BEFORE joining the bubble of military life, I would have naively described the military spouse or partner in such demeaning terms as ‘subservient and reliant’, genuinely believing they sacrificed their and their family’s happiness to allow their soldier to charge around the globe in full military garb, camo cream and all.

In my defence, look up ‘dependant’ in the dictionary and synonyms such as ‘hanger-on’ and even ‘parasite’ abound. Boy, was I wrong – and, in this case, so is the dictionary.

It’s true that the role of a military partner does involve sacrifice and putting your own happiness aside at times, but what’s the alternative?

It infuriates me when civilian friends and family simply say ‘well, you knew what you were getting into’. Yes, I knew the love of my life and father to my children would spend periods of time away, but does that make it any easier? No.

Is it a comfort when you’re doing the school run in your pyjamas, tearing your hair out because the baby won’t sleep and you’ve still got to make a papier-mâché volcano by tomorrow? No.

I’ve found the military partner has to be stronger than almost any other person. They are the glue that holds the family together under difficult or oppressive circumstances. They are the lynchpin.

In a world where your soldier can be deployed for months at a time, sometimes with just five days’ notice, it is the ‘reliant, hanger-on’ that has to step up to the mark, be both mum and dad, cook, cleaner, teacher, taxi driver, sports coach and technology police, all whilst keeping a smile on their face, trying desperately not to rant an Exorcist-style monologue at the soldier. Because yes, of course resentment is felt, yet we still do it.

Does it annoy the hell out of me having to put my soldier’s name as head of household on every form (and there are a lot of them)? Yes, it does. Does it annoy me that I’m labelled as a dependant? Yes, it does. But every military partner or person knows that the term couldn’t be further from the truth.

At times, being a military partner means being more independent and capable than you ever thought you could be.

For me, the experience is exhilarating and exciting yet frustrating and demanding. I wouldn’t, however, change it for the world and whatever the roller-coaster ride that Army life throws at us, I’m determined to enjoy the journey.

Gemma Keylock

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