Mr. Army Wife gets a job!

Are you ready to join the Women's Army Corps?

I used to be somewhat of a traditionalist when it came to men and women. I think it had to do with my upbringing. My mom stayed home with my brother and I. She cooked and cleaned and ran us all around town when we needed to go to baseball practice or cub scouts. She was a team mom, and class chaperone, and a scoutmaster. She did all of the things that a Mom in Melbourne, FL did during the 1970s and 80s. At least that I saw moms do. That’s what I grew up with and that’s how my opinions of roles were first formed.

However, I was never told that life had to be lived that way. Mom had goals. She wanted to get her college degree and become a teacher. After she achieved those goals, she set new ones. She wanted to earn a Master’s degree, teach college and use her skills in various ways. All of that happened. She set her eyes on a Doctorate, and now in her (age deleted so I still get Christmas and Birthday presents,) she is still pursuing that goal and setting new ones. However, she is still Mom, supporting her 2 sons, her husband and now her daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. She’s an amazing woman.

It wasn’t until later in life, after Heather and I joined the Army and I became Mr. Army Wife that I learned that my mother had another goal. She had the goal of serving in the military. At 18 years of age, Mom wanted to leave the house and sign up to serve her country. Unfortunately, that goal never came to fruition. You see, in the 1970s, girls between the ages of 18-21 had to receive permission from their parent or guardian to enlist. My grandfather said no and Mom stayed home. While something we may not understand today, in hindsight it turned out much better for her. She married my Dad at 19 and birthed her awesome son just three years later. She gave birth to her other son 2 years after that and her family was complete. Had she joined the Army that might not have happened. Lucky for me Granddaddy knew what he was doing.

Now, why am I telling you a story about my mother, and her desire to be a Soldier? Well, because I have recently taken a consulting gig with the Friends of the US Army Women’s Museum. Basically, I am charged with telling the Army story and the stories of the brave women who have served since the dawn of our Country. To whom do I tell these stories? Anyone who will listen. This generation of Soldiers is a big group. The next generation of Soldiers, that’s important too. We go out to schools or welcome them in to share our history.

In order to educate though, you must first be educated. I thought I knew a lot about women serving in the military. After all, I am Mr. Army Wife. My bride is now a Captain (promotable) in the Army. I knew that women used to serve in clerical positions so more men could go off and fight during WW2. I knew that some women during the revolution or civil war used to disguise themselves like men so they too could serve their country. I knew that as time has progressed, so have the roles for women in the military. But, oh how little did I know.

Margaret Corbin the first female US Soldier

Margaret Corbin the first female US Soldier

Let’s start at the beginning. Did you know that the first woman to receive an Army’s pension was Margaret Corbin? During the Revolutionary War she followed her husband off to battle. She would tend to injuries or cook for the men. When John Corbin was killed, her role changed and she picked up right where he left off firing his cannon. Legend has it that she was a much better shot than her husband and other men fighting would stop and look knowing it couldn’t be John hitting the targets. Congress authorized her pension in 1779, making her the first official US female service member.

Did you know the only female to earn the Medal of Honor did so during the Civil War? Dr. Mary E. Walker was an assistant surgeon serving with the Union Army in Tennessee. She was captured and imprisoned for a

time in Richmond, VA . After her release she returned to the war, this time at a prisoner of war camp in Louisville, KY. It was President Andrew Johnson who awarded Dr. Walker with her Medal of Honor.

It goes on from there. During WW1 most of the women serving with the Army were with the Army Nurses Corp, but other were trained as radio electricians, secretaries, or accountants. Some 230 women were trained to be telephone operators, and quickly received the nickname “Hello Girls.” They served overseas during the war, but sadly were quickly dismissed when the war was

The "Hello Girls" served overseas because of their bilingual skills.

The “Hello Girls” served overseas because of their bilingual skills.

over without official discharges or pensions. These women and others fought to change this and in 1979 they were officially recognized as Soldiers. A majority of them passed away before this happened.

It wasn’t until WW2 that women who joined the ranks of the Army were granted some of the same protections as their male counterparts. It wasn’t equality by any means, and it would take to long to list all of the differences here, but the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was an official branch of the Army. By the time WW2 ended WACs, as the female soldiers have come to be known, had served in every theater of operation both in Europe and the Pacific. They distinguished themselves and earned various medals and citations. 160 WACs lost their lives in non-combat related ways. Women were now a part of the Army, and they would never look back.

Women continue to make history in the Army. We’ve seen news story after news story about the brave women who are risking their lives on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010 Sergeant Sherri Gallagher became the first woman ever named “Best Warrior’s Soldier of the Year.” And just last week, (Feb 2015) 5 female soldiers passed the Ranger Assessment Training Course bringing them closer to being the first females to attend and possibly pass the Ranger Training School. That’s pretty badass!!!

Why am I telling you all this? I’m telling you this because I am an advocate for women in the military. I know a lot of women who serve or have served and for the most part it has been an extreme pleasure getting to know them and serving with them. However, I am also telling you this because for everything I thought I knew, there are dozens of things about women in the military that I didn’t know. I didn’t know about Margaret Corbin and her cannon skills. I didn’t know about Dr. Walker, the prisoner of war, Medal of Honor surgeon, and I didn’t know about the “Hello Girls.” Now I do, and it’s all because of one place…The US Army Women’s Museum.

I don’t want this to sound like an advertisement for the museum because I think everyone in the Fort Lee area should come and visit, (which I do) or because I think everyone else should check out their Facebook page (which you should.) No, I want this to be a story about how I have come to respect the immense about of work women have had to do, and the insane amount of scrutiny they have had to endure to get to where they are in today’s military. It’s crazy to think that we are 100 years past the beginning of American involvement in WW1. During that time we have gone from 35,000 women serving in just a handful of fields, not even as regular members of the Army, to more than 350,000 serving in all branches of the military in more than 400 occupational specialties.

There is one other thing I believe is important to say in this piece. Women can claim one thing about their service to our country that men will never be able to do. Every woman, every single female who has ever served in the US Armed Forces, volunteered to do so. There has never been a draft in place for females. So when Margaret Corbin watched her husband die, and then picked up his weapon and used it against the very men who had just slain her beloved, she did so of her own free will. When your great grandmothers joined the Army Nurses Corps in WW1 or the WAC in WW2, they did so without the government drawing their number out of a hat. Millions of families were affected by the drafting of their husbands, sons and fathers into service. That should never be trivialized. Yet, neither can the fact that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women have also served their country and every one of them walked into an office and willingly signed their name on the dotted line. Once again, pretty badass.

I have heard it said that the Woman’s Museum is important because it teaches women’s history in the US Army, but that’s a pretty limited and rather sexist view. The museum is important because these stories are part of the complete picture that is the US Army and US military. It is a part of the legacy that stretches across many generations. I can trace my family military tree back at least 4 of those generations. My Great Grandfather was a cook in the Army. My Grandfather was a B-29 gunner. My Father was an Electronic Repair Specialist on some big missiles. I was a Broadcast Journalist. My wife, well she’s achieved more than the four of us combined. She is a Logistics Officer. She’s served with distinction for almost 14 years. She’s deployed twice, been a Company Commander, and a Battle Captain. She is not just the woman in our family’s military history, she’s the ALL STAR Soldier in our history, and she just happens to be female.

So, I USED to be a bit of a traditionalist when it came to men and women. I used to think I would go to work and then come home to do my chores of mowing the yard and changing the oil in the cars. Now, I cook. I clean. I do the laundry and make the bed. And, I still mow the yard and make sure the oil is changed. I’m proud to do it. After all, my wife is a Soldier in the United States Army. To me, that’s pretty badass.

You can learn more about the US Army Women’s Museum by visiting their Facebook page at this link, https://www.facebook.com/usarmywomensmuseum.

You can learn more about women in the US Army or sister services by using Google. (DUH)

Remembering Robin…

robinI want to write something today. I want to be profound and entertaining. I want to be upbeat and somewhat comedic if that’s possible. I want to allow my words to say something that can make people, smile, think and maybe even comment back. Yet, the only thing I can seem to think about is Robin Williams. It’s been that way for four days now, since learning of his passing. Why? Celebrity deaths are not something that usually make me thing twice. They are a part of life. Everyone dies. But this one is somehow different. I guess I will work through it here. I can remember the first movie I watched starring Robin Williams. It was “Popeye.” For Robin’s first starring movie role he would bring the cartoon favorite to the big screen. Olive Oyl was there. Bluto was there. Sweet Pea was there. But at the forefront was Robin Williams, incredibly strong, yet not wanting to eat his spinach. I remember watching it over and over again when it came on HBO. I remember being scared by the gigantic octopus that almost took Popeye down. It was my first Robin Williams experience. Yet, if you are like me, it wasn’t the last. Robin had this unique ability to pop up in unexpected ways, even when you knew he was going to be there. He was seemingly out of control on “The Tonight Show” while wearing the jacket that was part of his costume in “Flubber.” He was on the small screen with a cameo in “Friends” for two minutes, yet stole the episode. Even movies that didn’t do well at the box office are filled with moments of his incredible comedic timing and unique talent. But at the end of the day, none of these things normally make me think twice about a celebrity passing. Chris Farley was talented and gone too soon, yet I can’t remember giving it a second thought. Heath Ledger, who was in too of my favorite movies, “10 Things I Hate about You, and “The Dark Knight,” died without me having any noticeable reaction. Even Michael Jackson, who undeniably, influenced my generation with his music, dancing and showmanship never got to me. So why Robin Williams? Why do I keep thinking about his death, and why is it affecting me. Maybe it is the way he died? While tragic, this is not the case, and I do not to make light of his depression, his demons or whatever other emotionally overloading things he had going on in his life. I don’t know enough about the subject or the reason why people make the decisions they make in that regard to comment on it more, but it is not the way that Mr. Williams passed away that is going through my mind. It is something else. Sitting here, thinking about it, my mind keeps going to the influence he had. I never met the man, but two things he did, keep coming to my mind. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that those things have periodically come to my mind throughout the years. The reason why I am thinking of Robin Williams now that he is gone is because he actually influenced my life while he was living. In 1986, with two friend, Billy Crystal and Whoopie Goldberg, Robin Williams hosted the first of many Comic Relief performances on HBO. While I was too young to stay up late and watch the show, I did catch some of it and watched the entire thing when it came out on VHS. It was that night that I became fascinated with Stand Up Comedy. Standing on a stage in front of thousands of people seemed exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. It was the first time I can remember wanting to have the ability to make people laugh. It was the first time I can remember wanting to be someone who would provide moments of comedy to situations that weren’t exactly funny. It was the first time I ever had the thought that I would perform in some capacity. Add to the fact that all of these comics, both legends and newbies were out there to help a growing problem, the one of homelessness. For his part, Robin told jokes, but he also lent his talent to show how the issue of homelessness didn’t just affect those without a place to lay their head but also those of us blessed enough to have homes. In his talented way, he was able to use his gifts to help the world be a better place. And he was able to make us laugh at the same time.   Here we are 28 years later, and I still remember the 3 hour show that sparked a 20 year campaign to help those who were on hard times. That’s his influence.

Radio DJ

AFN KOREA radio booth. Gooooood Morning Kooooreeeeaaaaa!

In 2001, my wife Heather and I joined the Army. We were looking to pay off some student loans and in March, the world was still a considerably safe place. While sitting in the recruiting office, looking for a job skill we would like to pursue, we came across the 46 Romeo career identifier. That job? Broadcast Journalist. Across the globe the military service branches have public affairs broadcasters tasked with using radio and television to disseminate information and air programming to military personnel and their families. With the chance to be on TV and the radio, I jumped at the job. (Heather came along as well, though with a little less jumping.) Before leaving for basic training, Heather and I watched a lot of Army movies, including one called, “Good Morning Vietnam.” Robin Williams stars in that as Air Force Broadcaster Adrian Cronauer.   Mr. Cronauer was a real broadcaster during the Vietnam War, and Williams brought that to life. In fact, his signature line in that movie, “Goooooooooooooooooooooooood, Morning, Vietnammmmmm” might be the most recognizable line of his career. It certainly is the most recognizable line among military broadcasters. While I can’t speak for all of them, I can say that every time I sat at a radio soundboard and turned on the microphone, I wanted to shout good morning followed by wherever I was stationed. I don’t think I was the only one. I think it’s that movie, and that role that makes me think about Robin Williams more than any other celebrity that has died unexpectedly. Why? For those two hours, our lives in a small way ran parallel. Were there great differences? Of course, but in some ways, Robin’s life was lived out in Good Morning Vietnam and gives me perspective on how I want my life to play out. In the movie the troops stationed in Vietnam couldn’t wait to listen to his show everyday. They would huddle around the radio waiting for his signature line, his comedic wit and his defiance of authority. In those few short hours, Adrian, as portrayed by Robin, made their unbearable situations bearable. He allowed them to forget the unforgettable. He made a war that could only be described as hell, feel a little bit like home.   That takes talent. Looking back at Robin’s life, I think that is what he tried to do through his work. We could go to one of his movies even on the most stressful of days and laugh. We could watch one of his appearances on numerous talk shows and be taken aback at his crazy demeanor despite whatever was troubling us. We could look at a blank stage and know that when he stepped onto it, it was going to come alive. Our hearts were going to come alive, and our funny bones were going to be tortured. It may have only lasted for a couple of hours. We may have had to return to a life we didn’t want to endure, but for that brief time, Robin Williams had made things just a little better. Robin played many different characters. He was an alien and a robot. He voiced cartoons and was live action cartoon characters. He portrayed Presidents and CEOs. His talents went from stage, to screen to small screen. He worked to help those in need and to entertain those who defend our freedom. He was a father, and husband and a friend to a lot of people. Robin Williams died at the age of 63. He was younger than some, older than some, but today all we have are memories. Today, a new generation will remember him in the way that I remember names like Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Elvis. He will be another influential entertainer that they will enjoy watching, but can never fully appreciate because they didn’t have the chance to see all of him in different ways. Yet, he still leaves a legacy. He leaves me, Mr. Army Wife, a guy with a small blog and the ability to make some people laugh, want to leave this world better than I found it. He makes me want to make the unbearable, bearable, if only for a moment. I just hope I can do that, and that I can in some small way we will all remember him in the process. It’s the least I can do.

Bringing Sexy Back!!!

I can’t help but think that what I am about to write is going to get me into hot water with some of you spouses.  I can’t help but believe that as much as you say you want to know what your men are thinking, you really don’t want to hear it.  I can’t help but believe that while a lot of you are going to read this and think about what I am writing, some of you are going to be angry with me.  You are going to feel like I am judging you and your relationship personally.  Let me assure you now that I am not.  I don’t know very many of you personally at all, and the ones I do know, know that I have their best interests at heart when I speak about relationships.  With all that being said, let’s get to it.  This article won’t write or read itself.

Ladies, you are letting yourselves go.  I am not judging each of you individually, but rather as a group, because when I walk around my local PX, Commissary or other store, I can see the trend.  Spouses of Soldiers have become a group who no longer cares what they look like or what they do.  A vast majority, have just given up.  Let me give you a few examples.

-If you wear pajama pants to the store, you have given up.

-If your sweatpants have pockets in the back, you have given up.

-If your hair is all ways of crazy, and not on purpose, you have given up.

-If you get back in the car to sit down while your gas tank is filling, you have given up.

-If you go through the drive-thru and then eat your food in the parking lot, you have given up.

Calm down, stop screaming, there might be exceptions to some of these (not for the pajama pants), but from a man’s perspective these are just a few of the examples that show us that you are no longer interested.  What is worse is that it isn’t showing us that you aren’t interested in us. It shows us that you aren’t interested in yourself.  You have given up trying to be the very best person that you can be.  That kind of makes us sad.  Please ladies, do your husbands, your Soldiers, your heroes a favor. It’s time to bring the Sexy back.

I hope you notice that not once did I mention your weight or a number on a scale.  The fact is that women are far more likely to judge themselves based on those things than their men are.  Don’t get me wrong, we look at weight, and I will go into that a little more later, but overall, a woman’s sexiness is not based on the size of her belt line.  My fat ass is certainly not going to judge you for that.  I know the difficulties that come with an extra chin hanging around for the ride.

My hypothesis rather is this, women are no longer interested in themselves because they have either lost or never had the confidence to be beautiful in their own eyes, which makes it a lot less likely for them to be beautiful in the eyes of others.  Confidence equals sexiness, at least in the long term.  It doesn’t matter what you look like, or what your personality.  If you don’t have confidence, you are going to lose the sexiness factor every time.

Let me put it this way.  Two ladies are walking side by side in the PX.  One got out of bed, tied her hair up in some crazy way, put Crocs on and got in her car.  The other took the time to take a shower, do her hair, put on a little make up, a dress and nice pair of shoes. (You all love to define how you look based on the shoes you wear…I don’t get it, but I do like it)  I ask you, which one is more likely to get a few nods, smiles, or winks?  Which is more likely to get their picture on the peopleofwalmart.com website?

It doesn’t matter whether these ladies are overweight or thin as a string bean, the one who respects herself enough to give her the best possible chance at a great day, is the one who is going to be seen as a strong, confident and sexy woman.  The other is going to be ignored.  This translates to the marriage even more, and that is what I am really interested in helping.

I think it is probably a safe bet to say that most of you military wives think your husbands are drop dead sexy in their Army uniforms.  Women love a man in uniform and the military uniform just seems to do something to make men more beautiful than ever in your eyes.  I’m not going to deny the appeal, but I am going to tell you that as much as I love my wife, and as beautiful as I believe she is, I am not particularly attracted to her uniform.  Why do you think that is?

Easy, the uniform does not add confidence to my wife like it does with most men.  Men put on that military uniform and become tougher, stronger, and more capable of taking the world by storm.  While this may happen for a lot of women, it isn’t the case for my wife.  The uniform doesn’t enhance her best personality traits.  Therefore, it doesn’t add to the sexiness.  However, you put her in a dress and a set of heels, and the transformation is much different.  She walks with a different swagger.  The aura around her shines a little brighter.  You can tell that she feels sexier in the dress and heels, and therefore has more confidence.  That confidence is what makes her sexy.

After 14 years of marriage I have learned this one thing.  Being comfortable in your own skin is what makes you sexy.  It isn’t about your weight.  If you feel like your weight is preventing you from being sexy, you have two choices, be happy or lose weight.  Otherwise, you are just going to be mired in self-pity and that isn’t sexy to anyone.  Get up.  Get to work.  Do whatever it is that will make you sexy in your own eyes.  I assure your, your husband will see you as sexy again too.

You want some help huh?  What do I think you should do to make that happen?  Well, here are a few things…

  1. Take a shower daily.  I wish this didn’t have to be said, but it does.  I know the baby is screaming and dinner won’t cook itself and the house is a disaster, and the car is broken, but the shower is about so much more than getting clean.  It’s about giving yourself 10 minutes to breath.  If you have to get up at 5 am when your husband leaves for PT in order to get that shower, do it.  It is the first and most important way that we can feel better about ourselves.
  1. Get dressed!  I can remember when I was in high school and college all the girls had to wear the latest fashions and had to dress up almost every day because they were trying to impress the football stud or the class president.  Then we all get married and it is like we have no reason to impress anyone at all.  But, a pair of jeans and a shirt at least lets people know, including most importantly your husband, that you have your shit together.  How you look, represents how your house looks, how your family looks and how your personality looks.  Believe me those gossipy women at the FRG meeting are not talking about how much they can’t believe that one woman had the gall to wear a skirt and flats.  Nope they are talking about the Pajama pants woman, and they won’t forget her.
  1. Make the bed!   I don’t think I can emphasize this one enough.  There is something about completing a task in the morning that can influence your entire day.  Nothing did more for my marriage in the bedroom than making the bed each morning has done.  There is something about climbing into a made bed that just brings the best out in people.  You will get better nights sleep, you will be able to cuddle better, and you will appreciate the accomplishment more than you know.  It is a two-minute chore with a lifetime of rewards.  Do it.
  1. Solicit his help!  I am going to let you in on this secret.  I have become an expert at picking out clothes for my wife.  She won’t even go shopping without me now.  I don’t think this because she doesn’t have taste.  Rather, I believe it’s because I only want to see her look her absolute best and so if something doesn’t make her look great, I’ll tell her.   You can’t be afraid to let your husband be honest with you about how you look.  If he doesn’t think it makes you look your best, it doesn’t matter how great it looks on the hanger, he is never going to like you in it.  The best way for you to start feeling better about yourself is to trust in the opinions of those who love you most.  Your hubby knows, get him to tell you the truth.
  1. Go for a walk!  This is not about exercising to lose weight, although that certainly can be a by-product.  Taking 30 minutes to do something completely for yourself is going to give you the confidence to know that you matter to yourself.  I think this is a major problem in today’s world.  Women put everyone in front of themselves and therefore their own personal time is taken away.  This takes away their feeling of autonomy, which takes away from their confidence.  You can’t do that.

These five things just barely scratch the surface of things you can do to help build confidence.  Setting goals for things you never thought possible and then working toward those goals is another way.  Opening yourself up to new experiences is another.  In fact there are endless ways to find your confidence.  Each case is different.  Each person is different.  But all of you have the ability to be comfortable in your own skin.  You are uniquely you.  Be the best you that you can be.

Let me end by saying this.  We all want our marriages to be something written about in the greatest love stories.  We want our spouses to look at us each day with the same love that was present on the day we said “I DO.”  But it takes effort.  Marriages are hard work, and as much as we want to train the other person to live in our world, we have to train ourselves to live in theirs as well.  If your husband doesn’t see you as sexy anymore, ask yourself, is it because he has changed or because you have given up.  I know I gave up at one point.  I know I just didn’t care.  It was my fault.  Even as a man, I lost my confidence and my sexiness.  At least the sexiness that she sees.

Confidence only comes by caring about YOU.  Athletes gain confidence because they care enough to put in the hours of practice that it takes to become great.  Soldiers gain confidence because they care enough to focus on their training and on their missions.  You can gain confidence by caring enough about how you present yourself that you will always be just as sexy as you have always been.

From a man’s perspective, sexiness has much more to do with confidence that it does with looks.  If you carry yourself with an attitude and aura that screams, “I love who I am!” we will love you too.  Give yourself that chance.  You deserve it.

Who you calling “dependent?”

There is a word that has come to my attention recently that I just don’t understand. It’s meant to be humiliating and degrading. It’s meant to represent a segment of the military community that should be ashamed of who they are and what they do. It is meant to be a big joke among those who have decided they are better than others. I am speaking of the term “dependapotamus.”

A quick Google search gives even more validity to the word. It even shows a definition. According to urbandictionary.com (I know, not exactly an authority) a dependapotamus is traditionally a service-members dependent who is a “stay at home mom” that doesn’t do a damn thing all day besides sitting on the couch looking remarkably similar to jabba the hut leaching off of military benefits and eating anything that gets too close.

It’s a pretty straightforward definition, and one that I bet is accurate to describe some segment of military spouses. Personally, I haven’t run into wives like this during the 13 years I have been involved with the Army, but perhaps because they are just staying home, hiding. I’m not sure, and what the people who do live like this do is not really my concern. It’s their life, however they choose to live it, who am I to judge.

Nope, the reason why I decided to take to the blogosphere and talk about this issue is because there are several Facebook pages dedicated to calling out and flat out making fun of these types of wives. In looking over their pages they go even further in their analysis of what makes a “dependa” as the term is also know by. They steal pictures from other pages to make their points, even taking questions and comments from random spouses to show how “dependa spouses” are nothing more than a drain on the Soldiers and the military community.

First, let me say that I certainly respect their right to free speech. If they believe some spouses are not worth their marriage certificate they have a right to say so. For the most part, the sites are not calling out certain individuals, but rather are pointing out the culture of those they believe to be the wrongdoers. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen around the globe are defending the right for them to believe and say whatever they want, regardless of the hurt they cause. So, hurt on, it’s your Constitutional right.

However, my question is why? As Mr. Army Wife, I am often baffled by the cattiness of women toward one another. Do men have issues with each other? Sure, but we usually solve our issues one on one, or by totally and completely ignoring the other person. I can’t remember a time when I felt the need to call out a whole segment of my community because I felt they weren’t living their life right. It’s just strange to me.

Last week there was an article online about how these websites have been defined by some as bullying. Some spouses, who are stay at home moms, feel personally attacked by the vindictive attitude with which the owners of the Facebook pages have level their attacks. In one case a spouse’s comment from a spouse support page was posted and ridiculed. Those in opposition to these pages say there is no recourse of punishment for the behavior and so they are left hurt and humiliated. I get it. It’s never good to be the butt of another persons’ negative behavior. My question is why?

Why are pages like this necessary? Why do some feel the need to tear down others? Why do any of us have the right to feel like we are somehow better than someone else simply because they are doing what it is that we believe they should be doing? Look, I am about as close to the definition above as a military spouse can get. I am a stay at home husband with no kids. I am fat and have been known to eat a lot. I watch a lot more TV than I should. And yes, I am dependent. I am dependent on my wife for the salary that she brings home. I am dependent on her for the roof over my head and the groceries in my cupboard. She is the provider of gasoline for my car and insurance for my things. Without her I would be broke, homeless and without prospects. I am dependent, probably more than most spouses’ think is ok in this day and age. However, I don’t think that way. I am proud to be her dependent. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You see, while I am totally dependent on her, I also know that she is dependent on me. Does she need my money? HA! Does she need me to help her with her Army job? Not really. Does she need me pass her PT test for her? I hope not. But she does NEED me, every bit as much as I need her. She needs me to watch her babies (dogs and cats) while she is deployed. She needs me to cook her delicious, healthy meals. She needs me to keep up with the laundry, and the dusting, and the vacuuming. Could she do these things aside from her military job? Sure, but I could also get a job and new house and my own gasoline. However, then we wouldn’t have a marriage.

Oh, now I am going to touch a nerve. I can hear people rising up now. “Husbands and wives shouldn’t have to be dependent on one another for ANYTHING.” “This is not the stone age, where the wife need a man.” “Anything I need, I can get for myself.” I hear you, settle down, and I agree with you for the most part. I can get my needs taken care of all by myself. I am capable of all of that, but to me, a real marriage requires dependence on the other person. It requires that I sacrifice the selfish need to do it all by myself in order to let another person help. I am dependent on her and she on me, because without that dependence we would just be a guy and girl, not a husband and wife.

But, I digress, this isn’t a post about marriage, it’s a post about spouses and why some feel the need to attack others. Still, even after sitting here typing for the last hour, I am clueless. The only thing I can come up with is that these attacks somehow fill someone’s need for something. Is it their own insecurities? Is it their belief that belittling someone else makes them somehow the bigger person? Is it a need to expose what they believe is wrong with the world? I’m not sure. Personally, I just think there is enough negativity in the world. There’s enough negativity in the military community. We don’t need to pile it on. So what if someone isn’t the type of military spouse, or the type of person you think they should be. It’s not your life. It’s not your concern. It’s not even your business.

Personally, I have been Mr. Army Wife for almost 9 years now, and I hadn’t heard about these Facebook groups until some other spouses pointed their existence out to me. I have been to these pages once, and see that they do have a significant number of followers, but other than that I just don’t see why they are appealing. To me, they aren’t worth the time, and if they don’t have my time, they don’t have my attention. Whatever!

The fact is that if I am their definition of a “dependa” that isn’t going to change. It isn’t going to change their opinion of me, and it isn’t going to change my opinion of myself. It isn’t going to change my opinion of other spouses either. You can label someone all you want, but until you meet them and spend time with them on a real level, you don’t know who they are or what they stand for. You are judging without facts in evidence. I am sure that’s how you would like to be judged too.

Nope, I think I will stick to seeing the military spouses I know as people who have good times and bad, who deal with this lifestyle in ways different than I, and who have issues of their own. I choose to view them in a positive light until such a time as they show me that they don’t want that light in their lives. Then I will just let them be. Being mean just to prove a point really only proves one thing…it proves that you believe you are better than someone else. You’re not. You have one life just like everyone else. Do with it what you will, but remember that one-day you will be dependent on someone for something. Chances are you already are. I hope no one dreams up a word that then defines you.

Deployment Survival Kit for Wives

Indulge me for a moment and imagine this.  Your significant other is ready to deploy.  He is leaving for a year and has made it clear that you are the love of his life and can’t wait to be back in your arms.  You know that he loves you with all his heart, and you are already having a hard time holding back the tears.  With one last kiss, one last hug, he turns and joins the rest of the troops in formation.  The tears start to stream now, as two columns march from the building to awaiting busses.  They are gone.  It will be months before you see your beloved again.  What are you going to do?

After the long drive home (distance doesn’t really matter at this point,) you discover a package waiting for you on the front step.  You don’t think much of it, but curios

ity gets the best of you.  You retrieve the box.  It’s plain enough.  Brown paper covers the entire thing.  There is no address, no return address and no stamp.  The only writing, you recognize because it is that of your Soldier.  The only words read, “Because I love you.”  Tears stream again.  One last gift from your best friend and lover is just what is needed in these opening moments of the hardest year of your life.  With anticipation, you rush inside to retrieve knife.  Just what could be inside.

Ok, snap out of it.  For most of you the story above probably never happened.   I do believe that a lot of men can remember to leave a card, or some flowers before they deploy.  But, for the majority, a hug and a kiss will have to suffice.  We just aren’t wired to think in a way that would register that some meaningful gesture would go a long way toward making the year much easier for you.  Heck, my wife never left me anything either.  I think the military members are just so focused on their mission and their training that they forget that their significant others are starting a deployment too.

That doesn’t mean they don’t care.  Of course, they do.  They care about us, and I bet that if they had the time to think about it and to come up with something great, each and every one of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen would put together a care package for us, just like we do for all of them.  I bet they would choose carefully what objects would go into that package.  I bet they would all be personal, meaningful and helpful in some way.  I bet it would truly scream, “Because I love you.”

With all that in mind, I have designed my ideal “Deployment Survival Kit.”  This kit isn’t for the military man who is deployed, but rather for the significant other back at home.  It is a combination of tangible and intangible items that I believe every man would want his wife to have.  From this man’s perspective, these are the things you need in order to make the longest year of your life go by much faster and easier.  From this man’s perspective, putting these items in your life toolbox will help you deal with issues you might not even know you had.  From this man’s perspective, this box will keep you from crying yourself to sleep every night, pining for his return.

So read on, and pretend that I am your husband, and I am putting this box together for you.  When you first open the box there will be a letter.

My Dearest Dream,

You are opening this box now, which means that I am on my way.  I want you to know that I am thinking about you every minute.  I am counting down the months, weeks, days, hours and minutes until I get to be home with you again.  Until I can be home, please accept this Deployment Survival Kit as a sign of my love, affection and desire for you to be happy during this time.  Let me tell you what’s in it.

First, I have put some Pictures and Videos in the box.  Nothing reminds me of you more than pictures of the places we’ve been and of the memories we’ve made.  I know that you could look at our Facebook profiles at 1000’s of pictures, but I also know there is just something about holding a picture in your hands.  It’s personal and real.  Plus, if you fall asleep looking at my picture, dropping it on the floor or rolling over on top of it won’t hurt it.  If you do the same with your computer, you may not be able to look at those pictures again.  I have also included our wedding video, the rafting trip we took on our honeymoon and a few personal conversations I made for you to watch when you need too.

Because I don’t want you to be sad, I have included some Inspirational Items in the box..  Your Bible is in their with some verses marked.  I put in your favorite movie and some uplifting music I found.  Also, you may like the poster with the quotes and sayings I found from others who have faced similar situations.  Finally, I included another letter, it contains all the reasons I love you and why you are a such a special human being.

I want to be clear about something right here.  Sweetheart, you must never feel guilty for having a little bit of fun while I am away.  To make sure you do get out and have some fun I have included Gift Cards in the box.  I am going to be sad and a little angry if you decide to stay home and hide yourself just because I am away.  Your misery does not equate love to me.  Get out of the house and go get some coffee.  Go to a movie.  Go have a girls’ night with the other wives who are stuck in their ruts and their houses.  Just because my job has taken me to a place where fun is at a premium does not mean you have stop living your life.  Here are some gift cards to all your favorite places, USE THEM!

Can I just say that there is something about you wearing my t-shirt that just about drives me crazy?  I don’t know what it is, but the idea that you wrap yourself in something of mine makes me want to wrap myself around you.  That’s why for the deployment, I am leaving you one of my t-shirts with just a spritz of my cologne.  Wear it if you would like or put it on a pillow.  Just know that I am here with you in spirit and I can’t wait to take the shirt back from you, whether you are wearing it or not.

The final tangible item I am putting in the box is a little naughty, but hopefully the results will be nice.  It’s an adult Toy complete with extra batteries.   I know that we all have physical needs, and the miles between us shouldn’t mean that our sexual relationship needs to be put on hold.  I fully expect that you to use this when you are alone, or when we are on Skype or even the telephone together.  My only request is that you think of me, dream of our time together and be waiting eagerly for my return when you can put the toy down for the real thing.

Those are the five items in the box that you can pick up and hold, but I want you to know that the box isn’t empty.  There are 5 other things in the box that you are going to need to survive.  They are things I need you to know; things I need you to understand.  Because I love you, I give you these intangible gifts, knowing you will be able to use them.

The first is Trust.  I want you to know that 100% completely, I trust you.  I know that you are never going to cheat on me, but it goes much deeper than that.  I trust you with every aspect of our life while I am away.  I know that you are going to take car of our house, and our cars with delicate attention to detail.  I know that I don’t have to worry about the dogs and cats or about the yard getting mowed.  I know that I can trust you to make sure that our financial situation is straight and that life will go on as if I had never been gone once I come home.  I thank you in advance for all that you will do.

The second is Freedom.  Like I have stated before, I don’t want you sitting at home pining for my return, which is why I am giving you freedom to get out and do whatever it is you need to do to survive this deployment.  If you need to go smack some golf balls to release frustration, please do.  If you need to go spend time with friends on the other side of the country, I understand.  Please take the opportunity to do all the things you want.

Third, I would like to give you A Mission.  I cannot come up with the mission for you.  This is something you must come up with on your own.  The premise is simple though.  What are you going to do today that will make you a better overall person tomorrow.  Take a class, or start a new hobby.  Maybe you can finally start training for that ½ marathon you have always wanted to do.  Decide to set some goals and then work to achieve those goals.  You can do it. I know you can.

Hopefully, I have done a good job of giving you this gift over our time together and that is A Little Know-How.  I am including it in the box because I know that you won’t turn small emergencies into larger problems.  When there is a leaky faucet or a flat tire, a little know-how will get you a long way.  Do you know where my tools are?  How about the emergency numbers just in case?  Did you know that just using Google or stopping into Home Depot and asking could solve most problems?  I know there will be some issues that you can’t handle on your own, but I am putting a little know how in the box, so that you can tackle the smaller ones with ease.

There is one thing left in the box my darling, and I don’t want you to get angry or upset when I tell you about it.  They are in the box because you are going to need them if you are going to survive this deployment.  There is just no way around it.  So here they are, your very own pair of Big Girl Panties.  I love the sensitive side of you.  I love that you miss me and that you want me to be home with you.  I love that you are waiting anxiously to see me again.  But, and I mean this in the most loving way.  You cannot let those emotions rule this year.  You are going to have to suck it up and drive on.  You are going to have to push through.  You can’t be beaten by the adversity; you have to put on these big girl panties and fight.  I love you, and I know you can be strong, be brave and be powerful when you have to be.

So there it is, your deployment survival kit.  Please use each of the items in this box to its full potential.  It will help you get through the year and before you know it, I will be home, and we will be in one another’s arms.

If you remember nothing else from this letter, remember this;  the army may have my body, my attention, and my presence, but you will always be the only one who has my heart.

All my love and affection,

Steve

Never Say Never

2011 was a surprising year for myself.  I did 2 things I thought I would never do.  I ate like a vegetarian for a month and a participated and completed two 1/2 marathons.  I say participated and completed the marathons because I don’t know if what I was doing when I crossed the finish line could be considered running.  Hobbling might be the better description.  I say these are two things I thought I would never do, because in all honest I had the mindset that led me to believe these tasks were impossible for someone like me.  I love meat and I was way out of shape.  But then I was asked a question, I had been asked 100 times before.

As the husband of a Soldier, life isn’t always the best.  My wife works long hours, is constantly contacted for random military matters and has insane situations she has to work through.  When you are married to a military member you have to remember that a sacrifice to our great country is one that is put on every member of the family.  Since I served as well, I know this and I don’t mind the sacrifice.  The biggest one we make, of course, is being apart during deployments, when Heather is in harm’s way and there is nothing I can do to make sure she is safe.  She is gone for a year, and I have to stay home, try not to worry and pray she returns to me.

Which leads me to the question.  One day a person unfamiliar with the military life asked me, “How can you spend a year without your spouse?  I could never do that.”  The question is fair enough. After all, when you marry someone you are supposed to be together right?  Sure, the question was fine, but his statement afterward sounded like a judgement against our marriage as if we are somehow less of a couple because we willingly spend time apart in order that Heather can serve.  His attitude seemed less than gracious at what Heather was doing and more indicative of someone that had always put himself and his needs first.

Sorry, if I am getting on a soap box here, but the question I have is this.  What do you mean you could NEVER do that?  How do you know?  Have you ever tried?  It really irks me that I have to quote my mother here, and that something she said to me when I was a child is actually correct, but it is.  How do you know whether or not you can do something until you actually try it.  YOU DON’T, and saying you could never do something has a very negative connotation.

Which brings me back to my 2011.  In January, I decided to do somethings I had always said I could NEVER do, but had never tried.  I didn’t want to be that guy.  That first month, I became a vegetarian.  Look, I am still alive.  Yes, I eat meat again, and no I didn’t really understand what people say about health benefits, but I can now at least say, “tried it, didn’t care for it, probably won’t do it again.”  I will have to say though that reading Alicia Silverstone’s cookbook is one thing I liked and I still make dishes from it from time to time.

The marathons were another challenge altogether, but once again I didn’t want to be the guy who said I could never do it.  In fact, I found that as I ran farther and farther during each training run and as the marathon got closer and closer, I was getting excited.  My first half was at Disney.  Talk about atmosphere.  12000 people running through 3 theme parks with characters and bands and paid Disney staffers cheering you on.  Every mile felt as if I was accomplishing something new.  As I stumbled across the finish line with quads and calves burning, I teared up a little.  The medal they put around my neck was amazing (although after 13 miles, it is a little heavy).  I had done it.

It was after this marathon and the Space Coast half that I realized something.  I can TRY anything.  And if I work hard and fight, then I can DO a whole more than I thought possible.  It was then that I came to hate the word NEVER even more.  It is so negative.  All the word never does…is put limits on what could be a limitless life.  Here are three ways “never” limits lives.

1.  The word NEVER puts limits on ourselves.  Let’s face it, when we believe that we can’t do something, then we can’t do it.  It doesn’t matter what it is or how easy or difficult the task, when we automatically believe that we are not able to do something, it becomes Mt. Everest in our lives.  I have heard people who are amazing individuals knock themselves down and say things like I could never walk more than a couple miles at a time, or I could never cook, or I could never get a job like that.  Why not?  What is holding you back?  When you add the word NEVER to your vocabulary, the only person holding you back, is yourself.

2. The word NEVER puts limits on our family and friends.  I am very blessed to have the most supportive family and friends in the world, and that is good since I am way too crazy for most of them to understand the different directions I take from time to time.  I have the type of friends and family that are encouraging and will even try and help me follow different ideas and paths.  In these cases, the word NEVER just turns off that encouragement.  It can make your family and friends feel as if they are wasting their time trying to help.  How would you feel if a friend asked your opinion and then totally shot your ideas down because they didn’t believe in themselves?  I think it would make you far less likely to give your opinion next time.  Don’t shut out your family and friends because you like to use the word NEVER.

3.  The word NEVER puts limits on God.  Now don’t twist the words, I don’t believe God can be limited.  If He wants something to happen, it is going to happen, but He generally doesn’t work that way.  He wants us to work hard, and accomplish things for His glory.  Reminding ourselves that He gave us the ability to accomplish our goals and dream bigger than we thought possible certainly allows God to work in our lives much more than we ever know.  It was Jesus in Matthew 19:26 who says, “With God ALL things are possible.”  The word NEVER in our lives certainly tries to negate that saying now doesn’t it.

In most of my days, I refuse to use the word NEVER.  I am not putting limits on what God can do with me or through me on this journey.  I can and will run another 1/2 marathon and who knows what else I once thought impossible will be accomplished.  Join me!  Think of something you don’t think you can do and then DO IT.  I will be cheering for you.

An Open Letter to Non Military Spouses Everywhere

Say Anything?

Last night I was speaking with a friend whose husband is currently deployed.  I asked her how she was doing, how her baby was doing, how her pregnancy was going and of course, how her husband was doing.  We talked for a few minutes about all of the things going on in both of our lives.  Some things were good.  Some things were bad.  She was coping with the deployment just fine, as I expected that she would.  Then another topic came up.

This particular young lady was telling me about a friend whose husband was also out of town.  He wasn’t deployed, or part of the military, but he was gone for a few days.   She said that she asked her friend if there was anything she could do while her husband was out of town.  “He’s gone for a week?” was my response.  Hers? “I know increments of time are different to everyone in how it makes them feel, especially to non military.  So I try to be sensitive.”

I was amazed too.  Her compassion for others going through something so less severe than the deployment of a spouse is awesome.  Especially since during most times we spend time with our civilian spouse counterparts, there are always those few moments of awkward silence as they try and figure out what to say about our own deployment situations.

Then it happens.  It’s inevitable.  They just can’t help themselves.  In their uncomfortableness, and in their desire to make us feel better they say something that makes us turn our heads and roll our eyes.  We know they mean well.  We know they don’t mean to say something mean or hurtful, but yet we as military spouses certainly can take it that way.  So here I am to help.

Now, let me be clear.  If I am offended by something you say, that is my problem not yours.  You certainly are entitled to your opinions and I, more than most, encourage you to share them.  But in this instance, I don’t think people are looking to blurt out controversial statements.  I think they really do want to help.  I think they really do sympathize and want to console and encourage.  I just don’t think they know how.  My friend equated it with not knowing what to say when someone passes away.  She’s kind of right!

So for my civilian friends and family members here are the top 10 things you don’t need to say to us when our loved ones are deployed or gone for military service.

 

10.  9 months isn’t that long.  (Ask a pregnant woman if 9 months isn’t that long)

9.  At least he’s not in ____________________. (Gone is gone!)

8.  The time will go by fast.  (No it won’t)

7.  You must enjoy the extra pay. (Yep, HAZARD pay and HARDSHIP pay is an AWESOME replacement for my spouse.)

6.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder. (quotes suck!)

5.  Was he near (whatever bad thing just made the news that week?)  (He was a lot closer than we were.  That’s his job!)

4.  I could never do it.  (Yeah, we all thought that too, and then suddenly we became super heroes.)

3.  Does he get to come home for (Christmas, anniversary, birthday?)  (The answer is always no!)

2.  It must suck being a married and single all at the same time. (Nah, I get the whole bed to myself and get to watch whatever I want on TV.)

  1. Military Spouse – Toughest Job in the Military.  (No, I think leaving home and getting shot at is tougher.)

There are plenty of others, but I think you probably get the point.  To us, in our minds, these are condescending things that don’t really help our situations whatever they may be.  When our spouses are deployed, or out for training or at a range or wherever they may be, there are tons of different things that could happen to them.  These are always on our minds.  And until they are safely in our arms again, there is nothing that will get them out.

Let me share my personal experience with you.  Heather has been deployed twice.   Each time there has been a pit in my stomach because of the fear that she might not come home.  Thankfully, because of technology we were in daily contact during the second deployment, but that doesn’t change the fact that she was in a dangerous place surrounded by an unstable environment that at any moment could erupt.

The advent of technology has allowed Soldiers and their families to remain close during deployments.  Husbands and wives can watch movies together while Skyping.  A child’s birthday party can be streamed live around the world so Mommy doesn’t have to miss it.  Apps and cell phones can now send texts in real time so that every night there is an “I love you,” and a “good morning” when the sun comes up.  We are blessed by this much contact when people even at the beginning of this war had little.  But it comes with its downfalls as well.

Everyday I waited for Heather to get on Yahoo Instant Messenger and tell me about her day.  She would be there around 2 or 3 pm and we would spend 30 minutes to an hour typing and talking.  Then she would go to bed and I would feel ok knowing she was safe.  These were the good days.  The days when I knew where she was and how she was doing.  They didn’t happen all the time.

Why?  Because there were days when she didn’t log on at 2 or 3 or 4 or 5.  There were days when I would lay down at 11 or 12 to try and sleep even though I hadn’t heard from her.  Those days suck, and they are what separate us from the other spouses whose husband and wives go away on business.  They get our minds reeling.  Rolling with the possibilities of what could have happened.

For me, it was always negative.  Something awful had happened and now I am going to have to do all of the things I never want to do.  I am going to have to plan not one but three memorial services for her.  I am going to have to tell her parents.  I am going to have to scatter her….I can’t even bring myself to finish writing this, so hopefully you get the idea.

My brain gets so cluttered with these negative thoughts that I don’t sleep.  I won’t sleep until I hear from her.  There isn’t even a chance.  That bottle of wine I drank.  That doesn’t do the trick.  Reading…nope.  Praying…nope.  I am awake and tired and worried.

The next morning would come and thankfully there is an email or a text or a phone call to let me know that the internet was down, or she had some top secret mission she had to go on.  (kidding about the last part, settle down.)  The point is she was fine and it was just my mind playing tricks on me.  This happens more often than you think.  And when people say the things listed above, negative thoughts, not happy ones run through our minds.

So, what should you say?  I don’t want to be the guy who tells you there is a problem and not offer a solution so here it is.  What should I say to a military spouse during a time when his or her spouse is gone?  Here is a list for you.

  1. Can I take you to lunch?  (We all gotta eat don’t we?)
  1. How is everyone doing?  (perfectly normal, open ended question)
  1. Can I (be specific?) (take the kids on a play date, help clean the house.  Be specific because we will probably say no to random help.)
  1. Thank You.  (You have no idea how much this means to us and to our Soldiers.)
  1. Nothing.  (Sometimes we don’t mind the awkward silence.  Just being around friends is good enough.)

Once again, this list isn’t exhaustive and different spouses will have different reactions, but it is a good rule of thumb based on my experiences and those of other spouses I have talked to over the years.  When our spouses are deployed, the only thing we care about is their safety.  We are concerned that they are being taken care of, and that everything is being done to bring them home as soon as possible.  If you have the power to do that, GREAT!  I suspect most of you do not though, so just be there for us.

One final thing…I have great friends and family.  For the past 13 years that Heather and I have been on this military journey, they have been amazing support systems for the both of us.  They have laughed with us, cried with us, hugged us when we have come home or when we have left.  They are constant prayer warriors when Heather is in harm’s way, and will never let either of us go without knowing we are loved.  They are amazing.

One thing I think we as military spouses forget to do is say thank you too.  We are thanked a lot.  Our Soldiers are rightfully thanked even more.  But there is a whole population out there that knows very little about that plight of the military family, yet is wholly supportive and caring.  They buy us a meal or a small token just because.  They bake cookies and send them out to Soldiers they will never meet.  They draw pictures in their 2nd grade class to tell us how much they appreciate the sacrifices we make.  They are the people our Soldiers fight for, and they understand that more than others.

To my friends and family who have been so supportive over the past 13 years.  Thank you.  You will never know how much your support and love mean to Heather and I.  We have at least 7 years to go, and will need you to be there for us throughout.  I know you will be, and I know you will always say the right things.