Thursday, March 6, 2014

Women's History Month: Military Wives' & Girlfriends' Legacy

photo credit: Justin van Zyl via photopin cc
by Stephanie Carroll
The Veteran Navy Wife

While researching this post, I found articles saying that Military Wives need to quit griping because we don't have it as hard as our historical counterparts. My post today started out as being a look at our legacy but developed into a response to those who think we are not worthy of it.

It's easy to feel like the world has forgotten you when you spend so much of your time in his shadow, in waiting. Since it is Women's History Month, for today's post I want to tell you about the women behind the men, women like you, who have not been forgotten. 

Military wives like Elizabeth Betsy Wynne, who accompanied her husband on the battleship during the Napoleonic Wars, are remembered as courageous. Wives and girlfriends who went to work during WWII building military instruments for the cause, are considered fierce. The Vietnam Military Wives who launched a campaign for the rescue of their men after they were captured, efforts of which sparked a nationwide POW/MIA movement, are remembered as tenacious.

So many women have waited for letters from their soldiers:

First page of Sutton I. Harris' letter
Virginia Military Institute Archives
. . . I want to see you very bad Lizzy. I hope in some day we will never part . . . Lizzy I love you and you are my hearts first desire for your love. I never shall forget the [parting] kiss you gave me that night at your house. You must not think hard of me for talking in that way but I love and I cannot help from telling you and you must write me. I am very loansome hear . . . 

-Sutton I. Harris
September 12, 1861

Many letters like this one never made it to those women. Who knows if Lizzy ever received this letter or if she and Sutton ever got to share another kiss. These women, Military Wives and sweethearts alike, the women who waited without word unless it was a notice of death, those women should be revered.

These women should not be forgotten. They should be considered heroes in their own right. 

But what about us, the women who have supported service-members during the Iraqi and Afghan Wars. How will they remember us? 

Well, how are we considered now? 

For those of you who are new to military life, you may be surprised to learn that a lot of people think quite poorly of modern day Military Wives. While researching this post, I found articles saying that Military Wives need to learn something from our historical counterparts because we don't have it as hard as those who waited during the Civil War or during WWII. Many, both Military and civilian, do not consider modern day Military Wives as honorable. They publicly condemn us, calling us ungrateful, entitled, and self-righteous.

There are unpleasant people no matter where you go, so of course some will end up as Military Wives, but in my ten years of being a Navy Wife, I never once met a single one of "those wives." Yet, this stereotype has come to define the majority and is considered true by military wives themselves. Are these stereotypes and perceptions how we will be remembered?

It is true that we have a lot that our predecessors did not. We have the internet and oftentimes our men are in safer war-time situations, but does that mean we should discredit the sacrifices Military Wives and Girlfriends make? Does that mean we don't have the right to feel lonely, afraid, or left behind? Do we not have the right to fear for his life or for ours? Are our tears not worthy?

photo credit: The U.S. Army via photopin cc
Then I remembered something. I remembered the fact that people hated the Military during the Vietnam War and they hated the wives too. People didn't think that women belonged in the workplace during WWII, and they sent them home the moment the men came back. Women who joined the Civil War soldiers in the camps could be considered whores and those waiting back at home were pitifully clinging to ghosts in what the country considered a hopeless war. 

We can't change the future or people's minds. We can't possibly know how we will be remembered, but what we can do is remember. We can remember that we are a part of something much larger, a legacy. We are a part of a history of women who stood by their men. We are among a group of women who did not sacrifice their lives on the battlefield, but who sacrificed their lives at home, giving up their sense of stability, their comfort, and their dreams to support the men they loved. No matter what anyone else says and no matter what the stereotypes are, we are among the women who are considered courageous, fierce, tenacious, and revered.

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About Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author
Buy Her Book A White Room!
Photo by Randy Enriquez
I dated and married my husband in 2004 when I was 19. I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy, and I didn't know what to ask.

After ten years of learning in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered. I wanted to spread the knowledge that I needed when I was new, to reveal what took years for me to learn.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction.

My first novel A White Room debuted in 2013 and is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions of becoming a nurse to marry a man who can save her destitute family. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness until she stumbles on an opportunity to nurse to the poor despite the fact that her husband prosecutes unlicensed practitioners.

Learn more at and connect with me @CarrollBooks on Twitter, Facebook, or on Pinterest!

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