Life as a Soldier, Through the Eyes of a Wife

By Madison White

Ann and Alan White were married for 35 years before he passed away in September 2002. In that time they raised four sons while Alan had a long and successful career in the Army. Deployed multiple times to places like Malaysia and Vietnam. Alan’s career in the Army lasted decades, and Ann was by his side for the greater part of it.

“We met when he was on leave to see his family, he was only 17; he had turned 17 in March, and had signed up April, ” said Ann, about meeting her husband.

Picture sourced from the Australian War Memorial website of Alan after receiving the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).

Picture sourced from the Australian War Memorial website of Alan after receiving the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).

Ann was always surrounded by military life, her father was in the Navy during the Second World War, and her mother was pleased with the fact that during the war she had worked in a munitions factory making ammunition.

She met Alan at only 14 years of age, and by that time he, her 17-year-old neighbour, had already signed up and been deployed in the Army. The day after Ann’s 20th birthday, they were married.

According to Ann, her husband was a born soldier who was not only excellent at his job, but also passionate about it. He moved through the ranks, being promoted from a private until eventually he became a WO1 RSM (Warrant Officer Class 1 Regimental Sergeant Major) at the peak of his career. Throughout Alan’s journey to becoming a WO1 RSM, Ann remained dutifully at home, raising their boys and running the household.

“He would come home and think he ran the house, and I’d been running it by myself while he was away. He would step in and think that he was the boss again, whereas I’d been doing everything on my own, bringing up the children on my own and living by myself with the kids,” said Ann.

Alan and Ann

Alan and Ann at an event in 1992.

Ann said it could be trying at times raising four children, mostly by herself, while Alan was deployed for months, and sometimes years, at a time. Adding that sometimes the family wouldn’t realize Alan had been gone on an exercise until he’d been gone for days, because he was always so busy. Ann said her family was always treated well on the Army base, Alan was a highly decorated soldier and people knew who she and her children were.

“People knew who the boys dad was,” Ann said, recalling a time when the boys would sit on the fence and watch the recruits being marched along by their drill sergeant, who would call out to the kids while he led the march.

Ann admitted that she didn’t really like the times when Alan would be sent away, but had soon come to accept the fact that the Army came first and his getting deployed and constantly having to move was a part of her life she couldn’t change.

In between the birth of their four children, Alan was being deployed to war zones in Vietnam and on exchanges to places like Britain.

Sometime after his second deployment in Vietnam, Ann said she told her husband not to go back. She could see how stressful it was on him emotionally and physically and she knew it was too much. Alan did go back to Vietnam, three weeks after his third son was born. He also admitted to Ann later on that she was right, he never should have gone back.

Ann and Madison

Ann and Madison

Alan did eventually retire from the Army.

“He couldn’t be as good as the best and it didn’t sit well with him,” said Ann.

For all the trials of being married to a soldier, Ann said that it was ultimately a great life for her and her children, and she was married to someone who was doing what they loved.