Category - Military Life

Finding Joy When You’re Alone During Holiday Deployments

Last Christmas, when my husband was deployed, I thought I was doing a great job staying positive, being strong, and making happy memories for our four children. Nevertheless, when it was time to hand out Christmas gifts in the morning, I hit my limit and crashed. The kids were excited and jumping around in anticipation. My husband was on the other side of the world, asleep because of the time difference. It was just me, at home with these four crazy kids, and I couldn’t handle any more joy and excitement without my husband there to share it. A wave of exhaustion and depression sent me huddling onto the couch. In a moment I am not proud of, I covered my head with a blanket and curled into a ball, trying to hide. I couldn’t handle any more fake joy when my husband was so far away. I was tired of being strong, tired of entertaining the kids and taking care of their every need, tired of answering questions from well-meaning family members. I felt so alone and overwhelmed. I just didn’t want to do anymore Christmas. Yet there I was, surrounded by four young children, whose faces were beaming in anticipation. For their sake, I had to pull it together and carry on. For them, I had to be strong and get the holiday. All deployments are difficult and challenging in their own ways. But deployments that fall during a holiday have an extra level of emotional difficulty. Whether it is Christmas, a birthday, an anniversary, or any other special holiday, it is on those days that military spouses miss their service members most poignantly. It doesn’t matter how many times you have been through a deployment before. The one I just described was our 7th deployment. If getting through deployment emotions were simply a matter of knowledge or experience, I should have them figured out by now! But it never becomes “easy.” You never get used to being away from the one you love. And those waves of loneliness and exhaustion can knock you down, no matter how “seasoned” you are. I think it’s time for a little more honesty in the military spouse community. Instead of putting on a fake smile and pretending everything is fine, let’s just go ahead and admit that this military life is sometimes difficult. It is demanding. It is exhausting. Sometimes, it just doesn’t feel fair. Can we please just admit that it’s hard going through life constantly separated from your spouse? Can we acknowledge that it’s ok to feel less than 100% enthusiastic and patriotic sometimes? None of us are perfect, and no military spouse should be left to feel that they carry a burden alone. If we are honest, I think we will see that everyone struggles sometimes during military life. And I think we will also realize that we are all better off when we support and encourage each other. You don’t have to have your own life completely figured out to bring a little bit of comfort to someone else’s day. Sometimes, what spouses need to hear most is a comforting voice that says, “I know how you feel. I’ve been there too, and it is so difficult!” But we also need to see a light at the end of the tunnel. We need to hear someone say, “I’ve been there, and this is what helped me get through it.” On that holiday last year, when I was huddled on the couch under a blanket, trying to find a small reserve of inner strength, there was one thought that brought me comfort and helped me snap out of my loneliness. I realized that I was not alone. Even though I felt alone, and my spouse was thousands of miles away, I realized that many other military families were also going through a deployment holiday. I thought about military families who had been through longer deployments with less communication. Together, we were all “embracing the suck” and doing our best to carry on. I realized that the loneliness of deployment was not mine to carry alone. It was a burden I could share with the entire worldwide population of service members and families. And once I saw it that way, the weight of deployment became much easier to bear. I felt relief that I didn’t have to do this all alone. I took off the blanket. I got up off the couch. And I found the energy and the patience to share genuine joy with my children. This year, my service member is home with us for the holidays. But I will never forget the challenges I faced while he was away. Supporting military spouses and loved ones through deployment is a cause close to me heart. I think when we share our burdens (and solutions) with each other, everyone’s difficulties become easier to handle. I have created resources to encourage military families through deployment. Learn all about them in my Deployment Masterclass. If you’re looking for deployment support, I hope you will join our community! Connect with us on Facebook!

Rank Matters

Have you ever wondered why military spouses are constantly grouped into social settings based upon their servicemember’s rank? It’s because Rank Matters. Yes, we’ve all heard from that spouse, who says, “Rank does not matter to us as spouses. We have all struggled through deployments, have had childcare issues, finance problems, and blah, blah, blah.” Honestly, I stopped listening to this spiel years ago. The lives of the spouses are all different and yes, but with rank comes certain privileges, not just for the servicemember, but for their spouse as well. Got Housing Issues? I once had a refrigerator that shook so bad, we had to push it back into place every morning. I called housing and told them, every night our fridge was running, they said, that’s a good thing. Everyone has issues with military housing, that’s no secret. Accommodations across military posts can be scarce for all ranks. However, seeing the vast differences between housing for lower ranking servicemembers versus their higher-ranking counterparts, can sometimes be infuriating. Now, I know what you’re thinking, it shouldn’t be equal. A servicemember who is higher ranking, deserves a nicer home than someone who isn’t. Fair enough, but just because someone hasn’t been in the military long, doesn’t mean their family should be subjected to unsafe living conditions such as lead poisoning, mold, or faulty infrastructure. All our children’s well-being is important and should be treated as such. Childcare Anyone? A common practice throughout military life is a pay your rank structure. This is also common in childcare. The higher the servicemember’s rank, the more they pay for the same childcare services of the junior servicemember. Which kind of doesn’t seem fair, because they aren’t receiving better or more services than their junior counterpart. They don’t have more exclusive care, meals, or better recess. So why is that? Why are servicemembers with a higher rank charged more for childcare? Furthermore, is this money helping advance the childcare system, helping meet academic goals, building larger facilities, or hiring an adequate number of childcare workers. I’ll take, what is one of the biggest causes of military spouse unemployment, for $500, Alex.

Gowns for Good

Belle Vogue Bridal hosted its eighth annual bridal gown giveaway event for military brides in support and appreciation of those who serve in the armed forces and their families. As a thank-you for their service, the bridal store just outside of Kansas City, Kansas, gave away free wedding gowns to military couples this Veteran’s Day. The event started eight years ago, shortly after the store opened. The owners wanted to give something back to the community and those that serve and protect us, and they decided to give gowns to military brides or spouses planning a wedding on a tight budget. Lorenza Rabenold, Air Force Partner, was able to partner with Belle Vogue this year to help fellow spouses schedule an appointment to say yes to the dress. Gowns for Good was able to help 60 spouses this year find the dress of their dreams! Andy and his stylists would love for that number to grow! If you are planning a wedding in the next year or so, please check out our event, held yearly around Veteran’s Day in Kansas. If you are a spouse that never had the opportunity to have a wedding, this is a great opportunity to get the dress of your dreams. We interviewed a few spouses from across the command about this event and what it meant to them. Staff Sergeant Christi Walker, 509th Bomb Wing 509 AMXS, 393rd AMU Weapons Team Chief, fiancée to Master Sergeant Daniel Tomlin: “It meant the world to me to receive the dress of my dreams. Each dress I tried on was so beautiful it was a challenge to pick just one. My mom attended this event with me. When she started crying when she saw me in the dress, I instantly knew it was the one.” Staff Sergeant Walker and Master Sergeant Tomlin will be married in Petoskey, Michigan, at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church on June 22, 2019. Holli Kelley, spouse to Master Sergeant Christopher Kelley, 349th Recruiting Squadron stationed in Lenexa, Kansas: “Gowns for Good event will allow my husband and I to have the wedding that we dreamed of having.” Kelley never had the opportunity to try on wedding dresses but because of this event, her dreams of wearing a beautiful wedding gown came true and she said yes to the dress! “When we got married in 2002, we always planned on having a large family wedding,” she said, “but with TDY’s and deployments we were never able to set a date and keep it. Now because of Belle Vogue Bridal, I will be able to have the wedding of my dreams with all of my family present.” Amber Blake, spouse to Master Sergeant Mitchell Blake, 349th Recruiting Squadron Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: “It is an amazing feeling to receive a wedding dress from Belle Vogue Bridal. Mitch and I eloped because neither one of us nor our families could afford a wedding. We have always wanted to renew our vows; however, between school and having four children, there has never been an opportunity to save money for the dress of my dreams. It is exciting to have a dress that I can wear to renew our vows but also a dress that I can pass down to our daughters to wear someday!” Mandy Kline, spouse to Master Sergeant Ian Kline, 343rd Recruiting Squadron, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska: “This event gave me the opportunity to renew my vows with Ian. Not only does this give me the opportunity to renew my vows, but I will be able to have pictures of our special day in the dress of my dreams and to have wonderful memories to look back on. Without Belle Vogue Bridal this dream would never come true! Thank you to everyone at Belle Vogue Bridal.” Mandy and Master Sergeant Kline plan on renewing their vows next year. Staff Sergeant Lindsay Wiggy, NCOIC, Personnel Section, 349th Recruiting Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, fiancée to Jeffrey Wilson: “Saying yes to the dress means that I can have an actual wedding that I have always dreamed about. Without this dress, I would not have a wedding ceremony and my fiancé, Jeffrey, and I would not get to experience one for the best days of our lives. I am so thankful for the opportunity and I cannot wait to walk down the aisle in this dress!” Wiggy and Wilson will be married next fall. Stacey Carter, spouse to Master Sergeant Lewis Carter, 349th Recruiting Squadron, Lenexa, Kansas: “This was an extra special event for me because my wedding anniversary fell on the day of the event. Lewis and I have been married for fifteen years and have always talked about renewing our vows and having a ceremony. With living far from family, we have never been able to plan to have our ceremony. The event made my anniversary a memorable one, even though Lewis was out of town for our training.” Katie Casali, spouse to technical sergeant Philip Casali, 349th Recruiting Squadron, St. Joseph, Missouri: “Philip and I have been married for three years. When we originally got married I was wearing a white maxi dress that was beautiful but wasn’t made for a bride. This event gave me the chance to have a wedding dress of my dreams! We plan on renewing our vows June 2019.” Kelsey Jones, fiancée to Seaman Daniel Mullins, stationed at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida: Kelsey is beyond grateful for Belle Vogue Bridal’s event because this means she can have the wedding of her dreams. Kelsey and Seaman Mullins are to be married this December. Connect with us on Facebook!

Spouse Confessions: I’ve Sacrificed Everything…Now What?

What do you sacrifice as a Military Spouse? Nothing? Or, everything? I have friends who say both. But, what is sacrifice? Is it something only servicemembers do? There is a great debate about who can say they’ve sacrificed something for the greater good of something or someone else. So, let’s talk about it. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Sacrifice is to suffer a loss of, give up, renounce, injure or destroy especially for an ideal, belief or end. I believe the sacrifices of military spouses are often minimized because of fear of scrutiny from the military community. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many programs who praise military spouses for their work in the military community. But, what about that spouse who has been at home raising their children alone, dealing with repeated deployments, and nurturing the mental health of a broken servicemember. Where is their support? Being a military spouse is a selfless act, if you ask me. We are expected to take care of our homes, our children, ourselves, and often our spouses without any reciprocation. I know, we shouldn’t want anything in return, but I do. I want to be happy. I want a spouse, that I too can depend on. I want someone who will support my dreams, my career, and my physical and mental well-being. If I am not okay, I am not capable of making sure everyone else is okay. But, I have no choice. No one can see the struggles I face, because I don’t outwardly express my personal problems. No one wants to be a burden on their spouse, especially knowing what all their service member endures. I once suffered a miscarriage while my spouse was at work. I began cramping early in the day and bleeding ensued. My spouse came home for lunch and I expressed that I needed to go to the emergency room because I thought I was having a miscarriage. My spouse said he needed to get back to work or else he’d be in trouble. I stood in the driveway bleeding, as he drove away. I cannot describe the helplessness I felt that day. Hurt and bitterness became something I felt more than happiness and love. Yes, counseling is available. You can visit Military One Source to find out how to talk to someone in your area. It does help. As a military spouse, we need an outlet to express the way we truly feel, not the way everyone else thinks we should feel. I’ve read so many articles, blogs, and other social media posts minimizing the struggles of the military spouse.  When you read about a servicemember committing suicide how do you think that affects their spouse? Do you think they were in this amazingly happy, blissful marriage and the next day the servicemember perished? While this does happen, most of the time, this isn’t the case. There is often a period of suffering whether it be in the home, at work, mentally, or all the above. As a military spouse, I’ve watched it happen.