5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

So, everyone thinks they want to retire, right?  And, eventually, we all have to, but there’s a bunch of stuff TAPS and all those other “courses” just don’t prepare you for.  Life changes in some pretty big ways that have absolutely nothing to do with pay and benefits.


We are required to attend the out-briefing classes:  the financial preparedness (yawn) death-by-lectures, differences between all the different Tricare options (pick Prime), how your BAH stops (Wait. What?), and the drop-dead date you have to go get your new, shiny retirement ID.

Which is no joke, because I totally ignored it.  Then a month later, I couldn’t get on base because that new little scanner gizmo the gate guards all now use said, *BEEP!* Intruder alert! This lady needs a retired ID.  She’s being an active duty poser.”

I was rebuffed.  Shocked.  Pissed off just a bit.  But, then I got my stupid retired ID like they told us to.  (Not without rolling my eyes, though.)

Here are the main things I wish they had told me:

1. For the first year, there was a part of my husband that just wanted to go back on active duty

Maybe it was the familiarity, or the “dudes,” or the routine lunches at McAlister’s Sandwich Shop, but he honestly missed the Navy.  It wasn’t until we got over the first year that who he is as a retired Navy pilot began to form and shape who he is now.   It was hard to watch him navigate his life without the true north being the US Navy.  (Note:  that goes away eventually, by the way.  Then, you’ll wonder why the hell you didn’t retire sooner.)

2. While I missed him when he was deployed, him being around all the time has its downsides

While I, honestly and for true, really, really did miss him when he was deployed, I had also gotten used to not having him around all the time.  So, the first month of him being retired was a huge adjustment.  I actually had to cook every morning, noon and night.  And, I had to adjust to him just being there all the time.  All. The. Time.  “What’s for lunch?” (Me: looking around thinking ‘who is this guy wanting food in the middle of the day?’)  Trust me.  We were all safer removing all weapons and dulling down any sharp objects that first month or six months or year.

3. It might sound weird, but I miss the smell of the military

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

I miss the smell of the Navy. I know, it’s weird.  But, it’s also true.  Smell is the strongest sensory trigger for memory.   There was something in the clothes (JP5?), or in the air, (also JP5) or something (it’s totally JP5) … whatever it was, the allure of Au De Navy was and is sorely missed.  Our house just smells so civilian now.

4. At the moment your husband retires, your former shipmates will consider you struck stupid on military topics

All your knowledge and infinite wisdom somehow evaporated, or was some way captured in the picture they used for that retired ID I mentioned above.  Whatever the phenomenon, it’s a real thing.  Within the first 48 hours, I heard, “How would you know?  Your husband is REEE-TIIIIRREEDD” at least twice.

5. He’s going to grow a beard. So, suck it up and deal

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military
Post-military beards are a right of passage. Embrace them, and hope they end up this full.

Now, me personally, I love beards.  It was not some sort of hardship on me.   Quite the contrary.  But, give it a rest and let him do it.  Don’t bitch.  Just let him grow the damn beard and be grateful he isn’t a man-baby with no whiskers.  He’ll have to shave it (probably) eventually, but this is his last stand.  Let him have this moment.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Coast Guard and LinkedIn want to help spouses find jobs

Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan announced that the Coast Guard is officially a proud partner with LinkedIn to facilitate the employment of USCG spouses — especially during particularly challenging times, such as PCS moves or job loss.

“Military spouse employment is a very important aspect of a strong and resilient military family,” said Mrs. Pence. “Our work to develop a partnership with LinkedIn to include Coast Guard military spouses with LinkedIn premium access started last fall. We commend Microsoft and LinkedIn for working with the United States Coast Guard to expand their program to Coast Guard military spouses. This new collaboration will help spouses with employment opportunities and will make job hunting easier.”


LinkedIn and the Coast Guard have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to allow Coast Guard spouses premium access to LinkedIn. The premium access will provide spouses with enhanced features to assist in finding employment through tools that allow them to expand their professional networks, research industries and specific companies, search for employment opportunities, and develop skills through online training to enhance employability.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Initial eligibility for the one-year Premium upgrade will be open for all USCG military spouses. An additional year of the Premium upgrade will be available for USCG military spouses who experience any of the events below:

  1. In receipt of PCS orders of the military member.
  2. Experiencing a job loss or downsizing.
  3. In a career change.
  4. Within 6 months of the Service member’s date of separation from the Coast Guard.

“We are committed to helping as much as possible, and today I’m glad we can make that next move a little bit easier through this partnership with LinkedIn,” McAleenan said. “And I want to thank LinkedIn for partnering with us on this. Helping families get settled in a new community after a PCS move will go a long way.”

To learn more about this new opportunity, requesting access or receiving training, check out the official ALCOAST or email the USCG Transition Team Program Manager, Rodney Whaley, Rodney.B.Whaley@uscg.mil.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to ask what kids are feeling during stressful times

No school. No playdates. No camps. No pool outings. The world as kids know it has been thoroughly upended and they are justifiably anxious, whether they show it or not. It’s up to the adults in the room to get them to open up about those feelings so that they can be addressed. Doing so takes finesse, curiosity, and a very light touch.

“Our job as parents isn’t to provide certainty in a time of uncertainty. Our job is to help kids tolerate the uncertainty,” explains Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.


Kids aren’t stupid. Nor are they obtuse. They hear you discussing the increasingly dire COVID-19 news, they see headlines on your social media feed, and they understand that to a large extent, the stuff they once enjoyed doing is no longer in play. Playing epidemiologist isn’t going to work. Kids don’t need specific answers, they need broader certitude that they are loved and will be taken care of — certitude that makes the ambiguity of the moment manageable.

“We want to teach them how to tolerate not knowing. You should let them explain how they’re feeling and why, and you can help them validate those feeling by saying things like, ‘I have similar worries. Let’s brainstorm ideas on how we can make things better.’ Instead of just giving answers, you want to have a conversation and compare notes,” says Bubrick.

Getting kids, regardless of age, involved in problem-solving makes them feel empowered and like they’re part of the solution. But as Bubrick points out, if you ask vague questions, you’ll get vague answers, including the dreaded “I’m fine” (the quintessential conversational dead end). Bubrick’s advice is to lead with curiosity and ask open-ended yet specific questions:

  • What did you learn about today?
  • What is something interesting or funny you heard about today?
  • What was the most fun thing you did today?
  • What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
  • What was the toughest part of your day today?
  • What was something you didn’t like about your day?
  • What got in the way today of you having a fun day?
  • What can we do together to make it better?
  • I read something interesting today and wanted to know if you had a reaction to it?

As with most things in life, timing is everything.

“Bedtime is not the right time. Kids are starting to wind down for the day. Anxious kids have more worries at night. Don’t lead them down the path of more worry. And don’t talk to them about this when they first wake up. Find a time, a neutral time, when there hasn’t been a big argument. Look for a calm moment,” says Bubrick.

He suggests having laid-back discussions either during dinner, or while taking a family walk. And he relies on a simple yet clever approach that gets people to open up.

“With my kids, I suggest a game: Like a rose. It’s an icebreaker and it’s our thing. You start and model the game. There are three components to the rose. The petal: ‘Tell me something you liked about today.’ The thorn: ‘Tell me something you didn’t like.’ The bud: ‘Tell me something you’re looking forward to in the future.’ You have to model it to get a response.”

If your children aren’t able to articulate how they’re feeling, use a feelings chart and work your way from there. Some 5-year-olds can explain, with total clarity, what upended their emotions and why. Some teens, meanwhile, can barely manage a two-word response and won’t dig deeper without gentle prodding. You want to have children be as specific as possible about what exactly they’re feeling.

“If you can name it, you can tame it,” says Bubrick.

His final note is just as applicable to kids as to their adult minders. Don’t spin out. Don’t catastrophize. And remind kids that no, their friends aren’t having secret sleepovers or hitting the playground. We’re all stuck at home together.

“We want to help kids stay in the moment. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the unknown. All we know is what’s happening to us right now. We have each other. We’re connected to our friends. Let’s focus on that. We’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow,” he says.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Featured

New Air Force video hones in on need for inclusion and diversity

We are a country divided. As Americans, we seem to have forgotten that we should all play on the same team. Fortunately, we have the United States Air Force to remind us of that.

The newly released video titled Heritage Today: The Same Mission highlights the importance of diversity. One of the more memorable lines states that, “The day you decide to serve isn’t the day you give up who you are, it’s the day you show who you are and we become stronger for having you in our ranks.” From there, they cover the need for diversity in background, beliefs, religion and sexual orientation, and not just tolerance of our transgendered troops, but acceptance.


Heritage Today – The Same Mission

www.youtube.com

Human connection and belonging are hallmark traits of happiness and self-worth. By releasing this video, the Air Force is making it clear that they not only welcome diversity – they long for it. Another memorable line states that, “If we can have each other’s backs on the front lines, we need to have each other’s backs when we are home.” You can view all of their videos, here.

The Air Force stood up a special task force on June 9, 2020, to tackle issues including race, ethnic and other demographic disparities. In a memo published by public affairs, Brig. Gen. Troy Dunn stated that, “Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working quietly behind the scenes to tackle these issues. Though we have a long road ahead, I’m really proud of the work this team has done. We want our people to know that we’re steadfast in our commitment to building an Air Force culture of diversity, inclusion and belonging.”

This video showcases their promise of a more inclusive and diverse Air Force.

Words empowering the support of individual identities and a remembrance that we all serve the same nation appears to be a pointed attack on the divisiveness currently tearing the country in two. It also hits on the fact that differences actually make you stronger, faster and more powerful. The Air Force video stresses that its diversity is its strength, something that seems to have been forgotten in the midst of the current turmoil.

Another important takeaway is that the video stresses that although they’ve come a long way, making impressive strides – they aren’t there yet and neither are we as a country. But just because we haven’t gotten there, doesn’t mean we stop working toward a more cohesive and better union. This is a point that the Air Force doesn’t shy away from making, an admission that continued work to ensure inclusion and a focus on diversity only grows, never truly stopping improvement.

The takeaway message of the video is simple: we are stronger together because of our differences. As the video ends, it closes by saying that inclusion isn’t the enemy of readiness, division is. This is advice that not only other branches of service need to follow – but the country as a whole.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

Ukrainian photographer Oleksandr Ranchukov, who died last year, primarily made a name for himself shooting architecture, and his pictures of buildings and urban spaces have appeared in several academic publications. But he also liked to take his camera out onto the streets of his native Kyiv and other cities to pursue his own gritty brand of street photography.

As he took many of these photos in the 1980s, his bleak black-and-white images provide a record of life in the latter days of the Soviet Union that stands in stark contrast to that which was portrayed in the official propaganda of that era.


In a recent essay on his work, fellow photographer and art critic Oleksandr Lyapin said Ranchukov primarily saw himself as a chronicler of his times and hoped his images would “complement the story of the sad end of the U.S.S.R., the dull streets of the city showing its decay…”

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military
5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

According to photographer and critic Oleksandr Lyapin, Ranchukov wanted to capture for younger generations “the faces of Soviet people — in a way very different from how they are presented on posters.”

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

People at a stall in Kyiv drink kvass, a fermented beverage made from bread, which is still a popular summer drink in many former Soviet republics.

“Ranchukov was a street photographer, but he had almost no interest in the aesthetics of street photography,” Lyapin said. Instead, he simply “painted the picture of Soviet everyday life — dull and inexpressive, even dead: identical gray streets, unsightly clothes, street vendors, puddles, and dirt.”

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military
5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Many of Ranchukov’s photographs capture aspects of Kyiv life that have since disappeared forever, such as this cobbler’s kiosk in Zhytniy Market, which was once a familiar sight to generations.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

A woman in a Kyiv alleyway walks past a poster proclaiming, “Glory to the Communist Party!”

Needless to say, conditions for street photography were not ideal in the somewhat paranoid milieu of the U.S.S.R., which is probably why Ranchukov relied mainly on the Soviet-era Kiev 4 camera for most of his city shots. According to Lyapin, this “quiet but very accurate” device meant that Ranchukov was often able to photograph people without being noticed, thus ensuring a natural, realistic depiction of Soviet streets.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military
5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

In addition to capturing what one critic has called the “gloomy dignity” of Soviet life, Ranchukov was also on hand to record the dramatic changes that occurred on the streets of Kyiv as the Soviet system rapidly collapsed. Indeed, his shots showing the advent of capitalism in his native city rank among his most striking images.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Curious residents inspect an American automobile on the streets of Kyiv.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military
5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

A man in Kyiv reacts as people line up outside a shop selling American jeans.

Not surprisingly, for most of his career, there wasn’t much official appetite for Ranchukov’s warts-and-all approach to street photography and it wasn’t until the latter days of perestroika that he and other like-minded photographers were allowed to exhibit their depictions of city streets.

Nonetheless, even in such relatively relaxed times, these photographs’ unflinching look at Soviet life caused consternation among the authorities, and one of their first exhibitions in Kyiv was shut down after just one day by scandalized KGB and Communist Party apparatchiks.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Oleksandr Ranchukov (1943-2019)

Although these images didn’t go down well with Soviet bureaucrats, they obviously struck a chord with ordinary Kyiv residents, and crowds of people lined up to see them when the exhibition reopened at another location sometime later.

One of those who visited the Ranchukov exhibition in 1989 was a Canadian exchange student named Chrystia Freeland, who later became a prominent journalist and politician and is now her country’s deputy prime minister.

Describing Ranchukov as a “brilliant and prolific documentary photographer,” Freeland was instrumental in getting his images and those of some of his peers to the editors of The Independent newspaper in London, who “were hugely impressed by his work, and promptly published it.”

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

People form a line to buy herring in Kyiv.

“I was deeply moved by his ability to reveal the reality of life in Ukraine — the country’s people, places, and streets,” she told RFE/RL in an e-mail. “In capturing a key moment in Ukrainian history, often at personal risk, Oleksandr laid the groundwork for future Ukrainian photographers and artists to bring their work to the world stage. “

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Unlike his architecture photography, Oleksandr Ranchukov’s portraits of Soviet street life have never been published in book form. You can view other Ranchukov images and find out more about his life and work here.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the moms overcoming challenges of breastfeeding in the military

Breastfeeding moms who also work face plenty of challenges, from a lack of dedicated pumping areas to unsupportive supervisors and colleagues. Things can be even tougher if your job is as a member of the armed forces, as Robyn Roche-Paull learned firsthand.

Per Romper, Roche-Paull was in the Navy when she had her baby in the 1990s, an era in which there were no breastfeeding policies, no deployment deferments, and just six weeks of maternity leave. When she returned to work, she had no time or place to pump, and she resorted to using dirty, chemical-filled supply closets that often didn’t lock.

A female supervisor even told here that she was “making all the women look bad with me asking for time to pump every three to four hours.” Yikes.


“There were no books on this subject, and no one to talk to about the questions and struggles I was facing,” she recalls, so when she left the Navy in 1997 she decided to fix that. She became a lactation consultant and created a Facebook group to collect stories from military moms that eventually became a book, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

“The page was way more successful than I ever dreamed, which in turn made me realize that I could have a website with all this information freely available to the public.”

The project morphed into a non-profit organization, also called Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, that provides resources to moms struggling to breastfeed while enlisted.

“Being successful with breastfeeding is a challenge. They have to overcome not only cultural issues, but finding time and place to pump, how to ship milk home from overseas, travel, deployments, and possibly exposure to hazardous materials, not to mention maintaining weight and physical fitness standards.”

And just as importantly, it’s a supportive community that can help moms realize that it is possible to balance the obligations of military service and motherhood, often through simply sharing photos of breastfeeding or pumping in uniform.

“These are moms who have decided that serving their country — a sacrifice in itself — is very important, but so is making sure that their babies receive their breast milk even if that means shipping their milk home from Afghanistan for six months,” Roche-Paull says.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why Day of the Deployed should be a federal holiday

In the United States, we enjoy a good amount of federal holidays, during which many employers give their employees a paid day off. During these breaks, which sometimes result in a three- or four-day weekend, everyone can take some time to relax with friends and family — maybe even enjoy a barbecue.

Everyone, that is, except the troops deployed to combat zones. On these days, troops will (sometimes) get a slightly nicer meal served by their chain of command before they return to the grind.

To celebrate the troops that are in harm’s way and the sacrifices their families make, we have today, October 26th, the oft-forgotten Day of the Deployed. Despite the fact that it’s officially recognized by all 50 states as of 2012, you’ll likely see far more people posting things to their social media account about National Breadstick Day, which, this year, happens to share the date.

While the holiday doesn’t necessarily call for huge, elaborate celebration, officially recognizing it as a federal holiday during times of ongoing conflicts would go a long way. Hear us out.


5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Lt. Col. Honsa’s cousin worked to give him a nationally recognized holiday while he was deployed… The rest of our families need to step up their care package game…

(U.S. Army)

Of the ten holidays observed by the federal government, two of them directly honor the military: Memorial Day, for fallen troops, and Veterans Day, for the living. There’s also Armed Forces Day, which honors the current, active duty military, but that holiday is rarely recognized outside of the military community.

The Day of the Deployed is similar to Armed Forces Day, but it specifically honors the troops who are currently deployed. The holiday first began in 2006 when Shelle Michaels Aberle approached North Dakota Governor John Hoeven to officially proclaim a day to specifically honor the troops out there fightin’ the good fight. The date October 26th was selected in honor of Aberle’s cousin, Lt. Col. David Hosna — the birthday of a soldier who, at the time, was deployed.

When Hoeven became a senator, he sponsored S.Res.295 on October 18th, 2011, to designate October 26th as the “Day of the Deployed.” It was approved unanimously and without any amendments. Since then, all 50 states have officially observed the holiday.

Six years later and the holiday is nothing more than a footnote at the bottom of calendars, found by those looking for wacky holidays — and that’s a shame. A day to commemorate the heroic acts of the troops fighting on the front lines does not deserve to be on the same level as Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day.

Federal recognition of the day would put it in league with the holidays that people get an extended weekend to celebrate — you know, the ones people take seriously. For this to make most sense, we’d need to make a couple of changes:

First, it should become a floating holiday — this year, it falls on the last Friday of October. In our opinion, that’s the perfect place for it. Not only would that mean a three-day weekend, it also means it could incorporate Remember Everyone Deployed Fridays in an official capacity, which gives people a way to celebrate.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

And with the way that the postal system works for outlaying combat outposts, the care packages would arrive just before Christmas!

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup)

On this newly upgraded National Day of the Deployed, everyone would wear red as a symbol and, as an action, they’d send care packages out to those on the front line. Hell, even if only a tiny fraction of the American population actually sends care packages, that’d be a huge windfall for the troops.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

A day to remember the troops deployed overseas is an objectively better reason for a four day weekend.

(U.S. Army photo by CPT Jarrod Morris, TAAC-E Public Affairs)

Now, let’s take a look at the competitors. There are already three holidays that fall around(ish) the last Friday of October: Halloween, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day.

On Halloween, children enjoy a day of free candy and dressing like princesses and superheroes while adults awkwardly party while disguised as various pop-culture references. An extended weekend around that time would be very welcomed by the public — it wouldn’t hurt to give people a day off and let them know they have the troops to thank for it.

Earlier in the month, there’s Columbus Day, a federal holiday that’s becoming less relevant and more contentious by the year. As time goes on, evidence surfaces that suggests that Columbus, as an explorer, never stepped foot on American soil. He wasn’t the first person — or even the first European — to get here, and whether we should celebrate beginning of harsh times for American Indians is hotly debated. A 2014 report from Rasmussen showed that only eight percent of the U.S. population even believes that the day is even important. Honestly, we can’t see there being much push-back if we nixed Columbus Day in favor of Day of the Deployed.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

It’d also never leave the American public’s mind that our troops are still not home to enjoy the little things — like paid time off.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Lauren M. Gaidry)

Finally, on the other side of October, we’ve got Veterans Day. If Day of the Deployed were to become a floating holiday, it’d fall somewhere between eleven and eighteen days before Veterans Day.

If the final Friday of October happened to be the 31st, that means the country would enjoy back-to-back three-day weekends. If it fell on the 25th — the longest possible gap — that’d mean people could enjoy a total of eight days off and ten days of work between two holidays honoring the troops and what they’ve given this great nation of ours.

Give people that kind of time off and the freedom to enjoy themselves a bit, and you’ll truly drive home the point that brave men and women are out there sacrificing so that we can enjoy the liberties we do.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Social worker embarks on 50-state tour to mow lawns for veterans, Gold Star families

Rodney Smith is preparing to pack his trusty Toro lawn mower into the back of his vehicle — the one with 320,000 miles on the odometer — and hit the road again.

Smith is scheduled to begin his “Thank you for your service and sacrifice” tour on Friday, Sept. 18, in Huntsville, Alabama. During a condensed three-week window, Smith plans to cut the grass of veterans, Gold Star families, Purple Heart recipients, POWs, those missing in action and families of active-duty service members in 48 states. He intends to fly to Alaska and Hawaii to complete his mission, but those dates are undetermined.


“It’s an honor just to hear those stories firsthand and thanking them for their service,” Smith said. “A lot of them never heard a ‘thank you’ before. They have, but they need to hear it more.”

Smith, a 31-year-old social worker, started the Raising Men Lawn Care Service in 2016. The organization, which began including girls in 2018, pairs youth with veterans, the elderly, the disabled and single parents to perform outdoor chores such as cutting grass and raking leaves.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

(Military Families Magazine)

According to weareraisingmen.com, 700 youths in the program have mowed a total of 15,000 lawns. Smith’s 50-state tour is a one-man job, though. He goes it alone but follows a similar pattern. He cuts one or two lawns per state, interviews the homeowner, takes a picture with him or her and asks for a photo of the person in his or her military uniform.

“There have been a lot of World War II veterans that I met,” Smith said. “Meeting them, I feel like a little kid because I get to hear the stories firsthand. They were telling me [stories] like it was yesterday.”

Smith, who never served in the military, recalled meeting a veteran who served as a former medic in Vietnam. The veteran was awarded five Purple Hearts and told Smith about soldiers dying in his arms, the sense of despair and hopelessness returning with each tragic memory. Smith gave a boy whose father was killed in Afghanistan his lawn mower on the spot.

“The feedback that I’m getting is, they did it because they loved their country,” Smith said. “They would do it again if they had to.”

While growing up, Smith hated cutting the grass in much the same way that most children dislike eating broccoli. That changed for the native New Yorker while he was a student at Alabama AM University. Smith noticed an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn one day. Smith offered to help.

“[God] was preparing me for that moment,” Smith said.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

(Military Families Magazine)

Smith developed that chance encounter into the idea behind his foundation. The veterans tour will be his ninth such 50-state odyssey. He did a similar one for veterans last year, but not all of his trips support the military.

Others, for example, have benefited breast-cancer survivors and promoted increasing dialogue between police and the communities they serve.

Smith is excited to get behind the wheel of his 2012 Ford Edge again. He purchased the used vehicle in 2018, when it had only 58,000 miles. All those lonely stretches of road later, Smith still does not mind the drive because of the payoff at each stop.

“They’re everyday heroes,” Smith said of veterans. “They [gave] their all for this country. We need to appreciate them and honor them while they’re here.”

Smith will auction off each lawn mower at the end of the tour and donate the proceeds to charities supporting veterans.

The schedule of cities where Smith plans to be is posted at Raising Men Lawn Care Service. Families with military ties can sign up there by clicking on the “More Info” tab and selecting “Service Sacrifice.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


Featured

This Green Beret invented a flag that can’t – and won’t – burn

When 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels returned from his last combat deployment, he was frustrated by what he saw. He understood that he’d been fighting for America’s freedom, including the important freedom to protest. But he didn’t like seeing the American flag burned.

So he did something about it.


5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Daniels designed and developed a flag that will not burn. Now, after two years of research and hundreds of prototypes, on Sunday, June 14 – Flag Day 2020 – the Firebrand Flag Company will launch its first product: A first-of-its-kind, official, fire-retardant U.S. Flag made in America from the same kevlar and nomex fabric that keeps our service members and first responders safe.

Daniels has big ambitions for his flag company. “I want Firebrand Flags to be the official flag company of the U.S.A.,” he said. “I want every home, business and government building in America to proudly fly one of our flags. And, if, for some reason, one of our enemies got ahold of one of our flags, it wouldn’t be much use as a propaganda tool. They would have to go to extreme lengths to destroy it, much like they do when they are face to face with an American service member. Old Glory can now defend itself.”

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Early on, Daniels shared his vision with his former Green Beret commander, Jason Van Camp. Van Camp immediately invited Daniels to join his Warrior Rising incubator. Warrior Rising helps veteran entrepreneurs find mentors who can help realize their business goals and transition to the private sector. “I’ve known Kyle since the Special Forces Qualification Course. I believe in Kyle. He was a perfect fit for Warrior Rising,” Van Camp explained. “He had passion and zeal for making a flag that would literally dominate the narrative about flag burning but needed to evolve a new set of business skills to realize his vision.”

The mission wasn’t going to be easy. To make a flag that would look, feel and fly like a real flag but that wouldn’t burn, Daniels needed to engineer new materials and design a manufacturing process that previously didn’t exist. There were plenty of roadblocks along the way. The process to make the flag required entirely new cutting machines and the largest purchase of Kevlar fabric outside of the U.S. military. But Daniels applied the resilience he learned in the military to his business. As Daniels put it, “You have to adapt, overcome and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the mission.”

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

At a Warrior Rising event, Kyle met yet another ex-Green Beret, Chase Millsap, the Chief Content Officer at We Are The Mighty. We Are The Mighty is a publisher and content studio focused on the military and veteran communities. Millsap loved the Firebrand mission from the outset. “We tell stories that celebrate service. Kyle’s unburnable flag is an awesome product with an amazing story.” It took Milsap no time to convince his colleagues to jump on board and the two companies have formed a partnership to bring the Firebrand Flag to market. WATM is the proud media partner of Firebrand Flags.

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5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

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MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Did you know these 5 badasses were military spouses?

The military community is chock-full of milspouse super-achievers – men and women who manage to find personal and professional success despite the many, many (did we mention many?) obstacles the military throws their way. Anyone living the milspo life already knows dozens of people who make a mockery of the dependa stereotype, and we wrote this story to highlight a few. Here are five more milspouses making their marks on the world.


5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

The country music star

RaeLynn sang her way into America’s ears as a contestant on The Voice in 2012. Five Top 40 hits and two albums later, the talented performer and military spouse is showing the world that being married to the military doesn’t mean giving up on dreams. Her husband, active duty soldier Joshua Davis, enlisted after they were married in 2016, and the couple has been juggling the demands of Army life and Music Row stardom ever since. As she told People Magazine, “There’s a level of sacrifice that you have to do as a military spouse that the average person might not have to do,” she said. “You can’t talk to your significant other all the time. There’s the fear of when they do deploy, of not seeing them again and that underlying fear of just hoping that they’re okay.” We feel you, girl.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

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The media mogul

Sheila Casey has given most of her life to the military. For 40 years she kept the home fires burning so her husband, former Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, could rise to the very top rank in the Army, and she did it without losing her own career or identity in the process. Sheila now serves as Chief Operating Officer of The Hill, a top U. S. political publication that covers The White House, Congress, policy, campaigns, lobbying, business and international news. Prior to joining The Hill in 1997, she was Director of Finance at the Texas Council on Family Violence in Austin, Texas, and worked as an audit manager for Grant Thornton, a national CPA firm. And she did it all while living that milspo life all over the United States, Europe and Egypt and volunteering with a number of organizations, including as chair of Blue Star Families Board of Directors. She also gives her time to Parents as Teachers; The National Domestic Violence Hotline; Snowball Express; the Washington Press Club Foundation; the Board of Advisors for ThanksUSA; The Bob Woodruff Foundation; The Military Child Education Coalition, and the GI Film Festival.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

The comedian

John Oliver came to the U.S. to do comedy and quickly found fame with his hilarious appearances on “The Daily Show.” In fact, that’s kind of how he met his wife, former U.S. Army medic Kate Norley, who was motivated to enlist by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks at age 19. Norley served in Iraq as a combat medic and a mental health specialist and became a veteran’s rights advocate after leaving the Army. Oliver was covering the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota for The Daily Show, and she was there campaigning with Vets for Freedom. And this is where their story gets funny. Oliver and his crew were caught in a restricted area and, with Oliver in the U.S. on a temporary visa, he and the crew were worried they might get arrested, so they ran. Norley and the veterans campaigning with Vets for Freedom hid them from security, giving Norley and Oliver one of the best “how we met” stories ever. Three years later, they were married. “When you’ve married someone who’s been at war, there is nothing you can do that compares to that level of selflessness and bravery,” Oliver has been quoted saying. “I feel humbled daily by what she has managed to do with her life versus how I’ve decided to fritter away mine.”

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

The politician

Most of the country became aware of Nikki Haley in June 2015 when the then-South Carolina governor stepped in to unite and soothe her state after a white supremacist attacked an African American church in Charleston, killing nine people. Haley masterfully handled a tense, painful moment and helped her state heal. As the first woman to be the governor of South Carolina and the second Indian-American to be a governor of any state, she brought a unique perspective to the tragedy. As the sister of a retired soldier and the wife of an officer in the South Carolina National Guard, she understood the risk of inaction. In fact, Haley’s husband deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, while she was governor. (Oh, NBD. Just juggling all the demands of solo parenting AND an entire state.) “I am unbelievably proud of him and yes, we went through the deployment and single mom stuff, and all that when he was deployed in Afghanistan,” Haley told Military Families Magazine. “I wouldn’t trade it, just because of the pride he has, the pride that we all have for him. We suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more from Haley in the coming years. She was appointed as the U.N. Ambassador by President Trump, a job she served in for two years, and is widely suspected of having Presidential ambitions of her own.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

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The supreme court justice

It’s probably been a minute since Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought of herself as a military spouse. But before she became the Notorious RBG – okay, long before, she was an Army wife. After graduating from college, she married her boyfriend, Martin Ginsburg, and the two moved to Ft. Sill in 1954 because Martin had been drafted into the Army. He served for two years, and then the couple both continued their educations in law and both began legal careers, with Ruth’s culminating in her current position as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Martin passed away in 2010 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery. We think those two years as a milspouse must have made an impression on RBG because the first time she argued a case before the Supreme Court, she did it to hook up a milspouse. The year was 1973 and her client was a female service member who wanted military spouse protections for her husband. Back then, the husbands of women who served were not considered dependents and did not receive benefits unless they “were dependent on their wives for over one-half of their support.” But the Notorious RBG helped change that.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

The dandelion is the flower of the military child and when I learned this, as a military parent, I was disappointed. Why would they pick such an ugly flower (or is it a weed?) to represent military kids? When I looked at dandelions, I saw the problem they caused in my yard, but there is more to a dandelion’s story. When you look past the nuances in the yard you can see a bigger picture.

The next summer as we prepared for our PCS and as the dandelion flowers transitioned from flowers to puffs of seeds, I would watch them blow in the wind and the realization of why the dandelion was chosen to represent my military kids dawned on me. It suddenly made so much sense.


5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Dandelions are made up of three main parts: The flower (seeds), the stem and the roots. They are tough, can survive almost anywhere and are constantly moving and starting over. One summer I decided to tackle my dandelion problem head on. It was an endless battle, but through my struggle I learned so much about this tough flower. The new dandelions that had just arrived in the spring were easy to remove from the dirt. Their roots were barely beneath the surface, as if they hadn’t decided if they should stay or be ready to move on to a new patch of land. But when I encountered a dandelion that had made it through a few seasons, not only was the dandelion on its own a tougher challenge to remove, but its roots were deep into the ground making it even more difficult. Each one seemed to also have a group of friends surrounding it. The landscape around one dandelion was changed not only by making its mark in the yard, but also by adding to its journey by bringing others in along the way.

Military kids often have to form new friendships fast. Just as quickly as they find friends, they are uprooted from all that is familiar to them. They learn to say goodbye and continually start over. It is a part of the life they lead. As we try to move forward at each assignment and build our roots and networks, we can’t forget the friends we made. We talk about friends from different assignments or those who have moved on before us. And while the friendships were special for a season, we always knew they were only for a season. At least for right now.

A few weeks after arriving at our new assignment our two year old, who had never experienced a PCS, said he was ready to go back home. He had been on vacations before and that is what this move across the country felt like, but now he was ready to go back to what was normal and familiar. We tried to explain to our son that this was our new home until it was time to move again. I don’t think he understood all the implications and challenges, but as military kids seem to do, naturally, he let the words slide off his back and began to make his new life in our new home.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Dandelion seeds don’t have any say on where the wind will take them when it is time to venture on. And just like military kids who are along for the ride, they go where their parents and the military take them and find a way to be resilient and start all over again. They put down roots, create new friends, find routines and then a strong wind blows and they get to do it all over again.

And as painful as it is sometimes to watch them toss in the wind, when the dust settles and they find their footing and begin to bloom at each new location you see the beauty that a military life gives. It doesn’t change the pain of saying goodbye to friends. It doesn’t make the tears go away or the fear of being a new kid at school go away. Somehow, through it all they keep pushing forward. It is the only life they have known and despite their choice, they are stronger for it.

Could they have picked a more beautiful flower to represent military children? Of course, there were a lot of different options before landing on a weed. But if you compare a dandelion and a military child the similarities are uncanny. And now when I see dandelions in my yard, I smile and think of how beautiful, tough, and adaptable my children are.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Featured

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

There’s a reverence that surrounds Memorial Day in the military community. A day that’s typically associated with summer barbecues and mattress sales has a very different meaning to those of us who understand that “the fallen” we’re all asked to honor are our brothers and sisters in arms, husbands, wives, mommies, daddies, friends.

It’s a day that feels heavy, weighted with nostalgia and fraught, wanting to honor their sacrifice by living, but wanting the rest of the world to pause alongside us, to bear some of the burden of the grief and to mourn our collective, irreplaceable loss.

This year, we’re asking you not just to pause, but to act.


In 2018, USAA, in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, created the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor to ensure the sacrifice of our military men and women is always remembered, never forgotten. The wall contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies – one for each life lost in the line of duty since World War I. Red flowers fill one side while historic facts about U.S. conflicts cover the opposite.

The exhibit was installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018 and again in 2019. This year, USAA is making it available to more people by presenting the educational panels of the wall digitally. We encourage you to take the time to look at the wall, to teach your children and grandchildren about service and sacrifice. But more than that, we’re asking you to dedicate a poppy.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Laird, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, to talk about why this event matters, not just to the company, but to him.

“I tell people I grew up in a Ranger Battalion,” Laird said. “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Just eight and a half months after I enlisted, I was in combat on a tiny island called Grenada. I lost five people from my company, including a young man named Marlin Maynard, who was a PFC. When I got back, I was asked to eulogize PFC Maynard. I just turned 19 and I had to talk about the sacrifice he’d given. It was a very formative, impactful moment in my life.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

Wes Laird in his Army days. Photo courtesy of Wes Laird.

“Every Memorial Day since, every 4th of July, every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about PFC Marlin Maynard. I think about how I went to college with my veteran benefits. I think about how I went on to have a family, to raise two boys — one who is in the Air Force — how I had a career and a whole life, and how he, and 645,000 other soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsman, how they didn’t. But that’s why this – why Memorial Day, and what we’re doing at USAA – is so important. I want Marlin’s family to know that he is remembered and honored. That his sacrifice, all these years later, has never been forgotten.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

PFC Marlin Maynard, Grenada Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger)

75th Infantry, kia October 25, 1983. Photo via Sua Sponte Foundation.

“This Memorial Day and every Memorial Day, I dedicate a poppy to him and the four others we lost in Grenada that day. What we’re doing at USAA with the USAA Poppy Wall is giving others an opportunity not just to honor, but to act. This year especially, with the COVID crisis, we are providing people the ability to come together, to unify around something we can all agree on — the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifices of so many men and women.

“We are proud to partner with the incredible team at the Tragedy Assistance Survivors Program (TAPS) to provide meaningful opportunities for Gold Star families. You see these kids come in who have lost a parent, and the fact that we’re able to assist in their journey is so humbling. These kids need to know that their moms and dads are remembered and honored by all of us. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also part of our DNA. We were formed by the military for the military. We say we know what it means to serve and we do know what it means to serve. It’s part of who we are, why we exist — to honor the great sacrifices of so many thousands of men and women who have served before us, alongside us and will continue to serve after us. Memorial Day is the most important day of the year for us. We hope you’ll join us this year by honoring through action.”

For more information about the USAA Poppy Wall, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

When, at a ceremony or event, an emcee asks that all active military, veterans, and spouses stand together to be recognized, there is not distinction between the groups.

They all stand. If the woman is a service member or veteran, they know that when everyone stands together the assumption will be they are a military spouse. And what about military spouses? How does this make them feel? They don’t quite fit into the category of service member since they are a spouse. Although they appreciate being recognized for their sacrifice, it just doesn’t feel quite right.


Grouped together

Situations like this especially aggravate an already existing complicated relationship between female service members and female military spouses. Women who serve in the military are constantly overlooked and their service is devalued. They often have to defend their service to the men who they either serve with or men who never served at all. Grouping their service with the service of non-veterans is very disingenuous.

Military spouses appreciate being recognized for the work they do to support the military because it is often an unseen and thankless job. But when everyone is pushed into one category, military spouses find themselves feeling awkward or uncomfortable. The very group they are trying to recognize doesn’t feel supported or appreciated.

Instead, they still feel like outsiders.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

But treated differently

As both a veteran and a military spouse, I am in a unique position to see how military spouses and service members are treated in similar situations.

Military spouses are classified as dependents, and are often treated just like the title sounds. And while some rules are made to protect the military and the member, they often make life a lot harder to be a military spouse.

A basic task like getting an identification card renewed or having repairs done to your home when you live on base require the service member. In the civilian world, a spouse is not dependent on their husband or wife to get basic tasks done. But the same cannot be said for military spouses. When I was in the military, I was treated with respect and always had great customer service.

As a military spouse, if I go on base to get help without my husband, I have found myself leaving in tears, treated unprofessionally and feeling like no one even cares. While military spouses don’t hold rank, they should be treated with respect.

Instead of support for spouses, there seems to be an unwritten rule where people can say negative things about military spouses, but if you say anything negative about a service member you are being disrespectful. Even military spouses who are just trying to engage in conversation with female service members may feel the need to tread lightly based on past experiences when stating their opinion ended up in a situation where they were humiliated.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

And then there is the “I serve too” issue

Military spouses and service members use the same words to describe different things or don’t understand the other side’s experience. When military spouses say, “I serve too,” this can ruffle all kinds of feathers on both sides. For the military service member, the word service is tied to signing up to join the military and being willing to give the ultimate sacrifice.

While military spouses don’t serve the military in that function that doesn’t mean they don’t serve the military. Military spouses make countless sacrifices to support their service member. Maybe they gave up their career to follow their service member to the next assignment. Maybe they are the one who constantly has to take time off work or bend their schedule to accommodate the deployments, training and endless temporary duty assignments. Being a military spouse is often a lonely, hard and thankless job.

Understanding our stories

The best way to bridge the gap between military spouses and service women is by getting to know the other’s story. Until you actually meet and get to know a military spouse the only thing you know are the stereotypes. And until you actually meet and get to know a female service member all you know are the stereotypes. Stereotypes that are not good. Stereotypes that are often expanded stories or perceived truths that are rarely factual.

Military spouses are not lazy, attempting to get a free ride. Military spouses are strong, determined and are willing to bend over backwards to make military life work while taking care of their family. Many military spouses are working in careers that don’t meet their qualifications, but they have a hard time finding and keeping a job with all the demands of the military.

Female service members are not sluts, using pregnancy as a means to get out of military obligations, or fooling around with married service members. Female service members are strong, determined and work hard to make it to the rank they have obtained.

5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

They are professionals. And, if they stay in after marriage and kids, they have to make countless sacrifices while trying to find the balance of keeping a career and raising a family.

How many stories do you know about the women who have served our country? Or how many military spouses do you know and can talk to about their experience? The only way we can close the divide is to listen to the other side.

Want to share your story or thoughts on this topic or other important topics facing the military community? Email us at editorial@militaryspouse.com.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

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