Finding My Voice as a Military Wife

The life of a military wife is not for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most. And for good reason.

We marry the man of our dreams with visions of raising children and growing old together, not with visions of being a frequent single parent and kneeling beside our bed to pray that he returns home from overseas safely.

Some of us meet our husbands while they are already serving. Others of us, like myself, met them before.

Mine came home from work one evening, less than a week after 9/11, saying he felt the call to serve. At the time, he had been working for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter as a municipal bond specialist in downtown Chicago. His coworkers and colleagues in the South Tower had all gotten out before it collapsed, but many were not so lucky that day.

For those of us who remember 9/11, we recall those feelings of utter hopelessness and vulnerability. We remember feeling as though the once-stable ground under our feet had suddenly crumbled, and we no longer felt safe to even walk out our front doors.

And in the wake of one of the most devastating days in the history of the United States, something beautiful also happened. There was an American flag waving in front of every home and on every vehicle driving around town. Hundreds of thousands of men and women also felt this call to serve, just as my husband did, and our country’s military numbers grew to the largest it had ever seen.

I remember the evening he told me he wanted to join. I had assumed his plan was to become a finance officer and do work similar to his experience, but that wasn’t his plan. At all. He joined with the intentions of entering the special operations community to become an Army Ranger.

Having no idea what this meant, I watched the movie Black Hawk Down for the first time through tears and was absolutely terrified. I didn’t know how I was going to find the strength to raise the two boys that we had at the time–one only three months old—while he was out on the frontlines fighting a war.

Eleven years and one more child later, I survived with significant grace and strength 11 combat deployments as my husband maintained a fast-paced schedule of being home for six months and away for four. I also raised my boys alone for an estimated seven years after calculating training, too many phone calls to other wives to notify them after we lost another soldier, countless nights on my knees crying and praying, my husband being injured alongside six of his men (one killed), 11 memorial services, two funerals at Arlington, and witnessing the effects of PTSD and watching them quickly tear my marriage and family apart.

In the end, I no longer felt safe in my own home. My husband’s anger had seemed to engulf him, and he resisted receiving the help that he so desperately needed. After living in what had become my own personal war zone for another three years, I finally decided to help myself and filed for divorce.

At almost 5’10”, I was so overcome with anxiety and depression that I ended up in the hospital weighing a sickly 119 pounds. I had become nothing but a shell of a woman without a sign of life or hope.

I felt as though I’d woken from a deep sleep after 20 years of spending my entire adult life with my very first boyfriend, whom I’d met in college just before my eighteenth birthday, and realized how many of my own dreams I had failed to pursue. Up until that pivotal moment, I had been focused entirely on my husband and our three boys, and I’d completely lost my own identity.

I didn’t even know who I was anymore.

As the saying goes, when life gives you an opportunity to start over, rebuild yourself to be who you always wanted to be. And that is exactly what I did.

This year I will be 44 years young, and for the first time, I can say that I have learned to love my life and the woman I am today. I am happily remarried to a supportive and loving man who is a recently retired combat-disabled veteran (oh yes, I married another military man) and now have a beautiful blended family of six—and yes, five of them are biologically mine, as I had two more babies in my 40s. Some would call it a medical miracle, but the true miracle is that I am finally the mother to one beautiful little girl. And this certainly becomes a game-changer for any mom, doesn’t it?

Last year, I founded Northwest Military Wives Foundation, a nonprofit with a mission to inspire wives of active-duty service members, veterans, and reservists in the Puget Sound region by connecting them with our local community. By learning from one another and celebrating all that makes us both different and the same, we can uplift each other as we pursue our personal journeys to becoming our best selves.

As I continue down this current path, I have met so many other military wives with completely different backgrounds and military experiences, but all on their own journeys to reclaiming their voice.

Our annual fundraiser, Women Making a Difference: Loving Your Best You, will be held on September 14 in Seattle, and the proceeds will help fund our 2020 Weekend Revival Retreat for wives of wounded warriors and our Mother’s Day Outing for mothers of deployed service members.

Kristin Bentley

About the Author | Kristin Bentley

Kristin Bentley is the founder of Northwest Military Wives Foundation, a Seattle-based nonprofit created to support local wives of active-duty service members, veterans, and reservists. Through her experiences as a military spouse, working from home with two toddlers, and being married to a combat-disabled veteran, she learned that personal happiness and a strong sense of self aren't something to sacrifice.

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1 comment to "Finding My Voice as a Military Wife"

  • Manda M

    Kristin,

    Thank you for sharing your journey! Your story is inspiring and a great reminder that it truly is never too late to give yourself the opportunity for happiness, growth, and venturing into the unknown. I can’t wait for the 14th!!!!