Me: Congratulations on receiving the United States Air Force Materiel Command 2016 Key Spouse of the Year Award! Tell me about the Key Spouse program for your husband’s squadron and what it’s like to be a military spouse.
Jessica Conklin: Thank you! The Key Spouse program for the 72nd Security Forces Squadron is about helping out spouses of those deployed and improving the morale of the squadron. When you first get married to the military, you have no idea what to expect. The Key Spouse program is about mentoring our younger spouses, letting them know what being married to the military is all about. Mainly, knowing that they’re not alone, that someone else is here for them if they need anything. We have social media, like Facebook pages specifically for deployed spouses where we’re constantly encouraging and supporting each other. We have deployed spouses’ get-togethers and dinners several times a month. I always just make sure they know I’m here if they need anything.
My husband has been on multiple deployments. He used to be K-9, so he’d be gone all the time. It could’ve been a few days to a few months or longer. When I first married into the military, I knew that’s what I was doing, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. During my husband’s first deployments, we didn’t have any kids. It was easier. I just worked and I had friends. When I first would find out he was going to be gone for a long time though, I’d get really emotional.
When you throw kids in the mix, it’s even harder. They don’t understand why their daddy’s not coming home from work, why he’s gone, why they can’t see him or talk with him. It was the hardest when they’re little. As they get older and with our technology, now that we have Skype, it has helped tremendously. My husband’s last deployment, he was in Afghanistan and we got to Skype with him almost every day. It was a tremendous difference from his first deployments when all I could do was write him snail mail letters and possibly get a phone call here and there.
Now that I’m older, married to the military life longer, and I have kids, I just deal with it. You have to. You have to just be like, okay, you’re going to be gone for 6 months? We can do this! I have to be able to function. I’m not just taking care of myself anymore. I have 2 other persons I’m responsible for. They’re the most important people in our lives. For our kids, I have to be able to function and take care of them. Life has to go on. You can have a pity party for yourself every now and then, but you have to suck it up and press on, that’s the military way.
To be a military spouse, you have to learn to be very self-reliant, understanding, and patient. Your spouse can’t tell you everything. You just have to be able to trust them, understand that’s their job, and be supportive. There are day to day things that happen on the Base that they’re involved in or first on the scene for, not just things that happen when they’re on deployments. You gotta learn where you can ask questions and where you can’t. You learn over the years. Some things they’re just not allowed to share. If they share it, they could get in trouble.
I feel really good about being able to adapt, overcome my insecurities, and become a stronger and more independent person over the years. My husband and I were high school sweethearts. We’ve been for married over 17 years now. I will say we have better communication now than we’ve ever had. I don’t know if it’s now that we’re older and wiser or we now have that open communication that we didn’t have when we were younger. Now we have a better understanding of each other. I think he’s gotten a little softer being that we’re parents now. We’ve arrived at a happy medium. He’s not always a hard-ass now, you know?