We often forget that, for military families, the battle is fought on two fronts: their loved ones’ deployment destinations scattered across the globe, and their own mobile home operations in places we may never have heard of, where they set up camp and recreate some semblance of normalcy on unfamiliar turf. Spouse Calls: Messages from a Military Life by Terri Barnes shares this best of collection of short stories from the international home front, where military families live their lives at “the intersection of conflict and the commonplace.”
Barnes, a military spouse and longtime columnist for Stars and Stripes, brings home these vibrant life vignettes with heart and candor, crafting a record of shared culture and experience for those who belong to this far-reaching All-American community. Her reflections capture and personalize behind-the-scenes anecdotes of military spouses, sons and daughters, friends and family—those charged with broad responsibility for keeping the home fires burning and family life intact through countless moves, transitions, traumas and transformations. Their stories and sacrifices are honored here.
From reminiscences triggered by the discovery of a long lost lego block or an old moving sticker, to wrenching descriptions of military funerals, Barnes’ recollections touch on issues close to home for anyone who has lived within the concentric circles of military life, including military children, Gold Star parents, and those struggling with PTSD.
Sometimes pragmatic, sometimes sentimental, Barnes gives voice to these hidden heroes in the military narrative: the Air Force spouse who leaves his Navy career to care for the special needs of a disabled daughter; the military wife who hikes through a cold night to help deliver supplies to five Marines holed up in a remote mountain outpost in Afghanistan; a soldier’s long journey back from traumatic brain injury; the military kid who has no easy answer for basic questions like, “Where are you from?”
These gathered stories serve as a beautiful tribute to the American exceptionalism that thrives behind the front lines, ready to move and rearrange life at a moment’s notice in service of our nation and our freedoms. Spouse Calls offers validation and encouragement for those who live with the inevitable uncertainties of military life. Or find themselves, as one well-travelled Barnes son suggests, “greeted again by the familiarity of the unfamiliar.”
Review by Dana Trapnell Tibbitts, MWSA Reviewer
From her own kitchen table to Capitol Hill, journalist Terri Barnes takes readers beyond the headlines for an inside look at the challenges and victories of military life. "Spouse Calls: Messages from a Military Life" is a best-of compilation drawn from Terri's long-running "Spouse Calls" column for Stars and Stripes. Through poignant personal stories, incisive interviews, and emotive reflections, the author and columnist has created a snapshot of life on the home front during two wars, preserving an important piece of our nation's culture.
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 191