"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How Great are His Plans

The very first time C told me that he loved me, there was no sound, he wasn't looking at me, I didn't hear him say the words.

The very first time he told me, he was in the heart of Baghdad, in a small, cinder block room, looking through a webcam with a program that offered an image but no sound.

He typed it.

He didn't look up right away. He was looking down when the words popped up. It felt like an hour went by before I saw his full face. And when he looked up, my face was looking at the words. Just staring. Trying to understand it all. Trying to see the bigger picture.

And then I smiled, and he smiled, and we didn't type or say a word. Just looked at each other through fuzzy images, on fuzzy screens, in the middle of my night and the beginning of his day.

When C deployed we had just - and I mean, JUST - realized that we wanted to date. Ladies, I am talking weeks here. And all of it, to everyone, did not make sense. I wasn't looking for this. I wasn't wanting this. I had no intention of dating a-n-y-one exclusively, I didn't have time, it didn't fit into my plans - and to decide weeks before a deployment that I wanted to be with this man, who was leaving for twelve months to go to Iraq, and to not really know where we stood or what we were doing or how this was going to work.

I didn't know where this came from.

And it wasn't until three-months in, just about this time many years ago, that we both knew that this was it. That this was the way it was going to be. That this somehow, in some way, this was going to be my life.

But somehow, I always knew that. In the back of my mind it was there. The moment I met C, I knew. I fought against it, at times I even tried to destroy the possibility of it. But it was always, somehow, there.

Just weeks after C deployed, I was sitting on the organ bench at our church, before the first mass I was to sing that day, when the deacon who had baptized me, who watched me grow, ask how I was doing, what was new.

And with a smile on my face, without ever meaning to say it, without having thought about it, I said, "I found the man I am going to marry."

He didn't pause. He didn't take it as a joke. He didn't question if I was serious or had lost my mind or if I knew what I was doing. He just said, "Tell me about him."

And I did. He is the first person I ever told about C - besides my roommates. He walked me through the first half of the deployment. He helped me to tell my parents when I hadn't said a word about him to my family.

Because C was never supposed to happen. This was never supposed to be my life. This is not where I was supposed to be, what I was supposed to do, what I had planned for myself.

Ah, but it isn't what we plan for ourselves. How wonderful that Someone Else's plans have the great influence.

Because C was meant to happen. This life was meant for me. THIS is where I am meant to be.

How incredible when you realize that. How empowering to know that no step you take is not a step you aren't meant to. How humbling to know that you are designed for something greater.

How beautiful to know what that tugging of my heart, that no one could understand, that I couldn't understand, was bringing me towards. How incredible to think of how far we have come, how strong one can be, how fulfilled this unplanned life makes me.

How great are His plans for us and mighty His grace to thrive.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Military Man's Promise

There is a "poem" (as many have called it) circulating the internet. Someone, somewhere, at some point, renamed it to "A Military Man's Promise" or "A Military Couple's Promise". While I know whoever renamed this had the very best of intentions, somehow the original posting of this was lost. The original title and the author. 

I have struggled greatly with this.

Because I wrote it. I entitled it "Promises" - "A Soldier's Promise" and "An Army Wife's Promise". 

I wrote this while my husband served his second tour - in the heart of Kandahar - for eleven months.

I soaked my keyboard in my tears, my face, my hands, and I wrote it in one sitting. This is very much the work of my heart - the vows between a soldier and his spouse, between my C and I.

The vows of every military couple.

And so I am sharing it again and I ask that you share it as well because there are a thousand voices behind it. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands.

The voices of every soldier who has ever not known what to say and for every spouse who thought she was alone. 

A Soldier's Promise ...

I cannot promise you every night of my life. I cannot promise to be beside you for every difficult moment, every trial, every hardship. In truth, I can promise you that I will not be with you for most. I will leave you at inconvenient times. I may miss the births of our children. Any special date to us may be tainted with the anniversary of the death of one of my friends. I will ask you to take over whatever life we have built together for months and years at a time. And will then crash back into that life that you have used your sweat and your tears and your heartache to keep together and try to take it back as I knew it before. I will shut you out at times because it will be the best way for me to hold it together at that moment. I will lie to you. I will tell you I don't know things when I do. I will not always tell you where I am going, when I will be back, or who I am with. I may not call you for weeks and months and you will not be able to call me. You will ask questions that I won't answer. You will know answers to questions that you will hope you never need. I will share things with my brothers that you will never understand. They will know things about me that you never will. They will be a support to me in some things that you cannot be. I will miss birthdays. I will miss anniversaries. I will have to get to know our children over and over again. I may need time to process things that seem natural to everyone else. It will seem that someone - or something - will always take precedence over you. You may lose me long before you ever thought possible. I will uproot you and ask you to re-establish our family anywhere in the world, in any season, at any time - over and over again. Sand and mud will be tracked through your halls from the boots I am too tired to take off. I will leave you when you beg me not to. I will stand at attention while you cry beside me. I will not turn my head and I will walk away. I will knowingly break your heart. And I will do it again - and again.

I cannot promise you all of me. I cannot promise that to our children. I cannot promise you much of anything.

But if you will have me, I can promise that as I march away from you it is not without sharing your heartache. I promise you that every time I break your heart I will be breaking mine. Every time that I cannot answer you I will be protecting you. Whenever you want to call and you have no number to dial I will be wanting to do the same. I will protect everything that we have created together with every fiber of my being while you do the same back at home. I will honor you in everything - every moment that we are apart and every moment that I am with you. I will fight harder and push further knowing that I do so for you. I will see the faces of our children in every life that I protect. And I will carry you with me in everything until my sandy boots once again sit just inside our door. 

An Army Wife's promise ...

I cannot promise that I will not become frustrated when you leave me and the world seems to fall apart around me. I cannot promise that I will not curse those who sent you when the dryer breaks, and the transmission needs to be replaced, and the dog eats the couch all in the same week - most likely the week after you deploy. I cannot promise that the sand and mud that cakes my floor will not cause me to give you harsh looks and rude thoughts. I cannot promise that my heart will not be torn in twelve different ways when you march away from me. I cannot promise that I will not let my anger show when you refuse to answer questions. I cannot promise to understand why you share things with your comrades that you will not share with me. I cannot promise that there won't be times when my heartache makes its presence known before my pride can mask it. I cannot promise that I will not show my worry and my concern when it is best for you not to see it. I cannot promise to understand why you do so many of the things you do.

But I can promise that for as many tears of sadness and frustration and anger that are shed there will be double that of tears of pride. I can promise you that for every time you are away from me, I will learn to cherish the times that you are with me. In everything I will honor you and honor your sacrifice. I can promise to teach our children to do the same. I will use every moment that you are not with them to showthem the amazing man that you are through my actions and my pride. I can promise that there will never be a night where you are not the subject of my final prayer and the keeper of my dreams. I promise to try to be understanding that there are many things I will never understand. I promise to keep you with me in everything and to do my best to keep grace in this life. I will be strong for you as you are strong for me and I will carry you with me in every moment until your sandy boots again sit just inside our door.

Written by: Megan Williams
© 2011, all rights reserved
Do not use without permission.

You can find the original posting HERE.
(Please always remember to share properly - linking to the source and/or with permission of the writer.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Momma Side of Me

I started the last post yesterday morning. I ended the post after C had gone to sleep. I started it not having a clue how true it was going to become and how quickly. I posted it understanding how very real it was.

I was feeling stronger yesterday.

C is leaving for a month for a job that has nothing to do with his upcoming deployment because someone told him to. And for whatever reason - when I told my friend - it hit me how sad I am about it. He is going to miss Eli's birthday. He missed his birthday last year. He will miss his birthday next year.

I am frustrated because this isn't anything that is going to prepare him or his men for what they are about to face - as far as my not-always-informed-mind can tell. This isn't something that his men are going with him for. When it is something that will better prepare those around him, that he is responsible for, it is easier to understand. This is preparing someone else, so that gives one way I can find some good. I know there are reasons behind this. I know that for some reason "someone" (meaning the army-gods) decided to take him away for a month, when the month after that he will be working so much I won't see him, and the month after that he will be doing who-knows-what. I know, I know that there is reason behind this that in the Army world makes sense, that is important, that is justified.

But as a spouse, just as a spouse - not as a leader, not as anything above this - but just as a partner to my husband, I am angry that he is going. I am angry with whoever made that decision. I am angry with the Army. I am angry that no part of that decision lies with me.

I know whoever decided this, I know wherever this came from, they had good reason. The logical side of me is arguing for them. The part of me who has been in this life knows that these things happen. That these things have a purpose and for whatever reason, C is the one who is supposed to go. The leadership side of me gets it. The leader's spouse side of me is trying to calm whatever is going on inside of me. I know that every decision matters, that every tasking serves a greater purpose. I do.

I do.

But the momma side ... the momma side had planned Eli's birthday morning over and over again. The momma side had planned to hang balloons from the ceiling, and wrap his door with crepe paper, and have birthday pancakes. The momma side was going to make this one big - just for the four of us. The momma-side-of-me, had planned for C to be home in between PT and work to share in this. The momma-side-of-me wanted to make this amazing because his daddy won't be here for the next one. His daddy wasn't here for his first one. His daddy will miss the first three. The momma-side-of-me wanted C to see Eli's joy.

The momma-side-of-me is so incredibly, incredibly sad. The momma-side ... the side that lives for that baby boy ... I never thought I would be looking at my one-year-old and think that hopefully C will be here when he turns four. That hopefully "someone" doesn't take that away from us. To think that I hope he is here when Eli turns four ... then that fear comes in ... that "what if something happens ... " Oh, Lord.

The wife side of me is angry. Not at C. None of this is his fault. Not at any one person. As the spouse, as the partner,  I am just angry. Angry because this just doesn't seem fair.

I know it is never fair.

This is the life. There will always be times that we want to yell at "someone", anyone really. What the Army needs and what we need are rarely the same. What the Army sees to be the right thing is hardly ever what we see to be the fair thing. We live a life where the loves-of-our-lives belong to "someone" else, who go when someone else tells them to go, who miss birthdays because someone else deems something else more important. This is the life. This is the hardest part of the greatest life. When they are asked, they will go and we will never be asked if it is okay. It is never up to us.

Today I am sad and a little bit angry. And some of that anger, really most of that anger, comes from the fact that there really isn't "someone" to be angry at. That this is just how it is. That this is just the life we live. That we do not decide when and how our family is together. That we do not decide if they are here or not. None of it is up to us.

The momma-side-of-me is sad for today and will be sad on Eli's big day. But the momma-side-of-me is still going to hang balloons, and still wrap his door, and still make some-kind-of multi-colored mess for him to eat. The partner-side-of-me is going to record every moment, and tell my C every detail, and cry when I hang up that phone because the partner-side-of-me will hurt that he isn't here, will hurt how he will hurt.

The army-wife-side-of-me, will find the joy in my boys, will show joy to our boys, will soldier on and make it through. Because the birthdays that he will one day get to be here for will be most precious. The job that he does is beyond important. The time that we are apart will not last forever.

This is the life. The much harder part of this life. But when we have made it through, when we commit every day to thrive, this is - beyond words - the most beautiful life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Preparing for the Mission

I got a peek at the next several months ahead of us today. You know how it is before a deployment. They are here but they aren't really here. They are training, preparing, tdy'ing (yes, I just made that a word), getting clearances, getting everything in order, etc. etc. They aren't here for much of the time that they are. 

I know how frustrating that can be. I know how much we think they should be with us when they are home. Of course we want them to be here when they are here. That only makes sense. 

But it isn't the reality. 

You have to understand that right now. That. is. not. reality. We live a life that is not just deployment/dwell, deployment/dwell. When they are away they are very much away, but when they are home they are not always 'home'. 

It is so easy to not realize that. There will be a day when your husband comes home and tells you he is leaving in a week for one month for a sudden assignment, and the month after that that he is "home" he will be training and planning training basically 24/7, and that the next month will be field time with only weekends home and so-on and so-on. And then, at the end of all this training, at the end of all this time apart while his boots have been very much on American soil, when all the preparation is done, those very same boots, those worn, high-laced boots will board a plane, fly to the other side of the world, and step foot into a desert. 

Pre-deployment is hard.

Pre-deployment is very, very hard. 

It is easy to become resentful. It is easy to argue that this is time that they need to be with their families most. And to a point, that's true. But, when those boots step off that plane, when those boots begin their mission, I want the man standing beside my soldier to be as well-prepared as possible, to be as well-trained as possible, to be as ready and as confident and as capable as one can be. I want these men to enter into their mission in the way that guarantees success. 

That means that there will be many, many weeks and months that take them from us to prepare. You cannot grow angry with them for that. Every training, every week-long period in the field, every night-fire, every month-long assignment away is one more step to help to ensure that they come home to you. They have to be ready for what they are about to enter into.

This is where it is so hard. It is one thing to accept a deployment. To accept that they aren't here when they aren't here. It is far easier to accept the sacrifice when you can't do anything - when you don't see another option -  but, to have to accept that when you see their clothes in the hamper, and their wet soap in the shower, and a half-eaten bowl of cereal on the table, to be able to smell them, to see the signs of their presence while hardly ever seeing them is harder than we dare to believe.

This is the job. This is the commitment. This is the sacrifice. We share part of ourselves with a nation.

They are at all times soldiers. They are at all times servants to their country. When they are home and when they are gone. They are always soldiers.

So when you hear those training dates, when you add up the days that they will be gone, look for that grace. Know that the preparation matters as much as the mission. Find comfort in knowing that the man beside you soldier, who will have his back, who will fight beside him, will be trained to do so.

Let go of any anger and resentment and frustration. He doesn't need that. You don't need that. Your children will pick up on it. Be with him when he is here. Love him when he is home; love him when he is not. You are strong enough for it. Your marriage is strong enough for it.

You are living this life because you are meant to. You are loving a soldier because you were made to. 

Take a deep breath when you hear those dates and see that schedule. Deep, deep breath. Pray for the safety of these men; pray for the strength you are going to need. If you ask for it, if you seek it, strength and grace will get you through. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

So Many Ways Love - To be the (Marine) Sister

I first heard from Amy when she commented about my promises post when it was under attack. Her words were incredibly kind during a time when I was feeling horribly sad. I cannot tell you how excited I was when she emailed me as well. I don't think anyone has had me in tears quite like Amy, nodding my head while I read what she wrote, wiping them away and then crying all over again. To know that there are sisters like her who GET it, who embrace, who are so humbled by this life reaffirms my faith in people. She came from the same non-military-knowing place as myself and she, too, transformed her way of thinking, embraced the gift of this life, and jumped in with both feet. 

I am so very proud to introduce her to you. I am so very happy that she took the time to write for you all. Please offer her your support. Thank you, Amy!!


To Love a Marine

There are many moments that stand out over the past two and half years… Each one has brought about a life lesson. Some readily seen and appreciated, others a long time coming. All a special part of the journey, a key to understanding this life, another step away from the person I was and towards the person I am becoming.

His graduation from boot camp.

The last hug before he left for Afghanistan.

The post about his close call.

The first time I met a Purple Heart recipient.

Standing in Arlington National Cemetery as Taps were played for his friend.

The joy of welcoming him home.

The sorrow for the 15 families whose arms were empty.

Starting the deployment journey all over again.

As I thought about trying to put into words what it means to love my Marine, there was one moment that kept coming to the forefront. The moment I realized the extent to which my life had been transformed by my brother’s military service. The moment I understood the blessings of this life.

It was a Friday morning in April.  The grass was green, the trees were in bloom, and true to form and legend, love was in the air.

“I’m so glad you got your TV to work!”

“I got up at 5:30 this morning to watch the coverage.”

“Her dress is beautiful!”

“How long before the kiss?”

I was standing in my classroom, fighting back the tears, while several of my colleagues sat watching news coverage of the royal wedding and anxiously awaiting “the kiss.” As I stood there staring at the cinderblock walls, my heart was breaking. Several miles away, in a house I’d never seen, filled with people I’d never met, was a family overcome with love. Love for a son and a brother, a friend and Marine. Love for a hero in a flag-draped coffin.

As I turned and glanced at the TV and saw the thousands upon thousands lining the streets, I felt a sense of frustration over the fact that a true hero’s family would be without the fanfare and support they deserved. To my friends, he was just another Marine who had died in a far off land.

I’m not implying that my friends are somehow cruel or uncaring. On the contrary, they are overwhelmingly supportive of my family. But when you love someone in the military, it’s your life that is changed. When your loved one goes for months without showering, is fired upon, can’t take a single step without wondering, and has friends wounded or killed, your outlook is different. Royal weddings, traffic jams, a last minute project, a spilled cup of coffee, all take on a less important flavor. You have a greater sense of perspective, of time, of significance, because you realize that one phone call, one knock at the door, could alter your life completely.

So as I stood there, I couldn’t be mad at my friends. For a brief instant, I envied them - to be able to go back to my carefree life where a wedding rather than a funeral was the focus of the day. But it was only a moment - my life is much fuller now for having loved a Marine. 

I have an appreciation for freedom and sacrifice that only comes from having known those who defend it. Marking a day on a calendar when you know you may be saying goodbye for an earthly lifetime means you leave nothing unsaid. Each conversation is precious. Each moment, treasured. How can I possibly go back to a time when I could not comprehend this? When I did not appreciate this?

And so, I wiped my tears. I took a deep breath. I told the story of the fallen Marine. I wrote the words “Thank you” on a sign. I held a flag. I stood with a handful of others who understood and lined the doorway to a funeral home. I prayed for the men and women serving half a world away and the families holding their breath until they return, for warriors recovering from wounds, for those who have gone before and those who walk with me now.

What does it mean to love a Marine? It means I don’t just live this life, I embrace it. For no matter how long the nights, how difficult the days, to love a Marine, to find a sense of family and friendship among those you’ve never met, to value life, to treasure moments, to know the price of freedom, to witness honor, courage, and commitment, to live each day to the fullest, to get it, is a blessing.

When night is at it’s darkest, fear is at it’s strongest, and faith is the only thing holding you together, this life is a blessing.

When the only certainty is that He will be there with you no matter what and Grace will carry you through, this life is a blessing.

So embrace it. Cling to Him. Appreciate each moment. Look for lessons. Educate others.

To love someone who serves is a blessing. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What We Take for Granted

I have never shared a blog that wasn't military related. I have never shared anything that wasn't military related. 

Today will be an exception.

There are two moments over the past year that have taught me the value of life, the necessity of gratitude, the greatness of prayer. There have been more than two really, many tiny, tiny moments have reminded me to be joyous.

There are two moments when I thought my life stopped. When everything that I thought I ever knew to be definite, to be a given, suddenly weren't. There was that moment during C's deployment, while he was living in an Afghan facility, surrounded by armed Afghans, when what sounded like gunshots rang out and the phone went dead. On That Day I thought my husband was dead and I thought I heard it happen. I don't think I will ever wipe that moment from my mind. I don't think I will ever forget just staring at the screen on my phone, looking as it returned to the call log, just standing by the island in my kitchen staring before I started to pray. I thought my life had just changed. Right then. I thought my life was over. It is one of the absolute most terrifying moments in my memory. I know it will remain there.

I was sitting in Eli and Logan's room, watching them play when the doctor called to say the Cystic Fibrosis Center in Denver did not agree with Eli's "all clear." I just listened. Just sat there and listened. Not understanding why we were going to go through this again. Not understanding why this was happening. Not knowing how to process something that we had already moved past. I hung up the phone, barely remembering the instructions and schedule for the next tests and just watched him. I sat on the floor, blank-faced, and watched my baby play. I didn't know how to process the possibility of having a child with a disease, of having to watch him suffer, of having nightmare after nightmare of outliving him. I couldn't think through all of that again.

He slept on my chest for the weeks until we received the official "all clear" for the final time.

These moments reminded me of how very precious life is. Of how very fragile. Of how the world - our world - can change in an instant. With a phone call, with a door bell, with a diagnosis. Our worlds can stop.

I am so very grateful that my husband returns home to me every day. I am so very grateful that God gave him back to me. I am so very, very thankful that my little one is just little - not sick with an awful disease. I am so honored to be blessed to be a mother, to be a wife. There isn't a way to express the gratitude that lives inside of me every day that the four of us are together and healthy. Everyday that I get to hold Eli and not worry if he will always be able to breathe clearly, or grow stronger, or get bigger is the greatest of days. Every day that C gets to play outside with Logan and fly kites with him and teach him how to ride his bike is a blessed day.

We are so very blessed. I am so very, very blessed to be able to hold my little ones. To see C hold them.

Sometimes we forget how grateful we should be. How grateful we must be.


Courtney Roth is from my home state - from a small town not too far from my home. Her little boy Tripp was welcomed into Heaven this weekend after living his short life battling EB. Her faith and courage and LOVE has touched thousands upon thousands as she has shared Tripp's story.

At the very least she has taught those who read to love as deeply as they can, to never, never take a moment for granted. She has found joy in hardship, grace in darkness, and love in sorrow. Please read Tripp's story if you haven't and offer a prayer of strength for Courtney.

May her little drummer boy play his drum so his mother can always hear. Rest in peace, Tripp. In heavenly peace.

Friday, January 13, 2012

When We Cannot Speak

A good friend and I were talking about some of the unknowns we are facing. They are - as almost always - some very large unknowns. They are far away but really aren't. I hear the tick-tick-tick that started the moment C came home with his next deployment on the chart, on the schedule, when it all became very real.

There is so much I want to pour out here but just cannot find a way. It has put me in a slump. Every time I sit to write the words don't flow the way they usually do. There aren't any lightbulbs going off that make me run to my mac and type, type, type. There is a cloud over us. That looming, annoying cloud that blocks it all out.

I want to talk about how this mission is going to be different, and why it is going to be different, and how much I have NO IDEA what he is walking into, what this means for us, how the day to day will be once he gets on that plane again. This is all going to be so different.

We have so much time. We have more time than most have had in the past between deployments. And while it isn't enough time, while it is never enough time, I just wish I didn't know yet. Because this one isn't going to be the same as the last. This one will be something that we haven't gone through before - that very, very few have gone through or will have gone through. I have too much time to dread all of the things that I do not know that come along with it. Too much time to not be able to share what this is. Too much time to think up every possible scenario in my jumbled mind and have them sit there.

These are the moments that are hardest - when we cannot speak. When as the spouse, as the next-of-kin, as the one who will fear the doorbell, we know things before others. We must hold onto information that we want to tell the world, want to cry about, or scream about, to someone - anyone - other than our soldier.

But these are the moments when you must, you must, honor the trust you have been given. You must recognize that the smallest thing that you say, in a public forum, on facebook, on a blog, can be read by anyone, can be seen by anyone, can be used by anyone.

Nothing that you put out there remains 'secret'.

As much as I would like to share this part of our journey with you, to share the heartache in a way that you can best understand, I will always honor my soldier first. I will honor his mission. I will honor his comrades. I will honor the flag he fights for by honoring the trust he has shared with me.

So please bear with me as I don't tell you over an undisclosed period of time where he is going, when he is going, or who he is going with. Bear with me as I struggle to share our story in a way that it can be shared. Be patient as I try to let you feel what I feel without letting you know what I know.

There will be some sad moments. There are always sad moments when the timer begins. There is heartache and fear and dread. I ask that you stay with me through it - live with me through it. Because if you know me, if you know this life, you know there will be joy. There will be goodness - so, so much goodness - and there will be pride.

There will be grace.

There will always, always be joy and grace.


I hope you continue to share our journey.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Servant Soul

My LSU tigers just lost in what may have been the most embarrassing National Championship game of our time. Much of that - in my slightly angered, defeated opinion - comes from a failure on our coaching staff. No player, not matter how talented, how eager, how READY, cannot win without good leadership stepping up and making the right calls, doing the right things, setting the right example.

The leadership of LSU failed against the outstanding and better coaching of its greatest rival ALABAMA. In one night, everything fell apart.

Yes, I am about to turn LSU's embarrassing loss into a coaching moment. Well, I'm going to try. When life hands you lemons ... okay maybe limes and tequila. KIDDING. I don't do limes ... or tequila.



Last week I called or attempted to call every spouse and significant other in C's troop. It took me just about three hours. Some didn't answer. Some had incorrect information listed. Some were politely short, some totally confused, some happy to talk. Some very open to conversation. Some even thanked me for taking the time to do it.

Some of them had never received a phone call from anyone in any of the units they belonged to in the past. Never-a-one. Nada. Zip.

I find that to be a failure in leadership.

There are all types of leadership styles. There are those who are far more hands-on than others. Not every one likes that. I can respect that. I have met commanders who feel that the family has no place in the Army - in their career. I can't say I have the best respect for them.

I have said countless times that to serve those around me is one of the most-fulfilling and richest parts of my life. It is beyond amazing that I have the honor of serving the families of our soldiers - that I am blessed to love a man who serves a nation.

C is in a position of leadership. The way he lives, the way he leads, matters to over 150 soldiers. He sets the example, sets the pace.

All 150 or so of those soldiers have families. All have loved ones who worry and pray and hope for them. Some are parents who often times never, never have any connection to the unit their son or daughter serves with. Some are girlfriends and fiancees who fall through the cracks without even knowing it. It is easy for us to forget that we were "just a girlfriend" once too. It is even easier to never reach out.

To NEVER make that phone call. It is easy to just pass on dozens of emails and consider that's 'doing enough.' Talking to strangers on the phone is intimidating. I sound like I am twelve years old on the phone. (I'm not kidding). I wonder what people think when I say who I am. I am terrified someone will hang up on me. I truly, truly hate the first minute or two of a phone call.

BUT, I also believe that if you have had contact with a spouse or a family member, if you let them hear your voice, or shake their hands, or look them in the eyes, they are far, far more likely to be open to information, to be willing to communicate, to want to be involved.

My challenge to you is that if you are in a position of leadership, if your spouse is in a position of leadership, embrace it with the most humble heart. Know your spouses. Know his soldiers. Learn their names and their stories, their struggles and victories. Understand what it is lead by serving. Find joy in it. Find comfort in it. Find strength in seeing it grow in others.

If you are going to lead, if you are going to guide, do so with all of your heart, with proper intention, and with a servant soul.


and as always, GEAUX TIGERS!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What You Wish You Would Have Known

C's FRG is putting together a Newcomers Packet for both newlyweds and those spouses new to the Army in general. 

Yes, I KNOW that ACS and such offer information and that every post does a newcomers brief. My husband gave me the bag he received that the newcomers brief when he got here. The map wasn't accurate, the pamphlets were overwhelming. It was a bunch of info put into a yellow bag that wasn't welcoming. 

What we are looking to put together is the advice you wish someone had told you - or maybe someone did. The little things that spouses tell each other to give little pointers. The things you would have NO CLUE about when you arrive at your first duty station. 

It is very much my belief that the reason so many military marriages fail is because the new spouses feel lost, or alone, or like they are "doing something wrong." They take it out on their spouses, their spouses don't understand why they "just don't know" and everything crumbles. When a person has NO IDEA how to answer when someone asks what unit their spouse belongs to they are embarrassed, feel like they are doing something wrong. I strongly believe that knowledge is power. That knowing the little things in this life - that we take for granted after a year or two in it - like knowing how much you need that ID card, and you should only enter the commissary on pay day at your own risk, and when your husband says he has a dining-in to attend you won't see him that evening - knowing the customs and the "rules" (spoken and unspoken) can help us to thrive.

I don't think we should enable spouses. I don't think we should hand them every little thing in the Army world and do it for them. But don't you wish someone had put in a single, small binder - not in a stack of multiple pamphlets and brochures and paper stacks - but in ONE place the basics you need to know when you enter into the Army? 

I think by knowing the spouses in your unit, letting them know you, just having the contact does more than most realize. Maybe giving a new spouse a tour of post if you can find a moment. Letting them know which entrance of the hospital is better for whichever clinic so they don't maneuver that double stroller through a tri-level parking area just to find out they have to go to the complete other end and that if they had parked on the other (single-level) side, through that OTHER entrance they wouldn't have gone through the hassle, the stress.

It's the little things, understanding the ranks, knowing what the bajillion acronyms mean (at least the critical ones), understanding just what your spouse DOES, can mean the world for that new spouse.

So what do you wish you had known? What moments would having a certain simple piece of info that you know now but didn't know then have changed things for the positive? What did a seasoned spouse tell you that really helped you out? What do you wish you would have known when you entered into this life?

Your can help many of the newbies out there. Even if it is just one ... that one spouse helps another, and then another, and another. It keeps going, gets stronger.

Maybe you never just help one.

So ... what do you wish you would have known?

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Lives We Miss

I have a stamp with our current address on it. I have a stamp for two reasons. One: It's easy and it looks pretty. Two (okay really this is three, I guess): I forget my address all the time while I am writing it.

I can't tell you how many store rewards cards I have had to restart because I can't remember the zip code or phone number they are under. I have had five addresses in the past (not even) three years. At times, I have to stop and think or look up the address to the house that we still own in the Fort Campbell area. I can't remember the name of the subdivision - Glenellen something. I couldn't tell you the address from our apartment in Georgia. I don't remember the complex's name. It was way off exit ten. WAY off. Thats about all I have retained. I remember every nook and cranny of the apartment. I remember our wonderful neighbors (even if they were all Texans). I remember the playground, the drive from the interstate to there. I even remember who handled the paperwork to sign the lease but for the life of me I cannot remember the name of the place - much less the address. I can't remember the address for the temporary apartment we lived in before C deployed from Carson. No idea. None. Can't even remember the zip code.

It's a problem. Five places in just over two-and-a-half years.

Where I grew up people had the same addresses for forever. I used to know so many of my friends' by heart but that has started to diminish because I have two many numbers jumbled up in my head. But they (their parents) are in the same houses they have always been in. People don't leave. People don't move. People add on or (like my parents) only move a few blocks away, down the street, or around the corner to a bigger house. An old friend of mine literally moved next door.

I have been incredibly homesick. I love Colorado. It's beautiful. Everything seems so healthy, clean. The air is amazing. There's no humidity. I love our new unit (CAV and all). I love the friends I have made. I love my fellow volunteers. I know I will learn much from the more seasoned spouses around me. We asked to come here and I am glad we did.

But I miss the South. I miss my family. I miss so many of my friends - both military and civilian. One of my very good friends and his wife had their first baby just over a week ago. I didn't get to make it to her shower. I didn't get to go see that precious little girl while she was in the hospital. I don't know when I will finally be able to meet her and hold her. Another good friend is pregnant with a child that she has tried for and hoped for for a long time. She has two precious angels in heaven watching over this growing baby. I will never see her pregnant - only in pictures. I won't be at her baby showers. I don't know when I will meet that precious, precious baby either. Two of our dearest friends in Georgia ... I have never met their sweet CC. She is just over a year old now. We missed her birthday. C and I have never met his only nephew on his side - his only brother's son.

He turned one in October.

I fear that my sister's two youngests will never really know me. That I am going to be "that aunt" that shows up from time to time ... briefly ... that they won't really know me any other way.

I haven't seen my older brother in what seems like a lifetime. I saw him for a few hours sometime in the last year. He lives in New York. Our 'schedules' (ha, yeah right, a schedule!) never seem to work together.

I am not able to go to the plays that my little sister directs or acts in. I don't get to see her while she is learning and growing and becoming who she is meant to be. I really wish I could be there.

I haven't seen my little brother play the drums (or any other instrument) since he was in high school. I haven't been to any of his gigs. I just haven't been there to go.

I don't know why but in the last several days - maybe weeks is more accurate - I have greatly missed my family. I have shared joy over the phone or through a text messages as people have become engaged or announced they are expecting or have held their precious child for the first time. We skyped for Christmas. But I haven't been there.

I want to be there for these moments. I want to be with a friend when they are having a hard time. I want to go to my sister's and just listen to her life with five children running through the house. I want to be at the showers and the celebrations and the weddings. I want to hold these babies while they are babies. I want to be a part of it.

I feel like I am missing everything.


So it may seem strange to those on the outside of this life that many of us have witnessed the birth of a friend's child. That many of us have held a leg or a hand or wiped the brow of a friend in labor. I am sure it seems strange to many on the outside that Logan's Godfather is one of C's fellow PL's that he deployed with many years ago. It may seem strange to those not in this life that we form friendships in a single night that will carry us through an entire year. We support each other. We carry each other. We hold each other's babies. We watch each other's backs. We share Thanksgiving and Christmas with a group of six other couples that are in no way related to us other than by a unit.

We become each other's families. We become the dearest friends. We form a sisterhood. Because on all the days that we cannot be in the place we want to be, with the people we want to be with, someone right beside us gets it. Someone right beside us is thinking the same thing, wanting the same thing, missing the exact. same. thing.

We carry each other's heartache on the days when we cannot have what we miss the most. We have to.

Because on days like today - when all I want to do is sit down with friends and eat chargrilled oysters and king cake and any good, Southern food, and poke my preggo friends' bellies and meet these precious, beautiful babies - it is good to know I have someone to carry mine.

Monday, January 2, 2012

No Comparison

I have many friends whose spouses or significant others leave for a week or two at a time for work - maybe a month even. Amazingly, perhaps, it truly, truly doesn't bother me when they talk about how much they miss him/her, or when they count down the days on Facebook to when they arrive back home, or talk about how hard it is to sleep alone (okay, that one bugs me a bit). I know so many times some of us would jump on them with, "try doing it for 12 months" or "seriously, a week? You are 'dying' after a week?"

I don't think any of us have a right to do that. 

The life we live - the challenges and separations that we face daily - do not give us the right to take from someone else's sadness or longing. We do not get to compare our realities, to line up their separation against ours and say how dare they complain. That isn't ours to take from. We live very different lives.

That may take Grace - especially six months into a deployment, when you are beyond exhausted, beyond lonely, and beyond thinking you can hang on for another six. It may take everything you've got to not think less of someone for having a rough time in a situation you may see as trivial. Missing someone is missing someone; loving someone is loving someone.

But for as graceful as we may try to be in these moments - while we try our best to not compare or contrast our lifestyle with someone who doesn't live it - it is the moments when someone, for goodness only knows what reason, tries to compare their life to ours.

We have all been there. Over and over and over again.

When we tell our friend of a deployment approaching, or a stranger finds out our spouse is overseas, or when a friend of a friend of an acquaintance at some party seems to believe that she can "relate" because her boyfriend goes on week-long hunting trips and leaves her behind a few times a season.

Okay, deep breath.

I am a talker. I will talk to just about anyone.

It's not always a good thing.

like to get to know new people, to hear their stories. In a conversation with a new person I am always going to try to find some common ground - something we can both agree on, or have been through, or have an interest in. So to a point, I get it. People don't know what they are saying. They are trying to let us know that they can feel how we are feeling. That they can sympathize. I truly believe that a person's heart is in the right place when they say certain things. People do not think before they speak - or they honestly think that making their life similar to ours provides comfort and understanding.

It doesn't.

"Oh your husband is deployed? I know how you feel, my husband travels for business all the time."

"Ugh! You have to tell him goodbye? I know just how you feel, my boyfriend goes to grad school an hour away. I only get to see him on weekends. I hate telling him goodbye on Sunday!"


A twelve-month deployment - or any deployment, really - is not the same as your significant other going on a business trip for any period of time.

Watching the father of your children kissing them goodbye, having him kiss you goodbye, knowing that that may never, never happen again is in no way in the simplest universe the same as telling a boyfriend goodbye for the week while he goes to school.

A COMBAT deployment - where you live every single moment of e-v-e-r-y single day praying that no one knocks on your door, wondering if the baby you are holding will get to meet his father, wondering what happens if the love of your life - a strong, able-bodied man - calls you to tell you he has lost his legs, or if you are told that you need your passports ready to go because they are flying you to Germany because they don't think he will make it to the states for you to say good-bye, living a year fearing the phone, losing your breath any time someone rings your doorbell - in no way equates to a business trip, no matter how long.

My husband spent nearly twelve months LIVING with Afghans, in an Afghan facility, outnumbered beyond imagination. I lived in fear every day that someone would turn on him. That he would walk through a door and would be shot, or stabbed, or blown up before he had time to think. It gave me nightmares. It nearly drove me insane at times.

That is not the same as a business trip, or a hunting trip, or your significant other going on vacation without you.

You can feel for us. You can respect us. You can empathize with how hard this life must be. You can pray for us. You can squeeze our hands. You can even give us your tears.

But unless you have lived it, you cannot relate to us. You cannot compare.

To do so belittles the sacrifice of the military family. Belittles what we face - day in and day out. Belittles the very real fear of losing your spouse.

The two are not the same. It doesn't help us to say they are. There just is no comparison.