FORT BRAGG, N.C. –
If you had it to do over again, would you? For one U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Soldier and his wife it wasn’t a question, but a reality.
Maj. Conner Bidwell, Chief, Administrative and Civil Law, USACAPOC(A), made the decision in 2019 to leave active duty based on what was best for their family at the time, but recently returned to full time service in 2021 as an active-guard reserve Soldier. Bidwell’s wife, Liz works for the Defense Health agency as a DoD civilian employee.
“We both missed serving in our respective capacities, myself as an officer and her as a DoD civilian,” shared Conner. “The biggest thing that was missing was the sense of purpose and community, which the Army provides every day.”
“I am a DoD civilian employee for the Defense Health Agency and in addition to supporting my husband and his career, it is important for me to also serve our country as a civilian,” explained Liz. “My husband understands how important my career is and it is always a factor when looking at the next duty station. When Connor came to me and said he wanted to return to active duty, I was so proud of him that he wanted to return to serve his country.”
As a military spouse with her own federal service career, Liz realizes the uniqueness of her position, especially as the Army celebrates Military Spouse Appreciation today, May 6.
“When we got married, I did not fully understand what it meant to be a military spouse.” Liz continued. “Military spouses are also serving our country and play an important role in the military. It is incredibly rewarding to be a part of this strong and resilient community.”
With both of them working for the federal government, the Bidwell’s know that they have to look at each potential duty location as a place for them as a couple and a family, not as individuals.
“Every decision that is made is a family decision and we consider both our needs and wants and those of our kids,” said Liz.
Conner echoed his wife’s sentiments, emphasizing his appreciation for her role in their success.
“I owe my career in the Army to Liz's support.” Conner stated bluntly. “I would not be in the Army on active duty without her support. It's more than just needing her approval though. We both recognize that a military career is not just about the Servicemember, but the whole family. We decided early on that the decision to be on active duty was a decision we make together, for us and our kids. Having her support allows me to focus on my job and USACAPOC(A) without the stress of wondering if I'm making the right choice for our family.”
Realizing early on that each of them had their own strengths, the Bidwell family has capitalized on those differences while still sharing responsibility in everything they do.
“We also allow each other to pursue our own hobbies without resentment or interference,” explained Conner. “We recognize that sometimes we just need time to ourselves.”
For Liz, that alone time takes the shape of long-distance running, with her competing in and finishing the Boston Marathon last month.
“Most of my ‘me’ time is spent running,” laughed Liz. “This is my outlet and stress reliever. My husband is incredibly supportive of me spending hours on a Saturday morning out on a run. He happily takes on the responsibilities at home to ensure I can work towards my goals. This often includes a lot of donuts; the kids love it."
The whole family was present in Boston watching her run the Boston Marathon on April 18, and for Conner, it was the culmination of a lot of great things.
“Seeing her accomplish a major goal of hers, while working a demanding full-time job in a new place and showing our two girls what is possible, was incredible,” Conner grins. “The smile on my kids’ faces as Liz ran by meant so much to be as a husband and father, and a moment I won't forget - a moment my kids won't forget either.”
Living these major moments and realizing that their family thrived on change, meeting new people, and seeing new places was a large part of the decision to return to full time service, and a decision they both heartily endorse as we celebrate Spouse Appreciation.
“I love this lifestyle!” enthused Liz. “Many people assume that the spouses do not like to constantly move and support their Soldiers. I am constantly looking forward to the next move and location and seeing what new adventures await us. We have met so many wonderful people along this journey and now have friends all over the world. We have also seen parts of the country we never would have if it wasn't for the military. Although it is hard and stressful at times, it has always been worth it.”
Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day indeed.