Across the country, Navy, Army, and Air Force families will tomorrow commemorate Anzac Day alongside the rest of the nation. Except there's one difference in what this day means to them.
To the spouses and families of active military personnel, Anzac Day isn't only about remembering our fallen soldiers. For these people – myself included, as someone married to an Army officer – tomorrow is a day for taking stock of the military's influence on our lives.
For that reason, military spouses don't need to get up at 5am for a Dawn Service in the morning. They deserve a long, luxurious lie-in.
If I had to guess, New Zealand has around 5000 to 6000 military spouses of active servicepeople. I often jokingly say we're all "married to the military", but deep down, it's true.
The Army, for me, is a demanding mistress. A second spouse who often is more important than we are. Anyone else who is in a long-term relationship or marriage with an active serviceperson will know exactly what I mean. The mobile age has made this even more true with texts and calls well outside normal work hours.
When you're married to the military, you have little agency or control over so much of your life. You don't get to decide where in the country to live; that's decided for you, and may change every two years. You will spend months alone (and lonely) each year without a confirmed date of when your partner will come home. You often don't know where in the world they even are, nor can you discuss it with anybody.
You don't have any phone numbers to call them on and their mobiles are always turned off. They have an uncanny knack for needing to return to work at 9pm on a Friday. You don't get to book holidays far in advance, because the military can revoke your partner's pre-approved leave at the last minute.
When you're married to the military, you have little agency or control over so much of your life.
These are just a few examples of how terribly needy the military is. We often actually call her the "other woman"; she's always there, always straining your attention, and we're always left wondering if there's somewhere else you'd rather be.
I don't want a pity party because of all of this. When I married into the Army, I made my bed, and I have to lie in it. Which is exactly what I'll be doing until 10am tomorrow. Quite literally.
Military spouses across the nation, you should join me in bed tomorrow morning. We have no duty to get up with our partners and the rest of the country and stand in the dark thinking about others' service. We already spend the other 364 days each year doing that, often while forgetting that we're serving too.
Unpaid and unacknowledged, there will never be any medals for military spouses. No parades, no tears, no moments of silence. We are the neck that holds up the head of the military and we ask for so little in return.
Yet tomorrow, we should ask our partners – and the country – for one thing. Leave us alone under
the duvet for a few extra hours. Don't make us feel guilty for not getting up in the cold. It shouldn't be us cajoling children out of bed, into their puffer jackets and gumboots in the wee hours, with only Vegemite toast to keep them quiet.
Likewise, it shouldn't be up to us to explain that New Zealanders have fought in more conflicts than WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. There are young veterans all throughout New Zealand life, carrying their modern experiences with them. They are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. Those experiences (including PTSD and many other issues) come home to us; the partners left to hold fort in Palmerston North or Papakura; Wellington or Waiouru. Not all veterans are your great-great uncle's vintage.
Anzac Day is a work day for our husbands and wives because they are active soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Until the day comes when the military doesn't dominate every other day of the year for us; pending a time it doesn't keep us up at night worried and anxious about our absent partners, let us relax.
For one morning. Just one. We deserve that extra sleep tomorrow, because Anzac Day is about commemorating the contribution and suffering of ALL those who serve.