don't understand what deployment is. You deal with the criticism of what people outside of the military life stereotype you as, thanks to shows like Desperate Housewives and Army Wives. You get a two-minute phone call if you are lucky—which is never enough—but always manage to tell them you love them. You can't ask how their day was or where they are because they can't tell you. You have to have trust in each other. You are constantly wondering if they are safe, if they slept, if they are carrying out a mission, if they are relaxing, if they miss you, have they changed, etc. Homecoming is great, but the pictures of the families reuniting end at the pier or the airport…it doesn't show the changes that happen at home—how the family pet reacts to them returning, babies born while they were away, and their daddy meeting them for the first time just shy of their first birthday. You wonder if the first time you have sex again will be passionate or weird and strange. Your relationship feels brand-new again, and you have to ‘date’ again to get to know each other again, physically and emotionally. Military life is great but not for the weak. There are many happy times and just as many sad. For all the goodbyes you say, you get to look forward to the best hellos. Nothing compares to it unless you live the life yourself.” —Becky G.
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“BOTH MY HUSBAND AND I WERE were active duty Marine Corps. It was hard, but just like anything else, you get used to spending time away from each other. We spent a lot of time away from each other. And there is a lot more understanding between each other. But you do get a different understanding of just how dangerous their job may be at times. For us, the roles were a bit switched, as I was the one who deployed to Afghanistan and left the wire. Each experience is different, though.” —Jess G.
"MY HUSBAND IS IN THE AIR FORCE, and just one month after our wedding, he was deployed to Kuwait. Our only communication for almost five months was through e-mail, with one short phone call every evening. Halfway through his deployment, he called and informed me that he was going somewhere for a week and that he couldn't tell me where but he would call me in seven days when he returned. At this point, he had already sent me pictures of the tent that was his living quarters. It was full of cots, each of which had a gun under it on the floor. Seven days passed, and I had not heard from him. I didn't know where he was or what kind of danger he was in; this was during operation Iraqi freedom. On the 9th day, my phone rang, and when I heard his voice on the other end, I couldn't control my relief. The tears started flowing. Later, I found out he had gone over into Iraq to a heavily guarded base. Since then, my husband has deployed an additional three times in our nine years of marriage. ... The military life is full of ups and downs. Just when you think you are settled, they tell you to move. When you want to move, you can't seem to find a base with an open position. One day, everything in life is perfect, then your husband calls with the news that he will be leaving you behind once more for months on-end. But I wouldn't trade any of it! My husband is an incredible man, and he proudly wears his uniform. He serves his country with pride and leads his airman by example. We couldn't be more proud of him.” —Kelly E.
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"GOING INTO MY RELATIONSHIP with my husband, who's a Marine, I didn't fully understand how dangerous being a Marine is. And then I heard how two men died just doing a training exercise! I worry endlessly, especially when he is deployed. But I always support him. I can go weeks without hearing from him while he is gone, and I can't even tell him about things going on at home because I never want to stress him. Everyone always says, ‘Well, you chose this life.’ And that's the most annoying thing to hear because I chose my husband, not this life. I just deal with it. It's so hard to handle being a military wife and a woman willing to be one isn't just brave, she is strong and loves her man enough to go through the stress and worry, just for the times he is finally home.” —Jennifer P.
Being “married to the military” clearly isn’t easy, but countless women say they wouldn’t have it any other way.