8 Practical Social Media Do’s and Don’ts for Military Spouses

Social media can be a great friend to everyone during this pandemic. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other sites help us stay in touch with friends and family all the time, but especially now. FaceTime has been a godsend. Zoom too.

But are you careful about what you post? In 2020, our country went through a nasty period of time. George Floyd’s death sparked a summer of protests that turned violent and destructive in some areas, and for whatever reason, the violence continues. However, I don’t think it has anything to do with George Floyd anymore.

And on the political front, things took an ugly turn during the campaign, dividing the nation into the left and the right and no in-between. Of course, the election was complicated by the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6. Ugly, ugly.

Much of these problems were inflamed by social media. I didn’t like what you said about Donald Trump, so I unfriended you. Or worse, I replied with a nasty diatribe about why I think you are wrong. Even families split apart because of differing opinions and things posted about each other. That is not okay, and it has no place in the military family for sure. It can tear a base in two as people side with one or the other in a disagreement.

That disagreement doesn’t have to be about politics either. It can be based on rumors and innuendos being spread, whether true or not, and hurting each other over something small or nothing at all.

So here is a list of do’s and don’ts of social media:

The Do’s

  • Do vent your feelings about something for which you care deeply, but be polite and respectful. See the tip above about mentioning names. Unless they were helpful. Then you can give them kudos.
  • Do be helpful. If someone has a need, answer their cry for help.
  • Do keep things positive. In today’s world, we really need to boost each other up, not tear each other down.
  • Do tell stories that will make people smile or laugh. Did your two-year-old do something funny or cute? Let’s hear it because we all can relate.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t post in the heat of emotions. Write it down and set it aside. If you still feel the same way, post it the next day.
  • Don’t be nasty or public shaming someone. If you have a problem, go directly to that person. Don’t bring it to the public to get involved.
  • Don’t name names. It’s okay to describe a situation that occurred, but does everyone really need to know who the parties involved are?
  • Don’t bring others into your personal drama. I don’t care that so-and-so hurt your feelings, and you are going to seek revenge.
  • Don’t complain about your spouse’s job or shop. Everyone in the shop is probably in the same boat and know what is going on. Talk to each other privately if you have an issue.

Remember, just because you are posting on your social media doesn’t mean the base, squadron, or flight commander won’t see it.

Next time, we will talk about etiquette and protocol.

Until then,

Vicki

What is your biggest pet peeve about social media? Reply in the comment section below. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!

Military Spouses Should Never Reveal These Three Details of Deployments

Many of you have heard the saying “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” It’s an old saying from World War II reminding the military and their families to watch what they say because you never know who is listening.

Today we have Operational Security or OPSEC. Here is an article from the blog, Sandboxx, which lays out why OPSEC is so important. OPSEC exists to protect family members and military members, so both groups need to know what can be said where to whom.

I sometimes thought it was silly to have to be protective of information about deployments, exercises, and the military member’s daily work. As I showed you in my post last week, if four spouses can piece together what was happening by comparing the snippets of information each had, think how easy it would be for a trained spy.

I also scoffed at the idea of a spy caring about what I had to say or that spies were even among us. Seriously, who would want to spy on Warner Robins Air Force Base, with its maintenance depot? Could be a lot of people. And it could be anybody. Recently, a Congressman from California was criticized for having a woman suspected of being a spy for the Communist China Party work as a major fundraiser for his campaigns years ago.

At one of our bases, we a contingent of officers and students from the Middle East. They were receiving training our soldiers were getting on base operations, flight operations, and meteorology. These courses may seem innocuous but think about it. How the U.S. military runs its bases could be valuable information to our enemies.

Today, this information can be passed along by overhearing conversations, whether at the commissary, church or over cellphones and in social media. While the article I referred to on Sandboxx above talks about the why of OPSEC, I want to lay out three things that should not be talked about in a public setting, or over the phone, or on the Internet.

  • Never talk about where your spouse is deployed. It’s okay in most cases to mention he or she is deployed, especially in military settings, but never give out the location. The Good Chaplain still talks about his location in Bahrain as a classified site, even though it closed years ago. You probably shouldn’t mention aloud that your husband is deployed when you are off base as well. One friend, who lived on base, worked as a news anchor on one of the local television stations. Although she never mentioned his name or talked on-air of his absence, she wore a pin signifying a deployed spouse on her lapel on the air. That was a grey area in OPSEC protocol.
  • Never give an indication of how long your spouse is gone. In the Air Force, since 9/11, deployments are generally six months, but not always. Tech Sergeant is deployed right now, and although we know how long he should be gone, we don’t know when he will be home. Even once you get a for a sure date (there is no such thing as a date written in stone), do not post that your sweetie will be home at such-and-such a time or date. That’s easier to keep quiet in the Air Force since our troops usually deploy in ones or twos, but the Army and Navy deploy mostly as units, so there is usually some fanfare when they come home. And third,
  • Never let it be known that you are home alone. Of course, people on base will know, but if the knowledge is public off base, you could be an easy target for the criminal element in your town.

I don’t give these warnings to scare you, but they are something to keep in mind before you open your mouth to talk about how lonely and miserable you are. As I’ve said before, do share that with other military spouses who understand and whom you can trust.

It is okay to talk about deployments without giving away specific details of where, when, how long, and your personal information like your phone number, e-mail address, and physical address. It’s for everyone’s safety.

For more information on OPSEC, visit storyhttps://militarybenefits.info/opsec/ or check out Military One Source, the one-stop-shop for everything military.

Next week we will dive into Social Media protocol.

Until then,

Vicki

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How Four Military Wives Acted Like A Spy Ring Without Knowing It

Today I am going to tell you a story. It’s an innocent story but one that will explain why Operational Security — or OPSEC — is so important not just for military members but for their families as well.

Once upon a time, a captain’s wife enjoyed walking every morning with her neighborhood friends. One day these friends, a lieutenant’s wife, another captain’s wife, and a lieutenant colonel’s wife were walking when the first captain’s wife mentioned her chaplain husband had to stay close to the base the upcoming weekend.

The lieutenant’s wife mentioned her husband, a pilot, was on call for the weekend. Hmmm.

The other captain’s wife, whose husband was in communications, also said her husband was on call. Double hmmm. What was going on?

When the fourth wife, the Operations Support Squadron Commander’s wife, said her husband would be working all weekend, the ladies all knew something was up. What was going on in the news that week? The ladies put their heads together to try and figure out what would require their husbands, all in different fields on base, to stay near home.

It was the U.S. invasion of Haiti in September 1994. You can read more about the invasion here, but the gist of it is that troops from the Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force gathered in Puerto Rico and Southern Florida to support an invasion led by the Joint Special Operations Command.

General Joseph Raoul Cedras

The purpose of the invasion was to get General Joseph Raoul Cedras to step down as president and re-instate the elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Cedras led a military coup to overthrow Aristide in 1991.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide

A diplomatic delegation of former President Jimmy Carter, former Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff Colin Powell, and U.S. Sam Nunn of Georgia went to Haiti to negotiate with Cedras. It wasn’t until he was shown a video of the 82nd Airborne aircraft being loaded with troops that Cedras capitulated. He apparently assumed it was a live feed but was told the video was taken two hours before, and the planes were already over the Atlantic Ocean headed for Haiti. Cedras accepted the best deal he could get, and Aristide returned to Haiti in October 1994.

That’s enough of a history lesson for now. The important piece here is how four wives put together what they knew about their spouses’ orders and, together with what they saw on the news, figured out what was going on before it happened.

“This is how spies work,” the Good Chaplain said. They gather bits and pieces of information, get a clear picture of what is going on, and sometimes determine exactly what is happening.

Remember OPSEC. Next week I will talk about what not to talk about.

Until then,

Vicki

Do you have an OPSEC story like the one above? Share it in the comments below.

Use Your Military Spouse Superpowers to Make 2021 a Kickass Year

As we say goodbye, or should I say good riddance to 2020, I pray your 2021 will be an amazing year. Look back on what you did accomplish in 2020 and plan to continue making strides in the new year.

I know 2020 looks like a wasted year, but I’m sure as military spouses, you used your superpowers to get some things done, even if they had to be done differently. Pat yourselves on the back. You made it through a pandemic year, and many of you did that without your significant other. Be happy and content.

But don’t rest on your laurels. Keep going. Take the lessons you learned in 2020 and move forward. You know what you are capable of, what your strengths are, so use those strengths. I believe in you.

If you make New Year’s resolutions, I hope that your first one is to make 2021 the best military spouse year ever! Mine is to publish my book about helping new military spouses navigate the maze of military life.

Until next time,

Vicki

What are some of your resolutions? Enter them in the comment section below. I might just check in with you and hold you accountable.

The Most Important Things to Know About Retirement for Military Spouses

Retiring from the military looks different for everyone, but there are a few commonalities to keep in mind if you want to transition successfully.

Our final farewell to military life

First, make a plan. It doesn’t have to be done far in advance, but military couples should talk about a few things before taking the plunge.

  • Talk about where you want to live. Do you want to stay near your last base? Near a base for continued medical care? Do you go back to your home state? Is living near family important?
  • Will the retiree work? Many people are still young when they retire from the military. Do they want to get a job? A whole new career?
  • Is it the spouse’s turn to do what she or he wants to do? Many spouses have put their lives and careers on hold to follow the military member around the globe. Is it their turn to develop their own career?
  • What about the kids? Depending on their ages, you may want to stay put until they are out of high school.

Second, make sure your marriage is strong. Again, depending on your children’s ages, you will be living together, just the two of you, soon enough. If you haven’t worked on your marriage throughout the military career, life can be different for you later. The Good Chaplain had to retire because he was about to age out of the system. We had been empty-nesters for six of our assignments. If we didn’t like each other, we would have been in trouble. But throughout our marriage, we put each other first. We had regular date nights. We had similar interests. And our focus wasn’t totally on our girls. When they left for college, our relationship continued as it always had been. “The best thing you can give your children is a good marriage,” the Good Chaplain said.

Third, as a military spouse, think about what you really want. It really should be your turn to be a little selfish and get what you want out of your life. I sometimes feel I am too old to do what I want, but here I am at 61, writing a book to help new military spouses figure out the whole system. Determine what you want to do and go for it. In fact, start now before retirement. And don’t let age be a factor. You are never too old to follow a dream.

Sit down with your spouse, ask these questions, and go out and make your retirement years the best they can be! You’ve got this.

Until next time,

Vicki

What are your retirement dreams? Do you want a career? Do you want to travel? Put your answers in the comment section below. And don’t forget to follow this blog so you never miss a post.

3 Ways Military Spouses Can Keep Their Own Identity

I believe in any marriage, each party loses its identity somewhat. You become Mrs. So-and-So, or someone’s wife or husband. It is inevitable. The Good Chaplain was well known before he entered the military, so I spent a lot of time as “his wife.” I had a moment of satisfaction when he went into a store, and someone asked him if he was my husband.

It happens in the military too. I couldn’t remember my Social Security number for years because we used his for everything on base. In the past, spouses were often identified by who their husband was. “She’s the chaplain’s wife.” “That guy is married to the wing commander.” I’m guilty of it too. Heck, the title of my blog is Chappy T Wife. Today, we spouses try hard not to identify each other by our husband’s rank or job. But I like to know what the military member does so I can put things in context.

In our house, the Good Chaplain knew the military members he worked with each day, and I knew the children and spouses. That made for a good team. But it is easy to lose your identity in the military unless you take the time to be yourself, remember who you are outside the service, and develop your own persona.

I have three steps to help you do that.

First, ask yourself who you are besides so-and-so’s spouse. What do you do for work? What are your passions? What is your role in the family? How would your high school/college friends see you? Build your own identity on these things. I was the city editor of our local paper when the Good Chaplain was asked if he was my husband.

Second, develop your own interests. I love to read, and I read a lot. I can read 40 books in a year while the Good Chaplain maybe finishes two. I love football; he loves hockey. We support each other in those sports. I’m an extreme extrovert; he is an extrovert but not to my extreme. Come evening, I need to just sit and relax in front of the television, while he usually starts projects after dinner. Find a group of people with similar interests and socialize with them. A good marriage and partnership do not require you to be joined together at the hip.

Thirdly, don’t identify yourself by your husband’s rank or job. This is a hard one, and I am guilty of it. I like to think I would introduce myself as the chaplain’s wife because I was so proud of him, but I think it’s because that is how I identified myself. At most spouse club events, I would introduce myself with my name and maybe further identify as a writer. The Good Chaplain’s job would come up eventually, but rarely the rank. You definitely don’t want to be the one walking around, saying, “My husband is a colonel.” Or a sergeant, or an airman, or a general. We don’t care. We want to know you.

Have confidence in who you are, not who your spouse is. You may lose a bit of your identity in the military, but if you follow your own interests and path, you will find people will recognize you and ask your spouse if he is related to you.

Next time I want to talk about what happens when your spouse retires.

Until then,

Vicki

How do you keep your identity in your marriage and in the military? Answer in the comment section below. Don’t forget to follow this blog so you never miss out on any of my posts.

Last Minute Plan Changes Can Be Frustrating for New Military Spouses

I’m sorry.

I owe you an apology. In reading over my post of November 18, it sounded rather negative to me. My intention with this blog is to put a positive spin on your role as a military spouse.

I dare say I might even be a little Pollyanna-ish about the military lifestyle. But I loved the life and miss it now that the Good Chaplain is retired. I’m proud of his career, achievements, and the way he related to the airmen, no matter their rank. That is his gift.

I also loved the camaraderie and friendships that go along with the common bond of being a military spouse.

But in reality, there will be hard times. You might have a baby without your husband present because his ship is delayed. Or the military version of Murphy’s Law will happen, and everything will break as soon as he deploys. Mrs. Tech Sergeant can attest to this, and I know many others can as well.

Or the big one this year — COVID-19 hit, and all your plans changed, too. And speaking of changing plans, that leads us nicely into our next question: Are you willing to not make plans far in advance or change your plans at the last minute? Because that will happen.

The girls and I took many a road trip without the Good Chaplain.

I’ve often traveled with just the girls to visit family because the Good Chaplain’s plans changed. I remember when our niece, Hannah, was born. The girls and I drove to Illinois alone because the Good Chaplain couldn’t make the trip. We were stuck in Illinois because of a tropical storm that stalled over central Georgia, causing major flooding. And that turned out to be a good thing because Hannah was two weeks late!

Get-togethers with friends are often made last minute because you never know your husband’s work schedule. Most military members have to be flexible because they never know when they will get called in. Many times we’ve had to leave a movie or dinner because of an emergency call. I didn’t always handle these interruptions to my night out with grace. Let’s just say flexibility was the “f” word in our house.

Friends are so important for your social life since your spouse may not always be available.

I can’t even tell you the number of family gatherings and holidays he missed, including his own family reunion. In the photos, one of the girls held up a picture of him. My family seemed to get together every year or two for various celebrations. My sister, the organizer, would want to know well in advance if we would attend. My answer was, I don’t know. It depended on our move schedule, the Good Chaplain’s deployment schedule, or even what was happening in the world that might cause leaves to be canceled — like our current pandemic.

Terrinoni Family Reunion in California in 2002, while the Good Chaplain was deployed. Illinois Girl is holding his picture.

I know it can be lonely to go to things without your spouse, or not to go at all, but you will handle it with confidence. Just one word of advice: Get travel insurance in case you have to cancel at the last minute.

Next week I will answer the question, “Will I lose myself because I am a military spouse?”

Until then,

Vicki

What are your experiences of missing out because of the military? Answer in the comment section below. And don’t forget to subscribe to this blog, so you never miss any of my riveting insights!

Happy Thanksgiving to all Military Spouses Near and Far

Thanksgiving was always a different holiday for us when we were in the Air Force. Most times we chose not to go home, but celebrating as the four of us seemed boring. So we started taking in strays — those single airmen or young couples who would otherwise be alone for the holiday. Then it branched out to the chapel staff as well. At one point we crammed 25 people into our dining room. And I loved it all. It helped us when we were away from family and it helped make others’ holiday special too.

Chapel staff, friends, and family Thanksgiving at our house at Joint Base Langley-Fort Eustis, VA

I know many of you are probably celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time away from your families. And unfortunately, in this time of COVID-19, you can’t really invite others in. I pray you are able to make the holiday as special as you can in the midst of this crazy year. And remember, we all have lots to be thankful for, even when we can’t celebrate with our loved ones.

The Good Chaplain and I, we would like to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope the message below brightens your day. Enjoy.

See you next week.

Until then,

Vicki

What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions when you can’t be with family? Share in the comments below.

Military Spouses, Can You Handle Living the Single Life While Married?

“I totally understand what single mothers go through now,” I said to the Good Chaplain while he was off on deployment. I remember thinking I did not get married and have children only to be a single parent. My only saving grace was I could call him with any problems. I’m not sure all single mothers have that option.

Military spouses often are single parents.

Unfortunately, this is something that happens when you marry the military. You are married, but in many ways, you are still single. Whether it is long hours, temporary duty, or deployments, you are on your own A LOT.

Basically, you are going to raise the children on your own. When we lived in Georgia, the Good Chaplain was gone so much in our third year that the girls called him the guest. “Mommy, we should let the guest get his food first.” “Why is the guest sleeping in your bed Mommy?” We’d laugh, but it still stings the Good Chaplain whenever we mention it. He did not like being away from us, and your spouse doesn’t either. Trust me.

A friend once told me to treat your spouse like a visitor for the first few days after deployment, just so they can observe how things changed in the household. While her husband was gone, one of the children learned to cross the street by themselves. But Hubby did not know that, and he spanked the child for crossing the street to go play with friends. She had to tell him it was okay; the children were allowed to cross the street now.

As the sole parent at home, enforcing rules and regulations will fall on your shoulders. The Good Chaplain would ground the girls from playing or watching television after school until I pointed out to him that he was punishing me as well because I had to enforce it.

The other drawback is you end up going to many official functions alone, especially as your spouse moves up in rank and expectations increase. You will become the ambassador, representing your spouse. Most of the time, this is okay, but sometimes it is awkward. You have to suck it up and do it anyway, as the Good Chaplain would say.

Or, you can get an escort. When the Good Chaplain deployed to Africa, one of his chaplains, a single man, asked the Good Chaplain if it was okay for him to escort me on occasion. We didn’t want to start any gossip. If it was an official event, it helped to have a partner. If it is a social event, you can choose whether to go or whether you want an escort or not.

At yet another family reunion without the Good Chaplain.. I am on the far right with my parents and siblings in 2016.

You will learn to raise your kids alone or go to events solo, but you probably won’t like it. As I told the Good Chaplain, “I did not sign up for this to be alone.” It’s the nature of the game, and you will get used to it. But first, ask yourself if you are strong enough to be married but single.

Next time I will answer the question, “Am I willing to not make plans far in advance or cancel them because of your husband’s schedule?

Until then.

Vicki

What issues have you had with being “single” while married? Answer in the comments below.