Memorial Day – (what it means to me)

This morning when I woke up my newsfeed was filled with Memorial Day posts, almost completely shared by my fellow military friends.

When I was younger, Memorial Day was lost on me. Like many American’s I simply enjoyed my day off from work/school and celebrated the start of summer.

Now that I am a military wife and I am so completely immersed in the military life, Memorial Day is an emotional and powerful day for me.

As I’ve said before, my husband has a safe job as far as military jobs go. He is a helicopter mechanic, which means that even when he is deployed to a combat zone he stays on a secure base.

The luxury I have of not being filled with worry when he serves overseas is not one that all military spouses get to enjoy. I wanted to take today to share a story of one of those spouses, and her husband who was KIA in Afghanistan in 2010.

Jeremy deployed to Afghanistan for his first deployment in November of 2010.

During this time I decided to get more connected with the military community and meet fellow military spouses for support as we were going though our first deployment. I went to a few get togethers and BBQ’s, met a lot of young military spouses and added a ton of new wives on Facebook in hopes of sparking a friendship.

One of those spouses was Katie.

Her husband was infantry, and he deployed on his second tour around the same time that Jeremy did.

On December 1, 2010 he was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan.

I didn’t know Katie very well, one quick meeting at a busy house party and a brief FB friendship, and I had never met her husband. However, his death impacted me in a very significant way.

For the first time I knew someone who had lost a loved on in war. Not Vietnam or WWII, but someone my own age, serving in a war being fought in my generation.

Having an Uncle or a Grandfather who served years ago, one that you remember in passing on Veteran’s Day or wear a Go Army shirt for on the 4th of July is a completely different experience then sending your spouse, child or parent off to a war with the knowledge that they might not come home.

I used to be that person. Although my husband is a Marine and was serving in Afghanistan, I hadn’t yet realized what that really means.

It means that not everyone has a homecoming. Not all the men who wear the same uniform that my husband does will get to come home to their family. It means that war is real. It’s more than just a flag you fly at half mast on Memorial Day. It’s widows who will never feel their husbands arms around them again. It’s children who will grow up without their fathers.

Today is the day that we remember those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving their nation. Today is the day that I remember Chad and Katie.

*reposted from last year: Memorial Day – what it means to me

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TBT: Surviving Deployment – the first few weeks

The next time I heard from Jeremy was the following morning, he was at the airport in Maine waiting for his next flight on the journey to Afghanistan. We chatted briefly, but he didn’t have much time to talk other than to check in with me.

Three days later, I finally got the call that he had made it safe and was all settled in on base.

I remember driving to school on that third day with no contact, it was the longest we had gone without talking to each other.

When that “unknown” number showed up on my phone, I immediately pulled over and excitedly answered the call. It was such a huge relief to finally hear his voice.

For the remainder of his deployment we had regular contact with each other. He was never able to get his Skype to work very well, but we always had email and sometimes phone calls.

Talking to other military wives who were also going through deployments at the same time, taught me to be very grateful for the communication that I did have.

I never had to wait weeks to hear from my husband; wondering if he was safe, wondering if he was injured, wondering if I would get that knock on my door.

Every deployment experience is different, and most of that has to due with the service members job.

Jeremy’s job involves being on a base working on aircraft and having computer access. Which means that we were blessed with frequent contact and I was never in fear for his safety.

There was an element of danger, of course. He was in Afghanistan during a time of war.

But compared to many of the other spouses that I knew, who were married to service members that were infantry or had another more dangerous job, my deployment experience was tame.

And that is something that I will always be appreciate.

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TBT: Afghanistan Deployment

Jeremy left for his first deployment to Afghanistan on November 3, 2010.

76606_453861516818_6808194_nHe had to report to Camp Pendleton around 2 am to get his weapon and load up on the busses so they could drive to March AFB and fly out.

We decided not to sleep that night, instead we stayed up cuddling on the couch watching movies and enjoying our last few hours together.

I was surprisingly unemotional the entire day. He loaded up his bags and we drove his truck to base. He checked out his weapon. We waited around for a few hours (because it’s the military and there is always waiting lol).

He left with a fairly small group of Marine, probably 25-30. The rest of the unit had left a few days prior and his detachment would meet up with them in Afghanistan.

A few other wives were there, only about 4-5. Most were crying. A few left before the busses came, probably to get home and get their kids to bed.

One other wife stayed until the busses left. I didn’t know her at the time, but we ended up being good friends when her husband and Jeremy became friends during deployment.

I didn’t cry when he got on that white bus. I didn’t cry when it drove away. I didn’t cry when I drove home.

But when I got home and saw the gifts that Jeremy had left me; a teddy bear with a voice box in each hand that he had recorded with his voice, flowers, and my favorite chocolate; I cried.

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”

And when I woke up in the morning; alone. One day down out of 7 months; the end seeming so very far away…I cried again, for the last time of that deployment.

I missed my husband, of course. But I felt that the best thing I could do for him during this deployment was to be strong. Be strong for him so all he needed to worry about what his job. He didn’t need to worry about me, about if I was sad or depressed. He had a job to do, and my job was to help him do that job to the best of his ability.

To be continued….

Family & Homecoing

Who should be at a homecoming?

This seems to be a common debate/topic of discussion among military spouses as deployments start to come to an end.

I saw a debate online about it today, as I have seen many times in the past. There are typically two sides to the argument, immediate family only vs. extended family and friends okay

For those who think only spouses (and children) should be at homecoming argue that they are the most important and most affective by deployments. They are the ones who give the most support, sending care packages and letters. They argue that the nuclear family needs time together alone after deployments to reintegrate, away from extended meddling family. I’ve heard the argument that parents and siblings have had their whole life with the service member, and that spouses deserve to have their future time.

I fall on the other side of the argument. I feel that extended family and friends are more than welcome at homecomings. I understand the above point of view, and maybe if my family or my husband’s family were difficult then I might not want them there, but they are great, so I am more than happy to have them at homecomings if they want to come.  My husband’s family was in his life long before I was. His parents raised him, his siblings grew up with him. I would never presume to think that they love him any less than I do. It is a different kind of love and a different relationship, but they are still a huge part of his life, and I recognize and respect that.

I can’t imagine how I would feel if one of our children, who we loved and raised for 18+ years came home from a deployment and his/her spouse said that we couldn’t be there. I would be very hurt, and to be honest, would probably think less of my child’s spouse for not supporting or understanding how important family is (to me and my husband, it is very important).

I acknowledge that many people have had in-law homecoming horror stories. Bing pushed out of the way by a mother-in-law for the first hug. Family staying at hour home for weeks. There do need to be some boundaries when it comes to families and homecomings. Who gets the first hug. How long family will stay in town. Where family will stay (with the couple or in a hotel). All those things need to be worked out and agreed to by all parties before the big day.

We have never had family at either of my husband’s homecomings (they couldn’t afford to fly out). However, if we did, I would want the first hug/kiss and I would expect them to get a hotel and stay in town for less than a week. Other than that, I think it would be wonderful if they came. More people to take pictures for us (haha), and I know my husband would love to see his parents and siblings and would appreciate that they came out to be there for him.

Now, it’s a different story if the service member doesn’t want their family there. In the end, I believe that homecoming is about the service member. They should be able to request who they want or don’t want for that special day. I think spouses need to respect their service members choice and honor it, because it is their day just as much as (if not more than) it is yours.

The Dreaded “D” Word

Yesterday my husband texted me as I was on my way to work:

“So Gunny is asking me if I would be willing to push recruiting orders back to go to Afghan….”

My response was: what do you think about it and which would be better for your career?

At that moment, I realized that I am truly a “seasoned” military spouse. I had pretty much no emotional reaction to the news of another upcoming deployment.

It’s not that I love deployments, or want my husband to leave.

After thinking it over, I’ve narrowed it down to two things.

#1: Deployments are part of military life. When someone is in the military, deployments are part of their job. It’s expected. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but for me, it does mean that the news of a deployment doesn’t surprise me or turn my world upside down.

#2: I want my husband to have a successful career. A successful career relies on promotions, which often rely on deployments/experience. Therefore I support my husband volunteering for another deployment, because I don’t see it as him wanting to leave me, but as him wanting to be the best Marine that he can.

Everyone of course has different feelings and reactions to deployments, I certainly don’t propose that my opinion is normal or what everyone should strive towards. But for me, as the spouse of a career Marine, it works.

On a side note, I would rather him do recruiting since we have prepared for that, but it turns out this “request” is not actually a request and they might force him to deploy again at the end of the year. Typical Marine Corps.

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saying goodbye before his first deployment – Afghanistan 2010

Is it Romantic?

I recently stumbled across this blog post, articulating the being married to a service member is not romantic, fun or desirable.

It’s a funny article, and there are many things that I agree with. Being married to someone in the military is not like they portray in movies, I’ve never been serenaded by “you’ve lost that loving feeling”, nor has my husband burst into my place of employment (in uniform) and carried me off into the sunset.

However, most romantic movies (whether them main character is a military service member, a firefighter, or just a regular business man) are rarely accurate or realistic portrayals of real life.

Being married to someone in the military doesn’t automatically make your life romantic. Your life isn’t a romantic movie 100% of the time just because your husband is in the military, because someone being in the military doesn’t automatically make them a romantic person. How much romance you have in your life depends on you and your partner, not what either of you does for a living.

However, I do think that there is some innate romance in being married to a service member: Homecomings

Being separated from your spouse for months on end is not romantic. It’s lonely and sad and hard.

But in my experience, every separation and deployment has strengthened our marriage. You learn to appreciate your spouse when they are gone. You realize that complaining about them leaving the toilet seat up or throwing their dirty socks on the floor, isn’t that important. Through missing them you realize how much you truly love them and appreciate all they do when they are home.

And when they come home, that amazing moment when you hold them and kiss them again after months apart, if that isn’t romance, I don’t know what is.

Being married to a service member doesn’t atomically make life a romantic movie. But there are certainly scenes that are swoon worthy.

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Homecoming #1: 2011

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Homecoming #2: 2012

Memorial Day – {what it means to me}

This morning when I woke up my newsfeed was filled with Memorial Day posts, almost completely shared by my fellow military friends.

When I was younger, Memorial Day was lost on me. Like many American’s I simply enjoyed my day off from work/school and celebrated the start of summer.

Now that I am a military wife and I am so completely immersed in the military life, Memorial Day is an emotional and powerful day for me.

As I’ve said before, my husband has a safe job as far as military jobs go. He is a helicopter mechanic, which means that even when he is deployed to a combat zone he stays on a secure base.

The luxury I have of not being filled with worry when he serves overseas is not one that all military spouses get to enjoy. I wanted to take today to share a story of one of those spouses, and her husband who was KIA in Afghanistan in 2010.

Jeremy deployed to Afghanistan for his first deployment in November of 2010.

During this time I decided to get more connected with the military community and meet fellow military spouses for support as we were going though our first deployment. I went to a few get togethers and BBQ’s, met a lot of young military spouses and added a ton of new wives on Facebook in hopes of sparking a friendship.

One of those spouses was Katie.

Her husband was infantry, and he deployed on his second tour around the same time that Jeremy did.

On December 1, 2010 he was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan.

I didn’t know Katie very well, one quick meeting at a busy house party and a brief FB friendship, and I had never met her husband. However, his death impacted me in a very significant way.

For the first time I knew someone who had lost a loved on in war. Not Vietnam or WWII, but someone my own age, serving in a war being fought in my generation.

Having an Uncle or a Grandfather who served years ago, one that you remember in passing on Veteran’s Day or wear a Go Army shirt for on the 4th of July is a completely different experience then sending your spouse, child or parent off to a war with the knowledge that they might not come home.

I used to be that person. Although my husband is a Marine and was serving in Afghanistan, I hadn’t yet realized what that really means.

It means that not everyone has a homecoming. Not all the men who wear the same uniform that my husband does will get to come home to their family. It means that war is real. It’s more than just a flag you fly at half mast on Memorial Day. It’s widows who will never feel their husbands arms around them again. It’s children who will grow up without their fathers.

Today is the day that we remember those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving their nation. Today is the day that I remember Chad and Katie.

Wife 2 Wife Wednesday

I’ve decided to start participating in Wives of Faith’s “Wife 2 Wife Wednesday”. Hopefully they don’t mind that I am not a “wife of faith”, I just really like the idea of a weekly prompt specifically related to military wives. It’s about sharing your experience as a military wife with other wives and connecting over common issue and challenges.

Today’s prompt is: How many deployments have you been through with your husband? What are three tips you might share with a wife about to start her first?

I have been through 2 deployments with my husband. His first in 2011 where he served 7 months in Afghanistan. His second was more recent, he was gone for half of 2012 and spent 6 months on the 31st MEU (USS Bonhomme Richard) which is a humanitarian/training deployment.

My tips are pretty simple.

#1) Stay Busy: I learned this one the hard way when my husband left for the first time (non-deployment). He went to FL for 5 months of training and we had just gotten married and moved. I had lost touch with a lot of my friends and didn’t have much of a social life because I was still in the honeymoon phase of wanting to spend all of my time with my husband. But then my husband left and I had all this free time and very few friends. I ended up having a rough time with the separation (depression) and after seeing a therapist began to work at expanding my social network with volunteering and putting myself out there meeting other wives.

It made a HUGE difference to be busy, not only with work and school, but with things you enjoy, like FRIENDS! The days that went by fastest for me during my husband deployments were the days where I was having fun with my friends.

#2) Be Positive: Nothing will make you more depressed and lonely than throwing yourself a pity party. Don’t get me wrong, deployments are suck and we all have hard days, but for the most part if you have a positive attitude then the whole experience will be much easier and go by faster. So don’t ruminate on the negative. Choose to focus on the positive!

#3) Live Your Life: This somewhat connects back to #1 and #2, don’t feel guilty for having fun. I’ve seen a lot of wives who really bring themselves down by feeling like they can’t go out and have fun while their husband is in a war zone, that it’s “not fair to him”. Let me tell you, my husband LOVED to hear about me having fun. If I went out with my friends, or went home to see my family or just enjoyed a good movie by myself, it made him happy that I was happy. Just because your spouse is gone doesn’t mean your life stops.

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They have fun too! My husband stayed busy in Afghanistan by setting up a driving rang so he could continue to enjoy his love of golf 🙂

Debate: Does deployment make you more of a military spouse?

I saw a debate on Instagram yesterday (odd place for a debate, I know), that asked “Does having been through a deployment with your partner make you more of a military spouse then someone who has not been through a deployment?”

Here are my thoughts on the issues, I don’t necessarily agree with the wording of “more” or “less” of a military spouse, because I think that title comes to everyone who is married to a service members. However, I do think there are different levels, none of which are “better” than the others.

Going through a deployment with your partner is a challenge, and you come out the other end a different person. I think that is something to be respected and something that puts you at a different experience level than another spouse who has never been through a deployment.

I think these levels exist in other areas as well, such as combat vs. non-combat deployments. I can’t imagine what it would be like to fear for my husbands life everyday that he is overseas, and I think women who have gone through that are at a completely different level than me.

Are they “better”? No, it’s just different.

I remember when my husband left for his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. He was so excited, and I was too. I knew I was going to miss him, and I was sad to say good bye, but I was excited for him to have this experience (the one he signed up for when he enlisted), and I was excited for me to be able to challenge myself to make it though. It’s almost like a right of passage, and I wanted it for Jeremy and for myself.

Yes, I am proud to say that I have supported my husband through two deployments. However, that does not make me “more” of a military spouse than someone who has never been through a deployment, nor does it make me “better”.

I’m curious to here other thoughts on the prompt as well if you have a differing opinion!

The night Jeremy left for his first deployment - Nov 2010

The night Jeremy left for his first deployment – Nov 2010

Weekly Photo Challenge: Kiss

I decided to try something new on my blog and participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge. From what I understand, they post a topic every week and you have one week to post a picture and write a little bit about what the topic/photo means to you.

This weeks prompt is kiss

257433_213718738660658_151159518249914_708729_5466961_oWhen I looking for a photo to pick out I of course wanted a photo of me and Jeremy. We have so many pictures of us kissing, from engagement photos, wedding photos, anniversaries, holidays, and just random moments.

I decided to pick a kiss photo that had the most meaning to me, because it was a kiss that I anticipated for 7 months.

Our first kiss after his Afghanistan deployment in 2011

I love this photo because you can almost see my smile in the kiss.

Deployments are hard. There are the missed holidays, the days where you feel like your life is falling apart, the days where realize you’ve forgotten what their touch feels like.

But after all of that, there is the homecoming. And it’s beautiful. To know that you’ve made it through one of the most challenging experience a couple could face.

To feel them in your arms again, to feel their lips on yours, to be complete again.

I think a homecoming kiss might be the most emotional kiss a person can have. It was certainly mine.