5 ways to help kids understand a deployment - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

Having a parent or family member deploy is rough on the entire family. This is especially true for young kids who might not have the emotional capacity to understand a family member being gone for months on end. (Let’s face it … few of us do.) After all, it’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year, and here we all are celebrating, without Mom, Grandpa, Uncle John, or whoever else might be stationed overseas. 

While this will sound like a tall order, giving kids the tools to deal with big emotional changes can help them to become well-rounded, stable individuals. Help your babies thrive with these tactics to the military family reality that is deployments. 

Use these quick tips to help kids understand this tough time.

  1. Talk about the deployment

The worst, right? If you’re confrontational at heart, this won’t be as tough. But for all the Midwesterners out there who are taught to avoid, avoid, avoid, this will be a nightmare. The first step in helping kids understand a deployment is to actually talk about it. Tell them what’s coming and what it means — be honest in an age-appropriate way, but don’t lie. Tell them it’s ok to be upset; emotions are healthy. 

The process will be rough, no doubt. But honesty can help everyone think about their feelings and discuss how it affects the family. 

  1. Talk to others

Military families have access to a number of tools, including the ability to talk to counselors or therapists. Reach out to local offices and find professionals who specialize in talking to kids. Whether you opt to take the kids yourself (or a video call), or gain some advice for talking with them yourself, it’s a sure place to gain peace of mind that you’re saying the right things. 

  1. Learn lengths of time

The reason deployment can be so rough on kids is that each one is in their own developmental stage. For younger kids, you might talk about what lengths of time mean. Consider a countdown chart, such as a paper chain or numbered blocks. Turning the process into a lesson can help everyone cope. 

For older kids, you might consider hitting milestones, such as eating at a favorite restaurant after a month, ordering a family gift after two, etc. You know your kids best, and incorporating their interests can drum up excitement, even about a deployment.

  1. Exercise the miles away

Staying physically active can be a great mood boost for parents and kids alike. Consider a challenge that incorporates the deployment. Walk the number of miles you are apart, or a mile for each day they are gone. Jumping jacks, lunges, etc. can certainly be substituted. Whatever you choose to do, this is a way to incorporate Mom or Dad into a daily ritual that can boost health. Besides, a routine can be an effective way to move forward and make the days pass quickly.

  1. Avoid the taboo

Kids will certainly be sad that their loved one is away, but that’s all the more reason to make this topic ok to discuss. Avoid sparing feelings by not mentioning the time apart. FaceTime to include your family member, make and mail things like cards and photos. Just planning for your soldier can help kids feel more involved.

Younger kids will benefit from a doll or stuffed animal that’s dressed as their loved one, while older kids can help plan things like holiday or birthday gifts for the return. 

There’s no denying that deployments are difficult for kids to understand. But as a loved one who stays behind, it’s your job to help them through this process. Consider different programs or methods to help little hearts cope with big problems. It’s just a few steps that can help ease them through these long, hurtful months. 

What are your best ways to help kids understand a deployment? Tell us below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

2020 Armed Forces Insurance Spouse of the Year Fort Bragg rallies support for soldiers in quarantine after deployment

Tiffany Marquis is no stranger to serving her community through volunteerism. Together with her active neighborhood, she’s turned quarantine walks into decorative art treasure hunts with sidewalk chalk displays, massive egg hunts, and even painted sign photo ops.

When Marquis learned from another Family Readiness Group leader that troops were seeking resources for incoming troops facing quarantine after deployment, she quickly pulled resources together.


“Another FRG leader had seen my spouse of the year Facebook page and thought I might be able to help her and reached out. We had never met before, but this is just what you do. We are all here for the same mission, the same cause,” said Marquis.

All returning soldiers were facing a 14-day quarantine in the barracks no matter what their living or marital status was.

“You want them to be comfortable. You want to make what they are going through easier if you can,” Marquis said.

Marquis called upon her contact at NC Packs 4 Patriots, a nonprofit organization supporting service members and families out of North Carolina through care and comfort item donations.

“I met the organization at a back to school drive years earlier. Immediately you get the understanding that they are there to help, to show up. When I called them, they were immediately on board asking me what I needed,” Marquis said, who volunteers her time at the organization whenever possible.

Marquis didn’t stop at calling upon just one organization; she put the ask out to her community Facebook page where the group has regularly shown up for each other throughout the pandemic.

“People were excited to help however they could. Within a few days I had over 15 packs of toilet paper and facial tissue.” While these items may seem obvious on the list of comfort, given the scarcity of local stockpiles nationwide, it speaks volumes to the love and selflessness of those contributing to the project.

“Not only did we get hygiene kits, but we had plenty of favorite snack items donated as well,” she explained. Snacks represent normalcy in America for soldiers. Receiving the comforts of home upon arrival is one small way to help with the reintegration process.

The efforts of Marquis and her neighborhood throughout this tough season is a prime example of how capable and strong the military community is no matter what obstacle they are facing. “We weren’t going to let this pandemic stop us from supporting each other,” stated Marquis confidently.

“The FRG overall is a team. As a leader your goal is to support the unit however you can throughout deployments, homecomings, or with fundraisers.” Marquis and the FRG leader who reached out for support are now mutually invested in the success of each other and their missions, exchanging help and resources to rise to meet the need.

In uncertain times and with plenty of units across all service branches facing similar situations, the example set here is one to follow.

“It starts with one person,” Marquis shared. “One person to form a team and the team then moving forward in the right direction.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 CONUS installations that feel like a vacation

Seeing the world is just one of the many reasons for joining the military. But what if dreamy vacation living was possible within the continental borders? Taking advantage of what is possible within a day’s drive is one way to save thousands on airfare and explore more of what our country has to offer.


Strategize your next PCS choice with these staycation worthy locations. From the beaches to the mountains, and east to west, settling into ‘home’ at any one of these installations is easy to do.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

Mountain Home AFB, Idaho (Air Force)

Nestled at the foot of the Sawtooth Range, and within a half day’s drive to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, Mountain Home AFB is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. There’s world-class skiing at Sun Valley in the winter with plenty of roadside accessible hot springs along the way. Idaho isn’t on your radar because she’s everyone’s best-kept secret.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

NAS Whidbey Island, Washington (Navy)

Craggy coastlines, tide pools teeming with sea life, and million-dollar views are how to describe this installation just over an hour north of Seattle. The barrier islands of the Puget Sound are home to seductively slow island life, away from traffic, and a ferry away from Olympic National Park or the San Juan Islands. Watch both whales and submarines surface from one of the dozens of state parks by the fire and on the beach.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

Fort Carson, Colorado (Army)

Located just outside the Garden of the Gods, this Army Installation is another ruggedly beautiful spot to call home. The state exudes adventure in all terrain types, like sand dunes, snow-capped peaks and breathtaking arch formations. Colorado experiences all four seasons, providing a little something for every preference. Your PT test is sure to stay on point during the winter season with infamous ski resorts like Breckenridge and Telluride to choose from.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia (Air Force and Army)

What we love about JBLE is the easy accessibility to all the major east coast metropolitan cities. Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City are all a connected train ride away. National history, monuments and bustling nightlife make life on this coastline more than noteworthy. In addition to city life, Virginia is home to Shenandoah National Park and fall foliage, which draws crowds year-round. Tapping into history or the political pulse of the country are all possible here.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina (Marines)

Life in the low country is slow and sweet. The tidewater region is situated between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, two historic southern towns rich with seafood and charm. A subtropical climate provides beach access year-round, with plenty of sunshine to boost any mood. Another point to love is the affordability of the region compared to other, more high-cost stations, putting more vacation dollars into your pocket.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

Sector Key West, Florida (Coast Guard)

The southernmost point in the continental U.S. is as beautiful as you can imagine. Dolphins, coral reefs and sailboats are all at your doorstep, which is likely oceanfront. Lesser known, yet completely noteworthy interests like the Hemingway Home and Dry Tortugas National Park are also found here. Key West also boasts several shipwrecks to explore in turquoise waters, making a dive certification a card you need in your wallet.

It’s all about location, and there’s plenty to choose from during your military career. Europe and Hawaii are not the only prime spots to be had, and this list is proof. Experiencing life in varied climates and states provides a perspective unlike any other when the time comes to settle down after service.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military marriage in one word…impossible

Military Marriage Day will be celebrated for the first time August 14th! In preparation of the holiday, I looked for a word to sum up military marriage. I knew my limited perspective couldn’t possibly take on the task alone, so I reached out to a vibrant military spouse group on Facebook to find my answer. Surely I’d see a pattern of responses that would lead to that one magic word I was looking for. Maybe it would be a short word like fun or more interesting words like amorous or idyllic. I posted my prompt asking, “How would you describe your military marriage in one word? Bonus if you add a gif.” Once it posted I closed my phone and finished making dinner for my littles.

Hopeful to get some great feedback, I opened my phone to see 600 comments and many more rolling in. Success! This is just what I needed. Surely there will be a clear outcome with a few outliers of course. I started scrolling fully expecting gifs of hugging teddy bears or Fez from That ’70s Show drawing a heart with his figures while mouthing “I Love You,” you know the ones. That was until I read the comments that busted the bubble of a one-sided reality filled with hot air and laughing gas, which clearly had me in this delusional state. My rose colored glasses cracked and all I could say was, DANG!


5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

For perspective, the spouses who responded are roughly between 20 and 46 years old. Some have been married for over a decade while others are still in their honeymoon of under a year of marital bliss. This beautiful array of perspective was the reality check I needed. The truth is that there was no one word to describe military marriage. Although the majority of military spouses are women married to men, the military is not a monolith. We have male military spouses that are married to women as well as a growing LGBTQIA population meaning that everyone brings a different word to the conversation. On top of that, each branch, rank, career field, and current event experienced within a couple’s marriage will determine the challenges faced or encounters they’ll walk through. That one single word became more and more impossible to reach as I scrolled.

I did see some themes, which I believe gives a good array of what military marriage really is. Nearly everyone responded using a gif. Below is a breakdown of the groupings of words the milspouses shared.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

10% – Confused/Mixed Emotion

I love this population that posted the confused gifs. I’m leading with them as not only because they were the smallest percentage, but mostly because they were the most honest. The perplexed faces of Ice Cube, Bill Cosby and other celebrities were popular in this group along with bipolar expressions like Anne Hathaway using a fan to transition her facial expression from happy to sad. This group alone shows that there is not one word for our relationships.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

15% – On the Down Side

Lonely, sad, patiently or impatiently waiting. These are the gifs that showed the reality of the down side of military marriage. A popular gif was the character Oleg of Compare the Meerkat’s. Oleg’s sweet yet sad face outstretched hands had a caption of “Come Back.” A sucker punch to the gut of emotion I felt as a young spouse counting down yet another deployment. Others used SpongeBob or Pikachu to relay their feelings of grief due to separation.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

17% – Illusion or Adventure

Rollercoaster rides, circus acts, and oblivious characters sitting calmly amongst chaos was a common description for military marriage. Although most are referring to military life in general, it definitely tells the story of how military marriages endure. The crowd favorite was a cartoon gif of a room on fire while the dog calmly sips coffee from a mug with a captain that says, “That is fine.” The clip comes from a 2013 webcomic called On Fire, but is a humorous depiction of the fires that surround military marriages as we try to maintain an illusion of an unbothered attitude.

28% – Letting Off Steam 

From actress New York of Flavor of Love rubbing her temples to Stitch of the Disney movie Lilo Stich scratching his eyes out, this majority was not afraid to show some frustration. Gifs depicting chaos through dumpster fires, disasters and screaming let loose the realities of the stress that military couples deal with. Marriage takes work and is definitely not a simple cake walk. It takes intentionality and overcoming obstacles thrown at you from different directions. The emotion shared in these posts were real.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

30% – Positive Vibes

I was relieved to see that the highest percentage of responses were in a range of positivity. Everything from a simple “okay,” thumbs up or Finding Nemo’s Dory singing “Just Keep Swimming” to dynamic duo gifs like Batman flapping Superman’s cape as if he were flying, hand holding and romantic gifs for grownups eyes only.

In the end, love wins!

A gif is worth a thousand words and the fact that I was looking for just one made it an impossible task. Many responses were sent in humor, yet there is a lot of truth in those pictures of sadness, anger, and lack of desire to acknowledge troubling realities. Military marriage is complex and filled with highs and lows. Those who expressed love and excitement where not the overwhelming majority, which tells me that there is some work to do in our relationships. I may have been searching for one word to describe military marriage for Military Marriage Day, yet what I discovered is all the more reason why our couples need a reason to celebrate.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.

But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.


I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.

We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)

Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.

In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.

The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).

Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.

Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This is how Jack Daniel’s and the ASYMCA help troops go home for the holidays

For the seventh year, the Jack Daniel Distillery and the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) have kicked off their “Operation Ride Home” campaign that provides financial assistance to active duty junior-enlisted military and their families to travel from their place of military service to “home” for the holidays.


Since Operation Ride Home began, 2,669 junior enlisted single service members and those with families – for a total of 5,767 people – have travelled from their bases to homes around the country for the holidays. Men and women from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard have been assisted with travel to 47 of the 50 states.

The ASYMCA works with the various military commands in specific areas co-located with ASYMCA branches to identify and prioritize junior-enlisted service members and families most in financial need. Plane tickets and pre-paid debit cards are given to assist those traveling.

For every purchase made from Heritage Made Hero, a donation will be made to Operation Ride Home.

Jack Daniel’s has once again donated $100,000 to kick off the campaign that this year will exceed more than one million dollars in total donations over the life of ORH. The famed distillery is asking friends to visit their website to make a contribution to help more service members spend the holidays at home. All donations are 100 percent tax deductible.

“Words can’t describe what it means for us to be able to give back and help these heroes and their families make it home for the holidays,” said Jeff Arnett, Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller. “We can’t thank our friends enough for their support of Operation Ride Home over the years, and hope they will once again do what they can as we try to get as many families home as possible. The sacrifice shown daily by our men and women in uniform and their families is simply incredible. They are there for us, and we need to be there for them.”

“Our junior-enlisted service members are often young, new to the military, and struggle to get home during the holidays,” said William French, ASYMCA President and CEO. “We are proud to work alongside Jack Daniel’s for Operation Ride Home and hope others will join us in sending these service members home to their loved ones this holiday season.”

Operation Ride Home is open to active duty E-4 and below, both single and married, who might not otherwise financially be able to travel home for the holidays. The option to drive or fly is an individual decision. Plane ticket vouchers are limited to $400 per person flying and for those choosing to drive, the pre-paid debit cards are $100 per family member for gas, lodging and food. Click here for additional information on eligibility and to view participating installations that qualify for travel assistance.

Celebrate Joyfully. Drink Responsibly.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

7 jobs that will let you work from home

On any given day while scrolling through a military spouse Facebook group, you’re bound to see a question similar to, ‘Anyone know any legitimate ways to make money from home?’ It’s usually followed by several comments, people looking for the same, people who are working remotely, and direct sales consultants.


As someone who’s worked from home since 2013, I know a thing or ten about how to make money from home. Technology has advanced in a way that’s opened many work-from-home opportunities. It’s easier than ever to make extra money whether you only want to cover the extras like nails and fancy coffees, or if you want to have a fully portable business. Here are 7 real ways that you can make real money from home.

Virtual Assistant Business

If you have general administration skills, there are literally tons of online entrepreneurs looking for your help. Have a niche? Even better! Quite a bit of business owners in the digital space are often one man-or-woman shows and overwhelmed. If you can help alleviate some of their workloads by keeping their email and calendar managed, you’ll be worth your weight in gold (or benjamins!).

If you’re tech-savvy, a great copywriter, good with social media, a graphic designer— these highly coveted skills could help you launch a lucrative virtual services business.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

Remote Call Center

Many of the largest companies and brands hire remote support for reservations, bookings, etc. Companies like Hilton, Walt Disney World, and more often have positions for remote call workers. With these positions often, the shifts may be flexible and you’ll need a dedicated office space with absolutely no noise in the background.

Direct Sales

Direct Sales, Multi-Level Marketing, and Network Marketing get quite a bad rap. That reputation is almost always aimed at the sales tactics of individuals. However, when done ethically and with integrity, direct sales is a legitimate way to earn income. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea (and honestly, what is?), the key is to do your research. Make smart financial choices that ensure you are making a profit while staying true to your personal values.

Freelance Writer

Fancy yourself a pretty good writer? Couple that with an interest in trending topics and an affinity for giving your opinion (or research, if you’re more of a technical writer) and a future as a freelance writer could be for you.

Pricing in the freelance field is one of those topics that widely range depending on your own experience and the outlet’s budget. The information on how to pitch content is usually easily found on an organization’s website.

Blogger/Influencer

Becoming a blogger and/or influencer is vastly different from being a freelance writer. Ask any blogger, and they’ll tell you that it’s good-but-hard work to have a blog. Bloggers build an engaged community that interacts and is influenced by their own personal preferences.

This is to the advantage of companies that have customers identical to the blogger’s audience. It means that a company could put its products in the hands of someone who talks directly to its target audience and has already gained their trust. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship that brands will pay for. After all, it is marketing.

But successful bloggers do not happen overnight. It is an investment of time, energy, and possibly even money before you’ll see the payoff. That’s why it’s essential to choose a blog topic that you’re passionate about.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

Pet Services

A lot of people have pets, and a lot of pet owners work and/or are busy. Pet walking, sitting, and grooming are all viable business services that you can meet if you are a pet lover. Offering these services during your availability could be an easy way to make additional cash. With the transient military lifestyle and word of mouth, you could quickly become a pet services provider that’s highly recommended in your area.

ESL Teacher

One of the new trends for at-home work is to teach English to kids in foreign countries- especially China. Like the remote call center guidelines, there are some stipulations. You may need certain degrees, a quiet space, work nontraditional hours due to time zone differences. But, if you meet the qualifications, it could be an excellent way to have an extra income while working from home.

These are our favorite ways to make money from home, all legitimate, and have proven to be successful for many military spouses. Do you make money from home doing something that wasn’t listed here? Tell us in the comments.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

A new program offsets costs associated with remote education for military kids.

Army Emergency Relief announced the financial assistance program earlier this year after evaluating the needs of Army families impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It provides up to $500 per family to defray the costs of supplies purchased for students in K-12. The program is retroactive to March, when many schools started going offline.


Examples of items covered under this program are “traditional educational materials such as pens, paper, and books as well as educational technology including computers, tablets, and software,” according to the AER website. Assistance may be provided as a zero-interest loan, grant, or combination.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, director of AER, said the idea for the program came after a discussion with partners from sister relief societies about COVID-19 support for military families. Eligible soldiers can apply for assistance directly on the AER website.

“We have an online application and that’s the first place to start. Once we work the assistance case — usually 12-24 hours, depending on how complicated it is and several other situations — we then send an electronic funds transfer from our bank account directly to the soldier’s bank account,” he said.

Soldiers from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve who have been mobilized in support of COVID-19 are also eligible to apply, but they must go through their chain of command.

“The chain of command can validate their status, as in they are mobilized in support of COVID-19, and then work it back in through the electronic process,” Mason said.

All of the new COVID-19 related programs created by AER — of which there are roughly three dozen — will exist at least until the end of the year, Mason said, and new programs are constantly being added as needs come to light. To date, AER has distributed 2,000 in COVID-19 assistance, and Mason hopes more soldiers will request support.

“What keeps me up at night is that there is some need out there and it isn’t coming to us, either because of a communication problem or they are experiencing something that we haven’t thought of. We’ll always look at exceptions to a policy, so just because you go to our website and it isn’t there, don’t let that stop you. Come on in,” Mason said.

The most common ranks requesting AER assistance are E5s and E6s, but soldiers of any rank are eligible. And Mason is aware that service members can be hesitant to ask for help, which is why AER put a direct access program in place almost four years ago to achieve multiple objectives.

“It [the direct access program] allows soldiers to come to AER without chain of command involvement. It was really two reasons: One, it was the stigma, that survey data supports about asking for help, and secondly it was to get soldiers to come to us and not go to predatory lenders.

“Asking for help is a sign of strength.”

Visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/covid19/ to apply for assistance and to learn about additional AER programs.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The key to conversation: Vulnerability is not a weakness

Have you ever been lost for words in how to approach a serious conversation? As military spouses, we may feel vulnerability is a bad thing, but it’s crucial to have meaningful, heartfelt conversations. Have you ever shared legitimate fears, hoping for a safe space to find relief, and were met with jokes or platitudes? Here are a few ways we weave vulnerability into our conversations.


Please, Sir, can I have some more?

Asking for what you need might sound demanding, but this request allows the other person to know what you’re looking for to support you better. Ideas for phrase starters could look like: “I’m looking for encouragement…advice…a reminder I’m not crazy and can do this,” Sometimes as listeners, we advise because we want to help when the other person is just looking to vent or verbally process. Knowing this information beforehand gives the listener insight into how to respond in a way that nourishes each of you.

Let’s take it to the next level

What do you do when you want to have a serious conversation and do not want to be brushed aside or met with sarcasm? Using this ‘level’ tool, you can set the tone for discussion beforehand.

  • Level 1 is everyday chat, light-hearted fun.
  • Level 3 is, ‘I want you to take me seriously and hear me out; please don’t make light of this.’
  • Level 5 is divorce talks or a year-long unaccompanied tour announcement. A high stakes all-hands-on-deck conversation.

By stating the level, you give the person you are hoping to talk with an understanding of where you are mentally.

Hurry Up and Wait

Be prepared to wait if you ask for a level 3+ conversation. If they are in the middle of a project, they may need to get back to you later to give you proper attention. Adding more care to our conversations is a gift. Providing clarity on the topic helps them mentally prepare as well. For example: “Hey, hun, I’d love to have a level 3 about your deployment next week, we need to make a plan,” or, “Hey, mom, level 5, I’m four months into a one-year deployment, with three kids. I’m not okay. I need help.”

When we share the topic of conversation and use an easy tool like levels, we can let people know the seriousness of our feelings before the discussion even starts. Using these tools can change the conversation from one of frustration to one of vulnerability and met hearts.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

64 scavenger hunt clues to keep kids busy in quarantine

Our unwelcome nationwide experiment has confirmed our suspicions: Working full-time from home while keeping young kids educated and entertained is impossible. Toddlers and preschool-age kids aren’t developmentally ready for extended solo playtime, and even if you’re not opposed to parking them in front of screens, they’ll eventually get bored. What you need is a safe, reasonably educational, and time-consuming activity that requires only half-distracted parental assistance. Believe it or not, such a thing exists: the scavenger hunt.

A form of good clean fun, the scavenger hunt, like hide-and-seek, is as old as time; scavenger hunt clues give parents a chance to be creative, and the hunt helps kids see their everyday surroundings in a new light while developing problem-solving skills. Scavenger hunts are, most importantly, something kids can do mostly on their own, buying parents some time to do what they need to do. For younger kids, a simple list of pictures can serve as the type of scavenger hunt where kids just need to find one of each item. To up the ante, lend them your phone and let them take photos, or adapt it for the backyard. To really up the stakes, turn off the lights in a room and have kids search for items with a flashlight.


Indoor Scavenger Hunt Clues

  • A picture of you as a baby
  • Something soft
  • Something you can wear
  • An eraser
  • Something that smells good
  • Something spiky
  • A paperclip
  • A crayon with a funny color name
  • Something heart-shaped
  • A miniature toy version of something adults use (a toy truck, play food, doll clothes, etc.)
  • One of your drawings
  • A pair of shoes that don’t fit
  • Something shiny
  • Something with legs
  • Something small enough to fit inside a lunchbox
  • Something hairy
  • A game
  • A key
  • Something you can spread
  • Something that’s your favorite color
  • Something that could help clean up a spill
  • Something that helps you sleep
  • A type of food you don’t like
  • Something that turns on and off
  • Something you can see through
  • Something you can’t see through
  • Something that makes a sound
  • Something that moves on its own (e.g. a slinky, a pet, or a marble)
  • Some sort of box
  • A ball
  • Something that’s used to carry other things

Category Scavenger Hunts for Kids

  • Something from each color of the rainbow: an object that’s red, one that’s orange, and so on… yellow, green, blue, and purple.
  • An object (book, paper, shirt) that has the letter A. Then find an object with the letter B. Continue for the rest of the alphabet.
  • Something you can feel, something you can smell, something you can taste, and something you see.
  • Something soft, something rough, something squishy, something hard, and something liquid.
  • As many things as you can find for every shape: circle, square, triangle, rectangle.
  • As many things as you can find with flowers on them.
  • As many question marks as you can find.
  • Things that could fit inside an envelope.
  • Things that start with the same letter as your name.
  • A collection of all of your favorite things: something that’s your favorite color, smell, thing to cuddle, shirt, shoes, favorite snack, best gift, and favorite book.
5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Clues

For those with access to a backyard, an outdoor scavenger hunt is as simple as compiling a list of things for your child to find. Kids can either collect each item or take a photo of it.

  • A flower
  • A worm
  • A three-leaf clover
  • A leaf with four points
  • A stick
  • A spiderweb
  • A bug
  • An acorn
  • A pebble
  • A feather
  • A piece of moss
  • A pine needle
  • A gardening tool
  • A puddle
  • A cloud
  • Dew
  • Pollen
  • A seed
  • A flower that hasn’t bloomed yet
  • A flower petal
  • A flower stem
  • A bird
  • A squirrel

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons military kids make Veterans Day fun

Military kids are a unique breed. They grow up too fast during deployments and are wise beyond their years. They ask tough questions about war, politics, furloughs, and DD93s because they overhear these things at the dinner table. But, some of the best things about military kids are their comments. The days and weeks leading up to Veterans Day in a house with military kids are just plain fun.


5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

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1. They are so proud of their veterans.

Frequently, military-friendly schools will line the halls with artwork honoring veterans. One year, my son brought home a few half-sheets of paper that were to be filled in by our family about the veterans in our family. Our son, who was in early elementary school at that point, said, “We need so many more, Mom. We have TONS of veterans in our family.” From grandparents to aunts and uncles to cousins to parents and siblings, military kids have a fierce pride in every single person who served.

2. They know the history.

“Veterans day began as Armistice Day but was later changed by President Eisenhower in 1954,” I heard from the back seat. Someone was practicing lines for the upcoming Veterans Day program at their school. “Veterans day com…commem…commemorates veterans of all wars.”

3. They understand the sacrifices.

You’ll never find a military kid who confuses Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and Veterans Day. Ever. They know the difference, they understand why those things are different, and they don’t want to talk about it again. Sure, they’ll be excited if their parent gets a free dessert at Chick-fil-A on Veterans Day or if there’s a military discount, that means they can spend more at the toy store, but overall, they just want their parents home with them.

5 ways to help kids understand a deployment

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4. They don’t mind having to go to school.

In some school districts, Veterans Day is not a school holiday. For military families, this can be a hard adjustment as most service members in garrison will have this day off. But one thing we’ve discovered is that the schools that remain in session have fantastic Veterans Day programs, on a day where active duty and veteran parents can actually attend. One child equated going to school on Veterans Day as a military kid to their parent having to work on Christmas. Sometimes you have to do your job on a holiday.

5. They have some fierce branch pride.

As the token Army family in a Navy community, my children went to a school whose mascot was the captains. They had a giant anchor out front, and they rode the “Anchor bus.” They wore their “Proud Army Brat” t-shirts a lot that year. And we were quite possibly the only people celebrating Army’s win that December in Pensacola, Florida.

Veterans Day is a great time to teach your children about the significance behind the day. You can read books together, attend a parade, or make poppies. If you are stationed overseas, you can take a trip to visit historic battlefields and cemeteries. And when they get older, you can binge-watch Band of Brothers with them. Now that is a military parenting win.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

I was both excited and anxious the day I got my orders to Minot Air Force Base. I requested to be sent to a nuclear missile base because of the challenges and opportunities the mission presented. Every day, Airmen at Minot and its sister nuclear missile bases operate, maintain, and secure weapons that have an immediate and direct impact on US strategic policy. The thought of leading those Airmen was awesome but also daunting. In the weeks leading up to my first day in Minot, I was concerned with whether I had what it took to be the right leader in my unit. Unsure of what to do, I simply decided that I would approach everything with optimism and enthusiasm.


In time, I found (miraculously) my plan to simply throw my energy and passion into the job actually worked. I had a great relationship with my commander, my airmen appreciated my effort (or at least found their lieutenant’s attitudes novel/humorous), and I worked well with my peers to accomplish the mission. As a reward for my efforts, I was given an extremely unique opportunity that was the highlight of my time at Minot; the nuclear weapons convoy mission.

It was a major change of pace for me. I had my own unique vehicle fleet, command and control systems, specialized weapons, and an entire flight of hand-picked airmen. I also had to take responsibility for my own mission tasking and planning, work independently, and ensure the dozens of different agencies involved in every convoy were working in harmony with each other. But by far the biggest change for me was that I suddenly found myself with a significant degree of authority and responsibility to accomplish a mission that had very real consequences on US strategic policy.

What I humbly share here are the lessons I learned from long, cold days on the road, ensuring the safe and secure transport of the world’s most destructive weapons. They were hard-won lessons delivered to me in the form of long nights, strange situations, and a desire to do right by the most talented and motivated airmen in the Air Force. I hope these lessons help the next round of lieutenant’s taking up the watch in the great, wide north.

1-Calm Down

Perhaps my biggest lesson, which was taught to me time after time, was the most important thing I could do in any sort of situation was remain calm. Your troops will reflect your attitude. If you panic, they will panic and start making poor decisions. Their panic will be mirrored and then amplified down the chain. But if you remain cool and calm, your troops will try to emulate your attitude even if they are upset internally. When you talk over the radio, speak clearly and calmly. When you give orders, act naturally and with confidence.

Low emotional neuroticism is what you should seek within yourself. This trait does not mean that you have to be an unfeeling robot as that would be just as bad as being an emotionally reactive person. You should figure out what your “trigger moments” are and then seek to balance your emotions in front of your troops. Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff.

2-Learn to Let Go of Control

Many will find this ironic, but one of the keys to successfully moving a nuclear weapon is to actually let go of control. Not control of the weapon of course, but rather control of the programs and processes that surround the mission. I quickly discovered a nuclear weapons convoy had way too many moving pieces to effectively manage on my own. As a result, I had to rely heavily on my NCOs to manage these moving pieces on my behalf. I did this by providing a clear, guiding intent for their programs and squads, and then giving them as much freedom and power as I could to let them achieve that intent.

While it seems like common sense leadership advice to trust your NCOs, it is still very hard to let go of things that you know you will have to answer for if they go wrong. But trust me, it will work out. We have the most talented airmen in the world and they will find great solutions to the unit’s problems, even if it is not the solution you envisioned.

3-Don’t Let Yourself Get Tribal

As stated before, moving a nuclear weapon across North Dakota requires the coordination of dozens of different units and agencies. It is truly a whole-base effort and a fantastic example of the bigger Air Force in action. This kind of mission requires that the various participants act selflessly to become a “team of teams.”

While unit morale and espirit-de-corps are must haves in any military unit, it should never come at the expense of cooperation with other friendly forces or devolve into petty rivalries. Unfortunately, too often leaders tend to destroy the larger picture under the delusion that we they looking out for our tribe. I had an obligation to build relationships with partner units, learn their processes, and make the whole-base effort happen in order for the nuclear convoy mission to succeed. If you always think in terms of “them” versus “us”, you will find it’s only “us” in the fight and no “them” will be coming to save you.

4-Give Your Leadership the Information They Need

Because of the nature of the position, I frequently found myself in meetings and discussions that other lieutenants were not normally allowed to participate in. I was also the subject matter expert for a very high visibility mission, and thus officers and commanders who were much more senior to me looked to me for my honest opinions on issues that affected the convoy. When questions about the risks involved in a particular mission came up, the heads in the room would turn to me to help determine the outcome (a feeling that I never got used to).

When you do find yourself in a situation where senior leaders want your viewpoint, be respectful and honest. It is your responsibility to provide your leadership with truthful answers and to do so in a way that is not antagonistic. At the same time, you must also be willing to accept your leadership’s decisions based on the information you provide. Trust goes both ways. My leadership trusted me to lead the convoy mission and I trusted them to make decisions on those missions that would keep me and my Airmen safe.

5-Embrace Failure and Avoid Fear

I once read in a history class that a popular saying in the old Strategic Air Command was “to err is human, to forgive is not SAC policy.” While that may sound clever and certainly carries the bravado of General Curtis LeMay with it (the founder of SAC and the modern nuclear Air Force), I can tell you that zero forgiveness makes for an abysmal unit culture.

If you refuse to accept failure while learning from it, you will create a unit culture where members are afraid to come forward, speak up, or sound the alarm to major problems. Your troops will hide things from you, and that type of behavior is what gets people hurt or killed. Show your airmen, through both action and words, honest mistakes are forgiven and embraced as a learning opportunity.

6-Have Fun

During my entire time at Minot, I made it a point to find the bright side of things and enjoy my job. Like any duty station or mission series, Minot had its fair share of challenges. There is no way to sugarcoat the experience of having to walk out into sub-freezing temperatures and still get the work done. Yet when these situations happened, I looked to others to keep a good attitude and make the best of the situation. I was always able to find a reason to laugh or smile(even if icicles started to gather on my face).

You too can find success with something as simple as finding a reason to smile more often or to laugh at stupid, silly things. Staying calm in front of your airmen can have a similar effect to having a happy attitude and can be contagious in a unit.

I am grateful to the proud Defenders of the 91st Missile Security Operations Squadron who were patient with me as I worked to develop the mission, the airmen, and myself. In the face of -20 degree temperatures and a demanding nuclear mission, they chose to follow me in giving their all towards building a lethal, combat-ready team.

Andrew is an Air Force Security Forces officer currently assigned to Buckley Garrison, US Space Force, Colorado. He oversees base security operations for the installation. He loves taking road trips with his wife and dog, snowboarding beautiful mountains, and enjoying great Colorado beer.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Famous novelist, former Marine reflects on service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marine, former LAPD officer and novelist, Joseph Wambaugh, sat down with the Marine Corps Entertainment Media Liaison Office and discussed how his service gave him the values needed to pave the way for two successful careers, Aug. 9 2020.

Joseph Wambaugh is well known in the entertainment industry for his best-selling police novels and contributions to several television shows and feature films. Though much of his inspiration came from a long and distinguished career as a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, he attributes his work ethic and core values to another period in his life. Joseph Wambaugh is one of the few and the proud, the Marines. One whose service to America began in the mid-1950s.


In the second iteration of a series of dialogues with successful Marine veterans we found Wambaugh to be insightful, interesting, and able to provide key nuggets of wisdom to pass along to any Marine, veteran and citizen alike.

Wambaugh has written many prevalent novels to include “The New Centurions”, “The Choirboys”, “The Onion Field” and “Hollywood Station” to name a few. Twenty-one books in all, 13 fiction and eight non-fiction. Like many former Marines, he credits the Marine Corps with teaching him the value of an honest days’ work and, most importantly, for helping him mature.

“I was born in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania … an only child in a blue-collar family and lived there until I was 14 years old,” said Wambaugh. “It was about that time when my parents and I came to Ontario, California to bury a relative. Sunny California looked nothing like gritty, grimy Pittsburgh so we ended up staying. My father supported us as a washing machine repairman. I was a lazy student, almost always the youngest in my class. I graduated from Chaffey High School when I was nearly 17 and a half, too young to get a real job and with no college ambition. I talked my mother into signing for me and along with my best friend, joined the Marine Corps July 7, 1954. The Marine Corps made me grow up and realize the value and necessity of hard work.”

Wambaugh’s time in the Corps included service on both coasts of the United States. Early during his time as a Marine, he was assigned a few different occupations. However, it was his final assignment that foreshadowed his future successes.

“After boot camp in San Diego, I was sent to Jacksonville for training as an airplane mechanic but had no mechanical dexterity,” said Wambaugh. “I was then transferred to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. My MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] was 0141, also known then as ‘office pinkie’, after my sergeant major discovered that I did learn one thing in high school – I could type. I spent the last 18 months of my enlistment at Camp Pendleton as a company clerk.”

Wambaugh married his high school sweetheart Dee while in the service and they have been married nearly 65 years. He took several college courses while off duty and by the time he was discharged he had accumulated some credits to put toward an undergraduate degree. He decided to use the Montgomery GI Bill along with the California Veteran’s Bill to finance a degree in English. He initially wanted to become a schoolteacher, however he learned the LAPD had openings and paid fairly well. Now mature, educated and with life experience as a Marine, he easily completed the requirements “To Protect and Serve” as a police officer. He was sworn in May 5, 1960.

Reflecting on his childhood and his service as a Marine and police officer, Wambaugh recalled always finding inspiration through reading.
“Being an avid reader gave me an ability to express myself on paper,” Wambaugh said. “As a young boy I found Jack London’s works in the public library and read “The Call of the Wild” three times.”

It wasn’t only classics that inspired him. Like many children from his era, he also found joy reading comic books and watching movies.

“As an only child I got a generous one-dollar allowance each week and would buy five comic books every Saturday, then go to the movies and buy penny pretzels and a popsicle,” said Wambaugh. “That pretty much took care of the allowance.”

When asked about how he got started as a writer, Wambaugh remembered it being somewhat challenging but rewarding nonetheless.
“I was a cop for nearly a decade before I began experimenting with short stories. I would send them to cheap magazines and they would write back with swift rejections,” recalled Wambaugh. “I finally decided to try for a famous magazine…”Playboy.” My short story was rejected but I couldn’t believe that someone actually had read it so I sent it to them a second time. This time my rejection said, ‘It’s no better this time than it was last time, schmuck,'” Wambaugh said smiling. “Many years later, when I was a bestselling author, “Playboy” asked me to write a story. I never got around to it and looked everywhere for the ‘Dear Schmuck letter’ to send back but couldn’t find it.”

Wambaugh’s first break came when his best-selling novel, “The New Centurions,” was optioned into a motion picture where it was adapted for the screen by an Oscar-winning screenwriter and starred an Oscar-winning actor. George C. Scott, another former Marine, played the leading role. This was an exciting time for Wambaugh.

Wambaugh remembered George C. Scott was known for his onset antics, mercurialness and being, at times, somewhat scary.

“For one of the few times I saw him on location or on set, George Scott played a not-so-funny prank on the production team.” Wambaugh said. “The prank included a prop revolver and blank cartridges and I’ll leave it at that. As we all settled down, George was suddenly buoyant and pumped. He had just done something very dangerous and he loved it. He was a peculiar fellow, but a truly great actor.”

From humble beginnings to entertainment celebrity, Wambaugh recalled being flattered that his work was so popular and how it led to the start of some great relationships.

“Of course, it was heady stuff, finding myself a casual acquaintance of so many celebrities,” said Wambaugh. “Director Harold Becker, who directed “The Onion Field” and “The Black Marble” from scripts I had adapted from my books, became a dear friend. He created the TV show ‘Police Story’, which was a big hit in the 1970s. He was ahead of his time and commonly told stories of female police officers, as he believed them more detailed in their storytelling.

Service as a police officer became increasingly difficult for Wambaugh as his celebrity grew. He eventually had to decide between his artistic work and his service as a police officer.

“Eventually it was becoming impossible for me to do police work,” Wambaugh said. “People I arrested were asking me to cast them in ‘Police Story.’ Others came to my station hoping I would read their manuscripts. My celebrity wiped out my ability to do police work and I reluctantly left the LAPD after 14 great years.”

When asked about what advice he had for Marines seeking a career in entertainment, Wambaugh offered a few insightful tips.

“I’m rather proud of my willpower when it comes to working day or night without letup until the job is done,” said Wambaugh. “I never lost that intensity until a book or script was finished. I think that growing up from the age of 17 until the age of 20 as a young Marine taught me to embrace and value hard work. There are all sorts of tangible and intangible rewards that come from knowing we have done our best and never backed off until the job was done.”

His advice for storytelling in the industry was very direct.
Wambaugh offered, “Keep your audience broad so it appeals to the most possible people because cynically but truthfully, Hollywood is motivated by money. Action and violence should probably be tempered.”

The Headquarters Marine Corps Communication Directorate Los Angeles Office, assists directors, producers, and writers in the entertainment industry by providing Department of Defense support for major motion pictures, television shows, video games, and documentaries. The office aids in informing and educating the public on the roles and missions, history, operations, and training of the United States Marine Corps.

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.