Writing a letter

A Letter to My Younger Milspouse Self

Generally, I am a positive, happy person. Ask anyone (but my family members; they are all jaded). However, there are some things I wish I could share with myself, twenty plus years ago, when I first became a military spouse.

Unless the flux capacitor DOES exist and Doc Brown shows up with his time traveling machine, I’ll share my letter with you.

Dear Kelli,

First of all congratulations on that adorable fellow you managed to snag. He will be very good to you and your children. Remember that when he forgets to tell you in about two years when he says he’ll be home at 6 p.m., he means 0600 the NEXT morning so don’t freak out. However, go ahead and call the barracks and his Lieutenant at 0430 because your adorable fellow REALLY enjoyed the attention that got him.

And don’t worry about the number of children.

Deployments. Never assume you know what you are doing. Every deployment is new, a different time in your life, and will present new challenges. Take advantage of whatever is being offered in the way of education, understanding, and support. Please never say, “I’ve done this before and I don’t need that.” It’s just asking for trouble.

The sun comes up every day and sets each evening. How you choose to proceed in between will define who you are and who your children will become. Your true strength will shine through in those darker moments.

Melt down as necessary. Just be selective where you have a fit. For instance, the hospital, front office of your children’s school, or a city park is not the best place to fall apart. Consider the privacy of your bedroom, on a friend’s shoulder, or curled up next to your mom. Then you pick yourself up and march forward. That’s who you are–strong but smart enough to seek help when needed. Seriously, it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. It‘s just not okay to stay there for too long.

Deployments or other types of separations do come to an end. You will never get everything done you wanted to or be that perfect dress size. Don’t worry about that too much. Your husband has missed YOU, not your sundress.

Never assume a three-week separation is a piece of cake. A lot can happen in three weeks. Warranties are GOOD and Lacrosse sticks in the house BAD.

Marriage in the Military. Communicate—ALWAYS—even when things are hard to hear. Never assume he knows what you are thinking. You will be WRONG. Communication is going to have to be creative sometimes. Duty, separations, children, work, and the laundry will all conspire to make you just give up, but you won’t. Be willing to hear him, not just listen. He will really try to hear you, but keep it straight forward and to the point. He is going to stop listening after twenty minutes. Break it up if you have too.

Don’t stop writing letters. A hand written letter just can’t be replaced. Oh, by the way, way to go on some homemade perfume stationary. The entire berthing area on that LPD-9 smelled NICE for several weeks. His buddies really appreciated that one; this becomes a classic Kelli tale.

Nurture your relationship with each other. No child has ever said my parents loved each other too much. They will only benefit from the care you give to each other. And no, I’m still not telling you how many there will be.

The Culture. You will do well, but you could do better. Knowing your entitlements, benefits, and the way things work will not only help your family successfully navigate through many years of service, but will help them flourish and grow in ways you cannot now understand.

Other Spouses. Take time to listen and thank them. They will inspire you, motivate you, and teach you. Don’t discount their wisdom too quickly. That being said, trust in yourself. You are smarter and stronger than you know. It will just take some experiences for you to really believe this. You will amaze yourself. Go ahead; be amazed. You’ll deserve it, especially during deployments.

Children. Love them, teach them, correct them, and then just love them some more. You have to be their mom, their dad, their teacher, their doctor, their counselor, and so forth. And you CAN do it. Yes you can. Stop it; you are NOT ruining them for life. They are going to be beautiful and smart and funny. They will astound you and you will be in awe of them. Most importantly, they will need you to love them the hardest and fiercest when they are the most unlovable. A few of these times will be during deployments, PCS moves, all three years of middle school, puberty in general, and finals week, yours and theirs. They are stronger than they think and you will be the one to teach them that.

Moving. It happens and it is a double-edged sword of excitement and grief. You will leave pieces of yourself everywhere you live and take pieces of everywhere you have lived with you.

Don’t stop making those connections with those who come into your life just because goodbyes are inevitable. Your life will be richer because of those people.

DO go see everything you can where you live, even if you have to make bologna sandwiches to take with you because you can’t afford anything other than the gas. You will regret not having gone to the Redwoods when you were stationed at Camp Pendleton. You will regret not having visited Cloudcroft, New Mexico more often when you were at Ft. Bliss, and the lighthouses of Eastern Carolina are calling your name. Do it.

Most importantly I am excited for you. The journey ahead is so much more than you imagine. The best part is the discovery along the way of who you are and what you are truly capable of. As far as the number of children, you’ll know when you don’t need to save the baby clothes anymore.



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  • `Miracle says:

    Wonderful. This is a great thing everyone should do. You just don’t know who you might touch, teach and inspire with these. 🙂

  • Shaylee says:

    Thank you so much for this letter! I am a military gf of 2 months come Friday, and I am realizing just how much I have to learn! My man and I have known each other for about 5 months and have decided we are in this relationship for the long haul…this letter gave me a lot to think about and even though we aren’t married yet, I now know a little bit more than I did this morning and I know every bit of info is going to help make our lives better and our relationship stronger. 🙂

  • elvia says:

    thank you very much im soon to be a Marine wife and your letter to yourself helped me alot. You are great!!!

  • Becky says:

    Kelli, your amazing!! Thank you!

  • Susan Braaten says:

    Oh, Kelli, it is all so true. Thank you for your wonderful written words. You have a great gift and I’m grateful you share it with us.

  • Laura says:

    Kelli, Becky is right. You ARE amazing.

  • vicki says:

    Oh my! You never cease to amaze me. I should do this – but would probably get lost in a year or mix them up now. I had a good life-learned many things along the way – have beautiful talented loving children. My spouse has gone on to be with the Lord and is wating for me. My life is still full, ever changing, mistakes are made, rewards are there, my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren bring me more pleasure, than I could have ever imagined. My two Lts. are still there when I need them which seems to be more often now than when they were younger. Instead of running errands they are my advisors. Thank you for the woman you have become and the daughter you are.

  • M J says:

    As an 11 year military spouse (6 of which were AD myself) all I can say is you are so so so right. I wish I could have gave myself the same advice 11 years ago. The only things I would add:

    Deployments suck, suck, SUCK, but even the longest (13 months for us) don’t last forever, and your feeling during a deployment have less to do with your marriage than with your emotions.

    Not all spouses have something to offer you. A lot are bitter and miserable, and they will make whoever they befriend miserable as well. Don’t let them get to you.

    Eat the food. Wherever you are. Even if you don’t like it, you tried it. 12 countries later (both ad and dep) I’ve tried so many foods that I never even imagined…and I certainly couldn’t imagine being bummed in one country because I couldn’t find ingredients for food from another country, when I didn’t want to try that food in the first place!

  • Thank you so much for your words! As a young navy wife, this was really encouraging. Cherishing these words tonight. 🙂

  • Mandy Salvail says:

    Love it!!! Gave me goosebumps…

  • Delaina Misquez says:

    Oh yes, the lighthouses of Eastern Carolina…I kick myself for never going to see them!!! 5 years at MCAS Cherry Point and we never went to see the lighthouses, never went to Myrtle Beach, or even up north to Virginia.

  • Mary Castro-Mendoza says:

    Dear Kelli,
    I am a Navy wife of 29 years. We are going through our final one year deployment! 41/2 months to go complete this run! And I could not have said it any better! Beautifully written and sincere, I hope you send this out to all military periodicals! Way to go! You are wise beyond your years!
    Thank you very much!
    With warm regards
    Proud Navy wife!
    Mary Castro-Mendoza