Tag Archives: deployment

Letters of War: Hope in a Cedar Chest

love-lettersYears ago, we inherited a cedar chest from one of our adopted Marines. I didn’t think much of it. Honestly, it was just another thing I had no use for, but it was an interesting piece of furniture, nonetheless.

Naturally, as a military spouse, I made it a point to give it a purpose, in order to justify dragging this thing around from move to move. I filled it with deployment memorabilia I would come across.

While doing so, I began to notice through the years of things, email began to dominate most of our communication. Something about the convenience of instantly being able to communicate the thoughts and feelings that overcome and overwhelm you when the love of your life is miles away, is a blessing and impossible to resist. However, out of habit l would still write letters on paper. Even when he would insist it was no longer a necessity, I would still write to him.

My husband is not the type that shows excitement easily, but the bounce in his voice when he would tell me he got a letter has always been addicting. I loved hearing his plans for the pictures, how he planned to keep some in his wallet, versus the pictures he planned to pin to his wall. It was a brief moment of reprieve from the distance. I loved soaking in every bit of this happiness as he was holding something from home; a serendipitous moment for me. For a second, it almost felt like he was much closer to home.

I am not sure how most families do it, but in our family, we describe time by its location before, during, or after deployments. Stretching time, slowing it down, and filling it with a lifetime of memories become the most important orders of the day. That “Welcome Home” moment is one where space, time, and distance collide, and produce a most surreal reality. It’s the moment where our deepest thoughts and feelings are conveyed within that long powerful grip of our initial embrace. At home, his laughter finally echoes and booms down the hall, as if he never left.

Fast forward several deployments later, and we now have three beautiful children. Duty stations have come and gone. The treasure chest has been moved more times, and to more houses, than most people live in through two lifetimes. But as I like to whisper to my children, “Adventure is what we do for a living, baby.”

It was not until our most recent move to the opposite coast that anyone really paid attention to the treasure chest. Truth be told, I was busy battling the humid, fly-filled Carolina heat, helping my husband carry furniture into our new home, when I noticed the girls huddled in a corner of the garage going through the many contents of the aging cedar treasure chest.

My heart could not have been more delighted. Our children, marveling at prom corsages, the dried flower I picked for my hair at his boot camp graduation–which my husband completely freaked about, because of course: it was government property! Photos collected of our first car together, our first dogs, teenage pictures of us in our first home in base housing.

However, the letters stole the show— 18 & 19 year-old Mommy and Daddy–back when we were just Tim and Aliyah. Teenagers madly in love, writing boot camp letters to Recruit Meehan, and making the most incredible plans that turned out to be an even more incredible life.

I suppose I must have known this day would come, because I separated the risqué ‘love note stack’ from the more ‘PG’ love letters. It was endearing throughout. As we stopped and listened to our kids read some of the letters aloud, I felt every inch of the distance that these letters have traveled, only serving as fuel meant to relight our passion for one another till the end of time.

As our children continued to read our story, it became their story. The fiery flame of the young warrior (Tim) and the nurse (me) liquefied into a placid existence. The story solidified into the concrete joys of our first baby. A few deployments later, we were on our third baby. Ultrasound photos with the nickname ‘Peanut’ on the back, with holes were they were once pinned on his Iraq wall.
Sitting over the treasure chest with our not-so-little ‘Peanut’ in my lap, we spent the next few hours laughing, sometimes crying, remembering and reliving magical moments captured, and forever encased, in words we once lovingly shared.

I am sure I could probably pull up emails of that same time in our lives at any time. However, personally, the romance in this kind of beautiful life can only be told and truly appreciated sitting on a dusty garage floor with my family, sifting through our aging cedar treasure chest, and reading out loud our letters of war.

Posted by Aliyah Meehan, USMC Spouse, Director of Family Engagement, Sandboxx

Military Families: Living the History of September 11th

September 11, 2001—the day our Nation stood still. The day that seemed as if it would never pass. The day that started the longest war in our country’s history. While families of the 2,996 lost that day grieved for their loved ones, families of those serving grieved for what they knew loomed around the corner.

More than 6,800 service members have paid the ultimate price in the 4,749 days since September 11, 2001.

What our Nation remembers as a day in history, military families continue to live every day.

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Deployment Monster: 5 Ways to be a Superhero for Your Kids

boy-on-dads-shoulders-with-kiteMilitary life is difficult. But if you can add parenting into the mix, you’re my hero. Not all military spouses were born to be mothers or fathers. Me? I’m somewhere in between. Even those of us who don’t have kids know it takes a special set of superhero skills to raise a resilient military kid. Any military spouse can learn some tricks of the trade!

Harder still, is the nasty deployment monster – seeming to lurk around every set of orders, ready to attack. Maybe you know when the deployments are coming? Sometimes it’s those little trips, trainings, and exercises leading up to the ‘big D’ that really stink.

So how do you superhero parents do it? I asked Meredith Moore, our Association’s Volunteer Services Coordinator for the National Capitol Region, what advice she could offer to help ease the stress and transition during a deployment. Meredith, a seasoned Navy spouse and mother of three, has five great tips parents need to know:

  1. Different ages respond differently to the separation. The young child who doesn’t understand time increments and travel distances needs concrete reassurance the deployed parent thinks about them and still exists somewhere else. School-age children, who listen to the news and adults talking, tend to fear for their parent’s safety (not just in war zone deployments). Preteens and teens will often take on the role of ‘spouse’ to the parent at home, and sometimes resent the deployed parent because the child has become the stand-in.
  2. Keep kids on the same schedule they were on before the deployment started. But be willing to break the routine in an instant if the child is having a hard day. If you always eat dinner at the table at 6:00, don’t stop just because the deployed parent isn’t there. Kids need to accept that deployment is a normal part of military life.
  3. Make sure you put your best attitude forward in front of the kids. Be honest with them when you are struggling but don’t put your burdens on them. Set the example of being resilient. They will follow your lead.
  4. Try not to use phrases like, “you’re the man of the house when your father is gone.” Can you imagine the amount of pressure that puts on a child? You and your spouse chose this lifestyle, the child did not.
  5. Join your command’s family group. Contact your Ombudsman, Family Readiness Group, or Key Spouse. Put the stigma away if you have heard bad things about it. They provide family programming and other great events during deployments. Chances are, you’ll meet someone you have something in common with, and the kids will benefit, too!

Though most parents don’t consider themselves a superhero, many feel even stronger as each deployment comes to an end. Now, can we figure out how to get time to speed up during the the ‘big D?’

What superhero skills did you use to get through a deployment with kids?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Appreciating the Military, One Homecoming at a Time

sailors-on-carrier-shipHuddling on the pier on a frigid April morning, I shivered and wished I had thought to wear a winter coat instead of a light spring jacket. Who would have expected it to be 40 degrees in Norfolk, Virginia in April? Beside me, my teenage daughter yawned exaggeratedly, reminding me that it was not her choice to be awake and at the base by 7:00 AM. Neither one of us was quite as excited about this homecoming as we should have been. My husband had flown out to meet the ship toward the end of its long deployment, so we hadn’t experienced the many months of separation that other families had. Still new to the command, we hadn’t yet met many of the other families and stood off to the side, feeling awkward and out of place.

Before too long, however, we were caught up in the excitement of the families gathered on the pier. Proud parents held cameras high, ready to catch a photo of their young Sailor’s first homecoming. Young moms cradled newborns and kept careful watch on wound up toddlers. Everywhere there were banners and flags welcoming Sailors back home. Soon even my usually “too cool for school” teenager was waving a flag and jumping up and down, craning her head to catch the first glimpse of the ship.

A few minutes before 8:00, a roar went up from the crowd as the ship appeared in the harbor. Despite the wind and cold, Sailors in their summer whites stood proudly at attention along the ship’s rails. Families waved their banners wildly, hoping to catch their Sailor’s eye. I knew from experience that the crew couldn’t wait to rush off the ship and find their waiting families, but unfortunately guiding a massive warship into a slip isn’t quite as easy as parking a car. Minutes dragged on as the ship maneuvered carefully into place and secured to the pier.

Finally, the ship secure and the gangplank in place, Sailors began streaming off the ship. First, the lucky winner of the “First Kiss” raffle sprinted off the ship and into the arms of his thrilled wife. Then the new dads emerged to meet the babies born during the long months the ship was away. Finally, the rest of the crew began to disembark. All around us, families were reuniting, sharing their first hugs in months. Tearful moms held on to their Sailors as proud dads beamed and shot photos. Other Sailors knelt before shy preschoolers who barely remembered the parent who’d been gone for so long. Young moms gladly handed off heavy toddlers to dads who couldn’t believe how much they’d grown.

My daughter and I stood in the middle of the crowd, taking it all in. The excitement and emotion of families reuniting after such a long time was overwhelming. Right then, I realized how privileged we were to share in this moment. We might not know everyone there, but we were still part of the same family – the military family. I glanced at my daughter to see if she was feeling the same way, but she was looking past me, toward the ship. She grabbed my arm and without a trace of teenage boredom in her voice, squealed, “Look, Mom! There’s Dad!”

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

A Different Kind of Warrior: The Military Kid

opc-girlsWhat’s it like to be a military kid – one who worries about the safety of parents who may be living halfway across the world for months at a time?

We can try to understand their situations, but no one really “gets it” except the kids themselves. Most military children do not live on or near an installation, which makes it that much harder for them to connect with other kids who also have a parent serving. Operation Purple® camps were specially designed to help military kids cope while their parents are deployed.

Since 2004, many generous Americans have helped send more than 51,000 military kids to Operation Purple camps.

Getting a break from war, finding friends to confide in, and having some fun to offset the extra responsibilities in their complicated young lives. Operation Purple camps bring amazing experiences to the lives of our military kids.

Although their parents are the ones who are exposed to hostile environments, it’s the kids who bear the stress of uncertainty – wondering when the separation will end, whether mom or dad are safe, and whether they’re going to come home “the same.”

While at camp, kids get to do everything from kayaking and hiking, to archery and horseback riding. They participate in military-based activities, like hide-and-seek while wearing night-vision goggles, or exploring Humvees and helicopters.

But most importantly, they get the opportunity to make friends with kids who know everything they are going through – kids who are just like them.

Here are a few words about the camps from the kids themselves:

“It’s helped me get away from all the stress in my life and be able to make friends who understand me.” –Kaitlin, age 8

“I made amazing friends and was able to talk to other kids about deployment. It truly brings kids closer and helps us understand we are not alone. I love OPC… it makes me feel like people truly care.” – Emma , age 11

“Camp has taught me that I’m not the only child having a hard time while my dad is gone.” –Johnathan, age 7

And one from mom, too:
“Before camp, our children never considered how much they’re appreciated for giving up their dad to serve our country. This program gave them a much needed reward for their sacrifice.” -Suzanne, Mom of camper

Just one camp experience can change a child’s life forever. Please help us make a difference in the life of a military child.

Remember, military kids serve, too. Help support them by donating today!

carolinePosted by Caroline Rasmus, Development and Membership Manager

 

The Soundtrack of my Deployment

girl-with-headphones-onEver wonder why there isn’t a “Top 100 Deployment Hits” soundtrack? Seems like an untapped market to me. Would you buy a CD full of songs to help you through the highs and lows of deployments?

My husband has been away for a few months on a training deployment, so I’ve had the TV remote control, the DVR, and the bed all to myself. A few nights ago, I started thinking about all the things I’ve done since he’s been gone. I pressure washed our house, jump-started our car when it had a dead battery (thanks to YouTube), fixed a broken toilet, redecorated our living room, went from a red head to a blonde, and learned to eat at restaurants by myself.

As those memories were flashing through my mind, songs just randomly started accompanying them. Songs as eclectic as the curtains in my house.

There’s no telling when the “Top 100 Deployment Hits” is going to be released, so in the meantime, here are some songs that might be musical therapy for you during those ups and downs of deployment:

  • “(You Drive Me) Crazy” by Britney Spears. Suggested for playing very loudly while locking yourself in a dark bathroom to avoid screaming children. Because that’s acceptable, right?
  • “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore. Perfect for playing on the car ride to Walmart. You’re gonna pop some tags…only got $20 in your pocket…which will obviously buy lots of things at Walmart. You can probably get a set of lawn darts, nail polish, and a 12 pack of socks.
  • “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars. Because I don’t care about wearing pants today.
  • “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. The theme song for fixing a broken toilet. Also suggested: theme song for having a baby while your spouse is deployed.
  • “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. You’ve hit the halfway mark of deployment. Woah, you’re halfway there. Woah, livin’ on a prayer…and chocolate.
  • “All By Myself” by Celine Dion. Suggested for the milspouse eating alone at Chili’s.
  • “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. This one’s for you, Mom of four, who got a free night of babysitting at the CDC. GIRLS NIGHT!

And of course, no deployment soundtrack would be complete without the perfect song to play on repeat when your solider finally comes home.

I’m going with “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins….no explanation needed!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Here’s Your New Deployment Survival Guide!

Dads-homeI can identify the Fort Campbell hangar immediately when looking through pictures. The color on the walls, the bleachers, and the banners welcoming our heroes home. I remember the anxious feeling when my husband was both leaving and coming home from deployment. Anxious to get the deployment started so he could return home, and anxious to introduce him to our new family of three and welcome him to our new house.

Have you ever heard that saying “you don’t know, what you don’t know?” That’s how I feel looking back on our first deployment. We were married in September and my husband deployed in December. I didn’t want to move to a new installation by myself so I moved home with my mom. Little did I know that moving home meant I would be completely out of touch with my husband’s unit.

I received monthly emails about some things, but was never contacted about other things. During the year-long deployment, I received only two phone calls from the Family Readiness Group (FRG). I felt a little out of the loop, and under informed, to say the least! I am fortunate that my husband communicates well enough to keep me in the know. Now, I urge spouses to get out there, get involved, and stay informed! There are so many awesome resources available that won’t come knock on your door.

If there was an app like MyMilitaryLife available to me during our first deployment, my time away from my husband would have been very different. I feel like I would have been able to manage that time better, and I could have actively involved myself with his unit’s happenings. Hindsight is great, but I realize now, just how much I missed out!

With MyMilitaryLife at my fingertips, I would have utilized the Deployment Life Path and discovered the Red Cross offers online courses about deployment cycles. Military OneSource has a website, called ‘Plan My Deployment,’ with planning tools, checklists, and helpful tips. The National Military Family Association has Operation Purple® Camps for children with a parent that has been, is currently, or will be deployed. Aside from this, there are Family Retreats to help families reintegrate after deployment.

If my husband deploys again, I am prepared with resources to help, and if I have any questions I know I can pull up MyMilitaryLife on my phone to find the answer.

Download our MyMilitaryLife app today and let us know what you think!

Amanda headshotPosted by Amanda Anderson, Content Manager, MyMilitaryLife