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.
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.
What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions when you can’t be with family? Share in the comments below.
“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.
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.
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?“
What issues have you had with being “single” while married? Answer in the comments below.
Am I willing to make the necessary sacrifices it takes to be a military spouse? Do I really want to uproot my children every few years? Can I come in second behind the military for my husband? What about a career?
These are all good questions supplied by some seasoned spouses when I asked what they wished they’d known before becoming a military spouse. Whether you are marrying a military man or your spouse is planning to join, these questions need to be explored. Only you can decide what you are willing to sacrifice by being a military spouse.
The Good Chaplain and I were married for four years when the military came into the picture. We were married 10 years when he came on active duty. But I still needed to answer that question. Was I willing to make sacrifices, such as giving up my full-time job for his career? Luckily, my career was portable, and I could find work if I wanted it.
But what about kids? Every time we move for the military, we are uprooting our children, and they have to start all over again. My girls went to five different schools before graduating from high school. And they got to spend three years at the same high school. Sometimes military families move between junior and senior years. Not fair for most kids.
For the most part, kids are resilient and make friends faster than adults do. But they also have issues with loneliness, homesickness, and missing the friends they already have. If you have children, include them in the decision-making process.
Another issue to consider is all the moving around. Generally, the Air Force gave us advanced warning of a move, but sometimes it was short notice. When we moved from Alabama to Alaska, we had a month. In that month, the Good Chaplain went on a temporary duty assignment, we traded in our travel trailer for a new one, we sold my minivan, and the Good Chaplain performed a wedding in Illinois. It’s amazing how much you can get done in a short time if you have to. But you need to determine if this is something you are willing to do.
Of course, making new friends is on this list as well. It is hard to forge friendships at one base, only to start again at another station. And if you are introverted, it is even harder. So you have to decide if you are willing to make an effort to build new relationships knowing it may only be for a few years.
I once knew a colonel’s wife, who told me she didn’t make friends anymore because it hurt too much when they moved. Even early in my husband’s military career, I thought that was the saddest thing I’d ever heard. You never know when that BFF is right around the corner.
There is so much to think about when contemplating whether to marry a military man or if your spouse is considering joining the military. These are not easy questions, and each person/couple needs to determine what is right for them.
Next week, I will try to answer the question of going solo while being married.
Do you have an opinion about this piece? Or more questions? Reply in the comments below.
The Good Chaplain and I took a trip down memory lane this week when we visited the now-closed Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, IL. It was hard to see many of the buildings boarded it up. It also brought back memories of base life.
Chanute was decommissioned in 1993, but before that, it was one of 32 Air Service training camps in the U.S. during World War I. After the First World War, the base was used as a storage depot for plane engines and other surplus items. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Chanute became a training facility for ground crews, and later as a training base to include intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). In 1971, all military flight operations were closed at Chanute, and it became a non-flying training base until 1993 when it was closed permanently.
Not to say bases look alike, but we could pick out an astonishing number of buildings for what they were used for. Hangars are obvious, but we also picked out the golf pro shop, the chapel, the hospital, the fire station, the headquarters building, the shoppette/gas station, and, of course, base housing.
Many base areas are used by the Village of Rantoul and repurposed as housing, a motel, a fitness center, daycare centers, the golf pro shop and course, and a general aviation airport.
But several of the buildings are unused and boarded up. We felt a certain melancholy at all the unused space which could be fixed up and repurposed for the village or private use. Housing even looked the same as older housing on other bases where we lived, and I wondered why none of it was updated.
One reason for the disuse of certain buildings is that the former base is an EPA Superfund site because of all the chemicals used over the years. Also, many of the buildings have asbestos and other issues that come along with older buildings.
The closure of Chanute hit the economy of Rantoul and the surrounding area very hard. The base employed 2,665 civilians at the time of closure. The loss of military and civilians caused revenue to decrease, while the village’s number of roads doubled. The street and police department budgets also doubled. The village also was responsible for the repair and maintenance of gas and steam systems at the base and the many buildings in need of repair or demolition.
Chanute contributed 25 percent of the total economy of the village of Rantoul. But with the base closure, other businesses left as well, such as restaurants, retail, construction, and auto.
In a 2014 survey of residents, people reported that Rantoul’s biggest challenges included negative community image, a large number of rental units and low-income housing, dilapidated buildings, lack of downtown events, and limited downtown shopping hours, a slow economy, and Chanute maintenance and redevelopment.
While I did not go downtown in Rantoul, our drive around the former base gave me the impression of an impoverished community that needs a lot of work. The fact that old base housing was still being used instead of being renovated or torn down was evidence enough without the other empty, boarded-up buildings. And I know Rantoul is not the only community to still have negative economic effects of a base closure.
As I said earlier, I felt melancholy at the base’s emptiness and conditions, one I know was once vital to the military and the community to thrive. I pray for all communities facing the same situation because of military downsizing.
Until next time,
Have you visited a base or live near one that has closed? What was the effect on the community? Post your answers in the comments below.