Together We Serve: The Modern Military Spouse
By Allen Dale Olson
In 2014, the museum created “Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family,” an exhibit illustrating a broad overview on the military family lifestyle and describing the entire military family– the parents, the spouses, the service members, the children, and most of the spouses who had contributed that material from World War II wives through those of the 1990s.
While some things have remained the same, much has changed for modern military spouses, so museum Director Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, who is an Army wife, wanted to create a new exhibit about military spouses with input from spouses who are currently part of active duty families, so she could compare and contrast their experiences with those of spouses from past generations.
And so, Together We Serve: The Modern Military Spouse was born.
Together We Serve became a collaboration between the museum, Andria Williams, founder of the Military Spouse Book Review, and Terri Barnes at Elva Resa Books, the publishing company which produced “Stories Around the Table: Laughter, Wisdom and Strength in Military Life,” and 38 other authors and organizations.
Husbands and wives sent Woessner their thoughts about what it’s like to be married to the military–some asking for anonymity–some not–but all describing the special challenges and achievements of those married to the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard. Spouse bloggers and authors sent in quotes, poems, and excerpts from their works to be featured on the panels. Children sent in items such as their mother’s jewelry or wedding cake topper—or even decorated potholders honoring their military mothers. One woman contributed a poem painted on an apron crafted from her husband’s ACUs.
What had been planned to be a small, informal exhibit morphed into a bigger one consisting of nine large panels focusing on themes, such as community, career, home, and “balconies” and “basements.” It also took on a decidedly literary theme.
Professor Deborah Cohler and Woessner created the educational text, Army veteran Dominic Ruiz of Dominic Ruiz Photography in Albuquerque, designed the panel graphics, arranging the quotes and poems around the themes, enabling viewers to be drawn directly into the messages.
Some of the books featured in Together We Serve are: Sacred Spaces: My Journey to the heart of Military Marriage by Corie Weathers; Surviving Deployment: A Guide for Military Families by Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito; Right Side Up: Find Your Way When Military Life Turns You Upside Down by Judy Davis; and Seven Wings to Glory by Kathleen M. Rodgers.
Bloggers Julie Provost, Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Lifeand Lisa Smith Molinari, The Meat & Potatoes of Life: One Mom’s Search for Meaning in the Minutia of the Modern Worldprovided quotes as well.
The Kirtland and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Spouses Clubs, Home Depot, GCC, the Parnall Law Firm, as well as private donors co-sponsored or donated artifacts to the exhibit.
Together We Serve is a permanent exhibit at the museum and will be on display starting in mid-April. To learn more about the museum, visit www.militaryfamilymuseum.org, or like it on Facebook. The museum is located at 546B State Highway 333 (Old Route 66), Tijeras, NM 87059. Phone: (505) 504-6830.