Over the years, outstanding military spouses have been a source of strength and inspiration to me and my family through the ups and downs of military life. I have made it my mission to share these exceptional human beings with you, along with the invaluable wisdom they have to offer. I believe our stories can make a difference in the lives of others, and it is my hope that you will be inspired by them, too.
Without further adieu, meet this month’s Resilient Military Spouse, Cindy Stremel – Air Force spouse of 27 years, proud mom and dedicated teacher. Cindy’s love for and commitment to her family is evident in her story, and her faith shines through her words. It is a pleasure to introduce her to you today.
Connect with Cindy by email at cyanst10[at]gmail[dot]com.
Hi, Cindy! Thank you so much for being open and willing to sharing your story with us! Will you tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience as a military spouse?
I have been married to the same wonderful man for 27 years. For the first 26 of those, he took me all over the world while serving in the Air Force. We have oneadult daughter who we love to brag about, because we think she is pretty spectacular. Teaching at a private Christian school gives me great joy and fulfillment. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, stamping, cross-stitch an
d watching hockey with my man. We are now retired and loving civilian life — it is just the next adventure!
What has been your favorite duty station and why?
I don’t have a favorite duty station, because there was something good about all of them. That is the key to this life – you have to look for the good in every situation you are in.
The years we spent in Alaska were wonderful. It is so beautiful there, and we spent so much time enjoying nature and the outdoors. We camped, fished, and hiked.
We spent three months at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas while my husband was doing some training. We rented a tiny apartment right out the back gate. It took me 30 minutes to deep clean the place. But we had money (he was a brand new officer) and lots of free time, and it was almost like a second honeymoon.
Our daughter was born while we were stationed at Beale AFB in northern California and we made some lifelong friends there.
Turkey and Germany offered amazing opportunities for travel.
What has it been like raising children in military life?
It can be challenging. Kids thrive on routine, and on knowing what is going to happen next. No matter how you may feel, it is important to stay positive in front of your children. They will take their cues from you. My parents always made the next duty station seem like a great adventure, with new places to see and new friends to meet. That is key. Also, try to have routines, habits, celebrations that do not involve a specific place. They should portable, if that makes any sense.
It can also be really positive to raise kids in this lifestyle. My daughter had seen and experienced many different places and cultures before she even started high school. Those memories will be with her for the rest of her life.
How do you overcome the challenges of military life every day? Do any specific habits or daily rituals help you?
It is okay to cry, but then you have to dry your tears and get to work.
Ask for help.
Accept that there are many, many things that you have no control over.
Have a hobby.
Maintain a peaceful home — a haven from the clamor and busyness of life.
Know that no matter what, Jesus loves you and will never leave you.
How do you communicate with your spouse while he is away?
The first time my husband was deployed, Skype didn’t exist. The next few times, it was an option, but not always a good one, because of poor infrastructure in the countries where he was. The picture would freeze, or the audio wasn’t good. Phone calls were okay, but he often had a time limit. Email was the best option for us. We emailed every single day, sometimes more than once. I think it is helpful to share the details of your days – it helped my husband feel more connected to us back here at home. But it is also vital to NOT burden them with problems that they can’t do anything about. That is more stressful for them. And keep the negative stuff to a minimum, because they can’t do anything about that either. We did use snail mail, but usually reserved that for special occasions and private, personal notes.
How have you worked to strengthen your marriage over the years in the midst of stressful events like relocation and separations?
My husband is the most important person in my life, even above my daughter, and he knows it. So does she. We have taken marriage classes, gone on date nights, been intentional about making time for each other. Be quick to forgive, don’t hold grudges, think the best of your spouse, and give them the benefit of the doubt. I don’t speak negatively about my husband to other women or complain about him. This is a matter of respect, which is HUGE for men.
Looking back, what has been the hardest part of military life for you and your family?
There are several things that have been difficult. One is that we are not close to extended family. We may have seen them once a year, if we were lucky. With Sarah being an only child, I think about that a lot and how things will be for her when she is older. Another thing is that as I have gotten older, it is harder and harder to leave old friends behind and make new ones.
We have so many good memories. Ice fishing in Alaska. Playing spoons and pinochle with friends. Sarah playing hopscotch in an ancient Egyptian temple. Teaching in Germany. Spending the day with my brother and his family on the lake in northern California. Day trips down the Mosel River. Sharing our favorite places in Germany with friends that came to visit.
What advice would you give to today’s young military spouses?
Leave your family (figuratively) and cleave to your husband. Be on your husband’s side. Look at this life as an adventure. Take advantage of the unique opportunities that you have to travel and experience other cultures. If you are in a foreign country, try to learn a little bit of the language. The locals will go out of their way to help you if you do.
Do you have a favorite motto, Bible verse, or inspirational quote, etc. that applies to your experience of life as a resilient military spouse?
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
“Everything will be all right in the end. If it is not all right, it is not the end.”
I heard this in a movie recently. There is debate about the true source, but I like it.
“A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
This is huge for me, especially when moving so often. If you can do this, you will be well on the way to creating a home out of the place you currently find yourself living in, no matter what or where it is.
Connect with Cindy by email at cyanst10[at]gmail[dot]com.