“As the spouse, you have to be the strongest one.”
Less than a year into her marriage, Whitney Nordman’s relationship has already been tested in ways that most civilians cannot fathom. When her husband went through basic and AIT (Advanced Individual Training), she didn’t see him for eight long months.
Now, with the holidays on the horizon, she will be tested even more.
“I knew going into being a military wife that it would be a little more complicated than a ‘normal’ marriage,” Nordman said.
Last year, she had just been proposed to by her now-husband, PFC William Nordman. They were new to the Army, and ready to tackle the adversities that came along with it, but that didn’t mean there was any way to be prepared for the news of a deployment.
“My feelings in that moment were mostly anger, and fear,” Nordman said.
Just three weeks prior to Christmas, Nordman learned she would no longer be spending the holiday with her new husband. A reality that unfortunately many military families are facing this time of year.
As of August 2017, Business Insider reported that out of 1.3 million active duty troops, more than 450,000 were deployed. While some of these soldiers hold safer duty stations, others find themselves in dangerous combat zones, or uncertain border situations.
As a new resident to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Nordman is also thousands of miles away from her home and family in Illinois. The good news however is that she will be flying back to see them over Christmas.
What does it mean to be strong?
You can say that service members know what it means to be strong. They fight, and some die, every day for our Country.
“As the spouse, I feel like you have to be the strongest one,” Nordman stated.
“Knowing that you will be okay while they are gone will help them focus on the job that they have to do, and make sure it’s done right.”
Finding a sense of community is one way to make this strength come easier.
Nordman has developed friendships with other spouses in her husband’s unit. It helps to be connected to people who understand what you’re going through, exactly when you’re going through it.
“The biggest thing is not letting yourself feel alone,” says Crista Colvin, Army wife and mom of four.
Colvin, like Nordman, will be spending the holidays without her husband this year. Sgt. Nicholas Colvin shipped out on a 10-month deployment — his first — in November.
The Colvins have been together for the past 10 years.
“I got him from Walmart,” Colvin said, laughing. “We actually worked together and had our interview the same day.”
They married the following year, and have four children together (9, 7, 5 and 3).
For Nicholas, the Army has always been a calling. He did JROTC all four years in high school, but life after school led him down a different path. That is until he learned that his job was making cuts, and then the military just seemed like the right decision to make.
“The day he got laid off, he went to the recruiting office and enlisted.”
Though the Army has been their life for the past eight years, this is the first real deployment the Colvins have experienced.
“You really learn fast that you’re alone,” Colvin stated. “I had a nail in my tire, and I’ve never had to deal with car issues; that’s always been his area.”
Not only has Colvin assimilated the role of ‘head of house’, but she also homeschools all four of her children, something that she enjoys to no end (but is certainly a big responsibility). She helps her family deal with the absence by staying active.
Though the kids are busy with sports, school and friends during the day, it’s a different story at night.
“Nighttime is the worst, because that’s when it gets lonely,” Colvin said. “If something exciting happens that day you can’t just roll over or turn your body to talk to them. So not having that physical presence is difficult sometimes.”
Fortunately, the family is able to communicate using Skype and FaceTime (although the 16-hour time difference can make it hard).
A very Merry Friends-mas
Colvin intends to make Christmas as festive as possible for her kids. She’s going to be having a “Merry Friends-mas” with neighbors, and hoping to keep the holiday light and fun.
“We watch older Christmas movies, we bake cookies, and there’s Mariah Carey Christmas music playing all the time,” Colvin said.
Instead of focusing on her husband’s absence, Colvin will be celebrating with the family that she has by her side. She has formed long lasting friendships through the military, and found support in times when she most needed it.
“You hear that there’s a lot of drama, especially if you watch Army Wives, but I was surprised at just the community feel,” Colvin remarked.
“The military really does become your family more than anything.”
For the 450,000-plus deployed this season, and all of their families, the holidays can be a tumultuous time. It’s important for those back at home to create a network of support — especially if your service member isn’t celebrating with you. And for those of us fortunate enough not to have a loved one deployed this holiday season, please count your blessings and keep these military families close to heart.