There’s a tradition among military spouses of forming close bonds in a hurry.
They never know when, or where, their partners orders will take them next.
Friendships are forged on a fast track.
When their spouse deploys or the worst happens, they are not alone.
For one group of women in the Flathead Valley, that tradition lives on.
Although their time on base may be long behind them, members of the Military Officers of America Association Wives Club still find comfort in the commonality of their experiences.
“If you served 20 years like we did, that’s a large chunk out of your life, and you have things in common — mainly moving 13 times,” laughed longtime member Cissy Little, of Bigfork, whose husband John served in the Air Force.
The circle of women are wed to officers spanning the ranks — from captains to generals — who reside in all corners of the Valley. All five military branches are represented among the two dozen members, though the Air Force is the most popular with 10 military wives.
On the third Wednesday of every month, they convene.
There are no business meetings in this club and there are no dues. The only requirement to attend is to be married to a military officer — and to come with an appetite.
“The neat thing is, we get together for lunch and laugh and carry on, usually too loudly,” said member Carolyn Alison, whose husband Thomas served in the Air Force. “You don’t have to do anything — you just show up once a month and eat and drink.”
Over lunch, they exchange stories, laughter and reflect on their years of military life. They might trade tales about the countless moves, their joys and hardships, and how they coped when their other halves were away in training or at war.
Little and her husband lived overseas for about 10 years of his career, in locales like Turkey, Spain and Germany, along with a six-year stint in Washington D.C. while he worked at the Pentagon. While Little was able to travel with her husband for the majority of his assignments, his one-year deployment to South Korea was an exception. To keep in touch when he was away, she mailed him cassette tapes on which she recounted all the happenings back home, along with a few musical numbers by their daughter, Dawn.
“You’d just make tape recordings and send them back and forth,” Little said. “That was a long time ago, that was in 1975.”
In addition to swapping stories, the wives club also celebrates military occasions together, like the Marine Corps Ball or the ever-contentious, Army-Navy football game.
And they’re there for each other when things get tough.
“We’ve lost quite a few [husbands] and a lot of the ladies have passed away too,” Little said. In 2011, when member Mary Sameit of Lakeside lost her husband in a glider accident, the group stepped up.
“We were all there for her,” Little said. “Their family wasn’t here.”
And when Muffin Vallely’s son, Scott, a Private First Class in the Army, tragically passed in 2004, the group joined forces to send boxes to troops overseas in his name.
“We’ve sent lots of things over, more than once. That’s the only constructive thing we do,” Little said with a smile.
The officers wives club in the Flathead was founded in 1994 by four local women and has been running strong ever since. Recruiting is often done by word of mouth and for many members, their reasons for joining can be boiled down to one thing: togetherness.
“It’s comforting,” Muffin Vallely said of the group. “It’s the camaraderie that you’ve had for many many years being a part of the military.” »
Get involved: To learn more about the club, contact Toot Sward at email@example.com.
Editor Mackenzie Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (406) 758-4433.