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By: Bassy Pekar, Kadena AFB

They call us “dependents”, we military spouses. They tack on that label as though that’s all we are, as though our very existence is dependent on our military member. It’s as though once my husband raised his right hand I ceased to exist as a separate entity and instead became an extension of him, my “sponsor”. In the year and a half since we moved to Okinawa, I found myself zealously defending my identity and my role, determined to not let myself get swallowed up by military protocol and regulations.

My first few months as a military spouse found me in limbo, somewhere between a supporting role and a desire to carve out my own path. During the initial few months it often felt like I was playing pretend, like I didn’t have a right to be there. It felt like I was stumbling around in dress-up shoes playing the wonderful game of make-believe, a game where I could be anyone, do anything, I felt I should. I was quick to counter my assumed lone role of military spouse, quick to add that I’m also a student and taking a full load of doctoral courses. I was quick to deny and push away the value of being part of an incredibly supportive and close community.

Over the past year and a half, I found my balance and my role in the military spouse world. I came to know the many people of this community, and I came to rely on them as family. I came to accept the challenges it brings and to appreciate the unique opportunities I face. I began to recognize that no one is just a “military spouse”; and although our sponsors are the primary concern for the military, we matter too. I found a way to be both my own person and a military “dependent”, found a way for these two roles to work together rather than in conflict.

I still know my husband’s ID number better than I know my own, and his information is always at the tip of my tongue when making medical appointments. After all, he is the one on the insurance policy. We still need to turn to my husband’s command for permission to take family trips off island and to host Shabbos dinners during this challenging global pandemic. My husband’s work continues to be the primary influence on our life, yet there is space for my role too. I am home with our two children while my husband works, and in the evening my husband is home with us and supporting me in my schoolwork. Together, we are serving the Jewish community and hosting Shabbos meals and holiday gatherings. Together, we are on the adventure of a lifetime as we navigate the challenges and joys of being a military family in Okinawa, Japan.

Originally published in the Purim 2021 issue of The Jewish American Warrior.