Not many people truly understand the impact of military spouses on the home front and what they go through. As a military spouse, there are so many different thoughts that go through your head when your spouse is serving on a deployment. There is so much you go through that others will never experience.
Through this, sometimes you will have days that are okay, you may even feel brave and strong; but some days you just want to break down and cry with worry.
When I watched The Finest Hours, a Disney movie based on the true story of Bernie Webber and his extremely heroic Coast Guard rescue mission, what resonated most with me were the feelings portrayed of his spouse (fiancée in the movie) as she dealt with the potential loss of her man. Her feelings were not always expressed verbally, but I could feel them as I watched; those feelings are all too real to me.
When Miriam first learned of the coming storm, she expressed denial saying she’d heard the storm was going to miss them. Much like her, I decided in my head that my husband’s deployment wasn’t going to happen. I kept telling myself that a lot of them get cancelled or changed so his will too.
Then, as the storm grew and closed in on the town with word of lost ships and then a second huge ship broken completely in half, the truth began to set in. She realized that this was really happening. Bernie was really going out there into a seemingly impossible situation, facing what appeared to be sure death, and she couldn’t contact him. Fear began to grip at her, but she tried to change things by arguing with the chain of command.
Once she realized that nothing was going to change and the situation was pointed in a direction she did not want to go, fear fully kicked in. She broke down crying. In spite of this, she trusted that Bernie would be safe and stood by her man.
My husband’s first deployment wasn’t a typical one for Air Force. Most of the time, work is mostly done in one location. My husband, however, had to hop all over on missions. With today’s technology, we were blessed to be able to interact with each other most days; when he had missions, however, I didn’t know beforehand that he would be heading out and would go days unable to talk to him or know what was going on. All I knew was that he was going into hostile environments where he would more than likely be shot at. The only thing I could do was to pray for his safe return.
The missions that stand out to me the most were the ones right before and after the birth of our youngest son. Those were the times I had the strongest feelings of fear, wondering if our little one would get to meet his daddy. Like Miriam, I learned pretty quickly that it is best not to listen to the news (or “chatter”) because it will drive you insane with worry.
Since nothing was going to change, Miriam kept pushing through. Her fear turned to busyness to take her mind off of it.
As I watched Bernie brave each wave, my heart raced. All I could think about was what was going through his head. My husband and I are very open about everything, and I remember him talking about the thoughts and fears he would think as he went out. While spouses fear waiting, service members fear in the moment. With each wave, I watched as Bernie paused a moment, I believe praying and building up courage. I imagined each of those waves as one of my husband’s missions. Each was a hurdle to overcome. Each had a great deal of danger to it, but God brought him over each and back into calmer waters.
Bernie finally overcame the bar, but faced a new challenge. He’d reached the ship, by God’s grace, but now how would they get all those men off of the ship? The waves were rough, the ship was high, and the load would be far more than the small Coast Guard boat could handle. I watched as the waves crashed and the waters sprayed. I watched the brave men jump from all the way on top of the ship into the waters or onto the boat.
Now for the next challenge; how will Bernie find the way home without a compass?
I could only imagine what Miriam was thinking this entire time–her wild imaginations about what Bernie was doing. Those imaginations keep the worry lingering, but all you can do is keep pushing on. This was the time to be strong, to be brave.
Miriam showed great courage. While she wasn’t out there fighting the waves or rescuing men like her heroic husband, she had to stay strong on the home front. I believe her unwavering support for Bernie was one of the reasons those men were able to make it safely home. Both she and Bernie did not know what was ahead for them, but both prayed and trusted. You could sense that they were thinking of each other. Bernie was pushing onward because he had a strong woman waiting for him at home. Had Miriam not lead the pack in turning on her headlights at the end, Bernie may not have seen that shoreline. She truly was a beacon in the storm.
What got my husband through each mission was his prayers, my prayers, and his determination to get back and talk to me and to see our newborn baby.
Sometimes people, even other military spouses, do not fully comprehend the impact a strong home front can have on our service members. While many do, and should, applaud our brave military men and women and their heroic actions in battle or storms, I believe military spouses play a special, even key role. Spouses support their service member in ways that help bring them home safely and even give them that extra boost of determination and bravery they need on their missions.
As I mentioned above, The Finest Hours is based on the Extraordinary True Story of One of the Greatest Rescue Stories Ever Told. This movie has just been released, as of May 24th, on Blu-ray™, Digital HD, and Disney Movies Anywhere. In the bonus documentary, “Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story“, you can learn more about the town of Chatham and hear first-hand stories of this heroic Coast Guard rescue mission from actual witnesses. It even includes Bernie Webber’s daughter! I absolutely love documentaries like this that portray true heroism at its finest.
This real-life based movie has given me a whole new appreciation for the members of our Coast Guard and I appreciated the important role of Miriam, the military spouse.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below–Have you seen this movie? What are your thoughts on the heroic actions of these men (and women)? Are you a military spouse? Have you gone through similar situations? Share your story in the comments below (please do not break OPSEC rules.).
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