As U.S. Troops serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, countless spouses wait for e-mails and phone calls while their significant other is fighting a war. For decades the military spouse was embodied by the bonneted housewife saying “We can do it!”
Senior chemistry major Eric Ventura does not fit that mold. He knows the role of military spouse quite well as his wife spends time at war while he studies at home.
Ventura is a veteran himself. During his ten years of active duty service, he met his wife, Svetlana, in Germany. She and her family immigrated to
the central European nation from Russia.
When he met his wife, her English was limited and his German was even worse. As they dated, her English improved, and they continued to grow closer as Ventura was deployed to Iraq. She sent letters, packages and moral
support to him as he served.
“I think that was one of the major reasons I decided to marry her,” Ventura said. “If someone is willing to do that for you, she is probably willing to go to bat for you.”
Ventura was deployed again in 2006, this time to Iraq. Svetlana was now his
wife. Soon she would be a soldier.
“She saw me jump out of planes in Germany, and she wanted to be a part of it,” Ventura said. “There are (also) some great benefits to the military even when you get out.”
Ventura is spending his time away from his wife studying. He left the Army but remains in the National Guard. He was sent to linguistic school where he learned to communicate in his wife’s native Russian. Now, he is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree largely thanks to the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill while his wife is in Baghdad.
Spouses, like senior nursing major Sarah Stobaugh, find deployments beneficial to study. The separation increases focus.
“To be honest it’s easier in school since they’re not here and you’re by yourself you have a lot of alone time,” she said. “When they are home, you want to spend all your time with them.”
Svetlana is also improving in her field during the separation.
“When you deploy, you go somewhere and you work. You usually do your job in the purest form you ever have,” Ventura said. “It’s almost like you’re doing your job 24 hours a day. She has gotten way better at her job, and she knows it.”
He says that knowing the different levels of danger in certain military jobs while his wife chose her field was difficult.
“I let her know up front, please pick whatever you want, I am never going to stop you from doing what you want,” he said. “I think that’s the way to be as a spouse. Lucky for me, she chose finance.”
Ventura’s experience in the military as a soldier and a spouse has given him insight into why more and more women are finding themselves in the service.
“I think there was a time when women weren’t treated as well and weren’t treated as fairly for promotions and there was all the cat calls going on, but now it has really changed,” he said.
Ventura believes that the entire mind set of the military has changed.
“There is a pretty deep set in culture of no sexual harassment and equal opportunity,” he said. “Women are really gravitating to the military a little bit more because it’s just a more comfortable situation for them and in an economy like ours it’s more stable financially.”
Ventura is using his experience to send as much encouragement to his wife as he can.
Despite the benefits, Stobaugh still sees the negatives of deployed women.
“I would imagine it’s hard either way in the sense of family,” she said. “If the woman has a family, the husband has to raise the kids.”
Freshman nursing major Brittany Stai grew up in a military home. Her stepfather, Don Goudy, is a Master Sgt. in the Air Force. As the daughter of an airmen, her view of women serving is different from Ventura’s.
“I know that all are equal in the military, but at the same time I’m thinking about the kids whose moms get deployed,” she said. “I guess I think that if the woman is a mother, she should try to be kept with her family.”
Stai had several friends who were left at home with their fathers as the mothers left.
“One of my guy friends in high school had his mom deploy for a year,” she said. “His dad worked constantly, so the house kind of fell apart and he had to feed himself and take care of his little brother.”