What Being a Reserve Family Is Really Like

By Guest Contributor, A Girl @ A Boy, A Girl, and the Marine Corps.

What Being a Reserve Family Is Really Like
Image by by Lee J Haywood

There are many things about being married to a reservist that I truly enjoy.  I’ve never been a great mover, so the idea that I don’t have to PCS decreases a significant amount of my anxiety about military life.  But, being married to a reservist means that we miss out on a lot of the great things and many benefits of being a military family.

True, I don’t PCS every few years, but this means I never get to start a new adventure in a new city, I never get to see other countries (unless we go on vacation) and I never get that chance to meet an entire group of new people who understand this crazy life we lead.  In fact, the only people I know who understand what being a military spouse is like are the people I have met online through blogging.

Reserve spouses are few and far between, even when we are married to service members in the same unit.  There are no spouses from our unit near me and though we all adore each other, we are bridging a gap that can be multiple states wide.  This means rarely do we have family days, we only see each other once at year at military balls and we never get a GI Jane day.   It also means that having an active FRG is laughable because no one can attend meetings or events.  I know I’m not up for a 3+ hour drive for a random monthly meeting.

As a reservists spouse, there are not many things I can do without my husband.  Though we live in close-ish proximity to a military base, it’s not the base my husband is stationed out of.  I do have a registered vehicle with the appropriate window decals, but most spouses in our unit don’t because they live nowhere near a military base.  This means that even simple things like getting or renewing a dependent ID can mean special trips with their spouse to a base that can sometimes be hours away.  In fact, I know spouses who don’t have IDs at all (though there are not many).   And prior to moving to where we are now, we were over 2 hours away from the nearest base.

We also rarely qualify for help, the general assumption being that our civilian jobs and the civilian part of our lives take care of us (though our civilian employers make the same assumption about the military). We are not paid on a regular schedule by the military and can sometimes wait up to a full month to get paid for my husband’s military related service.  This means that we are often short on pay for the month, due to him having had to take time off of work for his duty.  We do not qualify for any of the military related services to assist families when this happens because we are not an Active Duty family.

I also rarely qualify for scholarships that are meant for military spouses and we are not eligible for MyCAA.  The only exception to this being if our spouses are deployed and thus considered activated.  And we only receive Tricare benefits if our spouses are activated for more than 30 consecutive days, unless we opt to pay out of pocket for it.

And then there are the little things we miss out on as a Reserve family.  I have never seen my husband get promoted.  I will never get to pin him and I have never been to any ceremony that was not specifically chosen to be held on a family day or USMC birthday ball weekend.  That may seem like a silly thing to mention, but I have always felt like I am missing out on an exceptional part of being a military spouse. Though we often deal with the pains of military life, we rarely get to actively participate in it.

And you don’t want me to get started on the financial aspects of being a Reserve family, but suffice it to say that we pay out of pocket for most things that are included in the benefits for Active Duty families and, currently, my husband and I are actually paying money each year for him to continue to serve, his benefits and pay having not outweighed the cost associated with travel and out of pocket expenses for a number of years now.  I like to joke that we get all the pains that come with being a military family, but none of the benefits.  But it’s probably more that we get all of the pains and we happily accept them.

We accept those pains for a variety of reasons.  My husband truly loves being a Marine and I feel so fortunate to be the wife of a Marine.  I feel so proud of his service and so honored to be counted as a military spouse.  The spouses I have had the privilege to get to know are truly amazing people and a wonderful example of why I feel so lucky to count myself among them.  So, oftentimes, our lack of benefits and the financial aspect are far outweighed by the honor of being a military family.

NextGen MilSpouse is committed to finding ways to connect the gaps our fellow milspouses in the Reserve and National Guard Communities as part of our OneMilFam initiative.  If you know any Reserve or National Guard Spouses looking to connect and have ideas about how we can better work together to support our fellow milspouses, please share your ideas with us. 

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5 COMMENTS

  1. This rings so true to my experience has a Navy Reserve wife. During my husbands last deployment I was asked to lead the FRG for his det and have sense become ombudsman for the NOSC. One thing that I have spent a lot of time doing is networking and finding resources. Being a reserve family you deal with many of the same things as an active duty family without all the support. We have found the greatest support from the WA National Guard and Red Cross. Our local Red Cross has really stepped up to create classes, offer support, and offer resources all over the state. We are also extremely grateful to our National Guard. They are very “purple” and have allowed our family to take part in training and events all over the state. Our families are able to meet other local military families and access their family programs which can point them to local resources.

  2. […] Let’s cut her some slack. And while we’re on the topic of slack-cutting, I don’t blame Jessie for not moving for a year-long school. Why the hell would she PCS for just a year if she has a tight-knit well-established network right in her hometown?  Yeah, it’s a choice. Her choice. It’s the choice I would’ve made if I were in her shoes. I’m living separated from my spouse for the next year thanks to a short-tour to South Korea, what of it? Besides, PCSing isn’t something that commonly occurs in the National Guard and Reserve communities. […]

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