Category Archives: Military spouses

Finding the Man She Married: Caregiver Receives Master Bedroom Makeover

For Tanya Abbas, being a military spouse is more than just dealing with deployments and packing up her home every three to four years to move to the next duty station.

Each day, she lays out medication for her husband, Dustin, who suffered a head injury while deployed in Iraq. She manages the household, takes care of her husband, and searches for glimpses of the man she married.

photo-close-up

While Dustin can’t express himself the way he once did, he notices all that she does. Without Tanya knowing, he entered her in our Mother’s Day contest to win a master bedroom makeover from design firm Laurel & Wolf.

“When he got the head injury, he stopped being my husband that I have known for my whole life,” Tanya explains. “And all of a sudden, now I’m having to lay out his meds, and doing things around the house for him, and more than just being a wife.”

Laurel-and-Wolf-Winner1

Military spouses are often more than just spouses. They’re support systems, volunteers, and in Tanya’s case, caregivers. Laurel & Wolf and the National Military Family Association partnered in this Master Bedroom Makeover because military families deserve to be recognized.

In 2010, the National Alliance for Caregiving reported 96% of caregivers were women, and 70% provide care to their spouse or partner. After more than a decade of war, service members return home with both visible and invisible wounds, and families become wounded, too.

Beaming with love, Tanya smiles and remembers the man she married, “It’s an indescribable feeling to… look at everything [and know]…that’s because my husband loves me.”

See Tanya and Dustin’s story, along with an awesome before and after of their master bedroom:

Laurel & Wolf :: Master Bedroom Makeover – Arizona from High Res Media on Vimeo.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Give Us Your Tips to Survive and Thrive at Your Duty Station!

Calling all military family members! spouses-sit-outsideWe’re looking for guest bloggers to share their tips, tricks, stories, and encouragement with other readers, and we’d love to feature you!

We’re working on a series dedicated to sharing awesome tips for Surviving and Thriving at different duty stations around the world. Have you been stationed in Okinawa, Japan for so long, you’re pretty sure you’re fluent in the language? What in the world is there to do near good ‘ol Camp Lejeune, North Carolina? Are the spouse clubs in San Diego as rad as they sound? Tell us!

We want to hear from you…yes, you…in Weisbaden, Germany, and you in Whidbey Island, Washington!

Tell us how you survive and thrive in your town! Join a great couponing class? Or a running club? Have you gone camping at a breathtaking location? And why not let the kids join in? What are their favorite things to do and see around your town?

If you have some advice or tips to share, send your original work to us at Blog@MilitaryFamily.org. Make sure you include your name, a clear headshot of yourself, along with your current duty station and the town it’s in. And, of course, share 4-5 tips (or more!) with other military families so they can survive and thrive if they ever find themselves in the same place.

If you’re interested in contributing, but are not quite sure you’re the best writer, leave a comment and we’d be happy to get in touch with you to help find your inner writing voice!

Military life is crazy…but with a little help from those who have gone before us, we’ll be able to survive and thrive!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

 

Living with PTSD and TBI: A Spouse’s Perspective

woman-sitting-on-bench-aloneMy husband has been an infantry officer in the Marine Corps for nearly 15 years.

Between 2003 and 2009, he completed three combat deployments to Iraq. He didn’t know it at the time, but my husband sustained a mild traumatic brain injury as a result of an enemy ambush. He suffered from splitting headaches, ringing in the ears, and light sensitivity. For years, he quietly battled his symptoms on his own.

By the summer of 2010, he had reached his tipping point. He became critically ill, and denying treatment was no longer an option. At the time, I was pursuing my career goal of becoming a licensed clinical psychologist. I ultimately made the choice to put it on hold in order to focus on my husband and his recovery. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Through the encouragement of several senior leaders, my husband began to explore different treatment options. He enrolled in a program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, where he was officially diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). TBI’s and PTSD are often thought of as the signature injuries of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The stigma associated with these injuries is a major barrier for service members in need of mental health care.

Unfortunately, this stigma has prevented many injured service members, including my own service member, from getting help sooner.

During the recovery process, my husband and I were overwhelmed and concerned with how our situation would impact his career, and our marriage. Fortunately, we got through it with a tremendous amount of support from his leadership; everyone from commanding officers to general officers.

Those leaders ensured my husband would remain on full duty while receiving extensive medical care. With a combination of medical and psychological treatments, his condition began to improve. He’s developed a firm grasp and acceptance of his condition, and has been armed with the knowledge that it is treatable.

Making a difference in the lives of military families is crucial to me. As a result, my career goal is to obtain a license in clinical psychology and use my professional and personal experiences to assist wounded warriors and their families. Achieving this objective would not be possible without the generous support of the National Military Family Association. They provide military spouses with valuable scholarships to help them fulfill their educational and career aspirations.

Today, my husband is serving on full duty and desires to deploy again. I am very proud of his dedication to our country and family, and am deeply grateful for the support I received.

When it comes to asking for help, taking the first step is often the hardest. But it’s the bravest of all. My husband and I strongly encourage anyone in need of assistance to get the support you deserve.

sandy-cullinsPosted by Sandy Cullins, USMC Spouse and Joanne Holbrook Patton Scholarship Recipient who received scholarship funds from United Health Foundation to pursue her career in mental health

I Just Don’t Get…the Ever-Complaining Military Spouse

i-just-dont-get“Ugh! Just had to wait for 30 minutes to get a prescription from the MTF!”

“Seriously, I am so tired of ‘mandatory fun’ – what’s fun about it?”

“I can’t wait for us to get out of the military! If I have to deal with one more holiday alone…”

Do you know a fellow military spouse who’s a constant flow of negativity—always complaining about military life and everything that goes with it? From their spouse’s duty weekend to the terrible selection of ketchup at the Commissary – nothing is off limits. And it all gets aired on social media.

I just don’t get it.

Military life isn’t always sunshine and unicorns (can it be, please?), but it is something special. We have a secret weapon most civilian spouses don’t: a built-in community of support…each other.

No matter where you PCS, there’s a neighbor in base housing who understands the frustration of raising toddlers, a FRG leader who knows the perfect dentist out in town, or a spouse in your command who loves wine as much as you do.

So why is nothing ever good enough for that ever-complaining milspouse?

What I love so much about this military community is the camaraderie and pride we all seem to share. Maybe the ever-complaining milspouse hasn’t had a chance to see how supportive we can be. I have to think that if they did, they’d see how important it is to be that pillar of strength for someone else. It’s our duty as military spouses to pay it forward. Be supportive. Share resources. Do for others.

That’s the only way we can ensure the complainers become extinct – by doing our part to make the camaraderie live on.

Maybe then, there might not be as much to complain about.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

#TBT: You Know You’re a Military Spouse When…

sunset-on-baseTomorrow is Military Spouse Appreciation Day, so in honor of all of the awesome spouses who support their service members, we’re going back into our archives for a classic #TBT (Throwback Thursday) post! This was one of my favorites, posted back in August 2013! Know a military spouse? Send them an ecard to thank them!

Military life is a funny thing. Nothing ever seems to stay the same, but somehow, we embrace change as our “normal.” Finding civilian friends who understand your “normal” is another funny, yet rare thing – much like a unicorn. We know they’re out there, and when we find one, it’s magical. While not all of our civilian friends understand military life, there’s always a military spouse out there who can relate to the exact place you’re at in your life.

In honor of your “normal,” here are a few of the funnier ways you know you’re a military spouse:

  • You have enjoyed a beautiful sunset on your installation, complete with barbed wire fences in the view.
  • The majority of your laundry consists of camouflage, green shirts, and brown socks. If you’re Navy or Coast Guard, it’s blue shirts and black socks.
  • You can pack and unpack a house within a couple days, but you still have a few boxes that haven’t been unpacked from your move 2 years ago.
  • Your kids have a drawer full of soccer jerseys from playing on so many different teams over your years of moving around.
  • You use a military I.D. all the time and get frustrated when places ask for a “real I.D.”
  • You still find colorful little moving tags on various pieces of furniture even though it’s been a year since your last PCS. Bonus points if you’ve found multiple tags from multiple PCS’s on the same piece of furniture.
  • You don’t panic when your doctor walks in wearing ACU’s or BDU’s.
  • You know that a month-long separation is short, no matter what anyone says.
  • You read all of the homecoming banners on base and smile over each one. Then wonder, “What will my banner say?”
  • You save voicemails from your spouse, so you can listen to them anytime you think of him or her.
  • You have two anniversaries: your Justice of the Peace anniversary and your wedding anniversary.
  • You answer your spouse’s text messages with “Roger.”
  • You know there is no such thing as “planning in advance,” and you know you can’t make solid plans on where you will spend Christmas until the middle of December.
  • You have three jobs on your resume for the last two years.
  • You know your spouse’s social security number better than your own and often confuse the two when filling out documents about yourself.
  • When you go out on the town, you constantly have to point out that your date of birth is on the back of your military I.D.
  • You celebrate holidays based on duty schedules.
  • You have 20 different sized curtains to fit all the different windows of houses you’ve lived in.
  • You refer to your spouse’s friends by their last name. And no one holds it against you if you don’t know their first name.
  • You have found at least 10 different sets of orange foam earplugs in the washer or dryer.
  • You always have to explain to employers why you have had so many jobs by age 26. Then you hope they take you seriously knowing you may be leaving soon.
  • You have a Florida driver’s license, with an Oklahoma license plate, and you live in Virginia.
  • You are a pro at prepping a dress uniform.
  • You tear up when you hear “God Bless the USA,” even though you’ve heard it 50 times before.
  • When your spouse is deployed, you are married to your phone, email, and/or Skype.
  • You know to stay FAR away from the commissary near the 1st and 15th of every month, and if you absolutely have to go on those days, it’s a planned mission with emergency exit options.

Are you a military spouse who can relate to any of these? Let us know and add your own!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

The Budget is a Game of ‘Survivor’ for Military Families

Spouse Summit 2014 3“Why are we cannibalizing ourselves?”

As I looked around the table at Military.com’s Spouse Summit, I found myself in a heated discussion with eight courageous, committed spouses, including a Military Spouse of the Year who cares for her husband who has a traumatic brain injury, a woman who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and another one who created an online blogging community for military spouses.

Our mission was simple – or was it? Rank 15 military family benefits from most important to least, cutting the 5 that we deem least important altogether.

My table was all women whose spouses have 6-10 years of service. The caregiver spouse voiced her desperation to keep non-medical counseling and other family service programs that have helped to guide her family. Some were ready to cut the Post-9/11 GI Bill for spouses and kids, while others thought it was more important than Basic Housing Allowance (BAH).

spouse summit 2014 2Across the room, a senior spouse questioned our desire to help pay for our kids’ college education, “How many of us paid for college ourselves?”

Most people raised their hands.

Though every cut hurts, it’s the slash after slash that leaves us bleeding. Whether I prioritize Commissary benefits over guaranteed pay raises or retirement benefits… it all comes out of the same place: our pockets.

“Why aren’t other government agencies doing this same thing? Having this same discussion?”

Are employees of the Treasury or the Federal Trade Commission having roundtable discussions about what benefits they’re willing to sacrifice to balancing the budget? Are they facing cuts at all?

Why does it feel like we’re on an island all alone, left to ration what little we have left? Why are we always putting ourselves on the chopping block?

What benefits do you think are most important? Share them with us in the comments or go a step farther – write to the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) and tell them your story!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Making the Military a Career: How an Elephant Sat on My Dreams

flag-on-a-white-picket-fenceThere’s been an elephant in the room between my husband and me for a while. That one huge topic we’ve been dancing around. We think we know what the other is thinking, and feel okay when the topic drifts away, untouched. Because it’s a big, fat, life-changing elephant:

Are we really going to make the military a career; we’re really going to do 20 years of this?

I’ll be honest: I dreamt of a life where my kids would grow up having the same friends since second grade, like I did. I hoped to see my husband work a job with normal hours and be able to come home at 5pm and coach little league. I thought I’d get to have tons of quality time with my best girlfriends from college, since they’d live right around the corner. I relished in the idea of being able to take a vacation with little to no advanced planning.

When I first met my husband, his goal was to do a short enlistment, then transition back to the civilian work force, allowing all of my little white-picket-fence dreams to come true. Now, we’re 8 years in, and my husband has some of the most elite and prestigious tours in the military on his resume. We have had amazing opportunities because of his service – some I never imagined possible…like meeting the President of the United States in the Oval Office and using the big, important phone on his desk. Okay, so only half of that is true, but still: IT’S THE PRESIDENT.

Recently, we stopped ignoring the elephant in the room and had the talk: are we staying in, or getting out? His eyes widened with excitement as he went through all the possibilities awaiting him in his next decade of service. Mine sank to my feet as reality set in that my perfectly planned life with the white picket fence probably won’t happen.

So, what does that mean for me and my perfectly planned life and white picket fence? Honestly, I have no idea, and that scares me a little bit. But in the last 8 years, I’ve learned that life doesn’t come in a perfectly packaged box. It might come in 3 year billets and surprise IA deployments. It can require a therapist and some serious amounts of wine. And wine is totally okay.

Military life doesn’t exactly give you the opportunity to dream up a life you’d love to have. But I guess that’s the beauty of this one of a kind journey. It gives you other things you never thought to dream up.

Have you and your spouse made the decision to make the military a career? What advice would you give?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager