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, Lizann Lightfoot – the Seasoned Spouse, a military wife who has been with her husband since before boot camp — 15 years ago! Together they have been through six deployments and four different duty stations (including one overseas in Spain). Lizann spends her days at home wrangling their four young children, cooking somewhat healthy meals, writing about military life, and wondering where the family will end up next. She is the author of Welcome to Rota and the Seasoned Spouse blog.
Hi, Lizann! 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?
- Where are you from? I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania on the Maryland border
- What was your childhood like? I lived in the country on an apple farm, but drove half an hour towards the city to go to private school, so I always felt like I had a foot in each world. I have four siblings, so we were always a close, loud family.
- Where and when did you meet your spouse? We were both 18 and had just graduated high school. I was the lifeguard at the community pool, and his family had just moved into the neighborhood!
- When did you get married? 7 years later, when we were both 25. My college, his deployments, and him being stationed in 29 Palms, CA were the reasons it took us so long.
- How many children do you have and what are their ages? Four children, ages 9, 7, 5, and 3.
- Why did your spouse make the decision to serve in the military? He originally applied to the police department while we were dating. A paperwork error was going to delay his entrance for a year, so he joined the Marine Corps instead. He wanted a steady job that would let him get an education and support a family. After we married, he stayed in because the economy was bad, and we both wanted me to be able to stay home with the kids.
- How long has your spouse been in the service? 16 years!
- Which branch of service? Marine Corps
- Where have you lived? After I married him, we have lived in Quatico, VA; Jacksonville, NC; Rota, Spain; and Camp Pendleton, CA.
What has been your favorite duty station and why?
Rota, Spain, hands down! The Spanish people and culture are wonderful. We enjoyed exploring local towns, trying new food, and traveling in Europe. I even wrote and published a book about the base that is a guidebook for military families moving there. It’s called Welcome to Rota.
What is it like raising children in a military lifestyle?
Sometimes it’s great, other times it is challenging. I love the close-knit family atmosphere of living on base. Families are generally kind and supportive of each other, and there are lots of kids to play with. The challenging times are during training exercises and deployments. I have delivered a baby on my own while my husband was deployed, done potty training alone, and gone through many other developmental milestones by myself. Being stationed far from family means that you rely on military families and friends.
How did you overcome the daily challenges of military life every day? Did any specific habits or rituals help you?
I’m a prayerful person, so I do pray often, especially during challenging times. Knowing that family and friends are praying for me often brings a sense of peace and strength, too. During deployments, my mental strategies are to set goals, focus on them, and keep structured routines. I am always researching local programs and resources for military families that help us save money or make my life easier. There are so many!
How do you communicate with your spouse while he is away?
It depends on the deployment. When he first went to Iraq, I was in college spending a semester in Paris, France. So he literally couldn’t call me for 6 months! We wrote a lot of letters. During his other five deployments, communication has gradually improved. We still write some letters, but now we use a mixture of phone calls, Skype, Google Hangouts (a message app), and photo books to stay in touch.
How have you worked to strengthen your marriage over the years in the midst of stressful events like frequent moves and separations?
There are definitely good seasons and frustrating ones. I have learned to enjoy the good ones and to (somewhat) patiently tolerate the harder ones. Our life changes every few years, so if I don’t like the way things are now, there is always homecoming or the next house to look forward to a fresh start. Mostly, my husband and I work well together because we are honest, encourage each other, and try to communicate every day.
Looking back, what has been the hardest part of military life for you and your family?
The back-to-back deployments to Afghanistan were hard for all of us, especially because I had Baby#2 weeks before one deployment, and Baby #3 in the middle of the next one. My husband was in combat with little communication, so not only was I juggling newborns and toddlers, but I was constantly worried about him while also trying to reassure other young wives in our unit. Those were exhausting years.
What has been your favorite part? Feel free to share specific memories!
We loved living in Europe and exploring together as a family. Sometimes we would just take a walk on the boardwalk and watch the ocean. Other times we drove to local towns and wandered the streets looking for pastry shops. We both love history and art, so we enjoyed visiting some great medieval cities and museums. I have also enjoyed making friends from all over the world. Even though I always have to do time zone math before making phone calls, it is amazing to have military spouse friends who continue to stay in touch even when we live thousands of miles apart.
What advice would you give to today’s young military spouses?
I have tons of advice on my blog, www.SeasonedSpouse.com! I started it because I know that military life is challenging, and I think it is so much easier when someone else has been through it and can help you navigate through your current situation. There are so many more resources and websites now than there were when I first started dating my Marine. Bases have tons of free programs that are not well advertised. So I always tell people to research their base, ask others for advice, and try to sign up for everything. Reach out and ask other military spouses for help. The older ones are usually happy to answer questions or help.
Do you have a favorite motto, Bible verse, inspirational quote, etc. that applies to your experience of life as a resilient military spouse?
Yes, we always say “This too shall pass” when we are going through a tough deployment or PCS move. It means that you will get through it eventually.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Jeremiah 29:11.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This reminds me God has wonderful plans for me and my family, even when we are in the middle of a deployment or a tough duty station.