Tag Archives: Family

A Tribute to Military Fathers Where Ever They May Be

It seems like Father’s Day gets buried in the business of life. I feel like Father’s Day sneaks up on me and then I am scrambling to get cards out. This year is no exception. It’s Wednesday, and I still haven’t mailed the two cards I need to send — to my dad and my deployed son-in-law.

Military Dads are special. They work hard. They play hard. And they make time to strengthen bonds with their family. I know other dads do those things as well, but not at the same time they are protecting our nation.

Military dads are strong, disciplined, focused, resilient, and centered. It is sometimes hard for them to compartmentalize between work and family. And they miss a lot of their children’s special moments because duty comes first.

I know the Good Chaplain always tried to make it up to our daughters if he missed something important, like a school recital or play. But when he was home, he made himself available to the girls, no matter how tired he was after work.

Tyler and the boys making memories!
My favorite military dad!

A military dad takes the time to explain to his children why he gave an order. (Some of them give orders at home too.) He takes time to show them how things work, what he does and who he is. And he takes pride when someone comments on how well behaved his children are. He’s done his job and taught them structure and discipline.

I can’t count the number of times the Good Chaplain said we needed to do something to “make memories” before he left on a deployment. He was right. Remembering the fun we had before he left helped us look forward to making more memories when he got home.

Sometimes the military has to come first, and sometimes the family has to come first. A military dad knows this and figures out a way to balance everything. And when he can’t be there, a military dad transfers his powers to a military mom to carry on until he comes home again.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers out there. Dad, your card is in the mail. Tyler, you might get yours after the holiday, but we are thinking of you.

Until next time,

Vicki

Victoria Terrinoni is the author of “Where You Go, I Will Go: Lessons From a Military Spouse,” available here or by clicking the Shop tab above. Watch for her new book on the Good Chaplain’s Africa deployment coming out in the fall!

National Military Brats Day celebrates past and present military children

The only time I felt my girls got the short end of the stick as military brats was when they went off to college. We moved from California to Alabama the week after high school graduation, and then the girls went off to college. When they came home for the holidays, they came home to an unfamiliar place.

They didn’t know anyone, and they weren’t getting together with high school friends because those friends were in California while we were in Alabama. I felt sad for them. I remember coming home from college and seeing my friends and hanging out again. We robbed them of that experience.

That is just one issue military children face in their lifetime. As we wrap up the Month of the Military Child, let’s not forget National Military Brats Day on April 30. It’s the last day to honor all our military children — past or present.

The National Today website list five facts about military brats and some activities military families can do together to honor their brats.

Five Facts About Military Brats

  • Military Brats are children whose parents are, or once were, members of the military community.
  • One in every 25 American citizens is part of a military family. That means roughly 15 million Americans are military brats.
  • Military Brats attend between four and 12 schools in their lives. Mine attended three different elementary schools on one base!
  • Several famous people were military brats, including Amy Adams, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Alba, Chris Cooper, John Denver, Shaquille O’Neal, and Reese Witherspoon, to name a few. One of my favorites is Harris Faulkner, host of the Faulkner Focus and Outnumbered on Fox News.
  • Unless they join or marry into the military, many military brats cannot go visit their childhood neighborhoods because they won’t have access to base once their parent leaves the military. That’s true for Illinois Girl, but not for Mrs. Tech Sergeant.

She and her family recently drove past our house on Langley Air Force Base, VA and Tech Sergeant’s house in Yorktown, VA. Mrs. Tech Sergeant also lived on the same street at Eielson AFB, AK that she lived on as a child. And, my grandson, Tony B, went to the same grade school as his father, in England.

A good way to celebrate National Military Brats day is to pull out pictures from past bases and relive some memories. Military brats may have it hard sometimes, but they’ve seen and done a lot more than their civilian counterparts.

Until next time,

Vicki

How will you celebrate with your military brats on April 30?

Victoria Terrinoni is the author of “Where You Go, I Will Go: Lessons From a Military Spouse,” available here or by clicking the Shop tab above. Watch for her new book on the Good Chaplain’s Africa deployment coming out in the fall!

How Alaskan Winters Provided my Crazy Kids Adventurous Christmas Breaks

This time of year, when we lived at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, the girls prepared to go back to college in Illinois. It was bittersweet. I missed my girls, but I enjoyed the quiet once I had the house back to myself.

Every Christmas for the three years we lived in Fairbanks, the girls, the Good Chaplain’s mom, and Soccer Stud came to visit. One year they also brought a college friend. They participated in the Christmas revelry of the base and enjoyed the novelty of minus 40 temperatures.

Soccer Stud especially liked the subzero temperatures. On the coldest night, we all bundled up and went to the marquee at the high school on base for a picture under the temperature readings. On his first visit, I promised Soccer Stud’s mom that I wouldn’t let him do anything stupid. But on his first morning, he went onto our snow-covered deck in boots, shorts, and no shirt to take a picture next to the outdoor thermometer! Boys!

Soccer Stud & Illinois Girl in front of the marquee showing minus 44 temperatures.

While the Good Chaplain’s mom would stay bundled up inside our cozy home, the kids played in the great outdoors, exploring much of what an Alaskan winter had to offer. They went dog-sledding, cross country skiing, sledding, and even learned the fine art of curling.

Mrs. Tech Sergeant bundled up for her dog-sled ride.

We took them to visit neighbors. They went with us to Christmas parties and even joined us for the annual New Year’s Eve bonfire on the lake. Yes, the fire was actually built on the lake. It was a little unnerving to hear the ice cracking beneath your feet from the heat of the fire, but the lake was frozen solid, and no danger existed. Finally, after toasting the New Year at midnight, we went home and to bed.

The kids enjoyed the New Year’s Eve bonfire on the lake.

The Chena Hot Springs highlighted one year. It was minus 40 something, but we all donned our swimsuits and headed to the natural hot springs. Since it was so cold out, our hair would freeze in funny compositions. Soccer Stud’s hair was down to his shoulders that year, and as he stood up after getting it wet, it froze at odd angles, sticking up here and there. A group of Japanese tourists started giggling and pointing to him, saying, “Godzilla!” At six-foot-three inches tall with funky hair, he was quite a sight.

All too soon, the vacation was over. The kids and Mom packed up and went to the airport for the early morning flight to Chicago. We gave them props for wanting to visit in the dead of winter and looked forward to the following Christmas when more winter fun would be had.

Until next time,

Vicki

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Horrific Week When the Cat Died, the Girls Graduated, and the Movers Arrived

Talk about stress. One Sunday morning in the summer of 2004, as I sat in my living room at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, my 20-year-old cat, Gus, died in my arms. My twin daughters sat near me, sobbing as they had known Gus all their lives. It was heartbreaking.

But that wasn’t the significant stressor. The fact that Gus died at the beginning of graduation week is what stressed me out. The family was coming in from all over to celebrate the girls’ graduation. I didn’t have time for the cat to die.

Oh, and the Monday after graduation, the movers were coming. Should I pull my hair out now? Even as I write this 17 years later, I can feel the tension rising.

After the cat died, I laid him in his carrier and called the Good Chaplain, who was leading worship services at the time. I thought service would be over, but it wasn’t. The chaplain assistant answered the phone.

“Is the service over?” I asked.

“No, it’s communion time,” she said.

“Oh, okay. When the service is over, tell (the Good Chaplain) the cat just died. But wait until he finishes,” I said.

She didn’t wait. She crept up to the Good Chaplain at the Lord’s Table and whispered in his ear that the cat died. I made my best Homer Simpson impression. Doh!

After we made funeral arrangements for Gus, we turned our focus to the influx of company. First, of course, the house needed cleaning, the cake needed ordering, and we needed to plan menus to feed all these people.

The girls were also busy with last-minute school items — getting their caps and gowns, graduation practice, and other necessities.

Then family members began to arrive. My parents, the Good Chaplain’s mother and stepfather, and his brother’s family arrived from Illinois. His stepmom, his aunt, and his uncle came up from southern California. We needed to pick up some people at the airport, and we had to make lodging arrangements too. And, oh, yeah, the movers were coming on Monday. So several stiff drinks were in order.

Graduation Day arrived — a lovely, hot Saturday afternoon at the football field of Cabrillo High School. We did not know until we left for the ceremony that the Gay Pride annual bike trip was happening that weekend, right outside the base main gate. It was entertaining to see all the colorful outfits the cross-dressers were wearing. Until our niece exclaimed loudly with the car windows open, “Hey, that guy is wearing a dress!” Thankfully, the nice person smiled and waved at her. But it opened up a whole discussion her mother was not ready to have with her.

We sat in the hot sun listening to all the obligatory speeches and waiting for that two-second time frame when they call your kid’s name. But, instead, my mind wandered to the list of things I still had to do. I remember commenting on all the people who left after their child got their diplomas.

“Hey, I had to sit through your kid’s moment. So the least you could do is sit through mine.”

Having the last name beginning with a ‘T’ put us pretty much at the back of the pack.

After the party, family members left, except my parents. They were going to help with the move. They helped watch the packers, the loaders, and the clean-up afterwards. They said they thought it was a smooth move — everything done for us and all. Deep down, I agreed.

We moved into our travel trailer and finished up the week with a farewell lunch at the chapel. My parents thought that was cool, too, and it was.

The stress level should have abated then, but it didn’t. I had so much stress built up in me I felt I would explode. I was snapping at everyone and crying a lot too. I just wanted to get on the road. And the Good Chaplain developed hives because of all the things he needed to finish before we left town.

Eventually, I remembered the adage, “This too shall pass,” (William Shakespeare in Hamlet) and I started breathing again. And, by the time we got on the road, I was relaxed and looking forward to the new adventures we would have in Alabama.

Until next time,

Vicki

Tell me about your most stressful move in the comments below.

Victoria Terrinoni is the author of the new book, “Where You Go, I Will Go: Lessons From a Military Spouse.” Check it out here.

Why to Cherish Rare Moments When You Actually Live Near Family

“Vicki, this is Sharon.” The Good Chaplain’s stepmother sounded frantic on the other end of the phone line. “Bill was in a car accident. They airlifted him to St. Anthony’s in Rockford. I’m on my way there now. He has head injuries.”

As soon as we hung up, I called the Good Chaplain to tell him that his dad was seriously injured. “Please, God, not like this,” he said, his voice faltering.

Bill was a jovial guy who loved his family.

We already planned a trip to Illinois later that July 2003 for my niece’s wedding and college shopping for our twin daughters. Now it looked like we would be going earlier. As we waited for news, we reminisced about what a blessing it was that Bill and Sharon moved just a few hours from our base.

The Good Chaplain’s aunt and uncle lived a few hours away in Fillmore, CA. His cousin lived in Santa Maria, CA, a few minutes away. We were excited to have family so close for the first time in 10 years. And then Bill and Sharon announced they bought a place in Fillmore too.

We took full advantage of it. We frequently went to Fillmore, and Bill and Sharon came to our place too. We spent holidays together and had a family reunion that the Good Chaplain missed because of a deployment. In addition, Bill and Sharon stayed with the girls while the Good Chaplain and I went on a post-deployment cruise. Bill even attended a high school football game with the girls and teased them about being the “Conqs,” short for the Conquistadors’ school name.

And then we got that fateful phone call. Bill suffered a massive head injury, but was hanging on. The Good Chaplain’s brother called later in the week, saying we should come to Illinois. So, we flew out early the next morning.

When we arrived at the hospital, we all sensed Bill’s spirit was present, but the next day it was gone. It was as if he held on until we could get there. With a badly damaged brain stem, the doctors said he would never wake up. The family knew he would not want to live that way, so we settled for palliative care and let him go. He died three weeks after the accident on July 28, 2003.

It felt unfair. He was only 70 years old. We finally got to live near Bill and spend time with him, and then this happened. The girls were looking forward to him attending school functions and their graduation in 2004. It just wasn’t right.

Bill was a lifelong Scout, staying involved long after his sons left home.

That was 18 years ago. Hard to believe.

I tell you this story not for pity or empathy but to compel you to take full advantage if you find yourself lucky enough to live near your family. See them often, not just for holidays. Make that effort because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Make the most of your time together. You know you will be moving again all too soon.

Until next time,

Vicki

Have you gotten to live near family during your military career? How did you handle it?

How Military Spouses Cope Away From Family

January 26, 1986, is a day I will always remember. It was the day after the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl. It was also the day the space shuttle Challenger blew up, killing all aboard. But I remember it as the day my in-laws had to rescue us because the Good Chaplain and I both came down with a nasty stomach bug. We couldn’t even get out of bed to feed our three-month-old twin daughters.

The Good Chaplain was not yet in the Air Force Reserves or on active duty. Thankfully, both sets of our parents lived about 20 minutes away and could help. I don’t know what I would have done if we already lived at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

Yes, I do. I would have called on neighbors and friends to help out. This scenario plays itself out all the time in the military world. I received several calls to please watch the children because the parents were sick. And it will happen. You will find yourself as either the caregiver or the person needing care.

As you prepare for life in the military, knowing it means moving away from family, you frequently ask yourself how you are going to cope in a variety of situations without your mom nearby. It’s scary, especially if it is your first move away from home.

As I did when we went on active duty, if you have children, you mourn the loss of weekends away while grandparents watch the kids. You also mourn the loss of family Sunday dinners, birthday parties, and holiday celebrations. It’s hard because you are leaving all the familiar comforts and going into the unknown once again. We actually moved two hours away from family before coming on active duty, so I experienced a few of those feelings before the big move out of state.

Be prepared for traveling during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to celebrate with each side of your family. We never had less than three Christmas celebrations once we got married, and sometimes more. Once we moved away, it was worse because not only were we traveling and lugging all the presents with us, but we had to drive all over the Chicago suburbs from one house to another. Yep, I’m whining about the hardships of being with loved ones over the holidays.

Also, be prepared to visit family for the majority of vacations. Rarely will you go somewhere exotic for a vacation. I remember one summer when we were traveling to the Chicago suburbs, one of the girls said, “We always say we are going to Chicago, can we actually go into Chicago?” Good point. We gave them a day in the city to do whatever they wanted to do. The family was invited but could not make any decisions on what we would see or do. Our nuclear family also discovered a place called Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia, and we made sure we spent some time there every year as our own little getaway.

And family visited us frequently as well. We knew who really wanted to see us and who simply used us to stop en route to other places. For instance, when we lived in Georgia and Alabama, we were the stop on the way to Florida. But when we lived in Minot, North Dakota, we knew they were coming to see us.

Family is important to our life in the military. I think I grew closer to my mom once we moved away. I was more intentional about calling her because I knew I wouldn’t see her for a long while. Plans needed to be made, and schedules coordinated. And money was also a factor since we were traveling further. But you manage to make it all work.

Next time I will shed light on the parents’ perspective on all this.

Until then,

Vicki

What was the worst part of moving away from home for you? Comment in the section below.

And don’t forget to sign-up for my e-mail list and subscribe to this blog.