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.
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:
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.
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.
What is your biggest pet peeve about social media? Reply in the comment section below. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!
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.
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.
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!
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.
When the Good Chaplain went on active duty with the U.S. Air Force, I had a decision to make. I was the city editor for a local paper. I’d been working on newspapers for the last 10 years, and it was something I loved. But, I also knew our new lifestyle would include frequent moves, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be bogged down working full-time.
Luckily, my job was portable, and I ended up becoming a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines nationwide. Sadly, we did not need my income to survive. His salary as a beginning captain was what the two of us were making combined in the civilian world.
As your spouse enters his military career or continues if you married someone already in the military, chances are you will have to make the same decision. Do you want to work outside of the house, work from home, or not work at all? And the biggest question to ask yourself is, do you want a job or a career?
That question is key to the job search. Some careers lend themselves better to the military lifestyle. Teaching and nursing are two that come to mind. But keep in mind, it can be like starting all over again when you move to a new market. I’ve known many teachers who have to start as a first-year teacher each time they move. That sucks.
Making the decision of whether to pursue a career or a job depends on several factors.
What is the area job market like? Is it saturated in your career field? What kind of professional positions are open? Is the area depressed with a high unemployment rate? Do some research before you even move to the area. I contacted the newspaper in Minot, North Dakota before we even left Alaska, and the editor called me while we were packing out, so I knew I had a job in my career field when I got there.
If you are pursuing a professional position, do you have the necessary certifications? The military just made it a little easier for some professionals to move around with new reciprocal certification rules. Under the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the service branches can reimburse spouses up to $1,000 for any re-licensing or certification costs because of a military move. Check with your branch to see what it does. Also, many states are using license portability for military spouses. This action helps make the licensing and certification go quicker. For more information on state-sponsored reciprocal agreements, click here. The site provides a map of which states are involved in the agreement and finding information on your profession.
Finding the right job is not always easy for military spouses, but using the tools I gave you last week and the information from today, it can be accomplished.
Next week I will talk about whether you want a job on base or off.
Share your experiences trying to transfer licenses or certificates in the comments below.
You want a job, or maybe a career, but it is hard to get established as a military spouse because of frequent moves. Don’t get discouraged. Plenty of jobs are out there if you know where to look.
In today’s post, because I am no expert on the military spouse job hunt, I am going to refer you to some other sites that do a good job of helping you land that dream job, or get the training necessary for that job.
Helpful Websites to Read
Military spouses should all have the Military OneSource website saved as the go-to site for everything military. On this website, you can find help with taxes, financial and legal help, of course, education and employment, as well as a wealth of other topics about military life. Make sure you check it out.
Under the tab, Spouse & Family, on Military.com, are links to military spouse jobs, among other topics. Also, on Military.com, you can select the service branch you which you want information. Click the link above to visit this site.
CareerStep has a section on career training for military, veterans, and their spouses with several programs eligible for financial assistance through My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA). CareerStep offers online training to suit the needs of the military lifestyle. A link to MyCAA is available through Military OneSource.
Check out what the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network can do for you during your job hunt. In addition to an impressive array of national corporations that hire military spouses, the network matches you to hiring managers looking for your qualifications. They also provide skills training, readiness training, and resume preparation.
Most of us have heard of Monster.com, but did you know they advise careers and job searches? The link above takes you to an article about the best companies for military spouses. While you are on the site, look at some of the other help it can give you.
By exploring which companies are most friendly to military spouses and using tools available through these and many more websites and publications, you should begin to decide what kind of work you want to do.
Next week I will discuss whether you are looking for a job or a career.
Do you have any experience with job hunting as a military spouse? Share them and any tips you have to offer in the comments below.
Raising a family in the military can be a two-edged sword. Yes, your children are still children, but they are also part of a community where they may have to grow up a little faster.
More is expected of military children than most children in the civilian world. Generally, there are always exceptions to the rule; military children are better behaved and more polite than most children. They learn early on how to listen to their elders and interact with all sorts of people.
Changing schools — often
The girls’ school at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, was run by the Department of Defense. Only one other Air Force Base elementary school in the Continental U.S. was a DOD school. Teaching at such a school was a prime job, and many of the teachers stayed their whole careers at these schools. I think the pay was higher, but parents also played a role in their child’s education.
Many bases we lived at had elementary schools, but they were run by the local school district. Even then, teachers sought out jobs on base. One teacher told me she loved teaching military children because they were nicer than kids in the other district schools.
Moving around the world
Other aspects of growing up military are not so positive. Our children moved eight times with us, so they went to several different schools. Our girls went to three different elementary schools on the same base.
Moving can be stressful for children who have to leave their friends and possibly extended family. Children are resilient and tend to make new friends faster than their parents, but it is still hard. As a parent, you can help your child through this transition by listening to what they say and don’t say. Pay attention to cues they might not be adjusting. Be encouraging but not pushy. If your child doesn’t want to play soccer, don’t force them. Offer several activities they may enjoy and let them choose.
A good way to transition to a new location is to read up on the location. Find out what the base and the local town, or even state, have to offer. Let each child pick something they want to do to explore their new surroundings. Help them get excited about trying new things that are particular to that area. And be excited about the area yourself. We looked forward to moves because of the adventures each held for us.
Those deployment blues
Deployments are also tricky. Children miss their deployed parent and they react in different ways. Some act out at home and in public, others withdraw and don’t express their sadness. Setting a routine quickly is crucial.
Whenever the Good Chaplain deployed, we had a chick-flick night, where we would put on our pajamas, watch movies, and sleep in the living room on the first Friday he was gone.
Planning special outings, like a drive-in movie or a trip to the swimming pool, help give the kids something to look forward to. Also, having a system to count down the days until the parent comes home is helpful. One friend put Hershey Kisses in a jar to represent the number of days of the deployment. Her son got one Kiss a day, and when the jar was empty, that was the day Daddy would come home. When the return date got pushed back, she simply added more kisses to the jar. I think that only works on younger kids.
Positives of being a military kid
But on a positive note, nuclear military families seem closer to each other in part because of all the moves. We turned moves into vacations and stopped in interesting places. Plus, being twins, our girls always had each other to lean on whenever they experienced something new. But it does seem generally military children are closer to their siblings and their parents.
Military children also get to live in places other kids can only dream about. They meet people from all over the world, and their friends are of all races, colors, and ethnicities. And no one bats an eye.
Kids get to do new things like dogsledding in Alaska, snorkeling in Hawaii, or traveling through three countries to get to school every day, as Tech Sergeant had to do when his family lived in Belgium. Some people never leave their home state.
Raising kids in the military opens up more opportunities to shine. It builds confidence. It builds character. It shows the children how adaptable and strong they are in new situations. If they decide to live a different lifestyle in adulthood than a military one, they can. Illinois Girl chose to plant roots. Mrs. Tech Sergeant chose to marry the military and continue to live this particular adventure.
Next up I will be talking about careers for the military spouse.
What things have worked for you in raising your military kids? Reply in the comments below.