They’re not “just a spouse”

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keira Rossman
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Laura thought she had a solid grasp of military life, having just come off active duty herself. However, she found herself facing a unique transition when she married her husband who was still serving in the U.S. Air Force. The shift from being a service member to a military spouse presented unexpected challenges; and despite her two-decade familiarity with the inner workings of the Air Force, Laura struggled with the perception of being "just a spouse."  

“Just a spouse,” said Laura Cherry, 434th Flying Training Squadron command spouse. “That's a phrase that I hear often, and truthfully, I despise it. I didn't understand fully what being a military spouse meant until I became one. We military spouses are so much more than ‘just a spouse.’ Some are lawyers, teachers, doctors, writers, and physical trainers. Many are mothers - to dogs, cats, brats and more.” 

Community plays an especially important role at remote and isolated bases such as Laughlin Air Force Base. Here, military spouses support the base, other military spouses and of course their loved ones who serve.  

“We fill the roles of neighbors, friends, school emergency contacts, last minute babysitters, pet sitters, Key Liaisons and meal train participants,” said Cherry. “We are each other's confidants, mentors, and shoulders to lean on. We take on these roles willingly - and then we move, and we start over and do it all again. Military spouses are some of the hardest working, resilient and supportive people I have ever met.” 

Many spouses face these similar challenges together. Lindsey Slifer, 47th Security Forces Squadron key liaison, has been a military spouse for 15 years. 

“I have witnessed firsthand the sacrifices that military families make and the challenges they face, and this has motivated me to become more involved in my community,” said Slifer. “My family upbringing instilled in me the value of service to others, and being a military spouse has allowed me to put this into practice in a meaningful way.” 

As a military spouse, she has encountered various challenges. Frequent relocations, deployments and extended periods of separation from her husband. Adapting to new surroundings, forming new social connections and securing employment in unfamiliar places can present daunting tasks. Managing the stress and uncertainty inherent in the military lifestyle are significant hurdles. 

“Despite that, I remain optimistic and encourage my daughters to do the same. As spouses, we are more resilient than we often realize,” said Slifer. “As a military spouse, I have realized that bravery is not just a moment but a continuous story. It takes courage to endure these challenges of moving to new areas, starting new jobs, and making new friends in unknown dimensions. We wear many hats and stretch ourselves to places we never knew we could reach. This unique lifestyle has taught me the true meaning of bravery. Every day, I wake up with the courage to face the unknown, to support my husband, and to be there for my daughters. I may not wear a uniform, but I am proud to say that I am a military spouse and brave.” 

Maintaining consistent communication in her relationship has proven to be a cornerstone in overcoming any challenges that arise. Their commitment to communication not only strengthens their bond but also enables them to navigate the demands of military life with a united front.  

“Keeping open communication with my husband has also been a significant factor in overcoming any issues that come our way,” said Slifer. “Over the years, we have learned that trust and communication are everything when it comes to being partners in this lifestyle. We can manage expectations and reduce misunderstandings by keeping him informed about my feelings, concerns and needs.” 

As military missions across the globe have become increasingly complex, the ranks of the service members and their spouses have vastly grown. Often, spouses set aside their own professional and personal goals to bolster the broader military family—a commitment that has not gone unnoticed. 

“Taking care of myself both physically and mentally has been one of the most challenging things to achieve. I tend to put the needs of others before mine, which often leaves me feeling drained. However, once I started exercising, eating well, and doing things for myself, life seemed easier to manage and more enjoyable to live in the moment. I realized that sometimes my cup was empty, and I was struggling to keep up with life. The unwavering support of my husband is an invaluable asset that has helped us build an unbreakable bond unique to military couples. As much as I support him, he supports me tenfold. His understanding of my struggles as I understand his struggles is a source of strength that keeps us going in this challenging life. Having someone who wholeheartedly trusts, respects, and supports you makes navigating the journey easier.” 

Despite the inherent uncertainties, spouses like Slifer and Cherry embrace their roles with courage and determination, not only for themselves but also for their families. They serve as pillars of stability and companionship, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among fellow spouses. 

“While in this community at Laughlin, I have learned the importance of building a support system and reaching out to other military spouses,” said Slifer. “I promise it is worth putting yourself out there! This military community is close-knit, and many resources are available for spouses.” 

Through shared experiences and mutual support, they create a network of resilience that uplifts and sustains them through the unique demands of military service. 

Team XL hosted a full military spouse appreciation event day on May 10, 2024, aimed to recognize spouse’s support to military operations and service members. 

The day started with opening remarks from base leadership, followed by a detailed schedule of activities where spouses chose to attend a variety of events. Spouses enjoyed various activities such as morning yoga, brunch at Club XL with the help of our Laughlin AFB Military Affairs Association, photo opportunities with aircraft displays, a paint and sip event, a movie showing in Anderson Hall, bowling and more. There were tours and flying simulators, offering spouses insight into their loved ones' daily work centers. These activities aimed to entertain spouses while deepening their understanding of Laughlin’s mission to build combat-ready Airmen, leaders and pilots. 

“If I had the chance to say anything to my fellow spouses, it would be that what you are doing here is important,” said Cherry “The sacrifices you have made (and will continue to make) are not going unnoticed. I see you - you matter. Keep going! Give 'em hell.”