I was twenty-two when I married my husband. I had no doubt at that age I could single-handedly take on the world. I think being fearless at younger ages allows us to grow, explore and unleash our abundant energy. The idea of marrying and moving hundreds of miles from my family, only to then within a few months move again over a thousand miles, seemed an easy accomplishment. With this pleasant ignorance, I did not see there would be any trouble going from a small town to big cities far away.
Within a short time, I had an eye-opening understanding that it’s not easy to be an adult. Suddenly I had a different last name, a different state’s driver’s license and I was known as a dependent. That word alone bothered me at 22! I was now a dependent to a Navy Petty Officer, and I was a little scared of this big, new world. In learning what it meant to be a “dependent”, I also discovered a lot of incredible opportunities were waiting for me. I had amazing adventures at the first duty station. I learned that family is sometimes more than just the group you are born into. Family can also be defined by the support system you choose to develop. I realized it is okay to fall down as long as you gather the strength to stand again. I discovered it is easier to get back on your feet when you keep reliable friends nearby. These friends I first met so long ago remain close to my heart today, years later. Most importantly, I learned that being a “dependent” is not a label of weakness but one that defines strength and teaches the true lesson of how to become independent.
The next memorable time I thrived as a dependent was in 2006. I had my epilepsy surgery a few years before that. I recovered well from the stroke I experienced during this surgery. The Navy had allowed my husband to focus on his family before his work. This priority shift was needed and never forgotten. I continue to be awed at how well the Navy family takes care of our family. At this time, I was still carefully watched over by my friends, my family and my community. It was time to step out of this community I had become used to relying on. It was time to discover my full potential that was waiting for me in my recovery. In order to do that, I needed to once again fulfill the role of a true, strong military dependent. Early in 2006, we again moved half-way across the country to California. My husband immediately became attached to a ship. He left on a deployment for eight months, and I recovered enough to once again succeed in the roles of a stay-at-home mom, mentoring newer military wives and rediscovering the strength I knew I had. In reestablishing my role as a Navy dependent far from home again, I was able to reach my full potential for independence.
As my nation celebrates July 4th this next week, I will also be celebrating my own independence. I am grateful to all the people past and present who have placed themselves in harm’s way to keep our nation free. This freedom allows me the ability to not worry about countless subjects so many people take for granted as I celebrate the many gifts that come with being an American. I continue to be grateful that this independence allows me to marry a service member and find my own place in our military’s community. I will celebrate as I thrive in the role of being a dependent part of my family.