Author and columnist Terri Barnes now calls O’Fallon, Ill. home. But that is a recent designation determined by her husband’s transfer to Scott Air Force Base last August. First the daughter and now the wife of a career military man, she estimates O’Fallon is her family's seventeenth hometown.
In 2007, Barnes began sharing the everyday experiences of military life – like the frequent moves—in a weekly column for the military magazine Stars & Stripes. While the mainstream media headlines reported on bombings and drones, her column talked about friendship and faith, motherhood and sacrifice.
Now she has gathered her best columns into a book: Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life, which was released March 1, 2014. The book is an inside look at the day-to-day hardships and victories of military life, and the many ways it shapes, challenges, and enriches its families.
“Writing this column for seven years, I just realized at one point that I had a narrative of the military family during these war years,” Barnes said.
“During World War II the whole country was in it together, and everyone was living the same story. And in this case, military families are a very small percentage,” she said. “I was looking at my column going there’s a story, and there’s a part of history here that needs to be told about military families, and that’s why I’m really happy to have this book, to have these columns in one place to tell this story, or at least my part of the story.”
Through her book, Barnes hopes that people outside the military will come to have a better understanding of military life, which in some instances has a lot in common with civilian life.
“Many people only know about our lives from what they see on the news, when something is tragic, or something is scandalous or there’s a fabulous homecoming video that’s on the news, and that’s all people see of our life, but there is so much more life that’s lived between those [images],” she said.
And while she wants to emphasize the commonalities, she also wants to increase awareness of the hardships military families have faced during recent wars, including losing loved ones.
“As we’re moving forward and the Iraq War is over, and the Afghanistan War is winding down, those are the costs that are not over when the war is over. This is something that these families—they’ve lost someone forever. And those kinds of costs are from now on,” Barnes said.
“We’ve had some disconnect between civilians and military over the past 12 years, that the military is that 1 percent that serves and fights the war and bears that burden and the civilian community looks out and says I can’t believe they do that, that’s wonderful. And I think there needs to be more of a connection,” she added. “And that again is why getting the message of military families out is so important because we are alike in so many more ways than what we realize.”