Military life is constant sacrifice, not only for the service-member but also for their spouse. Being married to a service-member requires flexibility and resilience. Today on Veterans’ Voices, Air Force veteran Joseph McWilliams of Dayton, and his wife, Heather McWilliams.
Joseph McWilliams (JM): I enlisted into the Air Force on November 6, 1990, when I was 17, and a junior in high school. My parents both had to sign a release to allow me to do that. Then I left for basic training after my senior year.
Heather McWilliams (HM): How many years have you been in the military?
JM: Twenty-one-ish years. It’s a little bit more squishy because I don't have defined starts and stops, and the Reserve time kind of affects that. But thereabouts, about twenty years. What would you like to know?
HM: I guess what's been the best thing about serving in the military?
JM: The people you serve with. You meet some pretty amazing people. And yeah, just having memories together with folks that, yeah, they're the only ones that are going to experience that type of thing, and that doesn't translate.
HM: Yeah. I’d agree with that. I remember that was weird when we met, and you'd start telling stories, and I just had no context for it. It was, I don't know, it was a little off-putting at first when you started telling stories about like that training you went to. I forget what it was, it was some sort of survival training, and you started telling stories and I was like, oh, goodness, what am I getting myself into here? Are you really going to be out in the field somewhere going through that for real and I'm going to be at home like making waffles, you know, it just seemed a stark contrast. So, yeah.
JM: I know when we met, you had some reticence with dating a military guy.
HM: I did. I did.
JM: How’d that changed in your mind?
HM: Well, it changed because of you. Because you're awesome, and you were the person I wanted to be with, and you were in the military. It's not that I'm unpatriotic. I mean, I just, you're a loadmaster, so, I mean, you could be going on small planes to sketchy situations. And, you know, there was a certain amount of: I'm emotionally attached to someone who could get deployed for months at a time, and I don't know where they are, or what's going on. And so, you know, it was very far from my field of experience. So, you know. But, I wanted to be with you, and you wanted to be in the military, so there we were. Do you have any thoughts about being married in the military? Any advice for people?
JM: Communication. You know, when you get married, you really become a team and you have to rely on each other and communicate well. Especially since you're going to be, potentially one of you is going to be away for extended period of time, doing things that might be a bit more dangerous and risky. You have to be able to communicate, and trust each other, and work together. Because you don't have a whole lot of other support. The military tries, but it's not the same as family support.
Air Force veteran Joseph McWilliams and his wife, Heather McWilliams spoke at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer. Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource. This story was edited by Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.