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Guest Blog: Appreciating My Soldier

 Posted by on January 9, 2014 at 17:39
Jan 092014
 
Celeste

Celeste

Blogger Biography: Appreciating my life. I know many other milspouses will agree.

In my short time as a military spouse, I have learned and come to appreciate so much more than I thought possible. I have learned that no matter my husband’s rank, branch or time enlisted, so many more people look up to him than just our family. People all over the city, state, country and world see him in uniform and stare in awe and admiration, as I do daily.

I have learned that being a wife and mother means so much more than cooking and cleaning. It means loving your husband in the hard times and keeping the household together when he’s away. He’s not just away at a business meeting; he’s away protecting us. He’s in the desert wondering how his son and I are back home — while we wonder how he is, impatiently awaiting his return. It means making sure my son knows his daddy is not just away for work; he’s away for his family and for his country.

I have come to appreciate that kiss before work, that look he gives me for no good reason (at least no reason I understand), that minute on the phone, that last “I love you” before bed, that quality father-son time, that Friday night movie date, and last but not least, the ring on my finger that means so much more than husband and wife or a glisten in the sun.

I’ve realized no matter how many times I complain or cry over him being deployed, I get to say my husband has one of the most honorable jobs of all. My unexpected phone call in the middle of the day or night means so much more than just a regular phone call home. I’m not a regular wife, with a regular family, or a regular life, in any regular situation. I have a soldier. A very loving and hardworking soldier. A soldier also known as my husband.

Guest Blog: Sharing Pride as a Military Family

 Posted by on January 3, 2014 at 16:19
Jan 032014
 
Alisha

Alisha

Blogger Biography: For two years, Alisha has been the proud wife of a member of the U.S. Air Force. She writes about daily life, love and learning within the military. She and her husband have a 2-year-old black lab who makes their lives joyful every day!

We’ve all been there. You meet someone new and you mention in passing that your family is a military family. The person you’ve just met immediately tries to identify with you in some way. They usually mention someone in their family who was, or is, in the military. I’ve begun to love hearing these stories because people get a sense of pride in their voice when they talk about their military family members. They tell you all kinds of things — where they went overseas, which war they fought in, major milestones they achieved or even sometimes the sacrifices they had to endure. But the sense of pride and brotherhood is always there.

Alisha
These people show their appreciation for what your family is doing by sharing their own experiences with you. When I realized this, I began to see these stories in an all new light. I love to hear them! I also get the opportunity to express my appreciation for what the generations before us have done.

And then something fantastic happens. This stranger and I have established common ground. We can identify with each other and also still learn from each other’s experiences. This is something I love about being in the military community. It’s the unspoken bond that we all share. When you meet other military spouses, you instantly feel their pain and their reward. No matter how many times it’s been said, the idea that “We’re all in this together” will always hold true. And the more people we meet, the bigger the support network we gain. It’s such an asset to have! And it starts with recognizing when others are expressing their appreciation for what you do, and paying it forward by expressing your appreciation for someone else’s service.

Even when our time in the military has long since completed, I know I’ll still value those connections with other spouses. And I’ll be sure to be the one sharing our experience with people I’ve just met!

May 072013
 
Staff Blogger Kelli

Kelli

Let me just say, as a mom my first reaction is NOOOOOOO. However, I know that loses its power the closer to 18 they grow. I decided to do a little research. I turned to my husband and said, “Hey, if we had a military minded child, how would you as a dad, guide him?” The following conversation occurred:

“You’re always right no matter what” came the quick reply. “What? Who is?” I asked confused. “You, the parent” my husband said. “Okay what else?” I ask, totally not getting his first comment. He responds just as quickly, “Do what you say, when you say it and how you say to do it.” Now I’m annoyed. He’s not helping me. So I ask, “Really? What the heck does that even mean?” He looks at me annoyed and says, “You asked me about boot camp, which is instant obedience to orders.“ “How does that help me with this blog?” I demand. “That’s your deal sweetheart.”

So I’m on my own.

We happen to have a child who has expressed the desire to go into the military. In pondering my husband’s seemingly not so helpful response, it actually became illuminating.

Do I set the expectations, hold my children to them and enforce the consequence when our rules are ignored or broken?  Umm, maybe.

Do I have a set schedule, routine and standard of living that we strictly adhere to? Umm, no, no I do not.

Am I concerned about the time when my husband retires and is home to see what REALLY goes on? Yes, yes I am.

So what does this have to do with raising a child who has a desire to serve in the military? Well, it makes me realize that just because they know what cammies, boot bands and military I.D. cards are doesn’t mean they have a real understanding of what it’s like to actually BE an active duty member. Dad got up early, came home late and sometimes was gone for weeks or months at a time. We all know it’s so much more than that.

Visit academies

If you have the opportunity to tour any of the military academies, do so! Especially once your child is in high school and that all important GPA starts growing. We have been to The United States Naval Academy and they give a great briefing and tour. During the summer of students’ junior year, they have a chance to spend a week in Annapolis to get a good idea about what they will be facing. It’s called the summer seminar and they have to apply. If the Navy or Marine Corps isn’t the desire of their little cammie clad heart, then don’t forget about the other service academies.

Use your network

Odds are you have more resources than you realize. If there is a particular job specialty or an aspect of life as an active duty service member you want your child to be aware of, you’re going to know someone who can talk to your child. Exposing your child to a different view of military life will help your child decide if he or she is suited for this lifestyle or perhaps should pursue other interests.

Helping our children understand that adherence to the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not have the wiggle room that adherence to mom’s code of conduct may have is a good place to start as well. I don’t remember Marines ever negotiating time out…

Our one son who shows an interest in military service also shows some of the characteristics of a good leader. He is responsible, a self-starter and has a keen eye for detail. He likes order and having expectations laid out and made clear. As a 14-year-old young man, he bucks authority if he thinks it’s ridiculous, he expresses his anger as only a 14-year-old boy can and he thinks he knows more than his commanding officer, me. So if he REALLY wants to pursue the military lifestyle, enlisted or officer, then a few areas come to mind we need to work on.

So far, out of six children, he is the only one to truly express what I consider to be a real interest in following in his dad’s footsteps. So don’t worry that if you dress them in cammies and let them play capture the flag, they are going to run out and join the minute they turn 18. But if you do see the propensity to lean towards military service, it’s our job to educate them and prepare them for life as the one wearing the rank.

Scrapbooking Military Memories

 Posted by on December 18, 2012 at 07:00
Dec 182012
 
Dani

Dani

Don’t let the idea of scrapbooking scare you. It’s not just for grannies, I promise. It’s a really fun hobby and a great way to document deployments, moves, promotions, homecomings, balls and all the special events of military life!

Lots of retail craft stores have military themed scrapbooks and entire scrapbook sections with themed paper and stickers for events like homecoming or graduation, all of the service branches and all sorts of patriotic embellishments. Don’t forget to do a quick web search or grab the Sunday paper for coupons to the craft stores so you get the best deals.

Side note: I cannot lie to you. I think I bought out the entire patriotic/all-American/military scrapbooking line at our local craft store. I’m a little obsessed, yes. Fortunately, my husband knew this when he married me!

So where to begin? Choose what size album you want to make. If you’re new to scrapbooking, I like the 8 x 8 albums because they’re smaller and easier to work with. The 8.5 x 11 and 12 x 12 albums are great because you can fit more photos on a page, but sometimes they can be daunting if you don’t know what you want to include in your layout. Either way, pick a size before you do anything!

Next up, I like to start with a favorite photo. One 4 x 6 photo is plenty for an 8 x 8 scrapbook, or you can add some smaller ones to go with it. For 12 x 12 scrapbooks, I use anywhere from three to five photos per page. I print my photos at home, but sometimes it also helps to print out a bunch at a drugstore or other photo print shop.

Looking at my photo, I grab any mementos I’ve saved that fit with the photo. Movie tickets stubs, a torn off piece of wrapping paper, a business card, a copy of an award, etc. Sometimes I have too much; sometimes I have none at all. It really doesn’t matter, but it’s nice to preserve those little tidbits if you can.

Then I like to choose which paper and/or embellishments to use. It’s best not to go too overboard with either. If you have a graphic paper for the background, you may just need to mount your photo on a solid piece of paper and not use any stickers or embellishments at all. Or, if you have stickers that are perfect for that memory, go with a solid colored background paper.

Add a title to your page, like “My Hero,” or “Our First Date After Afghanistan.” Hey, whatever works! Straight and to the point can be just as good as a clever title. You can either write on the paper or do it with alpha stickers. It’s really just whatever floats your boat! I also like to add a little bit of journaling to each layout to remember certain things, like the date or the emotions associated with it.

Generally, I arrange everything on the paper before gluing it down. Then, I either use archival gluesticks or photo squares to set everything in place, and voila! The scrapbook page is complete.

Scrapbooks make wonderful gifts for family, friends and even your service member. Next time my husband deploys, I fully intend on making him a mini scrapbook of our favorite photos to take with him. Then when he gets back, I’ll scrapbook the deployment, too. How cool will it be having all those photos and moments to share with our future babies and grandbabies?

Whether your service member is in the military for a few years or up until retirement, recording the milestones of his or her military career and your family life during that time is an important part of preserving your photos, memories and heritage.

Teaching Our Kids at the Nation’s Capitol

 Posted by on December 5, 2012 at 07:00
Dec 052012
 
Staff Blogger Kelli

Kelli

I am excited to be within driving distance of our nation’s capitol. I have an opportunity to do for my children what my dad wanted to do for my sister and me. Walk together, touch and feel the history of our country. However, I didn’t realize I hadn’t prepared my children as well as my father did for a visit to the symbols that represent such significant moments in our nation’s history.

I’ve been able to visit the historic venues of D.C. several times now, each time with one or two of my children. I want my children to appreciate and honor the history of our country; I want

them to love this country the way I do; and I want them to be proud and to recognize what has been sacrificed and continues to be sacrificed to provide the freedoms we have. I want them to understand those freedoms have been bought and paid for by people like their father and grandfather who have families that love them as much as we love our men.

The opportunity to teach them these things as we walk among the great museums, rest on the Mall or climb the steps to the Lincoln Memorial is precious.

While visiting on one particular trip I realized I have not provided the foundation my father provided for me while growing up. As a veteran, he spoke candidly about war, the ugly side of it, the valor and sacrifice that came from it and why he was willing to make that sacrifice each time he took off in an airplane.

For him, this was not memory lane, but his way of teaching me about our nation’s history and sacrifice. He didn’t speak of politics, budgets or strategies. Instead I learned about great acts of valor, sacrifice and bravery. He taught me about ideals that men and women stood and died for. He spoke of individual service members and their families. He then told me our family belonged to their ranks. We sacrificed much of our childhood as our father flew many post-Vietnam missions. I stood a little taller and it was a little more bearable the next time he left to fly to some unknown location.

After visiting the Vietnam Memorial with one child I realized we have been so caught up in our own life of deployments, separations, long hours and everything that comes with military life, we had not made the time to instill in them the same understanding.

Each generation becomes more emotionally removed from historical events than the one before. The “conflict” in Vietnam is to my children what World War I and II were to me: events I really didn’t want to regurgitate for a test. Until, that is, I began reading about those wars in novels that humanized them for me and exposed me to the sacrifices of our forefathers (and mothers).

As my understanding grew, so did my desire to know my own family’s history and where we fit in throughout the history of our country.  I didn’t want to just read about other’s experiences; I wanted to know what my family’s experience had been. I have thought about how I could better teach my children, honor my father, and be as diligent as he was in fostering patriotism and respect for our nation.

Looking back on those trips to D.C., I know I want to do things differently next time. I want to make the actual visit to D.C. more meaningful and use our nation’s capitol to instill pride and patriotism in our country.

Before our next trip to D.C., I am going to decide on a particular museum, monument or other historical site and expose my children to it before we get there. You just can’t see everything in one visit. However, if you don’t have the luxury of multiple trips and have to see as much as you can, pick a few things to really focus on while you’re there.

Walking up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with, and I am not kidding, 500 other people takes some of the awe out of being there. However, if you invest a little time before your trip, the outcome will not only be more pleasant but will give your junior historians the chance to point out things most other visitors will miss. For instance, if you look up at the frieze that surrounds the top of the Lincoln Memorial, you will notice the names of the 36 states of Lincoln’s presidency connected by intertwining northern laurel and long leaf pine leaves. They are symbols of unity, which is the impression the whole memorial is designed to convey.

HOW do I know this? Sadly this tidbit was not learned on one of my three visits to the memorial, but from visiting the National Park Service’s website and watching their wonderful interactive presentations.

Kids WANT to know stuff. But they, like most of us, don’t want to be lectured to death about things they have no way of relating to. Use virtual tours and other interactive websites, movies and literature before you are standing with a map flapping in the wind with someone saying he has to go to the bathroom… again.

At the World War II Memorial, how much more of an impact will it have standing in front of the 4,048 gold stars if your family already knows that each gold star represents 100 American military deaths? More than 400,000 service members and other military personnel lost their lives or were missing in action.

Why use a star to represent those numbers? When an American went off to fight many families displayed in their window a flag bearing a blue star on a white field with a red border.  When the official telegram arrived notifying the family of their loved one’s death, the blue star would be replaced with a gold one revealing that family’s sacrifice.  If your kids know this before they get there, you have a better chance of them having a “moment” of understanding.

Also, do a little family history research. Where did their grandparents and great grandparents live during the war eras? My great grandmother left Throckmorton, Texas to go and work in a ship yard in Galveston during World War II. My granddad (her son) was a Merchant Marine. Suddenly World War II means more to me than test questions. It’s just become my history as well. If you have pictures of your family, that’s even better.

Depending on the kids’ ages consider giving them each a camera (disposable or inexpensive) to document their day. You can also give them special “notebooks” to write down facts before they go and any new ones they learn while on site.

When you get home use the pictures and information from the notebooks to publish family vacation journals. There are tons of websites that walk you through the process. What a great gift for other family members, especially those who have served.

I want my children to maybe understand, just a little bit better than they do now, why the elderly couple walking ahead of us through the Vietnam Memorial slowly stops and pauses by a name or two. Why the gray haired man is unable to speak, while his wife walks silently beside him, gently patting his arm.

I want them to know why there are notes and mementos left at that great black wall of names.

We can’t understand the veteran’s experience, but we can teach our children to respect and honor their sacrifice and all those who stood with him throughout our nation’s history in one American military uniform or another.

Veterans Day As A Milspouse

 Posted by on November 9, 2012 at 08:00
Nov 092012
 
Staff Blogger Kristi

Kristi

My first “official” writing job was a weekly column in the local paper near our first installation. I’d been a military spouse a little over a year going through my husband’s first deployment, and I somehow managed to convince my editor and my readers that I knew enough about being a military spouse and the military community to be a military spouse columnist.

I can’t be sure whether I taught my readers anything, but they did teach me something. They taught me that the military life of today had done little to teach me about the way things used to be.

Luckily these readers thought enough of me to share their experiences from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and everything in between. Their stories humbled me, brought tears to my eyes, made me laugh out loud and appreciate the technology available today that allow us to email, video chat and even talk on the phone with our service members during deployment.

The stories of sacrifice that I read from military spouses who often went months without word from their service member made me feel ridiculous about complaining about a bad connection during an attempt to video chat with my husband during his deployment.

Many emails from retired service members began so lightheartedly, thanking me for writing my column, explaining their connection to the service and then explaining how they could’ve never done their job without their solid-as-a-rock military spouse taking care of the kids, house and finances back home. Their words overflowed with so with admiration and pride that it was impossible not to feel their love for their spouses.

Unfortunately, some emails from military spouses told me about those “last deployments,” those service members who served proudly and didn’t make it home, or those that lived a long life after the military and had only recently passed away. These emails never asked for pity; they simply projected the strength of military spouses, a group in which I am proud to be included.

The wars of our country’s past, like the war of our present, haven’t always been widely supported or understood, but these service members carried out their duty for the sake of all of us back home. There are dangers faced and sacrifices made by service members and their families, and that commands respect and has nothing to do with whether a war is popular.

The generations of men and women that we call veterans and veteran spouses have a lot to teach us about the sacrifices they have made and what it means to be part of the military community. It is what we make it, and I don’t know about you, but I choose to make the most of it. I make this choice not only for me, my hardworking service member and my family, but I choose strength and optimism because our generation will soon be looked up to as those who once served. I choose to bear that title with pride and deliver an example of strength to those who will inevitably follow in our footsteps.

Overseas Adventures: 4th of July

 Posted by on July 3, 2012 at 09:20
Jul 032012
 

Overseas Adventures: 4th of July

Staff Blogger Melissa

Melissa

Happy Birthday America! I think for the majority of us, celebrating the Fourth of July is a staple during summer. It’s a magical night right in the middle of summer where all of America comes together to celebrate the greatness that is our country. People hang out their American flags, make the popular flag cake out of strawberries, blueberries, and whipped topping (you know the one I am talking about…yummy!), and let’s not forget sparklers! Children are allowed to stay up way past their bedtimes to indulge in town festivals and family picnics while fireworks ring out from every town and city, big and small. The Fourth of July will definitely strike a nostalgic note for folks from all walks of life.

Since my husband has joined the military we have celebrated the Fourth of July watching fireworks explode almost soundlessly over the California desert, reflect off the Atlantic Ocean, and shine down on our nation’s capital. We have also spent many Fourth of July’s apart due to deployments and temporary duty assignments. This year will be our first Fourth of July while living in a foreign country. I hadn’t put much thought into how different it will be until a few days ago. As I looked at a flyer for a Fourth of July event on the Air Force base here in Okinawa, it occurred to me that this would probably be the only festivities I would see on a large scale! I suddenly realized that of course I wouldn’t be seeing American flags hanging from every street light out in town, and there would be no booths set up in parking lots selling fireworks.  Instead, all the United States personnel stationed here would join together in this foreign land to celebrate the birth of our great nation. Even though it will be different, things will still be the same.

If you are celebrating this holiday in another state, on another coast, or even half way around the world from your family, think about what “makes” this holiday special to you. Is it your aunt’s apple pie or dad’s BBQ recipe? Call them up and ask for the recipe so that you can have a taste of home. Maybe your family likes to duke it out with a friendly competitive game of flag football. Keep the tradition going by inviting single service members that your spouse works with to participate in your neighborhood festivities. I have never seen a service member turn down a friendly game of flag football, volleyball, or any other physical game for that matter. Just because you aren’t celebrating with your family doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice what makes this holiday special for you.

I have a feeling that I will feel right at “home” during this holiday in Okinawa. My neighbors are already in talks about having our own “Great All American Cookout” in the afternoon and of course the festival on the Air Force base. We may not have sparklers and our own fireworks, but in the grand scheme of things, that is ok. Just like every holiday we have had to spend apart from loved ones, we find ways to make it feel like home, and I hope you will too!

A Memorial Day Memoir

 Posted by on May 25, 2012 at 08:00
May 252012
 

A Memorial Day Memoir

Staff Blogger Cassie

Cassie

Until 2005, Memorial Day was just another holiday, a day off from work, and a sign of the first days of summer vacation. I was not exposed to the military growing up aside from stories that my grandfather had been wounded during the Battle of the Bulge in Germany during World War II. Though I had been married to my Marine for several years in 2005, war had not hit us close to home, at least not yet.

On September 11, 2001, we had just moved to the Washington, D.C. area for work. We had been there just short of a month. My husband was on his way to the Pentagon to get his hair cut, and I had dropped my son at day care. On my way out the door, the receptionist said, “Turn on the news when you get home. A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” Like many Americans, I watched the second plane hit from my living room. I stood in silence as my younger son played at my feet. My phone rang and I heard my husband’s voice on the other end, panicked through his muted tone, “Get (our son) and stay in the basement. Wait there until I get home.”

I replied, equally calm, equally panicked, “Don’t go to the Pentagon. I have a bad feeling.”

Shortly after September 11, I took a job at a Marine Corps base perched atop a hill overlooking the Pentagon and adjacent to Arlington Cemetery. For the next year, I watched as the cranes and crews slowly rebuilt the structure while the country tried to rebuild from the tragedy. On the one-year anniversary, I dropped off my son at the child development center on Bolling Air Force Base, which is located just on the other side of the Anacostia River, near downtown D.C.  Eyeing the surface-to-air missile that had been positioned at the back of the center, I asked the center manager how I would access the base to pick up my kids if we were attacked. “You don’t. We have enough food and water here to feed the center children for two days. If the base is locked down, even parents will not be allowed access.”

The underlying concern for our safety lingered throughout our time in D.C. We raised our children under guard and gun, and when my husband received orders to an infantry battalion in California in 2005, we knew he would deploy to Iraq shortly after we arrived. One afternoon, my husband and I sat among the boxes in our new house on Camp Pendleton discussing who would raise our children if we both passed, where he wanted to be buried if he were killed in combat, and whether all the powers of attorney were in place. I had convinced myself he was not coming home alive, a fear that would escalate a few days later.

Seven days after we moved in, my husband was already on a ship, floating off the coast of California in preparation for his deployment. It was late in the afternoon and I sat on the playground watching my kids pick through the bark floor while chatting up their new friends. One of my neighbors came to me with a broken tone in his voice. He kneeled down to where I was sitting and softly murmured, “I need you to keep this little boy outside. The casualty officer is here to tell his mom that his father has been killed in Iraq.” The boy was the same age as my oldest son.

For the next nine months while my husband was deployed, I watched their family struggle from two doors down. I eyed the yellow ribbon magnet on their car everyday as I left the house. “Keep my daddy safe.” Looking back, I can say that despite my years of working and volunteering in the Marine Corps community, hearing the stories, and knowing that some Marines really didn’t come home, nothing could have prepared me for those days.

One morning, I browsed the internet and found that our battalion had lost six Marines. I had not heard from my husband in more than two weeks. Despite the 24-hour window of notification, I remember being frozen in fear over those next few days, terrified each time I turned the corner on my street. I scanned for cars I did not recognize in fear that someone was waiting to deliver the dreaded news when I got home, just like what had happened to my neighbor.

Eventually, my husband made it home safely, but not before losing the company commander he was attached to and a close friend from the battalion. While he fought, I attended the commander’s funeral, and quietly grieved with the other wives in the unit.

Straining through tears at a restaurant that next Memorial Day, I tried to explain the true meaning of the day to my boys. I certainly had plenty of material. However, nothing can prepare you for having to explain war to your children, especially when they know their daddy is still in harm’s way. We got through it the best way we knew how…together. To date, it was the longest nine months of my life.

The three years we spent in the operating forces before moving to our current duty station opened my eyes to Memorial Day. It is not about backyard barbeques or summer vacation. It is about remembering what we have lost and celebrating the sacrifice those individuals made to secure our safety. It is about teaching our children to appreciate our veterans and that brave men and woman and their families who have come before us have scarified in many of the ways we have. On this Memorial Day, as you enjoy the time off with family, remember that this day is about recognizing our fallen heroes and all of the veterans, past and present, who have served and sacrificed for our country.

 

The Advantages of the Military Spouse

 Posted by on May 10, 2012 at 08:00
May 102012
 

The Advantages of the Military Spouse

Staff Blogger Melissa

Melissa

I didn’t grow up in a military town. I didn’t personally know anyone in the military growing up. So if you would have told me that I was going to become a military spouse I would have thought you had a case of mistaken identity. Sure, my father was a Marine, but that was during the Vietnam era, long before my parents had children. So when my then boyfriend (now husband) decided to join the military, I was a little shocked and scared of the unknown. After all, it was so soon after 9/11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were brewing on the horizon. Besides that, I was a new college graduate starting my career. To say that I didn’t fully understand the scope of how my life was about to change would be putting it mildly. Being a military spouse is hard. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. However, it is more rewarding than I ever dreamed possible. Here are some of the pleasant surprises and rewards that I have found in being a military spouse:

A military marriage is highly rewarding. You may have heard the phrase “Live like he deploys tomorrow.” Sometimes I feel like this is our life motto. I vividly remember our first deployment and the gut wrenching pain and fear I felt as I watched the buses pull away. I was devastated. I wondered “How am I going to last months without seeing my husband while living in a new town with just three friends that I have known exactly three months?!?” The reward for those harrowing months of deployment is the homecoming. When you see your spouse return from a deployment your heart explodes with love, excitement, contentment, and pride. Military life gives couples a chance to miss each other, and in return grow a deeper bond and appreciation of the time they have together.  Military families try to cram as many memories in as possible between deployments and training missions to sustain us during our spouse’s absence. While this does not seem like much of a reward, I truly think it is. I feel like we live every day to its fullest because we never know what the military is going to send our way.

I am a strong and independent person. Each deployment and separation has shown me that I am capable of so much more than I ever thought possible. I can jump start a car, change a tire, wire a door bell, and believe it or not, I can even mow the lawn with a push mower in the oppressively humid coastal Carolina summer. There is a sense of satisfaction in completing these tasks, especially during a deployment. I am not going to lie; I would typically never complete any of these tasks if my husband was home because I would never have to. Military life has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and makes me feel like Rosie the Riveter… hot dang, I CAN do this! This “Superwoman” mentality doesn’t just stop at deployments. Being a military spouse means you move every few years, you have to make new friends, find your way around a new town (or country!), find a new job…. The list goes on and on!

Military spouse friends really do have a special bond. This bond is even stronger when you go through a deployment together. Your military spouse friends are there to talk to you at 3:00am after you have watched the news and are scared and just need someone to talk to. They understand your fears. Need assistance? They are there to offer a helping hand without any hesitation.  I have seen the births of babies, watched children grow up, celebrated joys, and shared heart ache along with more laughs and tears than I can even begin to count with some of the most remarkable people on this earth. The great thing is that you never lose touch with your close military spouse friends. In fact, I have learned that, more than likely, you will be stationed together again and can easily pick your friendship back up where it started!

Patriotism is personal now. I have always loved our country, but as a military spouse I have a deeper respect for our flag, our freedom, and of course our troops that fight to defend the things our country holds dear. I stand a little taller during the national anthem, I gladly stop my car during morning colors, and when I wave a flag at homecoming it means more to me than I ever thought possible. I fully understand now what it takes to keep America safe. It’s personal.

This is a just a small list of the rewards and surprises I have found from being a military spouse. What would make the top of your list?

May 012012
 

Guest Blog: What I Love About Being a Military Family

Blog Biography: Abbie has been living the roller coaster life of a military spouse for almost four years now. She is currently holding down the homefront with a wild one-year-old while her husband finishes up his first deployment. She loves to write about all things parenting and military, including how to make the most of this lifestyle while keeping your head on straight.

When most people hear that we are a military family, they give a sort of sympathetic response. Common reactions: “Wow, I could never do that”; “I don’t know how you do it”; or even “Don’t worry, I’m sure you can get out soon.” They understand that being a military family has unparalleled challenges and struggles. Here’s the thing though: I LOVE being a military spouse and raising my military family. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t curse the Army on frequent occasions. Of course I don’t like the fact that my husband’s life is often on the line. I don’t like the fact that he is absent for countless events and memories. Sure, there is a lot I don’t like. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

I only recently even came to realize just how much I actually enjoy our lifestyle. Last year, my husband put in his papers for separation from the Army. It was a no-brainer. We had done our time and now, we thought, it was time to go back home and get settled. He could finally leave the Army! We were moving home to our families, to civilian jobs, to a “normal” life. We were excited… sort of. It came as a shock even to me that somewhere down deep, I was sad about it.

We packed up our house and moved back “home.” My husband had saved up terminal leave, which we spent visiting old friends, vacationing, and preparing ourselves for our new life. It didn’t take long, however, before we both knew we had made a mistake. After multiple sleepless nights, and hours of debating with ourselves, we knew what we had to do. My husband made a few desperate phone calls and next thing we knew, I was putting him on a plane back to Fort Bliss. With only a day or two of leave to spare, he was able to revoke his separation orders and resume his spot in the Army.

You can imagine the reactions we got. People thought we were crazy. They assumed we had fallen off our rockers and lost our minds. Bottom line: it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. My husband deployed to Afghanistan not long after that and left me here alone with our spitfire one-year-old. Is it hard? Um, yeah! Do we struggle? Of course. Do I regret our decision? Not for a second.
I can assure you, I am not a lunatic either. Like I stated before, I love being a military family. There is so much our lifestyle provides to us, I can’t imagine living any other way.

There are the obvious perks: unrivaled health care benefits, unmatched retirement plan, and commissary privileges to name just a few. The entire lifestyle itself is what intrigues me so much, though. What other career has you moving around the country or even the world every few years? Of course it isn’t easy constantly packing up your life and maybe I’m just still new and naïve, but I enjoy it! Every few years brings a new start, a new adventure. We love traveling, so you can see the appeal. We get to see new places, new climates, new cultures. I can’t imagine a more well-rounded upbringing for our son than traveling and meeting new people. We have to say goodbye to all the friends we have made, but we get to meet all varieties of new and different people. I get excited at the challenge of putting myself out there, getting involved, and opening up to so many other spouses and families. The best part? We are all in the exact same boat. The other military families know what we go through, they’ve been there, and they get it. It isn’t hard to make new best friends for life without even trying.

There is so much I love about this life, I can’t even being to list it all. I love the camaraderie, I love the dignity, I love the security. Above all else, though, I can’t imagine what we could do that could possibly give us more pride. And isn’t that what it’s all about? You have to find pride in what you do and there is no shortage of pride around here. My husband joined the military for one reason: he felt it was his duty. When you know it, you know it. That night when he revoked his separation orders, we knew exactly where we belonged and we weren’t looking back. I display the American flag, our yellow ribbon, and my Army wife title like badges of honor. This is the life for us, and we couldn’t be happier.

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.