The strength, struggle of being a MilSo

By Da’Sha Tuck, Staff writer

Separated at a moment’s notice for a few months or maybe a few years, maintaining a relationship from miles away through calls, texts or emails and always wondering if their spouse will return home are what make the life of a military significant other.

“You have to realize that you can’t always be his top concern,” said Victoria Peeler, Murray State alumna, engaged to Nathan Dickinson, U.S. Army. “There will be times that he has to put his job above the relationship.”

The Sacrifice

Dickinson said he chose the army because it provided him with the most career options. He had been in active duty for almost four years when he met his now fiancée.

Peeler and Dickinson live in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Peeler said she considers herself lucky because other than a three-week training, she and her fiancé have not been separated because of Dickinson’s military obligations.

But not all military significant others have been so lucky.

Tara Foren, senior from Humboldt, Tennessee, has been a military significant other for about five years. She and her boyfriend Chris Bledsoe, U.S. Navy, have had a more challenging experience.

“We started dating in September 2012, and he left for deployment to Afghanistan in May 2013,” Foren said. “He was gone for nine months.”

Although being separated was difficult, Foren said she knew the service was Bledsoe’s pride and joy, and knowing Bledsoe was loving what he was doing made it easier. But it wasn’t all easy.

“There were a lot of tears through the months he was away,” Foren said. “Nights I couldn’t sleep from worrying and not hearing from him for weeks.”

She said her biggest fear was never seeing her best friend again.

Since they have been together, Bledsoe has served overseas in Afghanistan, Germany, Ireland and Romania. He has also served in the states in California, Mississippi, Virginia, Texas and Illinois.

Bledsoe said the first deployment was difficult.

“I didn’t want to leave because I knew, with it being our first time apart, it would be hard with us still trying to get to know each other to continue building the bond we had already developed,” Bledsoe said.

Maintaining the Relationship

Bledsoe said he had worries when he left for deployment. He thought he would lose his girlfriend to someone who could be more physically present.

“I truly never thought I would date anyone in the military,” Foren said. “The thought of calling it quits because of the military has never crossed my mind.”

These military significant others said the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Foren said the distance made her relationship stronger. She said they are both strong in their faith; they pray about everything.

“We pray before we eat, we pray out loud together and for one another,” she said. “I honestly believe God put us in each other’s lives, and I’m forever thankful.”

Foren said being in a relationship with a military man or woman is all about support, loyalty and patience.

Advising

Dickinson said leaving is completely normal because he has done it his entire adult life.

“There are very few positives of having a significant other at home while you’re gone,” Dickinson said. “It’s one more thing to worry about, constantly missing them and trying to keep everything alive while not being there is hard.”

Although these servicemen and women are trained for deployments and the military lifestyle, their significant others are not, so it takes some adjustment.

“If you can’t deal with someone not being there constantly, then you’re not where you need to be,” Foren said.

Bledsoe said he has never thought about quitting on his relationship because of the military. He said most military personnel end up in broken relationships because the spouse can’t take the stress.

“Always check in on your significant other as much as possible,” Bledsoe said. “Not only do they need to be there for you during deployment, but you have to be there for them as well.”

The pride that these servicemen and their significant others have for the military is obvious through their commitments.

“‘Home of the Free, because of the Brave’ – being a part of the group categorized as ‘the Brave’ is something to be really proud of,” Bledsoe said.