Key Spouses: Who They Are, What They Are Not

Sometimes key spousing is no fun.
A look inside my key spouse binder. Specifics blurred out.
Our squadron’s updated deployment list came out last week.  Upon looking it over, I commented to Hubs that one of his friends is deploying soon.  While this isn’t news to him, my comment was more to the effect of, “Hey!  This is one of the guys whose wife you said was nice.  And I need friends…”
To which Hubs sympathetically replied, “Yeah…  She doesn’t really like your group.”
My group, by the way, is not what this woman thinks it is.  According to a handful of people, though, my group exists only to do petty things.
For them, to be a key spouse is to pretend one has authority over non-key spouse spouses.  It means holding social gatherings in order to talk about the people who aren’t there.  It is about holding my husband’s rank high up in the air for all to see.  To be a key spouse is to be an elitist snob.
Alas.  That is not what I do.  As a key spouse to our squadron, I check up on and extend myself to the families of our deployed.  As a key spouse, I send out mass e-mails to make sure our squadron is aware of what our base has to offer them.  When they end up in the hospital, I call and see if there is any way to help.  Childcare?  Short-term chauffeur?  Meals until you’re back on your feet?  Done.  If I don’t have an answer, let me call someone who will.
Sure, there is a social side to being a key spouse.  We also arrange monthly social gatherings.  Playgroups.  Book clubs.  Dinners and holiday events.  We have the hope that there will be something for everyone.  Even if it has to be subgroups, it is our hope to instill an actual sense of community.
Once a month our squadron’s key spouses get together to discuss how well we’ve been keeping up with our assigned duties.  We work together to figure out what is working and what can be done better in order to help spouses feel welcome and at home.  There are four of us and about eighty families.  Of the four of us, I am the only spouse whose husband is enlisted.  The officer’s wives express some concern over the fact that a few of their charges refuse to accept their help.  They have used mutual acquaintances to play telephone, informing the key spouse group that they will not speak with officers’ wives, “because they know how they are.”
As I understand it, there are spouses out there who wear their husband’s rank.  The women I know, however, are not those women.  Nor are they cookie-cutter renditions of one another.  Regardless of  whether they are married to an officer or an enlisted man, all of these women are Air Force Wives.  They remember their own times of need, and how the help they did or didn’t receive affected them.  As they balance the various aspects of their personal lives–which still include deployments–they also choose to take on the work of a key spouse, and take that responsibility seriously.
My final priority as a key spouse is this: to bite my tongue and cap my pen, lest I send certain folks Thinking of You cards pointing out the sad irony which lies in calling their key spouses snobby, elitist women.

Out On A Limb

Recently as I sat in on a key spouse meeting, I was told to be at the ready to help out a woman whose husband is deployed.  At the moment she is on our squadron’s do not contact list, but  recently found herself calling one of our colonels to help get her to the emergency room.  Much to our relief, she is going to be okay.
In instances like these I’m so thankful to be part of a squadron that is tight knit enough that people can feel comfortable enough to approach at least one person in their times of need.  Still, I’m left wondering what made this woman decide to put herself on the do not contact list in the first place.
Has she had negative experience with a prior squadron?  With our squadron?  Is she shy, or feel that she is better off going it alone, instead of bothering someone?
Whatever her reasoning, I can only hope that in time she’ll consider accepting the invite to be cared for by others within the squadron. We may not all come here knowing one another, but this is a world wherein the help of a previously unknown face can be what gets us through the day.
Choosing military life can set one up for a lonely experience.  There is little to no room for reclusiveness if we are to thrive under our unique circumstances.  Sometimes the only thing keeping us from being truly friendless is our willingness to let others in, even when every internal fiber wants nothing more than to resist an offer for help, or to turn down that slightly awkward invite for coffee.
Keep in mind that that slightly awkward invite for coffee stemmed from someone putting herself out there.
Do yourself a favor, and take it.  Take a chance to move past your comfort zone, and the most you lose is an hour or two of your time.
What you have to gain is substantially more.