Those of you who have read MRS. LIEUTENANT know it is from the point of view of military spouses in 1970. I am often asked how the experiences of the women in the novel relate to the experiences of military spouses today. Marine spouse Summer Watson graciously provides her take on her current military spouse experience in the following two-part guest post.
I am a military spouse. I am a partner, who supports her husband in his daily life. I do not live my life based on what my husband does since I have a life that is independent of his career. I am not enmeshed with my husband nor do I try and live vicariously through him to define myself or my status. I have always been a person with an independent nature.
I met my husband during our senior year of high school. I went to UC Berkeley for my B.A. degree. I went off to Connecticut to study law and a year later returned and married my high school sweetheart. He joined the Marine Corps and my life changed.
I had dated military men while in high school, but it was nothing like being married to the military. The military is not just a job but a lifestyle; a unique sub-culture that turned my world in many different directions. I was not only married but I had a new parent – the Marine Corps.
The Corps had my husband under its spell, and I was trying my best to individuate him from this unhealthy paradigm but he wasn’t having any of it!
My growth within this culture was difficult. My husband joined the military at 24 years old, where young men and women join at an early age. So I was living, shopping… amongst a crowd of babes. I felt like I had more experience in life and was in a situation where several of the people I was around never went to college or lived away from their family-homes – this was their college experience but with a very strict parent!
As time went on, I found my escape in school. I went on to get a master’s in human services with a specialization in community counseling and then onto a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I yearned for educational stimulation. I felt restricted and confined in the military culture that I lived.
Eventually I had a chat with my husband and explained that he should research some of the officer programs. He did and is now a Chief Warrant Officer 2. He got his B.A. while in the Marine Corps and he has always done very well within this system.
About three years ago we got transferred to Okinawa, Japan. This was a significant transition for me. I had just graduated with my doctoral degree and was ready to move on professionally and then we got our orders. We had to move and it would be a three-year tour in Okinawa.
We got to Okinawa and I was unable to get a job on any of the bases and I was struggling. I had worked, since 15 years old. I did not know what to do with myself. Furthermore, whenever I went for a job, I always nailed the interview and got the job I wanted. Well, this was not the case in Okinawa. You actually had to know someone to even get noticed. I was not given the chance. A qualified, willing individual with experience and several degrees was out of a job for three years. I volunteered, helped friends, shopped, and hosted a lot of parties.
Stay tuned for the second part of this guest post to find out what Summer Watson learned from this experience in Okinawa.