Odierno Hits High Mark with Spouse Remarks

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

This past week Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno retired after 39 years of uniformed service. In his farewell speech he thanked all military spouses, especially his wife Linda, for helping to "make us a better Army."

 He stated, "It's often hard for me to stand up here and make other people understand how much our spouses sacrifice. You don't understand. You don't understand everything that they do every day in order to make us a better Army. I don't believe there's any other profession (where) we count on our spouses to do so many things. And Linda is the epitome of that”.

 A beautiful sentiment shared by many other retiring soldiers. Certainly one my soldier shared at his retirement ceremony five years ago.

My husband and I celebrated 35 years of marriage this year, 30 of them spent as an active duty family. Over the past five years I've had time to reflect on the relationship we have built over three decades and why our military marriage worked.

First, I fell in love with a soldier. I wasn't looking for one, I wasn't determined to marry one, it just happened. Ignorance is bliss and as a San Francisco girl I had no point of reference for what was in store for me.

When you marry a soldier you also marry "the Army". The Army determines most aspects of your life; where you live, how long you'll live there, your ability to have your own career, and the many different experiences your children will have as you raise them.

"The Army" is the third person in your marriage and you have to get comfortable with that. Coming right out of college I wanted to pursue a nursing career. It quickly became obvious that I would be challenged in that respect. Our first assignment took us to Germany where nursing jobs were scarce. Then babies came at a time when Mike was NEVER home and even when he was the Army owned him and determined how available he was to us. I would never think to call and ask, "can you pick up kids at daycare?" or "will you take time off to be with us?”  The Army doesn't work that way. What did work was my willingness to find employment where and when I could and volunteer in such a way that my professional development continued.

For me this compromise was manageable. For some fellow Army wives they fight it tooth and nail. At some point though you make peace with it in your own terms or you get out: either out of the Army or out of the marriage.

 For you see I was also a part of the Army; I was a part of the Army family. And with it came all the highs and lows that being a part of any family entails. Friends, especially fellow Army spouses, were my source of comfort and strength. These friendships have lasted a lifetime because we all went through it together.

But perhaps the biggest success to our military marriage was the fact that my soldier and I complemented each other and matured together. We both made a commitment to keep communicating, even when communication could be difficult.

 I wanted to learn about his career and he had to be willing to educate me in order to increase my knowledge, and thus my “buy in”.

He had to learn that I had to be the one to call the shots at home because he was never home long enough to be consistently calling the shots. We made decisions together when possible of course but I was in charge of the day to day and he had to understand that my system worked for me and he should probably not do too much to mess it up.

My soldier has been retired for five years now. Our military life is over and we have turned our sights towards a more civilian lifestyle. Our successful formula however stays the same. We continue to complement each other and mature together. I imagine General and Mrs. Odierno will also do exactly the same thing.

Congratulations to the Odierno’s and Godspeed on your new life’s journey!