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

Advertisements

Sunset Cliffs – Marine Corps Ball Shoot {My Photography}

Last time I shot at Sunset Cliffs my models were actually going to the ball after, and with her 5″ stilettos she wasn’t too interested in doing any exploring or hiking. I decided I wanted to shoot there again, but with a couple that didn’t mind hiking down to the water. They decided to wear their formals, but since they agreed before hand to hike down to the water with me, I didn’t feel bad when they got a little wet lol.

Turns out they were not the easiest couple to shoot, very silly. I’m actually surprised I got so many good shot!

ImageImageI found the below composition on Pinterest and felt that Sunset Cliffs was the ideal location to replicate it. I love that it highlights the natural landscape.

ImageIMG_5347edit2My main reason for wanting to shoot at Sunset Cliffs again was to finally get to practice shooting sunset silhouettes. The sunset wasn’t as impressive as it had been for the last few weeks (of course, on the day I shoot it kinda sucks lol), but it was better than the sunset last time I was there. I need to work on it a little more to get the people in full silhouette, but I’m happy with how the composition turned out!

ImageImage

The Typical Military Wife

When Jeremy left for his first deployment in 2010 I made friends with a group of wives from the unit he was attached too. We all met on Facebook, by joining the same support groups and seeking out other wives from the unit that we could relate to and bond with over the course of that 7 months deployment.

There were 7 of us total, including me. All ranging from 20-25 years old (at the time) and from all across the country. 1 from Michigan, 1 from Wisconsin, 3 from California, 1 from Texas and 1 from South Carolina.

After the guys came home in 2011 we all kept in touch via Facebook. I was never super close to any of them, but we would hang out occasionally, kept up with each other’s lives and commented on each others post.

It is now nearly exactly 3 years later (end of October is when they deployed in 2010), and we are all in completely different places.

I bring these ladies up, because I realized that the group of us are almost a perfect representation of the “average” military wife.

We are all young and from every corner of the country.

Out of the 7 of us, 6 of us are still married (although another is “separated”, legally she is still married). Of those 5 who are still with our spouses, 3 have babies. Only 4 of us have spouses who are still in the Marine Corps. Of those 4, we have all been re-stationed at least once.

Some combination of marriage, divorce, babies and moving. Yep, that’s the ingredient of a typical military life!

We could make our own Lifetime show. Instead of “Army Wives”, we can be “Marine Wives” haha

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?

Benefits for Same Sex Couples

Another debateable topic of interest in the military community: same-sex couples to start recieving benefits

According to this article, same-sex couples will begin recieving military benefits, with the exception of housing allowance and health care.

I love the general idea, I’ve always been a supporter of LBGT rights, but I do have a couple concerns.

First off, how are they going to determine if a couple is in fact a “real” domestic partnership? Similar to the “contract marriage” vs. a “real marriage” with heteosexual couples.

The article states that the couple would need to sign a “declaration of domestic partnership” that attests: “We are each other’s sole domestic partner, in a committed relationship, and intend to remain so indefinitely.”

To me, that doesn’t seem like a clear enough definition. What’s to stop any two same-sex individuals from signing one in order to take advantage of the benefits? Although one could say the same about heterosexual couples, seeing as how there are pleny of people who do infact get married just for the benefits (aka Contract Marriage).

If they are going to regulate these “declaration of domestic partnership”, then I think they need to regulate “contract marriages” as well, to be sure that no one, gay OR stright, is faking the relationship simply for the benefits.  

Second off, non-married heterosexual couples get NO benefits at all. So to give non-married homosexual couples SOME benefits seems unfair to me. However, because homosexual couples cannot get married, I see this as a compromise. A way to give them partial benefits until gay marriage becomes leagalized.

Ideally, I think it should all be equal. You get married (to a same-sex or opposite-sex partner) and you get ALL the military benefits.

What do you think? Like the idea of benefits for same-sex couples? Disagree?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

I missed last week, but here is this weeks Weekly Photo Challenge. The prompt is “color”, and one of the suggestions is to share a photo that you edited. I immediately knew what photo I wanted to share because I have been having a hard time deciding if I like it better in color or b&w!

I love photography, and I consider myself an amateur photographer. I have a good DSLR camera and editing software, but I’ve never taken a class other than an “Introduction to Photographer” class that lasted for 4 hours. I am mostly self taught from blogs online and practice with my friends and family.

I don’t charge people and I don’t consider myself a professional photographer by any means!

My friend had a baby last week and asked me to do newborn photos for her. I was so excited because I have only ever done couples. So I scoured Pinterest for inspiration and tips for newborn photography. I found a beautiful military inspired newborn shoot and decided to do my best to duplicate one of the photos.

Here is the result! Mom & Dad loved it 🙂 But I have yet to decide which edit I like better, color or b&w.

What’s ya’lls vote?

IMG_1854edit1

IMG_1854edit2

Women in Combat – Part II

Since my last post about women in combat sparked such a great discussion, I thought I would share this article that I saw online recently.

It’s a counter argument to my point of view that women should be allowed in combat roles in the military.

I think it’s a very well written article with a lot of great points, even if I don’t agree with the overall opinion of the author.

One might wonder why I am posting an article whose opinion I don’t agree with, but as I said before I enjoy a good debate. For most issues I think that both side of the argument have very good points, and I can understand both sides of the issue. If the both sides didn’t have a valid case for their opinion then there probably wouldn’t be much of a debate to begin with! We would just have a clear winner.

I’m a female veteran. I deployed to Anbar Province, Iraq. When I was active duty, I was 5’6, 130 pounds, and scored nearly perfect on my PFTs. I naturally have a lot more upper body strength than the average woman: not only can I do pull-ups, I can meet the male standard. I would love to have been in the infantry. And I still think it will be an unmitigated disaster to incorporate women into combat roles. I am not interested in risking men’s lives so I can live my selfish dream.

 

We’re not just talking about watering down the standards to include the politically correct number of women into the unit. This isn’t an issue of “if a woman can meet the male standard, she should be able to go into combat.” The number of women that can meet the male standard will be miniscule–I’d have a decent shot according to my PFTs, but dragging a 190-pound man in full gear for 100 yards would DESTROY me–and that miniscule number that can physically make the grade AND has the desire to go into combat will be facing an impossible situation that will ruin the combat effectiveness of the unit. First, the close quarters of combat units make for a complete lack of privacy and EVERYTHING is exposed, to include intimate details of bodily functions. Second, until we succeed in completely reprogramming every man in the military to treat women just like men, those men are going to protect a woman at the expense of the mission. Third, women have physical limitations that no amount of training or conditioning can overcome. Fourth, until the media in this country is ready to treat a captured/raped/tortured/mutilated female soldier just like a man, women will be targeted by the enemy without fail and without mercy.

 

I saw the male combat units when I was in Iraq. They go outside the wire for days at a time. They eat, sleep, urinate and defecate in front of each other and often while on the move. There’s no potty break on the side of the road outside the wire. They urinate into bottles and defecate into MRE bags. I would like to hear a suggestion as to how a woman is going to urinate successfully into a bottle while cramped into a humvee wearing full body armor. And she gets to accomplish this feat with the male members of her combat unit twenty inches away. Volunteers to do that job? Do the men really want to see it? Should they be forced to?

 

Everyone wants to point to the IDF as a model for gender integration in the military. No, the IDF does not put women on the front lines. They ran into the same wall the US is about to smack into: very few women can meet the standards required to serve there. The few integrated units in the IDF suffered three times the casualties of the all-male units because the Israeli men, just like almost every other group of men on the planet, try to protect the women even at the expense of the mission. Political correctness doesn’t trump thousands of years of evolution and societal norms. Do we really WANT to deprogram that instinct from men?

 

Regarding physical limitations, not only will a tiny fraction of women be able to meet the male standard, the simple fact is that women tend to be shorter than men. I ran into situations when I was deployed where I simply could not reach something. I wasn’t tall enough. I had to ask a man to get it for me. I can’t train myself to be taller. Yes, there are small men…but not so nearly so many as small women. More, a military PFT doesn’t measure the ability to jump. Men, with more muscular legs and bones that carry more muscle mass than any woman can condition herself to carry, can jump higher and farther than women. That’s why we have a men’s standing jump and long jump event in the Olympics separate from women. When you’re going over a wall in Baghdad that’s ten feet high, you have to be able to be able to reach the top of it in full gear and haul yourself over. That’s not strength per se, that’s just height and the muscular explosive power to jump and reach the top. Having to get a boost from one of the men so you can get up and over could get that man killed.

 

Without pharmaceutical help, women just do not carry the muscle mass men do. That muscle mass is also a shock absorber. Whether it’s the concussion of a grenade going off, an IED, or just a punch in the face, a woman is more likely to go down because she can’t absorb the concussion as well as a man can. And I don’t care how the PC forces try to slice it, in hand-to-hand combat the average man is going to destroy the average woman because the average woman is smaller, period. Muscle equals force in any kind of strike you care to perform. That’s why we don’t let female boxers face male boxers.

 

Lastly, this country and our military are NOT prepared to see what the enemy will do to female POWs. The Taliban, AQ, insurgents, jihadis, whatever you want to call them, they don’t abide by the Geneva Conventions and treat women worse than livestock. Google Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca if you want to see what they do to our men (and don’t google it unless you have a strong stomach) and then imagine a woman in their hands. How is our 24/7 news cycle going to cover a captured, raped, mutilated woman? After the first one, how are the men in the military going to treat their female comrades? ONE Thomasina Tucker is going to mean the men in the military will move heaven and earth to protect women, never mind what it does to the mission. I present you with Exhibit A: Jessica Lynch. Male lives will be lost trying to protect their female comrades. And the people of the US are NOT, based on the Jessica Lynch episode, prepared to treat a female POW the same way they do a man.

 

I say again, I would have loved to be in the infantry. I think I could have done it physically, I could’ve met almost all the male standards (jumping aside), and I think I’m mentally tough enough to handle whatever came. But I would never do that to the men. I would never sacrifice the mission for my own desires. And I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if someone died because of me.

 

– Sentry

Civilian vs. Military Friends

I was somewhat of a social butterfly this weekend, which is unusual for me. If I go out more than one night during the weekend then it’s a busy weekend for me.

It made me stop and think about my friends, my military and civilian friends, and just friendship in general.

I’ve never been one of those girls to have tons of friends, I like to have one or two really good friends, and that’s it. I don’t need to win a popularity contest.

When I moved down to San Diego for college I made friends, they were girls that lived in my dorm and went to college with me. We would go out on the weekends and party or just hang out.

But then I went and got married at 20, and started to realize that I wasn’t connecting as much with my college friends. I was a married woman living with my husband, I didn’t want to party anymore.

So I started looking for married friends, which turned out to be military wives. Now, I could have a whole post about military wives, they are a crazy bunch of people, but let’s just say that I did eventually find some that I clicked with, and I ended up having more military friends then I did civilian friends.

When I started graduate school I wasn’t really looking to make tons of friends, I had a pretty set group that I was hanging out with, and Jeremy and I were always doing things on the weekend. But I did make some friends, and when Jeremy deployed this summer we got a lot closer. Now I have a group of girls that I hang out with at least once a weekend.

So, getting back to this current weekend. I went out with a fellow military wife for lunch on Friday, then out with my civilian friends that night. On Saturday I went to a Halloween party hosted by my military friends, then on Sunday watched football with another military wife.

I noticed that when I’m with fellow military wives, we talk about our husbands and the military a lot. It’s what we have in common. And I love being able to talk about deployment and duty stations and all the trial and tribulations that come with being married to the military, without having to explain everything. They get it.

But when I’m with my civilian friends, I love that fact that I only talk about me. I’m not Alison, military wife. I’m Alison, student, social worker, country music fanatic, etc. Jeremy almost never comes up in conversation. I talk about school and my work and my clients. Its awesome.

So I guess my conclusion is that I like having both civilian and military friends. I like the balance.

Having friends outside the military has also made me realize that it’s important to have friends for myself. When Jeremy is home we typically hang out with people in groups, he knows the guys from work, and I know the wives.

But with my civilian friends, I go out with them alone, Jeremy stays home. And I like that separation, having something that is just mine. Him being gone has really opened my eyes to the fact that I LIKE girls nights. I LIKE going out without him sometimes. I think it’s healthy in a relationship, and I plan on keeping it up after he comes home.

And to close on a completely different topic. Here is a picture of my Halloween costume. I just had to share because I am super proud of how it came out 🙂 Breakfast at Tiffany’s!

Image

75% Done with Deployment #2!

Today is a big milestone for our second deployment: 75% down!

This milestone can nicely tie into the description of my new blog. The new title is “Look Beyond the Imperfections”, which is taken from one of my favorite quotes:

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

Deployments aren’t typically something you want in your life when your aiming for “happy”, but just because someone is going threw a deployment, doesn’t mean they can’t be happy.

There have been many times during this deployment and the last one where I have been happy, because I appreciate what I have, rather than ruminating on what I don’t.

Yes, Jeremy is deployed.

But, I am lucky to be in school, I’m in my last year of college, I have wonderful friends, my family loves me, I fall more in love with my husband every day, our marriage continues to get stronger, I’m healthy, Jeremy is healthy, we have a home and many other material luxuries. I could go on and on, you get the point lol.

Focus on the positive and you will find happiness