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
you are married to the military, but . . .
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|
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.
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.
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.
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.|
- 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
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|
|4th of July, Iraq|
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|
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).
|infant massage class 2011|
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.
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