Hey everyone. I’m taking a little different track with this blog. Many of you may know that I am writing and self-publishing a book for military spouses based on my 31 years as an Air Force Spouse.
I’m so excited that the book should be for sale on Amazon by the end of April. It’s called “Where You Go, I Will Go: Lessons From a Military Spouse.”
In the book, I use lots of things I’ve learned along the way to help military spouses, particularly new spouses, navigate the strange and wonderful world of the military. The book is filled with many crazy stories, some funny and some serious, about issues I covered in this blog.
Now that the book is coming out, I have many more stories that didn’t make it into the book that I plan to share with you for the next several blogs. Stories like the time a two-star general came up to our table to chat during a base social function. For some reason, the conversation turned to politics. This Major General discussed how much he admired President Barak Obama. Then he said, “But I suppose you are supporters of President Bush.”
I replied, “Yes, Sir. I supported George H. W. Bush in each of his campaigns for President, and I am a huge supporter of George W.” But I couldn’t leave it at that.
I looked at the Major General and said, “But we respect other people’s opinions, no matter how wrong they are.”
The Good Chaplain went apoplectic, but the Major General simply laughed, excused himself, and walked away. We are still friends with that Major General today.
Sometimes my mouth speaks a thought before my brain can process it.
I will keep you up-to-date on the book launch. In the meantime, be prepared to be regaled with more such stories from my life as a military spouse.
When have you put your foot in your mouth? Share your stories in the comment section below.
Your spouse just left for a military deployment, and you are sitting in your car at the airport or dock crying. You know you need to get it together. You need to figure out just what this deployment is going to look like. Are you going to be miserable or make the best of the situation?
It’s hard not to look at the negatives of deployment. Something major breaks at home. The kids get sick. You are in charge of making sure every chore around the house gets done. Plus, you are without your soulmate for an extended period of time.
Thankfully, with technology, you have more contact with your significant other. Whenever I boohooed over the 15-minute phone call once a week, I thought about spouses in World War II, and I felt lucky for what I had. Those spouses were happy to get a censored letter every month. The military member was sometimes gone for four years to faraway places. Sometimes letters would arrive after the telegram telling you he was killed in action, a prisoner of war, or missing in action. I can’t imagine being in their shoes. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t have bad moments, but thinking about others who came before you can help.
Keeping busy is the best thing you can do to make the time seem to go faster. If you work outside the home, that will occupy your time. But other things to do include:
Socializing: Make time for coffee with friends. Go to spouse gatherings. Start a neighborhood Bunco group. Hire a babysitter and have a night out so you can talk to other adults.
Education: Now is a great time to take a class or two you’ve always wanted to take. Or finish your degree.
Hobbies: Take up a new hobby or spend more time on the one you already have. Your spouse isn’t around to grouse about all your scrapbooking items scattered all over the dining room table, and your kids won’t care.
Kids: Do fun things with the kids. Now you don’t have to worry about your spouse not being able to do an activity. It’s only your schedule and the kids’ you need to consider.
Fitness: Do you dream of that smoking hot body? Or maybe you already have it, but deployments are a good time to drop the kids off at school and get to the gym. Although I gained weight when the Good Chaplain was deployed because I worked out less and ate junk food a lot of the time if you are like me. My intentions were good, though.
Entertainment: You get to stream whatever shows or movies you want after the kids are in bed. You get to go to the movies whenever you want. I had a friend who went to the matinee once a week while her kids were in school. You also might have more time to read before bed without interruption.
I know all of this sounds Pollyannish. I’m an optimist, and I try to find the good in everything. You will be sad, frustrated, and mad at times. You will wonder why you ever married a person in the military. But I’m here to say you can handle deployments and have fun during them.
As the Serenity Prayer says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
You can’t change the fact that your spouse is deployed, but you can change your attitude about it and make the best of it.
Until next time,
What positives do you see during deployment? Reply in the section below.
Oh no! The dreaded deployment assignment just came through. That means your spouse is going to leave you for six months, a year, or maybe even longer. What do you do now?
Well, the first thing is to cry, then pick yourself up, and go to the mandatory pre-deployment briefing. You will learn some valuable tips at the briefing, like who you can call if you need something (hint: it’s not the wing commander) and what benefits you might get as a deployed spouse.
An invaluable phone number to have is the Family Resources Center on your base or post. They usually have lots of programming for families of deployed members. The last time the Good Chaplain deployed (way back in 2010), the Family Resources Center, called the Airmen and Family Readiness Center in the Air Force, sponsored such programs as:
Hearts Apart: Activities to get families out of the house and meet families of other deployed members.
Give Parents a Break: Run in conjunction with the Child Development Center is a night for the parent at home to do something without children in tow.
Car Care Because We Care: This program used to provide free oil changes for spouses of deployed members
Morale calls: I’m not sure if morale calls are necessary now. We were allowed one 15-minute call a week at the beginning of the Good Chaplain’s career. Now, I know Tech Sergeant called Mrs. Tech Sergeant on FaceTime a couple of times a day.
Your wills and any powers-of-attorney are drawn up before your spouse leaves, as well. This task is probably on your spouse’s checklist, and I’m sure it is brought up at the pre-deployment briefing too.
The base lawyer’s office can draw up these documents for free. It would be best if you had at least a general power-of-attorney, but you might need special ones, too. Ask the lawyer. Once, when the Good Chaplain deployed, I received a check in his name from our insurance company. But I could not deposit it in our joint savings account, even with a power-of-attorney. I was stunned because I could buy a house or a car or any number of costly things with the document. But God forbid I try to deposit money with it.
Take the time before your spouse leaves to make memories as a family. Go on special outings, take a short trip if time allows, do something the kids want to do. Don’t be like me. Anytime the Good Chaplain prepared to deploy, I pulled away from him. I was trying to lessen the hurt of his actual leaving, but it had the opposite effect. Just when he wanted to spend more time with me, I wanted less time with him. I guess I thought if I withdrew before he left, I wouldn’t miss him so much. Not quite logical, but who said feelings and emotions are logical? I didn’t realize I was doing that until the Good Chaplain pointed it out to me. Spend as much time as you can together.
In that vein, many bases and/or chapels sponsor pre-deployment retreats for families and couples to help them create some memories. They are worth a try.
Next time I will discuss how to handle the actual deployment.
How do you act before your spouse leaves for deployment? Answer in the reply section below.
He’s finally returning from his deployment. You are excited and anxious at the same time. Let’s face it, no matter how long he’s been deployed, everything has changed. He may have seen some disturbing things. You became more independent. The kids and pets have grown since he last saw them in person. Things change.
Here are eight tips to help your spouse’s reintegration into the family easier.
First, is he coming home with his unit or by himself? The Air Force tends to send one person or maybe two people instead of an entire squadron or flight. So homecomings are not usually as big a ceremony as the Army or Navy do it. Once, when we lived in Alaska, the whole fighter squadron deployed together. There was a big homecoming for that one, but usually, it was just my husband and maybe one other person returning at the same time.
I did get to attend my Army nephew’s homecoming when we were all stationed in Hawaii together. It was a spectacular event, even though it was about 2 a.m. when his unit finally arrived. Families gathered in a large hangar with large screens set up to see the buses roll in and then see our loved ones file into another part of the room separated by curtains, and then finally appear on our side of the curtain.
My nephew’s son was about 5 at the time. It also happened to be Christmas Day. My nephew’s wife told their son she had a big Christmas present for him, but they had to go pick it up. When we got to the hangar and saw the buses drive up, we asked Mason if he knew what his present was, and he said, “A school bus.” But then he saw his dad on the screen and said, “That’s my dad,” in a voice filled with awe.
Lesson #1: No matter how they come home — alone or in a group — remember that other people are going to want to see them and welcome them home. I know I always resented when the Good Chaplain’s staff came to the airport or the reunion spot with me because I wanted him to myself. I didn’t even want to share him with the girls. Let others greet him and then steal him away.
Lesson #2: Don’t make a spectacle of yourself. It’s okay to run to him and give him a hug and a kiss, but don’t scream and shout and cause a big ado. If he is in uniform, PDA rules still apply.
Lesson #3: Take things slowly when you get home. Allow him to acclimate to the surroundings and the changes. He’s probably got jetlag and is dog tired from flying halfway around the world, so let him rest and relax for a few days. Don’t throw a big party or plan a big trip for immediately after he gets home. Save the party for the following weekend. And you know he doesn’t want to get on a plane or leave home again very soon. Keep the first week or so low key with just you and the children. Also, as tempted as you are to do so, don’t throw all his chores and responsibilities back on him the minute he walks through the door. I know I am guilty of this one. After months of handling everything, you just want him to give the kids a bath for once or for the next year.
Lesson #4: This ties into number 3. Allow him time to get used to the changes at home. The best advice I ever got was to treat him as a guest for a few days to get used to the new way of doing things. The colonel’s wife, who gave me that advice, told me the story of how while her husband was deployed, their child learned to cross the street by himself, but hubby did not know that. So one day, shortly after his return, the child went across the street to play, and his father spanked him for doing it. You can’t remember to tell your returning spouse all the little things like that, nor do you want to bombard them with everything that happened while they were gone. So don’t have them do anything but observe for a little while. You’ve handled everything this long; you can do it for a few days more.
Lesson #5: Do plan a little alone time with your spouse in the first week. It may be awkward at first, like when you were first dating, to know what to talk about or to be intimate again. Go for a walk. Hold hands. Put the kids to bed and then sit on the couch and just talk and cuddle. It will come back soon enough.
Lesson #6: Let him talk or not about what he saw and did. Don’t pressure him to reveal things he is not ready for you to know about. Mr. Tech Sergeant didn’t tell us about a mortar round going through his room until months after returning from his first deployment. But do listen to the stories he does have to tell. It is important to share what he wants to share so you can appreciate what he did and saw.
Lesson #7: Help him recognize the children’s changes and why they might not react to him the way he expects them to. We had one friend whose small daughter did not know him and cried when he tried to pick her up. She was just a toddler, and although she saw pictures of him, this man was a stranger to her. It took a few days for her to come around. You could tell his feelings were hurt, but sometimes children are that way. They may not go to the parent who was deployed for questions or advice for a while because that’s been your role for so long.
Lesson #8: Most of all, be patient! Things will never return to what they used to be, but they can be even better if you take time to get reintegrated.
Now that we’ve talked about homecomings, let’s talk about the actual deployments and what to do during those trying times.
What advice would you give for post-deployment reunions? Answer in the reply below.
Today we are getting into etiquette and protocol, and the first up is the dress code. Yes, the military has a dress code for civilians as well as military at certain functions.
Typically, when you receive an official function invitation, it usually specifies what attendees should wear in the bottom left corner. A lot of time, there is confusion about what that means. And the meaning can depend on where you live. For instance, business casual in Alaska usually means no Carharts, while in Washington D.C., it means a suit and ties for men. It all depends. When in doubt, ask the host what they are wearing.
I happen to have a handy guide of what to wear that the Good Chaplain got when we were stationed in Hawaii. It’s a pretty good guide for the basics. So let’s dive right in.
Women’s Casual is a conservative dress or a nice shirt with slacks, capri pants, or a skirt. Sandals are fine.
Men’s Casual is a button-down shirt with slacks—no jeans or streetwear.
Women’s Business Casual is what you would wear to work. A nice blouse or top with slacks, capri pants, skirt, or dressy sundress.
Women’s Business is a suit with either pants or a skirt and a jacket. Closed-toe shoes are more appropriate.
Men’s Business Casual is a sport coat, dressy button-down shirt, and slacks. The sport coat can be optional, as is a tie. No jeans.
Men’s Business is a suit where the color and style of the pants and jacket match. The shirt color and style can vary.
Men can also have Open Collar Casual, a Polo, or button-down shirt with slacks or khakis. No jeans.
Men’s Semi-Formal is a white shirt with a tie and a dark-colored suit. No boots. No overcoat was used as the jacket.
The dress must be lower than mid-thigh to a tea length and conservative for Women’s Semi-Formal or Cocktail Dress. No thigh slits or excessive bust line showing.
For Men’s Formal, a tuxedo or black tie with a black suit is most appropriate, along with a white shirt.
Women’s Formal is similar to semi-formal except dresses should be tea length or floor length. Again, no high front or thigh slits. Although the open back is allowed, a shawl is recommended. (The ballrooms tend to be chilly, so this is a good recommendation anyway.) Women’s Formal can also be a floor-length evening pants suit, but not your normal business suit.
Most dress for formal events such as changes of command or promotions is business casual for the civilians and uniform of the day for the military. Uniform of the day means either OCPs (Operational Camouflage Pattern) uniform that most people wear to work or Service Dress uniform (Blues, Class A, or whatever your branch calls them.)
My friend, Marlene, used to tell me the dress code was my “Sunday best” until I told her I normally wore pants to church, and I knew she was talking about a dress. Knowing what to wear is important. You don’t want to be either overdressed or underdressed. Neither scenario is comfortable. But the language of what is appropriate is as clear as mud. I hope this post will help you decipher some of what is meant by different types of dress.
Next time we will talk about when it is appropriate to contact your spouse’s commanders.
Do you have an official function coming up? What do you plan to wear? Reply in the comment section below. And be sure to subscribe to this blog, so you never miss any earth-shattering pieces of information I have to share with you.
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.
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.
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.
Do you have an OPSEC story like the one above? Share it in the comments below.
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,
What are some of your resolutions? Enter them in the comment section below. I might just check in with you and hold you accountable.
Retiring from the military looks different for everyone, but there are a few commonalities to keep in mind if you want to transition successfully.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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!