Reflections on Todd & Peggy Podcast #3
By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean
The audio recording below is the third part of a conversation with Todd, a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Nurse Corps, and his wife Peggy, an elementary school teacher. Peggy and Todd generously shared some of their experiences as a military family, to help those of us serving military families have a better understanding of what they go through. Below the recording you’ll find a blog post reflecting on this part of Todd and Peggy’s story. This is part 3 – The Last Transition…or Not
The Last Transition … or Not
“When one parent in a family serves in the military, the whole family serves. Military life requires great commitment and sacrifice not only for the service member but also the spouse, children and other family members.”
The above thought occurred to me as I listened to podcast #3 where Todd and Peggy reflect back on their experiences as a couple and a family with children as he pursued his military career. Military service with its deployments, weekend trainings and other demands impact the whole family and not just the service member.
In this podcast, Todd and Peggy discuss their next transition – retirement from the military. Their experience shows how important it is for couples to discuss not only the timing of this transition but also what it means for their relationship and their family.
As a couple, Todd and Peggy agreed that he will retire from the military either in 5 years or if he is deployed again. They decided that as a family they did not want to go through the experience of another deployment. However, both Todd and Peggy recognized that after retirement, the military will remain an important part of their everyday lives.
Military service itself is not so difficult – military members train for it – but separation from family can be very difficult. It takes a toll on the children who tend to become more connected with the stay-at-home parent. Peggy talks about being a single parent during deployments and Todd described feeling that his relationship with his children at times was not as “tight” as Peggy’s.
Long deployments also can negatively impact a couple’s marriage. Todd notes that many marriages do not survive the separations of military service. Couples not only need to spend time preparing for the financial aspects of deployment but also for the relational and emotional aspects. Todd believes that the military could do more to prepare service members for these latter challenges.
Todd and Peggy were the fortunate ones; the podcast interview shows that they weathered those difficult transitions and developed an even stronger marriage. However, significant numbers of military marriages do not survive.
When asked to give one word to describe his military service, Todd said “service” to country and that he dedicated his life to the military. Peggy responded with the word “pride,” saying that she was proud of everything Todd has done. Despite the hardships, both Todd and Peggy were proud of his accomplishments and felt that the sacrifice was more than worth it.
In your work with military members and their families, consider how you might help young service members who are just marrying and beginning their families to prepare for the impacts of military service. What steps can they take now to ensure that they are like Todd and Peggy as they approach retirement with pride and meaning?
Karen Shirer is a member of the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions Team and the Associate Dean with the University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Family Development. Karen is also the parent of two adult daughters, a grandmother, a spouse, and a cancer survivor.