Service spouse and photojournalist Wendy Faux tells Army&You what inspired her exhibition, Not Just a Wife

THE power of a unique community such as that of Army spouses should never be underestimated, and over my 20 years of marriage I have seen how incredibly diverse people can be brought together to create friendships that withstand the test of time. This was the inspiration for Not Just a Wife – or husband, as there are two men contributing too.

I remember being at an event and I wasn’t in the best of moods. We had just moved house, I had gone from a full-on job to nothing, all four of my children were at boarding school and I was feeling sorry for myself.

When asked the question ‘what do you do?’, I answered with ‘I’m just a wife’. I’m not sure if I was more cross with myself or the person who swiftly moved on to someone else in the room with a more acceptable label in life.

I then started to ask friends about their life prior to marrying someone in the Army. The answers were astounding. No-one is ever ‘just a’. Each of our lives are like fingerprints, no two are ever the same.

The exhibition

Having talked about the idea for a long time it was my friend Sarah Stone, who was working alongside a researcher from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), who was the trigger.

She sold the idea to RUSI and I had six weeks to pull together an exhibition – and move back to the UK after 16 years in Germany.

I had three simple questions:

  • What did you want to do when you left school – your hopes and aspirations?
  • What skills have you developed through being in the military environment?
  • How important is the idea of community and living on a patch?

I was bowled over by the depth of talent. It’s staggering how the military spouse has so much to offer. How they became resourceful, flexible, resilient and willing to try things way out of their comfort zone. They laughed at events that would have made others cry, saw the positives in situations and above all were loyal to an organisation that they didn’t necessarily sign up to.

Not Just a Wife contains many messages. I’m trying to show employers, civilian communities, influencers and military personnel what it is that makes up our community.

The main message that has come through is how key the physical community – the patch – is. Nothing can replicate that person at your door offering respite in one way or another, the neighbour who ‘gets it’.

Having been displayed at the National Army Museum, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament, the exhibition continues to tour around the country. Keep an eye on to find out where you can view it.

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