5 consequences of the 'Deploy or Get Out' policy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

A while ago, the Department of Defense issued a statement saying that in order to ensure our military remains at its strongest, any troop that’s been listed as non-deployable for 12 months or more will be removed from service. 

On one hand, it’s reasonable to assume that the primary mission of troops is to deploy and engage the enemies of the United States. If a troop isn’t physically up to the task, then it’s time to let them go. And the policy isn’t coming down like an iron fist; there are a number of exceptions in play, including some for those on temporary non-deployable status for reasons like pregnancy or injury.

Now that the policy is in place, however, we’re starting to see how it’s affecting the overall combat readiness of troops. On paper, everything seems fine, but many unintended consequences are now hampering the troops.


For a full look at the policy, click here.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

If not, many troops will try to fight their way into a Warrior Transition Unit.

(U.S. Army)

Many wounded troops will be unceremoniously given the boot

The exception for wounded troops we mentioned above is only applicable to troops who received injuries in combat. The policy is geared specifically toward sidelining troops who have endured prolonged injuries that have gotten worse over time or were sustained during training. It remains to be seen whether the policy protects troops who were injured outside of combat while deployed.

Since this directive is coming from the Pentagon level and any appeals will be made at the military service-level, expect troops who’ve served their country for years face an extremely uphill battle just to try and stay in. The debatable “positive” side of this is troops who’ve served long enough may be eligible for an early medical retirement.

If the appeals process were to be set at a much lower level, say, the installation level, then troops could present medical documentation in person, giving them a better chance to appeal.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

At least the lines at sick call will be shorter…

(U.S. Air Force photo)

More troops will skip medical exams

Put yourself in the perspective of a lower enlisted. As it currently stands, you are seen as either weak or a discredit to your unit if you go to sick call. If your injury or sickness happens to fall anywhere near a unit run/ruck march, it’ll look like malingering. You’ve had bad experiences with the medics/corpsmen at sick call and you weren’t given the proper treatment. Now, to top it all off, if you go to sick call and get some bad news, there’s a chance your career is over.

The intention of the policy is to keep only the able-bodied troops who’re capable of withstand the hardships of a deployment — and that’s understandable — but the only way the Pentagon can keep tabs on who is and who isn’t eligible is through medical records. Troops who know something is wrong with their body will simply avoid sick call or medical if they want to stay in.

In order for this policy to be effective, there has to be better rehabilitation options available to troops. That 12-month deadline can remain in place, but only if the troop has proven that the previous fifty-one weeks weren’t getting them closer to the action.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

The VA isn’t as much of a mess as it used to be and hopefully they don’t get complacent.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sara Francis)

The VA will be even more backlogged

As with any change in policy, it’ll hit hardest at first and then taper off after a while. Currently, there are around 126,000 troops (six percent of all troops currently active, reserves, or guard duty) who face separation under this policy. It will hit the ranks pretty hard at first and then affect only a couple thousand or so per year after the initial impact.

All of these troops leaving the service simultaneously for medical reasons will immediately go to the already-overworked Department of Veteran’s Affairs, who currently serve 9 million veterans across their 1,243 health care facilities. If evenly dispersed, every VA center stands to receive 100 new applicants — but the system works by geographical location, so expect activity at metropolitan centers to surge. This is bad news for a department that currently has a backlog of 326,000 still-pending disability claims to deal with.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has gotten better recently, bringing that backlog down from 800,000 in just six years. The only thing they can do is prepare themselves for a massive surge of new appointments — good luck.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

Someone’s gotta take care of things back stateside. That’s not a figure of speech or anything. We seriously need people back here to do the mission while others are deployed.

(Department of Defense photo by David Bedard)

Rear Detachment units will be inoperable

Not every single troop joins and then deploys when a unit heads overseas. Those responsible for staying behind and taking care of the home station are called the Rear Detachment, or Rear-D. These units are skeleton crews that take care of stateside logistics and handle any new and incoming troops that may arrive to the unit. While an entire battalion-sized unit is gone, maybe two platoon’s worth of troops will hold down the fort. Before this new policy, this is where you’d send the medically non-deployable troops, pregnant troops, and any new arrivals.

Under the new policy, a huge chunk of Rear-D troops are facing separation. Before the policy, it would have been easy to find a handful of troops and an E-7 with a bad back to take charge and keep the gears turning.

One of two things will now need to happen instead. Either a deploying unit will need to keep certain troops back home to handle Rear-D (and these troops would’ve otherwise deployed, thus taking able-bodied soldiers out of the fight and negating the intended effect of the policy) or stateside units will need to play a larger role for deployed counterparts, taking away from their current training mission.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

But, as with all things, the policy will probably only be in effect for a few years before we realize the mistake and start letting anyone who wants in to join. I’m calling it now.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Philip Speck)

The total number of troops affected will be far greater if the military keeps its path

An estimated 126,000 troops are currently on the chopping block. While we may never cut that many in a given year, there will be many more that are removed in the coming years.

The Army is planning on implementing a new PT test, one that features three events capable of causing injury if done incorrectly. A massive overhaul of Basic Training and Boot Camp is expected, making the experience far more intense, which will result in more injuries. An increased military presence overseas will result in more intense pre-deployment training, which is already resulting in more injuries with each passing year. Combine all of these factors with a civilian population that’s becoming less and less eligible to enlist, and the military is going to be shrinking way too fast.

This isn’t a problem that can be easily fixed. This is the fundamental problem with the Deploy or Get Out policy. The military is going to shrink beyond its already record-low personnel numbers.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

On her way to graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University, Victoria Kelly didn’t envision a future as a military spouse. She was intently focused on political science with an eye on a career in international law.


All of that started to change when she attended the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference during the spring semester of her senior year. There she met one Midshipman First Class Will Kelly who was on his way to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar at the same time she was headed to Ireland to pursue a masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College in Dublin. That connection led to a relationship.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy
Victoria Kelly — Navy spouse, mother, poet, and novelist

They managed to keep their love alive over the months that Will attended flight school and Victoria studied at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she honed her literary chops, mostly focusing on the fiction genre. Once Will pinned on his Wings of Gold the two got married and moved to Virginia Beach where he was assigned to his first F/A-18 squadron.

Will went to sea with VFA-31 “The Tomcatters” and flew missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom while Victoria took care of the homefront. For all of her education, nothing to that point had really prepared her for the emotions — the fears and frustrations — that surround a wartime deployment.

It was fertile ground for an artist. The muse descended and the words started coming to her but as poetry not fiction. She was satisfied enough with the results to submit her poems to some contests and literary journals, and she wound up winning awards and getting her work published. Her first poetry chapbook, Prayers of an American Wife, won the Coal Hill Prize and was published by Autumn House Press in 2012.

Her second book of poems, titled When the Men Go off to War, was just released by the Naval Institute Press and is already receiving a lot of attention from both the military community as well as literary critics. Connecticut State Poet Laureate Dick Allen said, “Hers is one of the finest first collections of poems I’ve read in the last decade,” and writer Dorianne Laux characterized the work as “quiet, spare, and moving.”

An excerpt from the poem “Patuxent River” provides a good example of Kelly’s signature phrasing and metaphor:

. . . My husband stopped the car, stepped out to the road, and lifted

his face toward the roar of the jets overhead, looking

the way people look in the rain in movies

when they are happy. To him the were

as beautiful as children, those gray,

hairless beasts that had brought us here,

but he talked of them like mistresses, and he loved them,

and I loved him . . .

When the Men Go off to War is full of these sort of evocative passages, at once beautiful and tragic and always real. Navy SEAL veteran and bestselling author Eric Greitens may have put it best when he said, “We leave [Victoria’s] poems wiser and stronger.”

Watch this animated short featuring the title poem from When the Men go off to War:

Besides being an accomplished poet, Kelly is about to be a published novelist. Her debut, Houdini’s Wife, will hit shelves in March of 2016.

For more information about Victoria Kelly and to order the book visit her website here.

Now: These women served by serving booze to soldiers in battle

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The latest MOH Recipient’s citation is immortalized as a graphic novel

“Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”

On September 11, 2020, 19 years to the day of the horrible attacks on America, President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne for his actions in Iraq during the rescue operation that freed 70 hostages from imminent execution at the hands of the Islamic State.

Payne will be the first living member of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, also known as Delta Force or Combat Applications Group to receive the Medal of Honor and the first since two Delta Force Operators received them posthumously in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.


The mission which was a joint operation between the United States Special Forces and the Kurdish Special Forces was chaotic from the start. Usually when it comes to military awards, we read the citation and might get a book later which goes into more detail. Sometimes, as in the case of Black Hawk Down, we get a movie. But the United States Army decided to give us an amazing visual on the mission via graphic illustrations.

That’s right, we can see how the rescue mission unfolded that night as Payne, his fellow Delta commandos and the Kurds went in and saved the lives of the hostages.

On October 22, 2015 Payne, then a Sergeant First Class, took off with his team and partner units and made their way toward Hawija, located outside of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. They had intelligence passed on to them that numerous hostages were being kept there in two houses. The Kurds were convinced that the hostages were captured Peshmerga fighters and were eager to get them freed. The teams had practiced for over a week to get their mission down but had to move fast. Freshly dug graves had been spotted outside of the enemy compound and it was feared the hostages would meet a grisly end soon.

Flying in on CH-47s, the rescue mission experienced a brown out upon landing and came under immediate fire from enemy forces. As they made their way toward the compound, the Kurdish troops froze under fire. One of Payne’s teammates looked at them and yelled, “Follow me”. The team moved toward the compound and made their way over the walls.

There were two buildings and the rescue mission involved two groups assaulting each building at the same time. As Payne’s team got to their target, a radio call came over saying that one of the men in the other group was hit. The medic with Payne took off through fire toward the downed man.

The rest of the team entered their objective where they met light resistance. They saw an iron door with a lock on it and cut the lock. Upon opening the door, they saw the excited faces of the hostages. As they rounded up the hostages, another call came over the radio. The second objective wasn’t as easy as the first and the rescue team had met fierce resistance.

Without missing a beat, Payne looked toward his men and said, “Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”

If there was ever a mission that Payne and his team was ready for, it was this. It was the reason their unit was created in the first place. The Army won’t admit it, but Payne and the rest of his team belong to a unit informally known as Delta Force.

Known as the best of the best of the United States military, Delta got its start in the late 1970s thanks to LtCol Charlie Beckwith. Beckwith had long pushed for the United States military to have a commando unit that was on par with the British SAS. The spate of terrorist kidnappings that took place in the 70s by Islamic extremists and Far Left European terrorist groups. Beckwith organized and formed the unit and placed an emphasis on counter terrorism. The team relentlessly practiced drills involving hostage rescue. As the years passed, Delta Force became the leaders in clandestine operations and asymmetrical warfare. The standards to get in are high and only the best of the best make it.

Sergeant Major Payne was about to show why he belongs in that group.

Payne led his men toward the second building and made their way to the roof, while taking small arms fire the entire time. Once on top of the building, they took fire from west of the building and from inside it. The enemy was right below them. Payne and his men returned fire and dropped grenades through holes in the roof. They took fire and hear several explosions as ISIS fighters started detonating suicide vests. Realizing they needed another way in, they maneuvered down the steps and set up shop right outside the building. At this point, the structure was on fire with enemy combatants still inside. Even more pressing was that the remaining hostages were locked inside as well.

Payne and his team first tried to breach the windows but couldn’t. They then looked through a door and saw the same type of iron door as the first building. They found the hostages. Payne grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and made his way into the building, only to take on enemy fire. Ignoring the bullets and smoke from the burning building he struggled to get the bolts cut. When the smoke and fire got too thick he had to leave after cutting the first one. A Kurdish soldier ran in to cut the second one but couldn’t because of the gunfire and smoke. Payne then grabbed the cutters and ran back in again.

He managed to get the bolt cut this time. The door swung open and the remaining hostages were in sight. The rest of the team rushed in to engage the enemy, but as they neutralized them another calamity was occurring. The building was starting to collapse. They had to get the hostages out while they were still engaged in a firefight. Payne led the way. Waving them on, he guided them out the room and to safety. When one of the hostages froze, Payne pushed him along and got everyone moving.

By this point the building had gotten so bad, that there was a call to evacuate the structure. The team and the hostages made their way out, with Delta and the Kurds laying down fire as the hostages ran. But Payne didn’t go just yet. He had to make sure they had done their job.

He ran back into the building once more and saw a hostage that had been lying on the floor. He grabbed him off the floor and dragged him to safety. Once out, he went back in one last time.

He had to make sure no one was left behind.

Only after visually making sure that his men, the Kurds and the hostages were all out, did Payne leave. The teams and hostages boarded the helos and took off toward safety. They had done it. They had freed the hostages, but there was a cost.

Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was the operator that was hit early in the mission. The teams learned only then that he had died. His last words to his men as he led them into the fray was, “On me!”

70 hostages owe their life to Payne and the rest of the rescue team. How close were they to death? They told their rescuers that they were told they would be executed the next day after morning prayers….

MIGHTY CULTURE

The right way to tell your partner you want a divorce

The messiness of divorce has been well documented. The attorneys, the custody battles, dividing everything up. But how does one initiate the process? When you are sure you want to go through with one, how do you tell your spouse you want a divorce? In movies, it’s often blurted out in the midst of a heated argument, with one partner or the other dramatically shouting, “I want a divorce!” But in life, things tend to go a bit differently. And, if you want the ensuing legal battle to be civil, it’s in one’s best interest to take pause and really determine how to tell the person they vowed to spend the rest of their life with that it’s over. So how does one deliver this particularly life-altering bit of news? There’s no one way to do it. But there are some guidelines to keep in mind. Here’s what you need to know.


1. Timing is everything

To say that telling your partner you want a divorce is delicate is an understatement. It is an enormous decision, one that, when broached, will alter both of your lives forever. As such, you want to make sure that you choose to have the conversation at a time when your partner is emotionally capable of receiving the news. In other words, don’t tell your partner you want a divorce when when they’re stressed or emotional. “You know your partner better than anyone, so don’t make the disastrous mistake of bringing up divorce in the middle of an important life event,” advises relationship coach Alice Wood. “Be patient and remember that the announcement can wait until a moment when its impact will be the least damaging.” Is this obvious? Yes. But it’s essential.

2. Find the right location

Ideally, you want to break this news in a private, quiet space. Don’t have the conversation in a crowded restaurant or even at home when the kids are in the next room. Benjamin Valencia II, a partner and certified family law specialist at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers suggests that, if the couple is in therapy, the therapist’s office might be a good location. “In this way, both parties can feel safe and free to ask questions and/or gain an understanding of what the other party is thinking without erupting into an argument,” he says. “Further, the therapist can help create healthy boundaries moving forward which can prove invaluable when the going gets tough.”

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

(Photo by Guian Bolisay)

3. Avoid details

When the time is right to bring up the topic of divorce, Kelly A. Frawley and Emily S. Pollock, partners at the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres and specialists in matrimonial and family law, suggest not getting into details or specifics of how the divorce will work, custody arrangements or anything other specifics, as they will only overwhelm your partner further. “If he or she is just hearing about the possibility of divorce for the first time,” they say, “don’t go in details about how you are going to divide the brokerage account, who should have the kids for Christmas this year, or how you are already looking for a new apartment.” The key is to give the person time to digest the concept, show emotion, and ask questions.

4. Choose your words

Telling your partner you want a divorce is difficult. There’s no need to make it worse by blaming your spouse for their shortcomings or using phrases like, “You should have,” “You don’t,” or “You didn’t.” You also need to be honest about what you’re feeling and why you believe this decision is the right one. So, when talking about divorce, you have to be specific in your language — this isn’t the time to be vague. “If your words are ambiguous, you may leave your spouse/partner with a glimmer of hope that the marriage can be saved, when that is not your intention,” says Craig S. Pedersen, a partner at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers. “That can only create further problems down the line.”

5. Acknowledge your mutual unhappiness

Even if a divorce is more one-sided, chances are that neither party in the marriage is particularly thrilled about the way things have been going. With this in mind, it’s wise to open the conversation by laying the cards on the tabled. “I usually will suggest that they start the conversation with a statement such as ‘As you know, I have not been happy in the marriage for a long time. I also think you have not been happy either,” says New York divorce lawyer Jacqueline Newman, author of the Soon to be Ex series of books. “If the other person can acknowledge that he or she is also unhappy, it makes it an easier conversation to have as it is not so one-sided.”

6. Consider a team approach

Rather than focusing on the fact that you and your partner are separating, it’s essential to shift the perspective a bit and talk about how you both will work together to make this while process as easy as possible. “Divorce does not have to be a battle,” reminds Valencia. “Especially if you have children, your common goal should be what is in their best interests. Approaching a divorce by listing the common goals will help both parties realize they are in this together and cooperating behooves both of them.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the top issues facing military families this election

Every four years, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make our voices heard. While elections are always important, this year feels particularly critical. A global pandemic. Heightened racial tensions. Upholding or repealing Supreme Court decisions. New and old military adversaries. Economic impact… the list goes on. While military families are concerned with the macro issues facing the country, they’re also incredibly concerned about the “micro -” those issues that many Americans can’t understand because they don’t live it – things like military spouse employment, PCSing and base housing. In just a few weeks, Americans will determine our next commander in chief.

To better understand the issues paramount to our military families, WATM spoke with Military Family Advisory Network’s Executive Director, Shannon Razsadin, to talk about the results of MFAN’s 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey.

Here are 6 of the top issues facing military families this election:


Have questions about voting? Please visit Iwillvote.com or text ACCESS to 43367

Mental Health Care

The need for and reliance on mental health care was a common thread throughout the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey. However, the greatest obstacle to accessing mental health care was the ability to get appointments. Those who left military service within the past 10 years were more likely to have accessed mental health care for themselves or members of their families. The more recently they left service, the more likely they were to have accessed mental health care. About 14.6% of respondents said they had accessed mental health crisis resources for themselves or their families. They expressed a need for emergency mental health care for the following reasons: specific mental health diagnoses; suicidal ideations and attempts; and feelings of stress, grief, and hopelessness. They also described difficulty receiving care, such as long wait times and less attentive medical personnel. When asked if participants themselves had thoughts of suicide in the past two years, one in eight respondents to this question responded affirmatively.

Finances

Most respondents, 77%, said they have debt. The amount of emergency savings varied significantly depending on demographics: 27.4% of currently serving military family respondents said they have less than 0 in emergency savings, while 49.2% of veteran family respondents (those without a military pension) and 22.2% of military retiree family respondents (those with a military pension) reported having less than 0. Nearly a quarter (23.5%) said they do not have a practical or viable plan for seeking assistance in a financial emergency.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas/Released)

Moving

Moves are expensive for military families, and they are causing long-term financial strain for some. On average, families are losing about ,000 per move in out-of-pocket costs and losses and damage to their household goods. The average unreimbursed out-of-pocket expense during a move was id=”listicle-2648395695″,913, and the average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was ,920. The majority of respondents, 68.2%, said they experienced loss or damage during their most recent moves. Respondents said the moving support they need the most is financial.

Housing

Choosing a place to live is an essential process during a move, and the choice can affect families’ lives for the course of their tours. Exploring military families’ housing choices and experiences has been a perennial topic in MFAN’s support programming surveys. Between the 2017 survey and the 2019 survey, MFAN fielded a study on the state of privatized housing that was a catalyst to an overhaul of the system, a budget increase, and the Tenant Bill of Rights. The current research showed that concerns about privatized housing still linger, making it the number one reason families choose to live on the economy. Those who choose military housing do so for financial reasons and because of base amenities. Among the respondents living in military housing, those in lower enlisted ranks were more likely to have negative satisfaction rates, and the least satisfied respondents were those ranked E4 to E6. There was a very clearly statistically significant relationship with those ranked E4 to E6—they were more likely than any other group to rate their experiences as very negative across all areas of satisfaction rates measured.

Employment and Entrepreneurship

MFAN has explored military family employment needs and transition experiences in every support programming survey. Many of the responses have not changed. For example, in 2013, military spouses said they needed more assistance, specifically for spouses trying to build and maintain careers. In 2017, respondents said their job search experiences were generally negative, and they said they had difficulties with employer bias, location obstacles, child care, and unsuccessful searching. These themes emerged again this year.

Active duty military spouses are still struggling to find employment. Respondents said that the demands of military life, being the primary caretaker to children and needing flexible schedules, are obstacles to finding gainful employment. They are looking for remote and portable work that will help them build lasting careers. They were more likely than any other demographic group to have given up trying to find work. Meanwhile, those who had transitioned from service told a very different story. Veterans and retirees said their greatest obstacle is an employer who is willing to hire them. They would like assistance preparing for interviews and marketing themselves effectively with polished resumes.

Both groups placed a priority on assistance that would help them find open positions, and they have not been able to receive support. Nearly one-third of respondents said they can’t find effective support, and an additional 22.8% said they needed more information about available resources. 05 Active duty military spouses were statistically more likely than other demographics to consider entrepreneurship. Of those who do not currently have a business, 33% said they would consider starting one. However, entrepreneurial spouses of active duty service members reported low earnings, with 70.5% earning ,000 or less and 53.2% making ,000 or less. The most common reasons entrepreneurs chose for building their own businesses were flexible hours and to balance work and family life.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Austen Adriaens/Released)

Child care and education

Child care and school-related support are the top two supports that military families with children wish they had. Child care priorities change based on the age of children; however, respondents with children ages 0 to 12 agreed that hourly care, both in-home and outside of the home, was a top priority. Those with children younger than 5 years old prioritized full-time child care, while after-school care was a priority for those with children between the ages of 6 to 12.

In alignment with their top priority for care they seek, almost two-thirds (64.1%) of actively serving military family respondents said they had to forego a medical appointment due to lack of child care in the past two years. When asked to identify helpful educational support programming for military children, 40.5% of respondents could not think of any that they were aware of or used. The top missing educational supports included special needs support; learning support, such as tutoring and personalized support to fill learning gaps; and transition support to aid military-related adjustment.

Razsadin said:
In the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, military families shared with us the issues that are the greatest challenges to them. They told us that they have difficulty accessing health care appointments. That they need additional assistance as caregivers. That mental health care is critical, but difficult to access. They shared that many of them experience food insecurity. And that many feel lonely and disconnected from their communities. They disclosed that military moves are expensive and cause long-term financial strain. And that putting aside emergency savings is difficult. They talked to us about difficulties finding child care. And how hard it can be to secure (and keep) employment.

In many different areas, military families trusted us with their struggles and shared what makes military life difficult sometimes. And MFAN is committed to moving the needle on those critical areas they’ve identified. But Election Day is an opportunity for all military families to directly use their voices to address the issues that are most important to them. To speak up about what matters to them. And to vote so their voices are counted.

The people and issues military families vote for are up to them. That military families vote means our election results reflect the beautiful diversity of our force.

To learn more about President Trump’s stance on military issues, visit: https://veterans.donaldjtrump.com/issues

To learn more about Vice President Biden’s stance on military issues, visit: https://joebiden.com/militaryfamilies/#

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

41 small, nice things to do for an overwhelmed partner

In times of stress, it’s the little things that make a difference. They always are, but they’re particularly important now, as the coronavirus pandemic looms, we’re more or less housebound, and levels of anxiety, fear, and grief mix together into a strange emotional slurry. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and, if you sense your husband or wife might be feeling a bit more stressed than normal because of the kids and well, everything, noticing that and making some small, thoughtful gestures can go a long way. Things like giving them the time and space to take a Zoom fitness class, getting the kids out of the house for a few hours, ordering from that takeout place they love, and validating their emotions. The little things always matter, but in times of crisis they matter even more. So, to offer some assistance, here are 43 small, nice things to do for a partner who’s feeling overwhelmed. This pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Doing what we can to help our loved ones, well, feel loved and appreciated will help us all get through it.


  1. Take the kids to the park for two hours. And don’t sit on your phone for those two hours: Ride bikes, kick the ball, play games — the goal is to tire them out. Give them a solid block of time during the day when they can make calls, uninterrupted, and you deal with the kids. And by dealing with them, you keep them quiet and occupied and tend to their needs.
  2. Create space to let them get their ‘me-time’ — is it exercising? a nap on a Saturday? Sleeping in? Meditation? — and don’t make a big deal out of it.
  3. Get wine and lug it home. Do laundry. All the laundry. Dry it. Fold it. Iron it if needed. Put it away. And do it without telling them.
  4. Fix that thing that’s adding minor annoyances to their day. Are Internet dead zones around the house making their Zoom or Facetime calls all the more frustrating? Fix it. Does the front door sound like a cackling spirit every time it shuts? Fix it.
  5. Take turns making dinner. If you already do so, great. If not, start now. And by doing dinner, we mean cleaning up afterwards, too.
  6. Instead of asking how you can help, offer to help with a specific thing you have noticed they’re struggling with.
  7. Pour coffee for them on busy mornings.
  8. Don’t take longer in the bathroom than you need to.
  9. Tell them you believe in them. Just remind them how strong they are
  10. Give them a hug every day. Don’t forget it.
  11. Rub their shoulders. Or their feet. Or their hands. Actually, whatever they need rubbed, rub it.
  12. Protect their space from intrusions when they need to focus on something.
  13. Plot out an after-dinner walk. Even if the destination is the Old Oak Tree, it’s getting away.
  14. Take something small off their plate — a chore, a bill — without telling them first. Just do it.
  15. Sneak out of bed in the morning. Tidy up while they rest.
  16. Appreciate them professionally by paying attention to how they work — and how they work well.
  17. Don’t try to make them rationalize why they’re overwhelmed. just let them be stressed, complain, and say ‘that sucks.’
  18. When it’s happy hour, ask them what they want to drink. Make them that drink
  19. Ask them if they want to watch their favorite show. Especially the one that you don’t like all that much.
  20. Validate their emotions. Don’t say that they’re “freaking out over nothing.” Whatever it is, it’s important to them. Listen. Understand.
  21. Draw them a bath. Fill it with the nice smelling bath bomb and fancy soap. Yeah, that one. Light some candles. Give them however long to be in it.
  22. Figure out their love language — and then speak it. Even if you think that love languages are stupid and wrong, it will help you think about how best to communicate your affection. Does your partner tend to give you gifts? Or compliments? Do they seem particularly moved by affection? Think about it, then do it, even and especially if it feels awkward.
  23. Let. Them. Sleep. Do whatever needs to be done to make that happen.
  24. Is a family outing you suggested adding more stress to their world? Cancel it. Schedule something else. There’s a lot going on right now and more to plan means more to think about.
  25. Listen actively. That is, ask them a question, let them speak without interruption, and ask questions to help them say more. Listen again. Only offer guidance if they ask for it. Otherwise, just listen.
  26. Do they need you to just leave them alone for a half hour? Sometimes, this can feel rude. It doesn’t matter. They need it. Give it to them.
  27. Sing them a song. If that feels too weird, sing it and record it and send them the recording when you’re not around. If that still feels too weird, send them a song with meaningful words at an unexpected time.
  28. Order food from their favorite take-out spot, even if it’s a spot that you hate.
  29. If your kid is old enough, teach them to sing your partner’s favorite song/draw their portrait/say a favorite movie line/do a dance/etc. and then surprise them with it.
  30. Text them to say you’re thinking of them. Text them a compliment. Text them something whose sole purpose is just affection, at a time when they’re not expecting it. Even if you’re just in the other room.
  31. Say sorry — an actual sorry, where you mention specific failings, not a half-assed one — for something you fucked up that you never said sorry for. It’s never too late. They haven’t forgotten.
  32. Do whatever sex thing they like that you don’t. Prioritize their pleasure.
  33. Better yet, tell them that they are always so good at giving you what you need in bed and that, tonight, it’s all about them. A compliment and a complete night of pleasure? Smooth.
  34. This one sounds really weird, but it’s surprisingly nice: Read to them in bed.
  35. Order from or go to their favorite coffee place/lunch place/cupcake place, order what they normally order, and bring it home to them. We’re all grieving the routines we once had.
  36. Is the state of the world adding to their state of mind? Suggest some house rules around phone usage. Set them together. Follow them together. Help one another when it’s hard.
  37. Speaking of phone usage, restrict your own. Do you find yourself spacing out on your phone too much? Reading too much news? Phubbing — aka phone snubbing — your partner? Take measures to hold yourself accountable.
  38. Set up a Zoom call with friends they haven’t seen in a while. Call their friends. Make sure everyone can attend. Surprise them with it.
  39. When they’re waffling on whether or not they want to take a mental health day, tell them to do it. Back them up.
  40. Do everything you can to make sure they have the time — and space — to do their weekly Zoom workout class without interruption. If you have to, schedule the workout class for them.
  41. Tell them you love them and that you’ll get through this together.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 tips for navigating marriage and military retirement at the same time

This is the advice I wish I had been privy to. The dynamics of marriage don’t suddenly change the day of retirement, rather, there is a period of anticipation that leads up to the finality of the transition. In much the same way that we address the stresses of pre-deployment, we should be discussing the stress that comes during pre-retirement.

It’s so complicated

Perhaps I should phrase this as what I didn’t know about the medical retirement process, because that is the one we endured. It is humiliating. Soldiers who have been told their entire career to push through the pain are suddenly being treated with suspicion as if they are trying to milk the government for every penny they can when really, all they want, or mine wanted, was to stay in and serve.

I went to every appointment I was able to attend. This isn’t realistic for all spouses, but in my unique line of work I was able to work my schedule around his. If you are able to, I highly recommend it. Things happen in those appointments where your soldier needs an advocate and a voice of encouragement that the temporary suck is worth the process.

The medical documents were an outright mess. According to the file, my husband had an abnormal pap-smear a few years back. Yes, a pap-smear. A mess!

They required hours of pouring over to make sure that they were correct and then hours more of appealing diagnoses that weren’t correct. This is when you, the spouse, begin to discover your new role of caregiver. It’s not an easy one and as a nurse recently told me it’s important to remember this is a marathon and not a sprint. Pace yourself and stick with it.

Your soldier needs to know you’re in this, too, and that you’ll be standing at the other side, just like he/she needed to know when they stepped on the plane to deploy.

The information they give you at the transition readiness seminar isn’t always up to date

Take notes and do the research. Double check everything you are told. Document and start a file folder. Sound familiar? It should. It’s the same advice we are given as we begin the pre-deployment process.

I went to the transition readiness seminar with my spouse to take notes. Part of the reason he was medically retired was due to memory loss related to a TBI. One of my new roles was to take notes and help him remember what was discussed.

Spouses are encouraged to attend these meetings, but as the only spouse in attendance I discovered some of the advice that given out was to our disadvantage. I listened as soldiers were told how to navigate around their benefits in order to payout the minimum amount to spouses if the marriage didn’t work out.

What I wish we had been told was not how to screw our spouses, but rather how to love and support one another through one of the more difficult transitions of our lives.

It may not be the best time to buy a house

A lot of couples start dreaming about their retirement home. For some of them, like us, it’s their first home purchase. Look, retirement is a big stressor all on its own. Buying a home might be a stressor you can put off but if not, here are a few tips from Forbes on how to buy a house while also avoiding a break up.

As a newly retired military family, if you are buying a house locate realtors and mortgage companies who have walked through the process with previous veterans from service to retirement. It’s a complicated system finding financing while in transition, one that requires a few experts in your corner. Some friends have had success moving the family months prior to the actual retirement while others have had to live with family until all the needed paperwork to move forward is available.

For us, one word off on the VA paperwork nearly made us homeless. After driving for four days, we were two hours away before we got the call that we had a place to move into. If you are considering buying a house while transitioning out of the military read this first: 5 Home Purchase Considerations For Your Military Consideration.

Experience prepping for deployments can help you in prepping for retirement

We all go into our first deployment with an idea of what it will look like; retirement is similar. I pictured lunch dates, Pinterest DIY projects, and shared household responsibilities. Our careers were about to take off, my husband with his dream of culinary school and mine as a full-time writer. Reality has a way of knocking you down a few notches.

I want you to dream. You need to dream. A year and a half out we seem to finally be getting the hang of communicating how we each need help and tackling the household responsibilities in a way that works. But none of it looks quite like we pictured. As we adjust to the reality of our new normal, we are learning to communicate more openly, to listen more fully and to forgive the missteps along the way.

There are a lot of emotions that go into prepping for deployments and there are a lot of emotions that come with the transition from military to civilian life. Be ready to be honest with one another along the way. Hold each other up because the period of your life doesn’t have to break you, it can be the moment that solidifies you as a couple.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things you may not have expected from serving

When you think of joining the military, a ton of images shoot through your mind. You think of that badass grunt running toward some unnamed, burning city, rifle in hand as aircraft rip through the skies above. When you actually start your service, you’ll quickly realize that reality is a far cry from your fantasy. In fact, grunts don’t even spend all of their time fighting wars.

Some things might surprise you, but then there are a ton of things you never saw coming.

It’s not even that your recruiter lied to you, it’s just that much of life in the military isn’t as advertised on posters or in TV ads. Some of thee surprises are cool, many of them suck, but at the end of the day, they’re what keeps the machine running.

You probably didn’t expect the following when you signed on the dotted line:


5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

It’s hard to lie about getting hit when you have paint splattered on you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Leon M. Branchaud)

Playing paintball

If you’re a prospective Marine, then you’ve probably seen Jarhead (maybe one too many times). You know that one part where they train with paintball rounds? Most of us thought it was Hollywood bullsh*t — until we got to do the same. Granted, it doesn’t hurt as bad as they make it seem in the movie, but it’s actually a lot of fun. Hell, it’s probably some of the best training you can get.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

You see what the aircraft does with the ammo, though.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Loading ammo onto an aircraft

We’ve all seen videos of jets flying overhead and raining pain onto the ground below. In those moments, with our jaws dropped, we’re thinking, “whoa… that’s so cool.” That is, of course, before you’re the one loading the ammo.

Remember, there are a lot of people behind every dropped bomb.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

Some may use their anger more than others.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)

Feeling emotional extremes of every type

Troops are tough bad*sses — but we’re definitely not emotionless. In fact, what makes veterans so stoic is that they’ve already felt every emotion in its most extreme form. You’ll never be more happy than when you get to sleep in an actual bed after months of sleeping in dirt, you’ll never be as angry as you were in a firefight, and you’ll never be more sad than when you lose a dear friend.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

You might even earn their accolades.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell)

Hanging with another country’s troops

You might expect to go to another country and train with their military, but you can’t really foresee the time you’ll spend hanging out with the Germans, Aussies, Koreans — you name it. You’ll quickly realize that you have a lot in common; you share a lot of the same, bullsh*t experiences.

And you all have that one a**hole in your chain of command.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

If you’ve got time and you’ll be using that model for a while, why not go all out?

(U.S. Army)

Building a terrain model

Did you ever think that a squad leader would tell you to go out and buy a pack of plastic army men? Probably not.

You also probably didn’t expect to build a terrain model to plan a mission and yet here you are. If you don’t mind spending a little extra time, you can actually have fun with this one.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 ways to help your kids through deployment

Training away from home is part of the military way. Schools, deployments, overnight sessions — all of these and more are a regular occurrence for military members. And then, on the other side of things, are their families, left to hold down the fort at home.


Over time it’s a schedule that everyone becomes used to … that is, until young kids are involved. While older kids can certainly understand the logistics of a parent being away (even if they don’t like it), with toddlers or babies, it’s another story. They simply aren’t old enough to grasp what’s taking place. They cry, they act out, and they’re confused as to why mom or dad disappears for days, weeks, or even months at a time.

Teaching these training schedules to kids is certainly hard, but it’s also one that can leave them better emotionally equipped in years to come.

Talk about it

When parents are away at training, it’s ok to tell your kids — in fact, you should tell your kids that, “Daddy’s at work” or “Mommy had to go on a work trip.” These explanations might not make sense in the status quo, but they will teach them that sometimes parents are gone, but it’s nothing to worry about. We know they will come back, and in the meantime, it’s ok to miss them and talk about what they’re doing.

Adjust the conversation in a way that’s age-appropriate, so your kids can still remain informed without being confused or overwhelmed with military training schedules.

Keep it busy

When a parent is in the field, it’s a good time to bring out the fun distractions. Not only will this make it easier for the parent at home, but the kids will have an easier time with the transition. This is true for kids of all ages, not just the littles! Check out local family-friendly events. Get out the “messy” or “outside only” toys and share some new family fun. Make crafts, cook together, or try something new. It’ll give the kids something to talk about once the other parent comes home, and it will speed up everything else in the meantime.

Did we mention this helps the time go faster?

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

Learn about the process

What’s mom or dad off doing, anyway? Sounds like the perfect time for a lesson. Use this time to talk about what’s being accomplished during this time away. Talk about the history of the armed forces, look into camping gear to talk about field stays, and help your kids find your spouse’s location on a globe or map. When at a school, discuss new jobs and how the training will help mom or dad learn.

Sure, the kids might get bored (and probably will), but keeping this info handy will help them become smarter individuals.

Have them help

Technically, this takes place before your loved one ever leaves. Allow your kids to be involved in the getting-ready-to-leave process. Plan and wash laundry, fold clothes, get out the suitcase and start packing. Older kids can be in charge of a checklist and ensure everything has been added to the luggage.

No one likes training schedules or time away, but making your children a part of the process can ease their fears about mom or dad being away. Help your little ones add this coping mechanism to their toolbox of growing emotions.

When it’s time for travel or days away for your military member, don’t worry about the kids! They are smarter and more adaptable than we realize. Talking about what’s ahead and staying busy in the meantime will help the time pass in a way that’s healthy rather than taboo.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Soldier shoots her way to Olympic dream

Many Soldiers join the Army as a step towards achieving their goals and dreams. That was reversed for one Soldier going through Advanced Individual Training on Fort Jackson. She qualified for the Olympics in a sport equally suited for the Army – marksmanship.

Spc. Alison Weisz, from Company B, 369th Adjutant General Battalion, will graduate Advanced Individual Training Oct. 8 and then head to the Army Marksmanship Unit in Fort Benning, Georgia. She made Team USA for the Women’s 10m Air Rifle Event for the 2021 Olympic Games, and will be part of the AMU’s International Rifle Team, and compete internationally in both 10m Air Rifle and 50m Three-Position Small bore Rifle.


“It had always been a goal of mine to join the Army after qualifying for the Olympics,” said the Belgrade, Montana native. “The initial plan pre-COVID was that I was going to qualify, go to the Olympics this summer in Tokyo, in August come back, take a little bit of time off, and go to basic training. And that was all just because I wanted to look forward towards 2024 and the Olympics in Paris. The best way to do that for my career and my sport was with the Army.”

The AMU will help her hone her craft even further.

“The Army Marksmanship Unit has some of the best resources that you could imagine, for our sport specifically,” said Weisz, who graduated Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. “As far as gunsmiths on hand, obviously it’s a source of income as well.”

The Army also helps her financially.

“It’s hard to get that money and financial stability outside of it, outside of anything like the Army,” she said.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

Spc. Alison Weisz poses in front of her company sign. Photo by Josephine Carlson

According to USA Shooting, Weisz “became involved in shooting sports through a gun safety and education program out of a small club in Montana at 9 years old.” She was hooked and began her pursuit that led her to the University of Mississippi’s shooting program where she witnessed a slice of Army-life for the first time. Her great uncle was the only one in her Family to have served in the Army.

Some highlights to her shooting resume include 2019 Pan American Games Gold Medalist, Olympic Quota Winner, splitting a playing card on her first try, and four-time NCAA Individual Qualifier and 2016 NCAA Air Rifle Bronze Medalist.

“When I was in college we had matches there,” Weisz said of traveling to Georgia to compete at Fort Benning, “because they host a lot of the national competitions and other selection matches.”

It was at these competitions she would face rivals now turned teammates.

“Even to make this Olympic team, I was competing against my now teammates at the Army Marksmanship Unit and quite honestly it was a very tight race between a couple of them and myself for the women’s 10 meter event,” she said.

In basic training she initially didn’t let her drill sergeants know that she was a world-class marksman who could split a playing card in half with a single shot. In fact, she said she found Basic Rifle Marksmanship “super- fascinating” because it reinforced principles she had known for a long time.

“I was actually really impressed by all the fundamentals that they taught and the fact that those are the same fundamentals that I still follow today and it’s a completely different type and style of shooting so it was really cool to see,” she said.

She added she was impressed how the drill sergeants were able to teach her peers “who have never touched rifles before, they’ve never seen them, and they’ve never been around them.”

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

Spc. Weisz walks with her fellow trainees during basic combat training at Fort Jackson. US Army photo

While she felt home on the rifle range, she found other aspects of training difficult such as doing physical training in the hot, humid South Carolina mornings, to being rained on during training because you would be wet and have to sit in soggy clothes until later in the day when you could return to the barracks to change.

“I think the most challenging was learning how to deal with so many different people from so many different places and doing such difficult yet simple things 24/7,” she said. Things such as standing at attention, not moving, being quiet, and trying to get 60 people or more to do were difficult for people who don’t have a background founded in discipline.

“They might not have had that being raised or in their life,” she said. “In my sport, discipline is literally all it is; so it was very natural for me. When I need to do something I just do it and just deal with it even if something is bothering me to ignore it and I know and I understand that other people didn’t have that.”

Despite the challenges, Weisz said she plans on using the new experiences to help her on the firing line.

“Even though it was in using pushups or rappelling down the wall with fear … I can now take those skills I’ve learned and apply when I’m actually training and shooting so rather than questioning myself (with questions like), ‘Am I going to be able to shoot well today?'”

Weisz is “super-excited” to get to the AMU after graduation because she “will be training with the best of the best and now we will be the best of the best. The more you surround yourself with the best, the better you will become.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

A military doctor inspired local children to support frontline workers after sharing his secret to becoming a superhero: wearing a mask.

Christy Hanbyul Na, a military spouse, teamed up with military kids from Travis Air Force Base to decorate and distribute masks for frontline workers and deployed service members.

Na’s husband, who treated the first COVID community spread patient in the U.S., is a third-year emergency medicine resident at a hospital in Sacramento, California. She said she’s used to seeing her husband leave for work with a smile on his face, but lately, the stress and strain of treating COVID-19 related patients has started to wear on him.

“He sees ICU beds piling up and fears for the day he might have to take a ventilator off a patient to put on another patient,” Na said.

So, she decided to do something about it. Before beginning this project, Na didn’t have much experience with a sewing needle and thread. She taught herself to sew masks in her limited free time. She knew that many frontline workers like her husband weren’t going to get a chance to spend the holiday season with their loved ones, and she wanted to find a way to give back.

Initially, Na planned to send gifts filled with candy, a thank you card, and a mask to frontline military personnel. But she quickly realized that this project would take a lot of help, so she enlisted the support and efforts of elementary school students from Scandia Elementary School and Travis Elementary School, and the Travis Air Force Base Youth Center.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

“When I came up with the idea, military kids immediate came to my mind because I knew I could count on them to understand what it feels like for frontline workers who might not get to go home for the holidays,” Na said.

After Na sewed the masks, it was up to the kids to decide how to decorate them. Some masks were decorated with hearts and smiling faces, while others were decorated with patriotic colors. The masks were distributed over Christmas and included a photo of the children who were part of the project, along with treats and a card.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

Na set up a Travis AFB Kids Instagram page to highlight the military kids’ efforts. Recipients of the masks included military service members, police officers, firefighters, nurses, and other frontline workers. Na hopes the kids who participated in the project learned that superheroes come in lots of forms and sometimes look like military personnel and postal workers and grocery store workers.

“Masks give them superpowers against the coronavirus villain, just like Captain America’s shield,” she said.

Na’s ultimate goal was to give thanks and hopefully bring a smile to the frontline workers who sacrifice their lives and work tirelessly against the coronavirus fight. She said the delivery of masks in December was a small part of giving back, but she hopes to repeat the experience in the future.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

Current Centers for Disease Control guidelines encourage all Americans to wear masks while in public or when unable to maintain a six-foot distance. Get updates on this project by following Travis AFB Kids on Instagram.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy develops app for sailors’ spouses and families

From military installation searches to special family needs, relocation and retirement, the MyNavy Family mobile application is a one-stop shop for Navy spouses and sailors’ families, combining official information from more than 22 websites.

Developed by the U.S. Navy, the app covers a wide variety of topics: New Spouse Mentorship & Networking; Employment & Adult Education; Parenthood; Special Needs Family Support; Moving & Relocation; Service Member Deployment; Counseling Services; Recreation, Lodging & Travel; Family Emergencies; and Transition & Retirement.

The app connects Navy families to information and resources to help them navigate the complexities of the Navy lifestyle. The app offers several features, including Military Installation Search, MyNavy Career Center, Emergency Contacts and Calendar.


The Military Installation Search provides details for each installation around the world, with contact information, a base map, programs and services, plus an overview of its mission.

You can find a 24/7 resource for help and information, with the in-app ability to call or email a customer service representative through MyNavy Career Center.

5 consequences of the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policy

(Photo by Taylor Grote)

Using the Emergency Contacts feature, you can access websites and phone numbers for a range of organizations, such as National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Sexual Assault Crisis Support, National Domestic Violence Hotline and others.

The Calendar feature lets you add dates and events to calendars associated with your mobile devices.

Through the Contact Sharing feature, you can share contact information with other applications, such as email, SMS text, and iMessage.

The feedback feature allows you to provide input about the app content and how you use it.

The MyNavy Family app was developed by a Spouse Advisory Tiger Team, established by the Navy Sailor Experience Team. The Tiger Team included Navy spouses, along with the ombudsman at large, Navy organizations that provide services to Navy families and several non-profit organizations. The app is part of a larger Navy effort to improve the experiences of spouses and families to promote strong Navy families and support them in every way possible.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing

Content warning: the following article features an open and frank discussion about suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) There’s not a damn thing wrong with asking for a helping hand when you need it most.

Times are rough right now. We’re at the brink of a global pandemic, schools and places of work are closing and people are panic buying things that aren’t usually in short demand. But the factor that is hitting the closest to home for most folks is, well, everyone staying home.


This is what is known at social distancing. It’s an important step in ensuring that the most vulnerable of our population stays away from anyone who may have contracted the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s a drastic measure that’s annoying to most, but it’s going to save lives in the long term. And that’s not something that should ever be understated.

Yet, there’s also an unseen side effect that could potentially harm another group if it’s not handled properly. The disruption of a daily rhythm, potential loss of work and social isolation could impact a vast number of people already fighting through depression and that ever present thought of suicide: veterans.

The Centre for Clinical Interventions lists two determining categories for depression – biological and psychological. Genetics, hormones and neurotransmitters all play their part in making someone more likely to be genetically predisposed to depression but loss, stress and a sense of unfulfillment can hit anyone. At this moment, there’s plenty of that going around.

Even going back a few months before COVID-19 took the world stage, finding a steady paying job wasn’t that easy. Bills can pile up and somehow it feels we’re always just one paycheck above water. But at least some of us had a handful of buddies we could go out to drink with or to see a movie with. Now, it feels like all of that was swept away and we also have to worry if we’ll have enough toilet paper to get through the week.

Right now, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut drastically. Even if you haven’t, you’re probably working from home without seeing anyone but the ones you live with. You might be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn’t go to the grocery store before it turned into a scene from The Walking Dead. Thankfully, this isn’t the end times and the internet can still connect us while we’re standing more than six feet from anyone.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=298&h=e86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20&size=980x&c=744452975 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D298%26h%3De86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20%26size%3D980x%26c%3D744452975%22%7D” expand=1]

Quick sidenote: toilet paper is something that is typically used at a set rate. Unless you’re planning on hiding for months or TPing your neighbor’s place, you don’t need to stockpile TP.

(Photo by Ingrid Cold)

I urge you, please keep in regular touch with anyone you love who’s been hit hard by this social isolation. Chances are they’re not doing so well. Check up on them. Call to see how they’re doing.

Depression is a real disease and the final symptom could be suicide.

This advice goes for everyone but us in the veteran community already had compounding factors before the outbreak. The “22 a day” is still thrown around, albeit those often-cited numbers come from a 2012 study and they’re more accurately at around 17 a day after a much needed cultural shift within our community. That’s still not great; it’s still far above the national average. Often, we’ve been able to find the one ember that kept our flame burning. But for a lot of veterans, that fire could be extinguished with social distancing.

Don’t take this out of its intended context. Social distancing is crucial at this moment. We just need to adjust to the shift in how things are done. Hotlines are still open. The VA Mental Health facilities are still open. And if you’re concerned and feel symptoms of the coronavirus, there are always video conference calls available to connect you with a mental health specialist or doctors.

You are never truly alone.

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For health and safety reasons, the hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. For good reason.

(U.S. Navy photo by Diana Burleson)

I say all of this… because I found myself in that dark place. The part where I wrote about how people are feeling is mostly pulled from what’s going on with myself.

I recently attempted to end my own life. I’ve been fighting through my own depression for some time now and it reached its boiling point. It probably wouldn’t be wise to go into details, but I will share the thought that got my feet back on the ground. It was the thought that no one would ever be able to explain to my cat why I’m never coming home. Make of it what you will, but thoughts like that can help pull you out of an irrational moment.

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I mean, I love my family and friends. But I wouldn’t ever want to hurt this good boy.

(Picture by Eric Milzarski)

It was through the help of my buddy from the Army and my loving wife that I was able to come back. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still in that damn tunnel. I’m now seeing a mental health specialist at the VA regularly and I can honestly say that it was the right choice. No judgement. No negative consequences. And I feel silly for hesitating this long. Just open arms –metaphorically speaking, of course. I kept my six feet of distance and sanitized my hands, because the VA also houses elderly and immuno-vulnerable veterans. And if need be, they’re still doing video calls for anyone feeling any symptoms.

If you know anyone who’s in that dark place, reach out to them. Go in person if you have to, but there’s always the phone. There are always online video games. There’s always a meme you can tag them in. Anything will help. It may not feel like it while we’re self-isolating until things go back to normal, but we are never truly alone.

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