Let’s face it – a deployment over the holidays isn’t ideal. What’s worse? Gifting items your favorite service member cannot use for the foreseeable future. Whether it’s your spouse or your BFF, here are 10 gifts deployed military personnel actually have on their list this year and can use on deployment:
Hydro Flask Coffee Tumbler with Flex Sip Lid – Whether your soldier is on-the-move or in their room, this tumbler was built for keeping coffee hot for up to six hours using TempShield technology. A range of colors ensures a flask for every preference!
ALTRA Footwear – Built for maximum stability across any type of terrain, Altra creates running and trail shoes that allow toes to relax and spread naturally while moving. Consistently rated in the top ten for running specialty shoes, Altra is best known for “Zero Drop,” meaning consistent height between heel and toe bed.
PHOOZY Apollo Antimicrobial Phone Case – Using patented materials and NASA technology, this phone case prevents the dreaded “temperature warning” for phones and protects from other elements without disrupting wifi or Bluetooth capabilities. And, the antimicrobial lining ensures all inserted devices keep bacteria away. Perfect for a global pandemic.
UST Microfiber Towel – Skip the bulky towel! This microfiber towel features soft material that wicks away water and packs into a compact zipper pouch. Lightweight in nature, it can be a soldier’s best friend following a shower or gym session.
OluKai slippers for men and women – Make them feel like they’re at home, without actually being at home with these durable slippers. Built with OluKau’s trademark drop-in heel, they are easy to slip on and go.
Gear Snake – Forget zip ties that are useless after one use – this cut-to-length wire helps keep gear or equipment together without knots to tie or hooks to clip. The cord doesn’t rust, slip or stretch and features a foam rubber coating.
Hillsound BTR Stool – BTR stands for Better Than a Rock…and we agree. This compact tripod stool that can be used on deployment and at home (think camping or backpacking) folds into a 14-inch aluminum pole for easy stowing.
Portable All-In-One Coffee Maker – Compact and lightweight, this all-in-one pour over coffee maker means hot coffee anytime, anywhere. Featuring a fully adjustable grinder, pouring kettle, stainless filter dripper, insulated tumbler and lid, users just need to add beans for a perfect, 16-ounce ‘cup of Joe’ every single time.
Duke Cannon Cold Shower Cooling Towels – No shower? No problem. These cooling towels, infused with menthol, aloe and jojoba to provide a chilling blast as they cleanse and protect, are individually wrapped and work as the ideal pick-me-up. Inspired by soldiers, a portion of proceeds from Duke Cannon products directly benefit Honor Flight Network, Military Working Dog Team Support Association, K9S For Warriors and Folds Of Honor.
Extra Strength Tiger Balm – Muscle soreness doesn’t stand a chance with extra-strength pain relieving balm. Made with natural herbal ingredients, this tried-and-true ointment can be used by deployed service members to relieve cramps, muscle soreness, and joint pain.
Still not sure any of these are the perfect fit? A gift card is always the right size. Amazon, Audible, Green Beans Coffee and iTunes are a great place to start.
With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?
I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.
I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.
We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.
In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.
I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.
I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.
The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).
I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?
These are memes. They’re about POGs. It’s not that complicated.
If you need a primer: POGs are “persons other than grunts,” meaning anyone but infantry. POGs do all sorts of crucial jobs, like scouting, setting up communications, maintaining vehicles and aircraft, logistics, providing medical attention, etc. In this context, “etc.” means pretty much anything besides shooting rounds at the enemy.
But they’re also super annoying, constantly comparing themselves to infantry and saying things like, “we’re all infantry.”
Here are 13 memes that will prime you on the controversy:
Lets be honest: Supply almost never makes bullets fly. They make them ride on trucks and float on boats. It’s the infantry that makes them fly at muzzle velocity out of their weapons and into the enemy’s brain case. For all of you fellows who have, “bullets don’t fly without supply” tattoos, sorry.
I mean, yeah, sure, POGs do some of the fighting. But the infantry exists to fight the enemy — and they do it. A lot. For some of them, “a lot” means multiple times per day.
POGs, well, POGs fight less.
Of course, infantry wants respect simply for not being POGs, which isn’t so much an accomplishment as it is a lack thereof.
Haha, but really, some POGs are babies.
Most POG thing a POG can say is that they’re “almost infantry.” Oh, all you lack is infantry basic and school, huh? So, you’re as “almost infantry” as an average high schooler. Congratulations.
See, even the president says you’re an idiot.
But enjoy those fat stacks of cash from bonuses and equal pay while the infantry enjoys their special blue ropes and “03” occupation codes. You can dry your tears with your pleasant sheets and woobies in a real bed while they hurl insults from the dust-covered cots of an outpost.
And uh, news flash, the big technological skills that make the U.S. so lethal, everything from aerial reconnaissance to awesome rocket artillery to selectively jamming communications lines, are the skills of the POGs. I mean, sure, the infantry brings some advanced missiles to the fight, but they’re counting on supply to get the missiles to them and intel to let them know where to hunt.
And besides, POGs get to face danger from time to time. There’s all those menacing strangers they have to confront on CQ duty. And, uh, convoys.
And, deep down, the infantry knows they need you. They just also want to mock you. That’s not evil, it’s just light ribbing.
And they kind of need to rib you, because you keep saying stupid stuff like this.
Seriously, embracing the POG-life is the best thing you can do to stop being such a POG. You signed your contract, you’re serving your country, just get over the job title.
And for god’s sake, stop doing stuff like this. No wonder the infantry makes fun of us.
Logan Nye was an Airborne POG on active duty for five years. He lives with two dogs and has never said that he’s “basically infantry,” because, seriously, he only got to shoot his rifle two times a year. Can you really do that and claim that “You’re a rifleman, too!?” No. You can’t, fellow POG.
Military family members have whispered for decades about Intimate Partner Violence in our community. We’ve heard stories about friends and neighbors. We’ve been confidants for friends who needed help. Some of us have been in an abusive relationship ourselves.
“It’s really common. We’ve had multiple cases of domestic violence just in our neighborhood this year,” said the spouse of an Air Force active duty member.
According to the latest survey data release from the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), 81% of military community survey respondents are aware of intimate partner violence in their neighborhoods and social circles, and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to quarantine together.
Intimate Partner Violence is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as …abuse or aggression that occurs in a close relationship. According to the CDC, an intimate partner can be a current and former spouse or dating partner, and Intimate Partner Violence includes four types of behavior: physical violence; sexual violence; stalking; and psychological aggression. This is the first year MFAN’s support programming survey, presented by Cerner Government Services, has explored the issue
The data is even more disturbing against the backdrop of the pandemic. Since the nation began quarantining to limit the spread of COVID-19, mental health experts nationwide have sounded the alarm that quarantining forces abused people to spend even more time with their abusers.
“Reporting the abuse jeopardizes the service member’s career, therefore jeopardizing the woman and her family’s livelihood. A difficult choice to make: report abuse knowing your husband will lose his job or suffer to keep food on the table? There is no easy solution. That is awful,” the spouse of a Navy active duty service member said.
Among other findings, MFAN’s data showed that those who sought assistance were more likely to:
Range in rank from E4 to E6, if they were active duty family members
Carry more debt
Be concerned with their own or a family member’s alcohol use
Rate as more lonely on the UCLA Loneliness scale
Have considered suicide in the past two years
“For years now, we have heard anecdotes from our Advisors and others in the community about Intimate Partner Violence,” said MFAN’s Executive Director Shannon Razsadin. “We felt it was critical that we collect data on this issue, so that leaders and policy makers will be able to make decisions that honor and protect the health and safety of everyone in the community.”
MFAN recommends that policy makers look for ways to increase communication with military and veteran families about online and virtual resources available; encourage connections with others, especially virtually, as isolation is a tactic of abusers; and reduce barriers for military spouses to seek financial or health care benefits if they or their children are experiencing abuse.
“I’m not by any means a violent person, but I have wanted to strike [my wife] after I came back from tours because I was so angry at the world,” a National Guard and Reserve member said. “I never did, but it was really disturbing how much I wanted to. That’s what made me start counseling.”
The latest survey of active-duty and reserve-component service members’ spouses shows the spouses are, by and large, happy with the military lifestyles they lead.
Defense Department officials briefed reporters at the Pentagon Feb. 21, 2019, on the results of the surveys, which were conducted in 2017.
The survey of active-duty spouses and a similar survey of National Guard and Reserve spouses showed similar results, they said. Among active-duty spouses, 60 percent claimed they are “satisfied” with their military way of life. Among the reserve components, 61 percent were satisfied.
While both surveys showed a slight decrease from the last previous survey, conducted in 2015, the 2015 and 2017 results both were higher than results from the same question on the 2008 survey, officials noted.
James N. Stewart, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told reporters the surveys cover areas including satisfaction with military life, spouse employment, deployment and reintegration. Questions also touch on issues such as finances and the impact of deployments on families and military children.
A soldier from the Florida Army National Guard’s 806th Military Police Company greets his family.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)
Survey results inform decisions
Results are used to inform decisions about how the U.S. military provides services to families, he said.
“These surveys allow us to identify areas of concern and understand what’s working, and more importantly, what’s not,” Stewart said. “This information also helps our internal leaders evaluate programs, address issues and gaps, and determine the need for new services.”
Paul Rosenfeld, the director for DOD’s Center for Retention and Readiness, said positive results of the surveys included general spouse support for military members continuing to serve. Among reserve component spouses, for instance, 81 percent support continued service for their spouse.
Regarding financial matters, 71 percent of active-duty spouses report being comfortable with their financial situation, while 68 percent of reserve-component spouses say the same thing.
Of concern, Rosenfeld said, is that among active-duty spouses, 61 percent support continued military service for their spouse — that’s a drop from 68 percent in 2012. “Spouse support for service members staying on duty predicts actual member retention,” Rosenfeld said.
Other points of concern revealed by the surveys are high levels of “loneliness” reported by spouses when military members are deployed and unemployment rates for active-duty military spouses. Among active-duty spouses, Rosenfeld said, unemployment sits at 24 percent. Among the spouses of junior enlisted members in the E-1 through E-4 pay grades, he said, that number sits at 29 percent.
It’s all about the kids
When it comes to military spouses, Rosenfeld said, family is most important, and children top the list.
“Child care continues to be a key need for active-duty families,” he said, adding that 42 percent of active-duty spouses with children under age 6 report regularly using child care. It’s 63 percent for spouses who are employed.
Carolyn S. Stevens, director of DOD’s Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, said some 40 percent of military members have children. Of those children, she said, about 38 percent are under the age of 6.
Past survey results showed that availability of child care — in particular, hours of operation — had been an issue for military families, Stevens said. Where hours of operation for child care may have affected service members’ ability to do their mission, hours were expanded, she added.
Subsequent survey results show that now, among those who don’t make use of child care on installations, only 2 percent say it’s due to hours of operation, she said.
Sinead Politz kisses her daughter, Lorelai, at the return of Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Politz.
“We believe, then, that those responses are a confirmation that we’ve listened to a concern, that we’ve responded to that concern, and that in fact we’ve hit the mark,” she said.
Also of concern when it comes to child care is cost and availability. About 45 percent of respondents on the survey say cost of child care is a problem for military families, Stevens said. She noted that in some situations, appropriated funds can be used to lower the cost of child care for families who use installation child care. And for some families, she said, fee assistance programs can be used to lower costs for those who use community-based child care.
Still, Stevens acknowledged, that’s not possible for every family who needs it, and more work needs to be done. “We are unable to provide fee assistance to all of our families, and we continue to see this as an issue that requires more attention and focus as we try to find solutions for families,” she said.
Next survey: 2019
For the 2017 survey, about 45,000 active-duty spouses were asked to participate, and about 17 percent of those responded. Among reserve-component spouses, 55,000 were invited to participate, with a response rate of 18 percent.
Invitations to participate in the 2019 survey went out to reserve component spouses in January 2019. An invitation will be sent to active-duty spouses in May 2019.
A.T. Johnston, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said the results from the 2017 survey, and the now ongoing 2019 survey, will continue to be used to improve quality of life for military families.
“The research information we receive guides me and my team to ensure we provide the tools, information and services that military families need to be successful, fulfilled, and able to manage the challenges they may encounter during military service,” Johnston said.
Following the rulebook isn’t always a necessity. Well, that’s how the Marine Corps infantry feels about doctrine, anyway. Sure, there are hundreds of people who put their great minds together to come up with standard procedures for everything relating to warfare, but even still, us grunts take those “procedures” as suggestions. Why? Simple. We recognize that what may work for one unit doesn’t work for everyone.
This is the case with the fire team billet of “automatic rifleman.” The position is supposed to be held by the team leader’s second in command, usually a trusted advisor who can help run the team. But, over the years, Marines thought of a better person to hold the billet: boots. New guys. The FNGs. While some higher-ups might see this as hazing, the down-and-dirty, crayon-eating grunts disagree.
We argue that being an automatic rifleman teaches you these valuable lessons:
Accuracy is key. Pay attention and you might even score higher on the next qualification range.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)
Some battalions have what’s called a “Squad-Level Advanced Marksmanship Course,” which is a fancy, Marine Corps way of saying, “automatic rifleman course.” That’s essentially what it is. But the focus is, as the name suggests, on marksmanship. Why? Because to be a good automatic rifleman, you must first be a good rifleman.
Learning how to engage accurately with an automatic weapon also teaches you how to be a substantially more effective rifleman. After all, you’re firing a high volume of bullets and, the more accurate you are, the more devastating to the enemy you are.
You’ll want to let the rounds fly, but each one is important. Always be mindful of that.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders)
It’s no secret that you get a lot of ammo as an automatic rifleman — around 18-22 magazines, to be exact, most of which you’ll be responsible for lugging around. But while learning about accuracy, you might also learn about conserving ammo.
The idea is this: You need to have enough ammo at the end of the fight to move on to the next fight. Especially if you’re the automatic rifleman, your fire team needs you.
This lesson of control can even help you as a leader, telling your automatic rifleman what you want them to do.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)
Quickly, you’ll learn that an automatic rifleman shouldn’t just unleash a barrage of bullets. You’ll learn when it’s appropriate to fire on full auto and when it’s appropriate to fire in 5-6 round bursts into large groups of enemies. This is important because, as you move up in rank and experience, you’ll be able to teach the next automatic rifleman about control.
This same control will help you with ammo conservation. More importantly, all these lessons will follow you into other fire team positions. In fact, if you become a squad leader, knowing how to use your automatic riflemen will be easier if you’ve been one.
Imagine putting your life into the paws of a Labrador retriever or German shepherd. Would you feel safe?
For many Marines this becomes their reality when deployed to a combat zone. German shepherds and Labrador retrievers are specially trained for drug detection, suspect apprehension and explosive detection.
“Before Don was assigned to me, I noticed that his detection was impeccable,” stated Devaney. “When I heard that Don was being assigned to me, I couldn’t have been happier.”
Don’s training started when he was just 6 months old at Lackland Air Force base in Bexar, Texas. He then finally made his way to Camp Pendleton at the age of 2 and was assigned to another Marine prior to being assigned to Devaney.
U. S. Marine Corps Cpl. Zachary Devaney, a military working dog handler with the Provost Marshal’s Office, Security and Emergency Services Battalion, pets military working dog, Don, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 17, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kerstin Roberts)
“You could see the adjusting from Don’s prior handler to me,” said Devaney. “There were adjustments that needed to be made on both of our parts. Knowing that we both had the same goal to protect the base and the people that reside on the base, we needed to create this bond between us.”
It is the handlers’ job to ensure that they are both ready at any time to deploy. Trust and understanding between the handler and the dog keeps the team and everyone around them safe.
“It was a lot of extra time on my part. Coming to the kennels on my off days or staying after work and just spending the time with him. Getting to know all of his quirks and understanding all of the pieces that make up his personality,” said Devaney. “Through this one on one time, Don learned my limitations too. Together we learned how to successfully achieve the mission.”
U. S. Marine Corps Cpl. Zachary Devaney, a military working dog handler with the Provost Marshal’s Office, Security and Emergency Services Battalion, commands military working dog, Don, to heel for a photo at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 17, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kerstin Roberts)
The first couple of months after a handler is assigned to a dog it is crucial to their training. A handler is expected to spend roughly fifty hours a week with their dog developing a relationship. Beginning as a pup, the dogs are trained to listen to their handlers. The dog needs to trust and know the individual before they begin to listen to the commands given to them. Without the strong connection between the two, there is a hesitation on completing the mission.
“Don, he is kind of a weirdo. He has a lot of quirks and it took me some time to learn all of them,” stated Devaney. “One of Don’s favorite things to do is chew on my boots when we’re spending time together. He is everything to me now and he is the drive that gets me out of bed in the morning.”
Having military working dogs on Camp Pendleton is a force multiplier. Military working dogs protect Pendleton during building searches, suspect apprehension, active shooters, threat identification and alarm activation calls.
“For the Marine Corps, I believe that dogs are invaluable. They are so applicable in different situations,” said Devaney. “For our forward deployed Marines, they are out there searching for IED’s, tracking and looking for high value targets. When you pair a good dog and a good handler together, they’re unstoppable.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Victor Medina has an actual video of the moment that changed his life forever. One day, his unit in Iraq was forced to take a detour around its planned patrol route. It was June 29, 2009, and Sgt. 1st Class Medina was the convoy commander that day. After winding through alleyways and small villages around Nasiriyah, his convoy came to a long stretch of open road. That’s when an explosive foreign projectile struck the side of his Humvee.
He was evacuated from the scene and diagnosed with moderate traumatic brain injury, along with the other physical injuries he sustained in the attack. It took him three years of rehabilitation, and his wife Roxana became a caregiver – a role that is only now receiving the attention it deserves.
The footage of the attack in the first 30 seconds of the above video is the moment Sgt. 1st Class Medina was hit by the EFP, a rocket-propelled grenade. There just happened to be a camera rolling on his Humvee in that moment. The TBI that hit Medina affected his balance, his speech, and his ability to walk, among other things.
“It’s referred to as an invisible wound,” Victor says, referring to his traumatic brain injury. “In my case, you can’t see it, but I feel it every day.”
Since 2000, the Department of Defense estimates more than 383,000 service members have suffered from some form of traumatic brain injury. These injuries range in severity from ones caused by day-to-day training activities to more severe injuries like the one suffered by Sgt. 1st Class Medina. An overwhelming number of those come from Army personnel. Of the 225,144 traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers, most are mild. But even a moderate injury like Victor’s can require a caregiver for the veteran.
This video is part of a series created by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, highlighting veteran caregivers and the vets they care for. AARP wants to let families of wounded veterans know there are resources and support available through AARP’s Military Caregiving Guide, an incredible work designed to start your family off on the right foot. Some of you reading may not even realize you’re a veteran’s caregiver. Like Victor Medina’s wife Roxana, you may think you’re just doing your part, taking care of a sick loved one.
But like Roxana Delgado, the constant care and support for a veteran suffering from a debilitating injury while caring for the rest of a household, supporting the household through work and school, and potentially caring for children, can cause a caregiver to burn out before they even recognize it’s happening. It took Roxana eight months to realize she was Victor’s full-time caregiver – on top of everything else she does. It began to wear on her emotionally and strain their relationship.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Roxana Delgado and Victor Medina before his deployment to Iraq in 2009.
With AARP’s Prepare to Care guide, veteran caregivers don’t have to figure out their new lives on their own. The guide has vital checklists, charts, a database of federal resources, including the VA’s Caregiver Program. The rest is up to the caregiver. Roxana Delgado challenged her husband at every turn, and he soon rose to the challenge. He wanted to get his wife’s love back.
Before long, Victor was able to clean the house, make coffee in the morning, and generally alleviate some of the burdens of running their home. After 10 years in recovery, Victor Medina has achieved a remarkable level of independence, and together they started the TBI Warrior Foundation to help others with traumatic brain injuries. Roxana is now a health scientist and an Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow. AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation are teaming up to tell these deeply personal stories of caregivers like Roxana because veteran caregivers need support and need to know they aren’t alone.
Last week, I read an article on this site called, “America, Where Are You Going?” in which the author (anonymous) bemoaned recent social and political activism of his or her fellow military spouses.
I read all the way to the second page, where one line jumped out above all the rest: “However, that mutual understanding and respect that our spouses should never be publicly political seem to have fallen to the side for a few…” (emphasis added).
Dear Anonymous, I could not disagree with this sentiment more. Here is my rebuttal.
For over twenty years, I’ve served my country by making sure that my spouse’s home and family are taken care of. I make lunches and brush hair and comfort babies when they haven’t seen their daddy in too long. I make sure that if he is called to deploy, he can leave our family knowing that we are taken care of and focus on the job in front of him. I love my country. My work isn’t a sacrifice so much as it is an act of patriotism and pride.
At the same time, it is out of a deep and abiding love for my country that I recognize her flaws and errors. It is also my duty to speak up and call for change.
In 1830 the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, and my ancestors were robbed of their homeland in Mississippi. Choctaw Nation would start the trek west to Oklahoma where they would be confined to a reservation in a wholly new environment. My ancestors survived, though many others didn’t.
This story was told to me as a child. I could hear the pain in my grandmother’s voice as she retold the story her grandma told her. The early 1800s was one of many dark chapters in American history. But my Nation grew strong and built a future in Oklahoma.
Ever since then, I have been firmly grounded in the understanding that my country has deep flaws that we should all mourn. We also have the promise of freedom and the opportunity to grow that is lacking in so many places around the world. My American story goes back far beyond the first European settlers, then later was enriched by Italian and Welsh ancestors. I am rooted in this country in deep ways. This makes me both confident in the future that is possible and aware of the blemishes within.
Part of my duty as a patriot, as a military spouse, and as an American is to speak out against actions that harm our citizens and dishonor our history. Of course we can be publicly political! We’re stakeholders in this great American experiment, aren’t we? That means we get a say in how our country’s run. In fact, as military spouses who have lived in all different kinds of places, we have unique insights on how different systems work. Our perspective is tremendously valuable to the political process.
Those who suggest that spouses should never be political are likely the spouses who benefit most from the way things are now. I do not have that luxury. My Nation does not have that luxury. For us, our existence is political. If we do not speak up, we risk being erased entirely.
At the very end of the article, the author wrote: “The military is not just one entity, it is a family made up of individuals, all with different outlooks on life, political affiliations, religions, every race, and every culture imaginable.”
On this we can agree. Military spouses are no more of a monolith than any other demographic in America. I have military spouse friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Transgender, socialists, and conservatives. All of us come into this military life with passions and beliefs, some that change and some that grow stronger. The shared experience of serving together bonds us across those differences with a strength that is rarely seen in civilian circles.
So of course: I no more speak for all military spouses than they speak for me. (I’ll add that in the original New York Times article I’m pretty sure this author referred to, that was made abundantly clear.) However, it does not mean that we do not speak at all. On the contrary, we cannot and must not remain quiet when we see injustices. We can and must stand up and say enough.
If you’re interested in political activism like me and what to know where to start, I recommend checking out the Secure Families Initiative. They host nonpartisan webinar trainings on how to be the best advocate you can be, whether that’s lobbying your elected officials or simply telling your story. It’s a super cool community of kickass military spouses!
My voice is important, my voice is unique, and my voice is mine. I am not speaking for my spouse or anyone else, but I am speaking for what I believe is best for my family, national security, and my country.
The gin and tonic is a perennial favorite for a reason. It’s easy to make, easy to drink, and genuinely refreshing, especially on a sweaty summer day. Like most of the world, we love the the classic highball cocktail. Hell, just hearing the word gin, makes us immediately think ‘tonic’. But that reflexive snap of the synapses is something we are trying to correct because a good gin is a wonderfully versatile spirit — great for sipping or crafting a variety of excellent mixed drinks. This is especially true in summer, when the floral notes pair well with the season. So, if you’re tired of the standard G+T, here are six gin cocktails — and the best types of gin to use in them.
1. The Negroni
The Negroni celebrated its 100th birthday this year and we are raising our glass to 100 more years for this venerable cocktail. It’s a serious drink, refreshing, yet bitter and perfect as an aperitif. We like ours with Beefeater thanks to its balanced citrus and juniper notes.
1oz Sweet Vermouth
Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with one large cube of ice and garnish with an orange peel.
The French 75 is a wonderfully refreshing, easy to make cocktail. The pairing of gin and Champagne adds a sparkle to any brunch or a pop to an evening soirée. Plymouth Gin is a staple on our bar and it works well in the 75 thanks to complimentary citrus notes and a spice that plays off the the drink’s sweetness.
3/4oz Lemon Juice
3/4oz Simple Syrup
Add gin, lemon juice and simple syrup to an ice filled shaker. Shake until ice cold and pour into a champagne glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon peel.
Nearly as easy to make as a gin and tonic, the Rickey is a gin highball with a more fun name. Clean and crisp, Tanqueray’s herbal and spicy bouquet is made even more aromatic by the bubbles from the soda.
2oz London Dry Gin
3/4oz Lime juice
Fill a highball with ice, add gin, lime juice and top with soda. Garnish with a lime wheel. For those who like a touch of sweetness, add a dash of simple syrup.
(Flickr photo by Tim Sackton)
4. The Last Word
This once and future crowd-pleaser was prohibition era drink resurrected in the early 2000s. Now on menus at cocktail bars around the country, it’s an easy drink to make at home. While it’s ratio is 1:1:1:1, the gin in the recipe is the star of the show and that’s why we like to use The Botanist, a robust floral Scottish variety that boasts a nice pop of juniper.
1oz Green Chartreuse
1oz Maraschino Liqueur
1oz Fresh Lime Juice
Shake all ingredients with ice until chilled. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a lime twist and/or a maraschino cherry.
A delicious summer cocktail, the basil gin smash is so easy to drink it can be a little dangerous. It’s also simple to make. Hendrick’s Gin is our go-to when whipping one (or a pitcher) up, as the gin’s cucumber notes play beautifully with the basil.
1oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 – 3/4 oz Simple Syrup
Muddle six to 10 basil leaves with lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker. Add ice and gin then shake until chilled. Strain into a larger rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a sprig of basil
(Flickr photo by Alan Levine)
6. The Vesper Martini
We can thank James Bond or at least Ian Fleming for this excellent riff on the traditional martini. It’s definitely booze-forward, so we don’t recommend having more than one unless you’re 007 and your liver isn’t real. The original recipe calls for Gordon’s gin and who are we to argue?
1/2oz Lillet Blanc
Shake all ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garish with a lemon twist.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
I held on to my son until it was time for him to go. My heart felt empty as he walked through the departure gates on his way to Army Basic Combat Training (BCT.)
Although I was happy for him as he left to live his lifelong dream of serving our great nation, I felt lost with an emptiness that filled my heart. Despite the tears that streamed down my face, I was proud to see my son started his journey with strength and determination.
It’s far from easy to watch as your child embarks on a journey aimed at transforming them from civilian to soldier; where you won’t hear from them and don’t know what they’re doing.
As your child goes on this journey, you go on a journey too.
You may not have planned for this or even wanted it, and yet here you are, transitioning to becoming the parent of a soldier.
Parenting changes in unexpected ways when your child joins the army. Instead of feeling stranded in a place of sadness, let your child’s hard work, dedication, and patriotism, inspire you to be your best. Here are some ways that parenting changes when your child joins the army.
Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart/Released
1. You’re no longer in control.
Parenting never stops, but when your child joins the army a new set of challenges emerges. After spending 18+ years preparing them for life and protecting them, a parental shift happens.
One day they’re home with you, the next day they’re thousands of miles away with little communication.
The casual calls, endless chore reminders, and days spent together are sweet memories of another season of life.
Take a step back and realize how your role is different now. Instead of taking the wheel for them, your role may be to just be there for them, to support their decision to join the Army or to help keep them moving forward.
You may not hear from your Soldier as often as you like but that’s part of your new normal.
Instead of resisting it, lean into it. It can be truly wonderful if you let it. Just think: you raised a child with the passion, courage, and grit to do one of the most important jobs in our nation. Make sure your child knows that you have confidence in them as a soldier and defender of freedom.
Transition takes great effort and doesn’t happen overnight. Know how you are changing as a parent. Put your feelings to paper where you can look back in a few months or a year and see how far you’ve come on this incredible military parenting journey.
Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret
2. You learn resilience.
Awful thoughts will undoubtedly run rampant through your mind. At some point, your Soldier will transition from BCT to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) or may deploy somewhere in the world.
I wasn’t as excited as my son when he deployed; he thought of it all as a big adventure while I cringed at the thought of him flying high in his helicopter over the Afghanistan Mountains.
Holding on to his enthusiasm through my range of emotions, and looking at this as an adventure was my first step to building resilience.
Embracing change and learning to adapt as a parent of a Soldier is one way to build resilience and manage your emotions. Resilience gives you the ability to cope with stressful situations (there will be some) and carry on with your life. You can’t change the fact that your child is now a Soldier, one of the few who chose to defend our country. Nor can you change where they go next. But you can learn resilience, become more confident in your ability to deal with tough emotions, and find joy in your journey.
Photo courtesy of 2nd Cavalry Regiment
3. You find new ways to enjoy the holidays.
Christmas brings with it sweet memories, family gatherings, and lots of food. It’s always a happy occasion, except for that first year my son joined the Army. He would be celebrating at his first duty station in Germany, while we all missed him terribly at home.
In subsequent years, we found new ways to celebrate. We’ve had Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas tree, gifts, and holiday decorations in the middle of November or birthdays celebrated a month before or after the event.
Don’t forget technology, which creates new ways to enjoy your Soldier. You can engage with your loved one, whether it’s a text message, phone call, or video and open up communications in a positive way.
Is it the day that is more important or the gathering of loved ones to celebrate events? Learning to enjoy celebrations on days other than the event is a unique way to celebrate. After all, any time you can gather with your Soldier is time for celebration!
4. Oh, the places you’ll go.
That first 9 weeks of basic training seemed like forever. With over 2,000 miles between us, how would I ever see my son? As the years passed, the miles expanded as his duty stations took him to Germany, South Korea, and far-flung states.
Let the adventure begin! With passport in hand, I visited my Soldier son in every country and state he lived in. We traveled through Europe and had a grand time experiencing new places and cultures.
Keep an open mind about the places you can visit and explore with your Soldier. The best part is your child can be your tour guide as you trek off together with enthusiasm and curiosity, creating new grown-up memories.
Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart
5. You see your child in a different light.
When my son left for basic training, I clung to our past relationship where I was the mom and protector. Clearly that wasn’t going to work.
As time progressed, it dawned on me one day that my son is a Soldier. He spoke to me about his passion for defending our freedoms and how much it meant to him. As I slowly began to understand him as a grown man and Soldier, I began to see, appreciate, and respect this side of him.
You may not realize it but your Army Soldier is a skilled and highly-trained warrior, ready to defend our nation on a moment’s notice. That’s a lot to take in but it’s true.
No matter how much you want your child to be five years old again, they’re not. They left their childhood behind and went out into the world armed with all the loving ingredients you instilled in them. When you look at them as grown-up, you give way for a new relationship to blossom—one that includes the sweet memories of yesteryear and new adventures of today.
Throughout a successful 15-year Army career, my son’s story isn’t finished and neither is mine. Every “see ya later” hug at an airport is another building block towards mental toughness and staying ready for the changes ahead (and there will be many.)
When your child joins the Army, your parent-child relationship adapts and grows as both your lives change over the years. I wouldn’t change a thing about being the mom of my Soldier son. From the people I’ve met, to the things I’ve learned, and the places I’ve been, this army mom life has been amazing.
You control your journey or your journey controls you. Enjoy the adventure!
Veterans seldom live a life of regrets. We live well and we’ve made Uncle Sam proud. One of the few things that makes us wish we could do things differently, however, is a lack of photos from while we were still in.
This can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe operations security prevented us from taking that awesome photo to use as our profile pic on Facebook. Or maybe we just didn’t have a camera handy to show our family exactly how we lived. Maybe we just didn’t like taking photos, but now we want the proof to back up our humble-brags.
Whatever the reason, those of us who are out still hold dear the handful of photos we took. If you’re still in, don’t make the same mistakes. Snap a few photos of these moments — if permitted, of course.
It’d be in poor form to laugh at a photo of some random troop during their most cringe-worthy “tacticool” moment… So, instead, I’ll upload my own for the world to mock. Enjoy a picture of my first day in-country.
(Photo of yours truly)
The boot AF photo
You don’t want to be pinned as the most boot guy in the unit because you borrowed two of your buddies’ M240-Bs just to take a picture of you rocking one in each arm. Everyone in the unit will call you a dumb*ss boot, but that same photo’s going to turn a lot of heads from civilians who don’t know any better.
The more outrageous the better. Who knows? Maybe the photo will help back up your “no sh*t, there I was” story that is 100%, totally not embellished.
Back in the day, this was comfy!
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Heidi Agostini)
Relaxing in the living conditions photo
Those who haven’t served will never really understand what you mean when you say that, for a while there, the only pillow you had to rest your head on at night was a pile of rocks under the Humvee. Nor can they really grasp that the only place you could handle your business was in porta-john/sauna for the duration of your deployment.
These photos will definitely come in handy when you’re trying to shoot down your civilian coworker that brags about how “hard” it was when they went camping for the weekend.
If your chain of command has an issue with it, just be sneaky.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
Depending on your unit, taking photos while you’re outside the wire is either a slap on the wrist or a UCMJ-worthy offense. If you’re smart about it, however, you can still manage to grab a photo of you doing what you tell everyone you did.
Because you run the risk of getting NJPed over a single photo, it’s not recommended that you take it when you’re in the heat of things. That’s stupid — get back to the fight. But a quick photo of you while you’re patrolling through a bazaar shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Especially when it you can point out the accompanying challenge coin that goes with the event.
(Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason A. Boyd)
You don’t need a photo of that random award ceremony where you almost passed out because you forgot that locking your knees was a bad thing, but you might want to look back on a photo of you being promoted or receiving an award. Those are proud moments you can hang on your wall years.
Even if it’s a minor award or your promotion from E-1 private to E-2 private, it’s worth remembering.
“That little ol’ sticks and stones? It means I wasn’t a POG.”
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Paris Maxey)
Dress uniform photos
You can tell a lot about a troop’s career just by looking at their ribbon rack. If you know what each ribbon means or how they’re typically earned, you know everything about that person. There’s no better way to showcase your entire military career in one moment than the final moment you don your dress uniform.
The ribbons and medals themselves might not mean a whole lot, but the stories behind them do.
If you look extra careful, you can see me in the right-of-center.
(U.S. Army photo)
No one wants to get the squad together and take an obviously staged photo, but that picture will end up being, by far, the most valuable.
The sad reality is that some day, not everyone in the unit will be around to share stories. Having that one photo of you all together, happy, will mean the world to you later on.
If you’re still in and you’ve taken a few of these or if you’re out and you have a couple good ones, tell us! We’d love to see them.
A healthy and strong military marriage is at the top of many people’s priority list, but accomplishing this takes effort.
Typically, tasks that aide this goal are not included on our to-do list. We do not think we need to add, “Daily say I love you”, but maybe we should. Reaching big goals, such as a successful relationship, is about taking little steps to get there. So, along with your task of weight-lifting Wednesdays for your hot bod, consider adding the following to-dos for your relationship.
1. Go for a walk.
There are numerous benefits to walking, but the point here is spending intentional time together away from the distractions of home. Walking is an extremely easy and effective way to get out of a communication rut. Change the scenery and see how the extra oxygen to your brain fuels creative conversations.
This is not another list of tasks, but a fun way to dream together. Think big and dream crazy dreams. Have fun imagining what you can accomplish/see/experience together. (Just keep your dates flexible!!)
3. Arm wrestle.
This was my husband’s response to things we could do to strengthen our relationship. Anyone who compared our size would know how ridiculous this is, but I’ve added it to my list. I’m not saying determining who has the most arm strength will improve your relationship, but adding something your significant other is interested in (or something just plain funny) is a good start! Find your version of arm wrestling!
There is a common misconception that going to marriage counseling is only for those in trouble. It is not. If you owned a business, you would evaluate its performance; if you want to stay healthy you do a yearly physical; if you want your car to run well, you have a maintenance check. Marriage is no different. Taking time to talk with a counselor, a mentor couple, or a real friend who will encourage and help you to grow together is an important part of keeping your relationship strong.
5. Build your calendar together.
It is extremely easy to get into a habit of living two completely separate lives. Even if you digitally share your calendar, take at least 15 minutes each week to do a rundown of what is happening each day. Verbally reviewing each other’s calendar allows you to be connected with each other’s events even when you are apart. It also provides background knowledge to ask questions more specific than, “How was your day?”
Words matter, and at some point in our military marriages, they are all we have to stay connected.Find ways to talk highly about your significant other when he/she is not around. Make a specific reminder to write encouraging notes, send messages listing their strengths or rent a billboard to highlight their accomplishments (to include choosing you). Your words count for something, make them count for your relationship’s good.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.