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military life lessons: support structure

April 16, 2012
The military community is full of the most patriotic and supportive people you'll ever meet, right? Kind of. Not really. The military community is supportive and patriotic, but unfortunately, support comes in stages, kind of like a rank structure.

Yes, a support structure. I had no idea. Based on my experience (you might want to read that first) you'll never receive the support you're expecting. I've tried my best to keep my personal experiences out of the descriptions, but my experiences are what led me to write this and they snuck back in. As I type, this is my 7th draft. I really wanted it to be short and to the point, but it's different for everyone, so please take the time to read it and enjoy some pictures along the way to break up the text!

Friend of the Military 
you're chopped liver
Girlfriend of the Military
you don't mean anything to anyone aside from your boyfriend
Fiancé of the Military
you still don't mean anything
Wife
you are married to the military, but . . . 


FRIEND 
my view and experience was before Facebook and texting, when people actually had to call or write
As the friend of someone you won't receive emails or phone calls from their unit, you'll be lucky if their family passes on information to you. Which, in a time of war, you're the last person on their mind.  You won't watch the news, but when you catch a glimpse, you'll wonder if that's your friend, and then you won't sleep.
back in '03 we didn't have digital cameras, i don't know where the pics of us are so here is 2006
In the age of Facebook, email and texting being popular, you're probably in a better boat. Friends of the military have found things out before the families, that's where social media can suck. Can you imagine being the one calling your best friend's parents saying you're devastated that their son or daughter died AND THEY DIDN'T KNOW (well, the parents know first, but you know what I'm hinting to) My friend found out from Facebook that her boyfriend died... It's effed up. That's a topic for another day.

As a friend, you're probably one of the most supportive people in that person's life, but family comes first and as a friend you don't rate privileges to be on information distribution lists.

When I went through my first Iraq deployment in 2003, I was the friend. but I was a lucky friend. Jason called me and wrote me letters, I was glued to my phone. 2003 is when my phone became permanently attached to me and it has not left my side since. Back in 2003, I only knew a couple of people in the Marine Corps, I was still in high school. I didn't grow up in a military community so I had no idea what to expect, neither did my friends. My friends didn't understand why I was obsessed with checking the mail and never leaving my phone or putting it on vibrate. I had no idea what was going on in Iraq, where exactly Jason was and if/when he was going to call.

If you have a friend who is a friend of the military, be there for them. Don't make fun of them for checking every means of communication all the time. There's still a lot going down in the Middle East and there probably always will be. Most of the time it feels like everyone has forgotten that we have any conflict going on. Just because it's been over 10 years, doesn't mean that we aren't still worried about our troops that are deployed. It's more common these days to know someone who is in the military, but it shouldn't be common to forget about them or our sacrifices.

Please support the troops and their friends.

GIRLFRIEND
my view and experience was before Facebook and texting. Facebook came to be during the girlfriend stage, but was only available for college students and was not a mean of communication at that time. 
Girlfriends are not given the support they deserve, plain and simple. Girlfriends are seen as a non-permanet attachment to the Marine, not serious and uneducated. Of course girlfriends aren't educated in the military lifestyle- they are girlfriends, they just started this lifestyle!
I have no idea what it is like to live with or near a boyfriend in the military- the support is probably different in that case since they are always around. As a 4 year, long distance girlfriend, I think I saw it all. From Travis being in a non-deployable unit, to being stationed across the country (couldn't drive home whenever he wanted to see me) and our first deployment in a combat war zone.
As a non-deployable girlfriend life was great. I didn't really feel like I was living the military lifestyle because I never worried about my boyfriend having to leave. Sure, it was cool visiting him and meeting other Marines and seeing base, but it was basically a long distance relationship with a big chunk of pride and patriotism.

The long distance relationship continued from Michigan to California. I flew to California once a month to visit Travis (no complaints there!) I didn't really need the support system, he wasn't deploying anytime soon that I was aware of. We continued to be long distance, he focused on his career and I focused on finishing school.

Then the deployment phase came- this is where I realized that there was a type of support structure. I flew out to California in January 2007 as a girlfriend/fiancé (we had been engaged years before and were too young, we broke up for a while and got back together with the intent of getting married) so at this point, I know I'm going to be permanently in this lifestyle, but we hadn't made it official again so per my left finger, I was a girlfriend.
Anyways- I was in California for a pre-deployment get-together and blessing. At the small team picnic, there were wives with several children, one with a toddler and newborn and one couple with no kids. I was the only girlfriend- hello awkward. Who would've thought that in such a tigh-knit community, it would be so divided. So Travis and I were invited by the childless couple to play mini golf right next to the site- they were awesome and from then on I always referred to them as "the nice ones." (Shout out to Mike & Christine!) The one with the newborn and toddler were obviously preoccupied- Ava was less than a week old and Becca looked amazing. I'm sure I told Becca 10x that she didn't look like she was ever pregnant- lucky lady!

With Facebook not available to everyone at that time, I didn't go home with anyone's contact information or 'friend' them on Facebook. I went back to college and tried to ignore that Travis was deploying in March.
I'm on the left.
In March, I flew back to California to say 'see ya later' (goodbye means forever). We went to a blessing at Travis' team chief's church and then had a luncheon afterward. The blessing was really nice, but then his team chief gave a speech at the luncheon and I lost it. I knew Travis was going to war, but I had no idea what to expect. I hadn't heard anyone talk about it before, or specifically mention me or Travis. I had to go out to the car to pull myself together.
I wanted to upload the video, but there are too many names mentioned and I don't want to expose names or faces without permission. Key phrases from the video include:
- Ladies, we can't do it without you, you guys have had more sacrifices than anyone else in this room. A spouse for 25 years and Chelsea, I understand what you are doing for these men. It is my honor and privilege to lead these men and I promise you this team will come back with this honor and this integrity.
- You guys, this is the best, you guys are special, you are the best that the Marine Corps has to offer. These guys have worked hard
-I guarantee this team will come back with this honor.
- I ask that you guys pray for us while we are out there because we are going to need it (this is where I lost it, even watching it 5 years later). We are going into one of the worst spots in Iraq and this team was chosen for a reason.

navigate to Fiance stage

FIANCE 
Facebook and texting were around, but they were not a primary mean of communication. 
During the February visit to California, we got engaged. I figured since I was mentioned in the speech and was getting to know the wives a little bit more that I was 'in'. Actually, I had no idea there was a support structure until the end of this deployment.

Now I'm confused and I think there was no event in January, the blessing in February and the BBQ in March, because Ava was born in March.

The only communication about the deployment that I received was from Travis via bimonthly phone calls and letters that arrived weeks after being written and by the time I got them, they were outdated and information had changed.
kevlar and a skirt-that's how I roll
I didn't feel bad that I wasn't getting emails, letters or calls from his team and wives because I didn't know they existed.
4th of July, Iraq
Towards the end of the deployment, his team chief's wife emailed the team wives and me letting us know they would be home soon- it was as vague as that and I was so excited. I had no idea how she got my email (turns out she had it the whole time and Travis was told I was on the distribution list). One of the wives saw my name on the email list and reached out to me to see how I was doing. I told her how excited I was to hear from everyone and she was shocked that I had not heard from anyone the entire 7 months. She had not reached out to me because she was not the team chief's wife and figured I was already bombard with enough information.
I was so happy Becca reached out to me, we started talking via email and she forward me all of the emails she received about the team- it was awesome. Travis felt terrible when he found out I had been in the blind this entire time. I wasn't too mad because I had survived and didn't know what I was missing.

Well, now I'm rambling again and already deleted 3 paragraphs of this section. Long story short, I was only a fiancé, I wasn't permanently attached even though our wedding date was set and etc... I wasn't married to the Marine Corps.

As a fiance, you will not receive communication from the team. I hope that you will be lucky enough to find someone like me (not because I'm me, but because I make sure the wives and girlfriends have the information they deserve). I don't believe that the military member's rank or significant other's status matters when it comes to knowing how each other is doing. We are at war, people, bs aside, we need to support everyone!
Iraq Homecoming. October 2007
WIFE 
Facebook and texting were gaining popularity and are now the primary means of communication. Gone are the days of voice or face to face interaction and communication 


By this time, we had been through a combat deployment and had been long distance for 4 years. I was dreaming in Marine Corps acronyms and my email was bombarded, daily, with irrelevant emails from base and Travis' unit.

Enter deployment #2- deployment #1 as a wife. This is it, I'm a wife, I'm official, I'm IN. We didn't have kids though, so now we still don't fit in. We are the youngest ones on the team. Great, another FUN deployment, but this time I'm in California, surrounded by the military. I met the most amazing wives, ever. Julie, Becca and their husbands are amazing. They are still my friends and Travis will always be close to their husbands. During the 2009 deployment, we didn't see each other much- Becca was a stay at home mom with two children, I was working my ass off and Julie was having a difficult pregnancy- which I wish I would've been able to be there for her, but it seemed as if I was always working (in the office or at home). I received a lot of emails and information, but heard from my husband almost every day- he wasn't in Iraq. The deployment was 7 months, but it wasn't as stressful, I had a lot of communication- even though it was annoying, it was nice to have. I found out about things that happened on Travis' ship before he found out... HE WAS ON THE SHIP. haha. Anyways- it was a great deployment and we had the best team ever. 


Enter deployment #5, deployment #4 as a wife. Similar to the 2009 deployment, Travis was on a MEU. This time, he deployed when our first child, Brady, was 3 weeks and 1 day old (also our 8 year anniversary of being together).
deployment day
I had no idea what the hell I was going to do alone in California with a newborn- as usual, I survived! Deployment with a newborn is a post for another day. This deployment, even though I was working and had a newborn (I think I'm superwoman) I decided I would try to get involved with activities and get to know the wives. Never again.  I don't want to give a lot of details or complain via a public forum, but I wish I would never have gotten involved in team activities or the wives. Just like the stereotype you hear about- military wives suck. They are cliquy and rude. Oh, you're a working, college educated mother? Forget it, you won't have anything in common with anyone but me. I was shunned because I could not attend events in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. My bad, I was at work. No one cared that I was a mother of a newborn with no family on that side of the country,. I wasn't looking for sympathy, but I might have been looking for a friend or people to hang out with. A couple of the wives on the team had newborns and some had a few children- we all had something in common. apparently not. Don't expect to have any friends or get any support as a working mother, or even just as a working wife. I stuck to my work friends and I'm glad I did, I work with some amazing people. (shout out to Brennar, Lauren, Brielle, Latisha, Tina and Mike).
2008
On Mother's Day, there was a brunch for the moms of the team. One of the wives asked me if I was going and I emailed the guy who sends all of the emails and said I must've accidentally deleted the email. He told me I wasn't invited because I don't volunteer during the week and that I would be put on a wait list. I said take me off the wait list, I thought all mothers were invited to this brunch since it's a Mother's Day Brunch. I am a brand new mom and my husband is deployed. I don't deserve anything on my first mother's day because i've been on maternity leave with my newborn son?  Excuse the eff out of me. Please don't invite me to any future functions. Exit any support I ever thought I was going to have.
infant massage class 2011
So now what? I'm finally a wife, I even have a kid, but I work. I'll never be accepted, at least not on this team. I'll take my life over theirs any day and forgo the support. I had my husband and family's support and at the end of the day, that's all you need. You don't need fake support. You don't need to volunteer to be able to be invited to anything. Find something else to do, I did. I tried my best to get involved during this deployment because i always hear that military wives are a tight knit group and are really involved and love each other. Yeah, you must've been watching some bullshit TV show like me, because this doesn't really happen. Sure, the wives i referenced previously probably think they live this life, but they don't realize all of the people they are hurting and have hurt because they are stuck so far up each other's asses.

We were lucky that we moved across the country right after deployment. Not lucky that we had to move, but lucky that we didn't have to see those wives or their husbands for a very longtime, hopefully never again. Speaking of the husbands- they sucked too, Travis won't talk to any of them again either. We were blessed with an amazing first deployment and first team and will always compare our teams to that. One day, we hope to be on a team that can even try to compare to our 2007 team.

Summary
Support comes in all shapes and sizes and even wears a mask. Support your friends and your family. If you're a military wife, make sure the girlfriends and fiancés are in the know- they are the ones who need it the most. As a wife, you get too much information and drama. Help the ones who have no idea what is going on or what they are missing. Don't hide from the team and the wives during deployment, but be careful and don't get attached.

You might not have any idea what your friend, sister, daughter etc... is going through, but just be there for them. Ask how their significant other or friend is doing. Ask how they are doing. Sometimes you don't have to say anything, but let them feel that you are there for them.  Don't make fun of them for always checking their phone and email. Don't act like it's the end of the world when your husband goes out of town on business for a weekend- enjoy the break.

I'm not asking for a pity party at all, but I want others living the military lifestyle to know that they aren't alone,or that they might be some of the mean girls or... what to expect.

It's not all bad. After 9 years, I've learned to stay independent and stick with those I've always known and who will always be there for me. I've been fortunate that my husband and friends have all come home, but have acquaintances that have not come home alive and I pray their families and friends got the support they deserve- they need it the most.


we all need support 


Semper Fi 



4 comments:

  1. I was there too, hooch. Dam...
    Other than that...yeah, you're on point with it all. Lol. Well done.

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  2. I think some military wives think they are entitled to be doucheb*gs. My brother in law and my BFF are in the marines , I know what you mean about the support systems sucking. Sad but true.

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  3. Hi! Stopping by from MBC. Great blog!
    Have a nice day!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Im leaving you a blog award today, check it out!

    ReplyDelete