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….

Don’t Cry

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz around the internet about the latest Teen Mom 2 episode that aired on Tuesday.

I finally caught up a few days late and just finished watching it (one of the drawbacks of having your husband home is that you no longer have free reign over the TV lol)

Speaking of having my husband home, the main “drama” I’ve been hearing about the latest episode is Leah’s constant nagging of her husband when he goes out of town. She complains every time he leaves.

The one part that stuck with me most was at the end of the episode when he is talking about going on a five week job, she said that she can’t pretend to be happy when he leaves.

As a military wife, I’ve said “good-bye” to my husband many times; for as short of a time as a few weeks, to upwards of 7 months.

Now, I’m not saying that she doesn’t have the right to complain because “other people have it worse”.  My reasoning in pointing out my own experience in because I’ve come to learn how important it is to “pretend” to be happy when your spouse has to leave.

He doesn’t want to leave. Whether he is going out of town for a five week job, or going to Afghanistan for a year long deployment, I believe that no husband wants to leave his wife. And her certainly doesn’t want to leave his children. 

Crying about it, complaining about it, telling him how sad you are and how you don’t want him to go; all that does is make him feel even worse for leaving you. Because now he is dealing not only with his own feelings of separation and sadness, but he is responsible for your pain. He is the cause of your tears and the reason that you are sad.

So my advice to Leah, and to all military spouses, is to try to pretend a bit; for him. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be honest about your feelings and let him know that you will miss him. But crying about it and complaining about it isn’t going to make him stay (at least not in the military); and it’s likely only going to make him feel even worse about having to leave. 

So try to be a strong partner for him; because that’s what he needs most. 

ImageSaying good-bye to my husband when he left for his first deployment to Afghanistan; 11/3/10

TBT: Marriage Retreat

During the summer of 2010 my husband found out that he would be deploying to Afghanistan that November.

In preparation for his departure, we decided to sign up for a Marriage Retreat through CREDO. I was shocked that my husband even came with me, he isn’t the kind of guy to talk about his feelings with me, much less in front of other people! I was even more shocked that he participated and actually enjoyed himself too.

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Our retreat took place over the course of three days, Friday-Sunday. My husband had to get his command to sign off so he could take Friday off, and thankfully they didn’t have a problem with it since it’s a military run event.

We drove up to the forest and each couple got their own cabin for the weekend. No TV no internet, just a bed, a shower, and each other.

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There were probably 15 couples total in our group. We met for classes and discussions during most of the day. The topics were communication skills and other relationships strengthening stuff. There were different activities and discussion topics, along with lectures about statistics and different ways to communicate with your spouse.

The food was AMAZING! We had three meals a day plus unlimited cookies and soda during the classes…probably the best part, no lie!

We also got some time off for “free time” to spend with each other. Jeremy and I took some hikes around the woods and also did a zip line that was on the property.

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Overall, I would recommend it to any military couple. It gave us the platform to talk about our marriage, our feelings about the upcoming deployment, and all those other “feeling” stuff that is sometimes awkward to bring up out of context. This retreat gave us the context to have those discussions, and I think that we both found it to be a valuable experience because of that.

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What’s In A Name? – Link-up

I’m a day late, but I wanted to participate in this link-up! The prompt is asking bloggers to share the story behind their blog name:

My current blog is actually the second blog I’ve ever created. I decided to deactivate the first one after I started developing my career in Graduate School…I didn’t want client’s to be able to Google me and find my personal blog. Awkward!

So I switched formats (from Blogger to WordPress) and created a new blog, one that wasn’t attached to my full legal name.

I took the opportunity of starting a new blog to also create a new title. My current title is actually part of a quote that I very much relate to:

This quote first came to me when I was searching for “positive deployment quotes” when my husband was first deployed, back in 2010.

I’m a huge advocate of keeping a positive mindset during deployment, I think its is one of the major things that can help military spouses not only survive deployments, but to thrive.

There is no denying that there are many negative things about deployments, and I promise you, if you focus on them the time will drag by and you will likely be unhappy for most of that time.

On the other hand, if you look beyond those negative things, you can actually have a shot at happiness during deployment. A positive attitude makes the time fly by so much faster than wallowing in the misery and loneliness. A positive attitude helps your spouse maintain focus on deployment, since they aren’t worried about you or feeling additional guilt for your unhappiness.

The quote choice is also the reason why I chose the cover photo that I currently have, it was from my husband’s first homecoming from Afghanistan.

The smiles say it all.

Military life can be filled with many “imperfections”, but there are also many beautiful moments, like homecomings.

So I choose to be happy. Not because my life is perfect (there are deployments, trainings, work-ups, etc.), but because I chose to see the positives in my life and look beyond the imperfections.

TBT: Our First Separation

After a fun summer filled with visiting Jeremy’s family in Wisconsin, I started my Junior year of college in September 2009.

Shortly after, Jeremy was selected to go to NDI School, which is kind of like a “promotion” in his job. It didn’t result in an increase in rank, but he was selected to go to the school which would allow him to specialize in a new MOS.

The school was 4 months long and was in Pensacola, FL…which means we were going to be separated for the first time in our relationship.

Jeremy left in the beginning of September and we spent three months apart before I went to visit him in December on my break from school (see next week’s TBT for my trip to FL!).

I didn’t handle the time apart very well.

We had just moved into our new apartment, which was about 30 minutes from where all my friends lived, by my college. At the same time, my best friend has recently gotten married and was living with her husband enjoying the honeymoon stage, aka spending a lot time with her husband and much less with her friends.  I hadn’t made any friend with any of the other military spouses in Jeremy’s unit, since we were so recently married.

I spent a lot of time alone, which resulted in a slow slide into depression.

I decided to start seeing a therapist after a few weeks.

My decision was prompted by the knowledge that Jeremy had at least three years left in the military, and I was his wife. That meant that I was going to be away from him again at some point in our marriage, probably for much longer than 4 months. I needed to be able to be okay with the separations. I needed Jeremy to know that he could leave me to do his duty to his country, and not have to worry.

It was my first experience seeing a therapist, and I had a great experience. Military One Source set up the whole thing, from finding me a local therapist to arranging the first appointment and making the payments.

I learned how to cope with the separations. I started a routine to fill my time. I took a ceramics class, started volunteering to fill my time. I went out of my comfort zone to make new friends in the military spouse community. I filled my time with things that I enjoy, which made the time go by so much faster.

I addressed my cognitive distortions that were resulting in my depressive feelings.

The techniques I learned during those three months apart prepared me for the following two deployments. I’m so glad I didn’t let myself wallow in my negative feelings, that I took action. Because separations and deployments don’t have to be all negative. Yes, there will be bad days, but they don’t have to out weight the good days.

7523_144885981818_8356871_nThe MCAS Miramar Air Show – October 2009

I always wanted to go and I didn’t let Jeremy being gone keep me from having a great time. My friend from college went with me.

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

Soldier Successfully Refuses Deployment to Afghanistan

Has everyone seen this story already? It came to my attention today when it seemed to go viral on my FB. Apparently this Soldier got out of a deployment and people are calling him a “hero” for his actions.

Politically, I’ve always been a little on the outside of my social group. I am a pretty liberal Military Wife and a fairly conservative Social Worker. But I seem to be in concurrence with my fellow military family when it comes to this story.

As I was looking up other articles (something less biased then an organization titled “we don’t have to go to Afghanistan”) and I found this similar article, but one that allowed comments.

This one comment pretty much summed up how I feel about the issue:

1) Joined under his own free will

2) Took an oath – Lied under oath

3) Signed a contract – a) accepted pay on a contract he did not intend to honor (b) accepted training at others expense to fulfill a contract he did not intend to honor (c) accepted travel for training that he had no intention of using  to fulfill the contract (d) was issued uniforms and equipment for a contract he was not going to honor

4) Poses in a uniform intended for battle use smiling

5) Cries CO when he faces having to put boots on the ground in a foreign land holding a rifle but from reports I have heard has no  problem in a support role.

Whaaaat??? yes other media sources are also reporting that he may deployed in a rear position away from combat in a support role? Sooo you can object and still willfully support the action?

He poses in a battle uniform and also in pictures where a female is wearing a sweatshirt saying “ARMY WIFE” yet they object to what the US Army is doing.  Take off that uniform Troop. That uniform is reserved for real soldiers. Stand down and face the charges which I think should be (a) lying under oath (b) Grand Theft for taking money and training and supplies for a contract you did not intend to honor. Face the charges and then accept your dishonorable discharge. You should not be allowed to serve helping real soldiers that did their job… You don’t have to go in to combat and kill to be a HERO but to be a HERO you have to serve with HONOR. Christopher Munoz has NO HONOR

What do you all think? Is he honorable or dishonorable? Should military members have the choice to deploy? Should he get a dishonorable discharge?