"So, you're a military wife?" Sounds rather degrading coming from a
civilian who has no concept of military life.  I, for one, have a great
concept. My father was a Marine for 31 years and I married a Marine. When I
said, "I do," 13 years ago, I knew what I was getting into. Most people

People don't realize that we, the spouses, are just as involved. We make
more sacrifices in 20 years than most people do in a lifetime.

  We let go of friendships we've formed over the 3 year tour, turn
around and start new ones at our next station. We wring our hands when
they don't come home some evening, knowing they might be on spontaneous
maneuvers, but no one will tell us for sure. So we sit and wait,
gripping with the fear that when the door opens we'll see a captain
standing there in his dress blues, his cover in his hand and regret in his
eyes from a grateful nation. It wasn't "playing Marine" this time. It was
for real.

From Desert Shield to Desert Storm, the nation needed the Corps and it was
there -- trained, ready and willing to give the ultimate sacrifice. The
world witnessed the support that has always been there, in us, the other
half of the Corps.

I heard a civilian woman say to my mother, "Oh, how fortunate are military
families; free housing, medical and dental care, the commissary..." My
mother replied with, "Nothing is free. It's compensation."

  It's compensation when they take the husband, the father, and more
often now, the mother and wife, for a year at a time to serve in some
remote location that's strategic and secret and has no name. Yet, it's
little compensation when you pass by a house after a terrorist attack on
the Marine barracks -- and see a black wreath hanging from the door. I knew
inside there was a widow with children. And I knew that widow could have
been me.

The Marine wife is a special breed.  A strong woman. I owe a lot of my
strength to my mother. I saw her cope with hardships that would have made
any man fold.

  What would you do if you found yourself stranded in a New Jersey
airport in 90-degree weather with 3 children under the age of five, dressed
for your destination in Iceland with no passports, no lodging, no luggage,
and no help? I'm proud to say she overcame and we met my father in Iceland,
a little ragged -- but together.

Mom showed me to look for things that most people don't see: the young
Marine away from home for the first time during the holidays, missing those
homecooked meals in a family surrounding, or the young expectant mother
that's frightened, wishing her Mom was close to ask questions she believes
are silly.

We take care of our own, and hope that when our loved ones are in a
similar situation, someone will reciprocate. Giving thanks, such a small

A point of advice to the young Marine wives: seek the support of other
Marine wives, enlisted or officer.  Experience is the best teacher. We were
in your shoes once before and know what you are feeling. Ask. They know the
tricks to a smoother moving day, quarter inspection, the knowledge of
medical facilities, the schools and definitely the best shops. And if they
don't know the answer, you can be certain they'll know where to find it.

  If I sound as if I'm glorifying the Marine wife, perhaps I am. We're
just as good at what we do as our spouses are. We are not simply wives and
husbands and children. We are a part of the Marine team.

I get a lump in my throat when I hear the Marine Corps Hymn or the Star
Spangled Banner. My shoulders pull back and my chin lifts a little higher
when I see my husband in his uniform or when someone asks me what he does
for a living and I say with great pride, he's a United States Marine.

-- Amy J. Fetzer