No one said it would be easy to be a military spouse.

Nothing anyone says prepares you for the deployments, the numerous moves and sometimes, the loneliness. As Stacy Bowstring, a 10-year Navy wife describes it, “life is hard, then military life adds its own layer of stress on top.”

But in the Hampton Roads community, there are 10 women who stick out among the many military spouses out there. These are women who have learned to not just expect the unexpected, but to appreciate it. Women who discovered early on that being the other half to a military spouse means that sometimes, you have to dig down to find that little extra something to get through the day.

For some, it’s helping other spouses navigate the military life. For others, it’s pursuing careers of their own, or advocating for others (including animals!) who need a voice. For all, it’s about family.

When we asked for nominees for Heroes at Home, spouses, friends and even company commanders wrote in, singing praises of dozens of women — and men — for their selfless ways of helping others One made Mother’s Day bags for women at a domestic violence shelter. Another started a fundraising group for Wreaths Across America to provide wreaths at Hampton National Cemetery.

Norfolk Navy Capt. William Shafley said his wife Meredith represents what military spouses do for each other and their families. “She and the countless military spouses in our community sacrifice balancing career and family to support their spouses’ career,” he wrote. “They are the backbone of our military and what makes it possible for us to serve.”

There were numerous accolades for our Heroes at Home winner, Michelle Norman, who in her 25 years as a Navy spouse has worked tirelessly to advocate for special education services for military children. In our guide, you’ll hear from her and the other nine finalists -- in their own words -- about what it’s like to be a military spouse.

Our guide this year also recognizes military children. There are more than 1.2 million military children of active duty members worldwide, all who face the unique challenges that come from being a military kid, from missing your deployed parent to frequently changing schools and making new friends.

As Michelle tells us, “there’s something about this life that ties us together.”

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