As a seasoned military spouse, I’ll tell you straight up: If you are a military spouse–young or older–of an active duty, retired, or deceased service member, Spouse Calls: Messages from a Military Life is a book for you: your experiences, concerns, moves, transitions, dreams, and realities. Someone out there knows your mind and your heart so well, she has given voice to that which you might have thought couldn’t be put into words. And she is Spouse Calls author, Terri Barnes.
(I was an adult civilian for only a few years before marrying a Marine in 1985, so I don’t feel qualified to say whether a civilian would enjoy Spouse Calls or not. But I did buy a few copies to send to civilian friends and family because I think they might like this glimpse into a world they’ve expressed curiosity about and have only seen from the outside.)
Spouse Calls: Messages from a Military Life is born of Terri’s Stars and Stripes‘ column, “Spouse Calls.” It debuted in 2007, and was well-received by those who had shared and were sharing in the burden of a country at war on two fronts. Spouses the world over found solace, support and camaraderie in her words. Somehow her stories and experiences became our own – because so many of them are our own.
I discovered Terri’s column about a year into its run. My husband and I were on our way back to the States after an overseas tour. We’d placed our two older children in college in Kansas and checked into his new duty station in Southern California. (Our youngest was still at home and we took her with us when we went back overseas to Germany a year later.) As soon as my computer was up and running at our new address, I made a beeline for Stars and Stripes.
I sat uncomfortably on an unpacked box and clicked through this and that. Then I found Terri’s take on the fun and folly of household moves. Her story, her way of telling it – I felt so understood. At one point I shouted, “Exactly!” to no one. My husband was at work and our daughter was in school, so my audience was the same one every spouse has faced down many times: stacks and rows of boxes. Then I remembered I was sitting on one of those boxes and what a terrific metaphor it was for this life that it had doubled as a chair so I could read about how crazy it is to move so much and so far.
As U.S. military actions overseas slowly wind down, Terri’s words not only provide comfort to those still involved; they reach out to those new to this life who cry out from the wild: “Is it just me? Am I alone?” Her column has long answered with a resounding, “No!” Her book goes further – reaching into the silence that sets in after the ships have sailed, the planes have become invisible, and the last bit of potato salad is boxed up and taken home at the end of Family Day. And yet, somehow, Spouse Calls is even more than that.
Many books for military spouses provide much-needed and greatly appreciated tips, advice, and direction to get you going. Once you’re out there doing your thing, though, you might realize — little by little or all at once — wow, what a joyful, sorrowful, crazy, quiet, lonely, crowded, and fantastic life it is. Spouse Calls is a soft place to rest your head for a moment during the harrowing rides of deployments and separations, household moves, culture shock, friend-making and farewells, school and work upheavals, raising children horizontally even as they grow vertically, and keeping a marriage strong and vibrant when everything in your life is challenging your most significant relationship.
As a reader, I found Spouse Calls to be equal parts informative, humorous, and empathetic. As a military spouse, I experienced the opportunity to step into my own world and see my own reflection; to see into corners I didn’t want to acknowledge and then watch as they were illuminated in a caring, supportive way that made them less scary and more manageable; to giggle, snicker and laugh at some of the absurdities thrown every spouse’s way; and to know for sure, no matter what, I am never alone.
Spouse Calls: Messages from a military life isn’t just for military spouses. It’s about us. All of us.