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Married to the Military: Spouse Sees Life as an Adventure

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 24, 2006 – The key to escaping a tedious life is to maintain a positive attitude, the wife of a Navy physician and diver said.

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Meredith Leyva, founder of CinCHouse Web site, a community of military wives, girlfriends and women in uniform, speaks to an audience at the organization's first convention, held Jan. 10-12 in San Diego. Photo by Mike Carpenter

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"Always view life as an adventure, and that's true whether you're in the military or not," Meredith Leyva said.

Leyva and her husband, Lt. Fernando Leyva, live in Pensacola, Fla., where Fernando is finishing his residency while assigned to the Navy Experimental Diving Unit. It's the family's sixth duty station since they married six years ago.

In 1998, Leyva used her experience as a military spouse to set up a Web site called CinCHouse, which stands for Commander-in-Chief of the House. CinCHouse serves as a resource for military wives, girlfriends and women in uniform. Today, more than 900,000 women use the site to share support and advice on making the most of military life, she said.

Leyva has also written "Married to the Military: A Survival Guide for Military Wives, Girlfriends and Women in Uniform." The book is a handy guide to navigating the ins and outs of military life with amusing anecdotes and helpful advice for enjoying the adventure of military life.

Military families face special challenges, she said. Like many other military children, Leyva's son, Alejandro, 3, has experienced one of the family's moves, and there's no doubt that it was difficult, she said.

But coping with the numerous changes of military life gives spouses and children valuable skills for the future. "(Relocation) does teach children how to cope with new situations and meet new people," Leyva said. "And it does tend to make them less afraid of taking the step of making new friends."

Leyva said military children's reaction to moves is directly affected by their parents' reactions. "One of the worst thing spouses can do is ... just sit around and mope about it," she said. "The key is treating it like a new adventure and, most important, quickly getting your child established into a new network (of friends)."

Re-establishing a network of friends is beneficial for both spouses and children, Leyva said. It gives children a sense of normalcy, and spouses develop contacts they can call on in an emergency.

Making new friends is not the only challenge a spouse may face when orders for a permanent change of station are received. A new job also may be necessary and finding new, gainful employment every three years or so, isn't always easy, Leyva said.

She has struggled with this during her time as a military wife, although she has discovered a way to combat the issue. Along with her work with CinCHouse, Leyva is currently a partner in a Web-based fitness company and invests in real estate -- both portable livelihoods.

However, she said she knows her earnings could be significantly higher. "There is no doubt that our continuing to move around harms my ability to make income, which is a significant financial loss," Leyva said. "On the other hand, if we had the opportunity to go to Europe or do something really exciting, you bet I'm going to jump on it."

While there is no getting away from the anxiety of relocating and finding a new job, Leyva said she's gotten some good advice that helps her cope. "Anything said or done three months before and three months after a relocation does not reflect on the state of your marriage," she said. "And that is so true," she added with a laugh.

While military life has some hardships, it also offers wonderful opportunities for spouses and children, Leyva said. This includes the chance to experience other cultures first hand. Many military children learn to speak different languages, and living overseas can give them a broader worldview than the typical American child has. Children with a better understanding of the world make better American citizens, Leyva said.

With all its opportunities and challenges, Leyva said the military is like an all-American family that has a real purpose. "It's amazing how quirky military folks are and how intimate you become with them. And I love that about the military," she said. "You get to be a part of something so much bigger than yourself."

She said there's very much a sense that military families are doing something monumentally important for the world. "That ... makes us realize what's important in life and what isn't important in life," she said.

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