From my point of view and without any formal education that makes me an expert, I have to say that YES they are. Not every woman out there is capable of fending off for themselves when we are gone for hours and hours at a time. There is women out there who need to have someone home every night, my wife has been nothing but supportive of my career in the fire service. It takes a special person to deal with the let downs that come associated with being married to a public safety officer. Our schedules are as much as unpredictable as the calls we respond to, sometimes you go in for a 24 before you go off on days and you end up getting forced hired working overtime. When we respond on out of county strike teams I have been gone for up to 14 days at a time and my wife has held the fort/home front on her own. I tip my hat off to my wife and all the other wives out there who support us in our careers. We should also talk about children and who is more demanding, wives or kids?
I think its rougher for a family with a volunteer firefighter. I work full time for the state as a Fire Safety rep, and nights and weekends I am a volunteer captain with my fire dept. I come home from work, change, eat a quick dinner (if I get to) with my wife and 5 year old daughter and out I go to drill, meetings, classes, calls...But my wife rarely argues, and when the tones sound off she tells me to go and not to worry about anything. My daughter loves that i am a firefighter and she proudly tells her friends in kindergarten that I am one and she rarely complains. For work, as a fire safety rep, I responded to the hurricane Irene and was gone for a week straight. When I got home I had a sandwhich and talked to the family for 10 minutes than got up and went to the station to see where I was needed to help with the recovery efforts. My wife and daughter came with me and helped. never complaining or acting selfish about not spending time with me alone.
Im proud of my family, as much as they are of me, they put up with a lot so that I can persue my dreams of being a firefighter and continue to help others.
SO, to answer your question; Hell yes, they are more special than regular spouses and kids and stronger for it too.