If you have ever had a close member of your family join the military, then you know that the military is a world all its own. There are rules, regulations and expectations above and beyond what the non-military citizen must follow. Military law is strict, and all for good reason. Life depends upon it.

As a former service member spouse, I can also tell you that military life is hard. Not only is it hard for the service member who is on call 24/7, it’s hard on the spouse. Firstly, there’s the frequent moving. I calculated that during my twelve year experience, we moved every 1.8 years throughout the US, Germany and Saudi Arabia. Makes settling down a little challenging, to say the least. Secondly, during times of conflict there is always concern about long deployments and loss of life.

But life in the military does have its pluses. It drills into every soldier and family member the importance of safety first, protocol and respect for one’s country and its President and Commander in Chief (no matter what your political affiliation). It teaches flexibility and resilience. It teaches community.

I was lucky to work as a civilian for the Department of the Army in several capacities. My first Army civilian role was a social services worker in Kitzingen, Germany, where my second line manager was none other than General Eric K. Shinseki. Then a Lt. Colonel of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Shinseki went on to become the Army Chief of Staff and recently spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

One of the best jobs I ever had came afterwards, when I moved to the Public Affairs Office in Würzburg, Germany. I began as a trainee writer and photographer and eventually became the editor and acting command information officer. I truly enjoyed the nature of facilitating positive American-German relations and being a conduit for news and information.

My last civilian job was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where I was an information analyst with responsibilities for both manpower and dependent education relations. Living in the Middle East was challenging for an independent-minded woman like me. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work and contribute to the United States Military Training Mission in its joint services capacity. Not only did I learn a lot from my Army, Navy and Air Force team members but I made some lasting friendships.

I left military life in 1996, but the respect I have for this community never waivers. I’m thankful to the service members I’ve met throughout the years and grateful for your sacrifice and your service to our country.

May we all remember that, as this video so beautiful demonstrates, freedom isn’t free.

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