Military Spouse Magazine

OCT 2018

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Page 19 of 35

I started, in medias res, with Sybil Stockdale's heart-stopping account of her husband's captivity as a Vietnamese POW in "In Love and War: the Story of a Family's Ordeal and Sacrifice During the Vietnam War," a memoir she and her husband wrote together. Then I went all the way back to Martha Washington and her cadre of Revolutionary War wives who sewed shirts and raised funds for the troops, and on to accounts of the 19th century female camp follow- ers who moved their families around the country without the benefit of a PCS office, pizza-hungry packers, or any question of reimbursement. I devoured Civil War-era military wives' letters and read my way back up through waiting wives' harrowing tales of the Vietnam War era. Each account was eye- opening, but none claimed the vantage point of Sybil Stockdale—the "seasoned" spouse who was able to place her very specific experi- ence in the grander sweep of American history. She had perspective. During the course of her marriage, she gained the confidence, knowledge, and power to advocate for changes that would make life better for military fami- lies. She received the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest award given by the department of the Navy to a citizen not employed by the Department—the only wife of an active-duty officer ever to be honored this way. How'd she do it? I craved her insights into how to make a difference, and I cherished her practical, hard-earned advice—even though it was several decades old. THERE'S NO OFFICIAL "HOMEWORK" WHEN YOU MARRY INTO THE MILITARY. But if you're as clueless as I was—without a family history of service or uniformed friends—you look for anything that can help decode a system with its own unique language, standards of behavior, and cultural touchstones. So in my early 30s, af- ter a three-month engagement and an "I Do" immediately followed by a move to a Navy air station in Japan, I started searching for books to help me understand my new life. There are lots of these resources now (including Military Spouse magazine, which launched in September/October 2004) but little existed back then beyond exhortations to maintain a good attitude in the face of hardship. In the process of searching, though, I discovered a rich vein of first-person accounts by military spouses that snaked through American history and literature. Changing Culture ...and creating new paths By Alison Buckholtz, Navy Spouse W H A T W E L O V E Interested in reading more about the experience of military spouses throughout American history? Here's a start. CAMPFOLLOWING: A HISTORY OF THE MILITARY WIFE By Betty Sowers Alt and Bonnie Domrose Stone. New York: Praeger, 1991 UNOFFICIAL AMBASSADORS: AMERICAN MILITARY FAMILIES OVERSEAS AND THE COLD WAR, 1946-1965 By Donna Alvah. New York: New York University Press, 2007 INTIMATE STR ATEGIES OF THE CIVIL WAR: MILITARY COMMANDERS AND THEIR WIVES By Carol K. Bleser and Lesley J. Gordon. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001 BOOTS AND SADDLES, OR LIFE IN DAKOTA WITH GENER AL CUSTER By Elizabeth B. Custer. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961. 20 MILITARYSPOUSE.COM / OCTOBER 2018

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