Military spouse needs a kidney donor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Angelica Harris doesn’t look sick. Her happy, bubbly personality is radiating and it is noticeable the minute you meet her. But Harris is sick with life-threatening chronic kidney disease. If she doesn’t get a new kidney in the next few years, she will be on life-long dialysis.

“That’s the one thing I hear most times— ‘But you don’t look sick,’” Harris said.

Angelica with her husband, Navy Lt. David Harris

Harris’ condition is new to her. Although doctors have come to realize that her kidney function started to decrease up to 5 years ago, it wasn’t until this past April that Harris was officially diagnosed with kidney disease.

“The only other symptoms I had was in December 2016. We lived in Oak Harbor, WA and I kept getting [a] fever and chills— but only at night. The doctors ran a blood panel but not my creatinine levels,” she said.

Her doctors put her on antibiotics for a kidney infection but called a few days later for her to stop taking them because they weren’t working. After that, she felt fine and had no more odd symptoms. Occasionally, she would get bouts of extreme cold and fatigue but nothing pointed her to kidney disease.

After Harris and her husband, Navy Lt. David Harris, moved to Naval Air Station Key West in 2019, they visited a fertility doctor in Miami, FL. They had been trying to get pregnant for years. It was there that her doctor ran a battery of tests, including her creatinine levels, and discovered they were high.

“They ran all the tests in February… But then the pandemic hit and I didn’t get a call until April that I needed to be seen by my [Primary Care Manager],” Harris said.

Harris, who is originally from the Philippines and moved here in 2014 with her husband after several years of dating, only told family and friends for the first few months after her diagnosis. After strong encouragement from her loved ones and even her nephrologist, she decided to use social media to try to find a suitable living donor.

Harris created a Facebook page and shared her story online in August. Her initial reached over 10,000 users in about four hours. She has since reached out to local newspapers to share her story and even has a magnet on her car that says “Looking for a Kidney” with her contact information below it to advertise to locals in the community.

Harris’ husband has three children from a previous marriage, and they are all older with two out of the house and one, a 17-year-old, living with her mom. But Harris has always wanted children of her own.

“I want 12,” she said. “I like noise and chaos, and I love hearing a house full of noise. I want that, too.”

But if Harris had never visited that fertility doctor in Miami, she may never have known she had kidney disease until it was too late.

Now, Harris is 36 and desperately looking for a viable living donor to help her live the life she wants to live.

In the Philippines, she worked as a sales manager in a hotel. Her most recent job was a similar position at one of the resorts in Key West. But she was laid off because of the pandemic and has not found work since.

“I spend my days sorting through messages on Facebook about potential donors, most of them coming from the Philippines,” Harris said.

Harris has had a few people contact her from the United States who are willing to donate their kidney. One even got as far as the initial screening process but then was denied because of a history of urinary tract infections. It was a heartbreaking realization for Harris that she could be put on dialysis if she doesn’t find a donor soon.

“I don’t want to be stuck to a dialysis machine my whole life,” she said. “It’s like a part-time job. Four hours a day, three days a week.”

Although the criteria for being a potential donor is an arduous one, people can be initially screened online for free to see if they are a potential match. If they pass that first phase, they can then move onto the testing phase, which is also free.

“A perfect blood type match is best but I can have A positive or negative, or O positive or negative,” Harris said. “A being in good overall health is required, too.”

Another person contacted her saying she was interested in donating, but she was denied because she previously had cancer.

“She has already gone through so much but she still wanted to give her kidney to me. That was amazing,” Harris recalled.

Although Harris is in a dire situation, she never once comments that she feels disheartened.

“I feel blessed. TRICARE covers all costs of a kidney transplant for me and my donor… Living in the U.S. itself is a blessing… If I was in the Philippines, I don’t think I’d ever find out. There, you don’t go to the doctor until you’re critically ill,” she said.

Military spouse with her husband

According to OrganDonor.gov, 118,000 people are currently looking for organ donors, and a new person is added to the national transplant list every 10 minutes. Moreover, 20 people die every day while waiting for an organ donor.

One person donating their organs at the time of death can save up to eight people.

At the writing of this article, Harris is still looking for a potential living donor.

If you are interested in learning more about the donor process or if you would like to see if you could be a potential donor for Harris, click here.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why I started my own GORUCK club

I have a secret to confess: I started a GORUCK club for selfish reasons.

There’s a perfectly good GORUCK club at GRHQ, only 4 miles from my home, and yet earlier this year I founded the GORUCK Mother Ruckers to serve my needs. And by needs I mean not getting into a car with my children unless I have to while maximizing time spent moving outdoors, with the option to bring my wards.


Military spouse needs a kidney donor

As luck would have it, turns out that my needs are also the needs of others in my community. And by community I mean local moms in my neighborhood.

This is where we meet up, on a street corner that’s a stone’s throw from everyone’s homes. Easy, convenient, just ruck up and step out your front door.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Another thing that’s really great about our GORUCK club – and all GORUCK clubs for that matter – is that you only need a party of 2. Sure, it’s better with more folks and we take the more the merrier approach when it comes to people. We call it GORUCK Mother Ruckers not to be exclusive but because our GORUCK club is run by moms. It’s also cool to bring your kids, pets, and significant others (in no particular order) or just yourself if you happen to have lucked into some free alone time. Nothing reminds you how grateful you are to have a few moments of peace from your children than being next to another parent’s screaming kid.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Before kids, we used to workout more, sleep in more, and do less with that free time we never fully appreciated. Time is our most valuable resource, then and even more so now. We don’t have time to waste by stress-driving to make that gym or pilates class whenever the stars align for all kids to be healthy or cooperative. Somewhere floating in cyberspace is a graveyard of forgotten or unredeemed exercise classes that moms like me have decided just aren’t worth the hassle.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

And yet we know deep down that we as moms and as humans need to prioritize our physical and mental health. My friend Amy said it best the other day, that “women tend to have a lot of pulls and tugs on their time.” In her career as a cardiologist, she sees that “the health of women, in terms of the time to go do physical activity and exercise, gets deprioritized to the very end of the list, after checking off everything else we need to do for everyone else. There is also a social isolation, that you end up being so busy caring for folks around you and having your nose to the grindstone, that the idea that you’re gonna just kinda go hammer it out in the gym or on an exercise machine at home, sometimes just can be lonely.”

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

This is the not so lonely hearts club. After some sniffing and snack stealing attempts, we ruck south on our weekly pilgrimage in search of smoothies, fresh air, and cute pups of course.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

There once was a time when I ran a lot, in high school and in college and even for years after that, my favorite runs were with others or on my own to keep the cardio streak going. I still love running but dislike how fast my base erodes from an inconsistent life schedule. I also have a harder time finding someone to run with me when those unpredictable moments of freedom pop up. For some reason, probably having to do with that erodible base, when I ask my friends to go on a run with me, I don’t get a great response.

When I say, let’s go for a ruck and you can bring whoever you want and you pick the weight, I get more yesses. With rucking, the barrier for entry is lower and more accessible on many levels. On the level of not requiring a babysitter and also on being a scalable workout. We might move at kid pace but there are plenty of extra coupon carry opportunities along the way.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

And so we ruck on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Or just to the last street for a missing shoe.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

At last we reach the halfway point and it’s time to refuel the restless natives. These are before smoothie faces.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor
Military spouse needs a kidney donor

And these are post smoothie smiles.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor
Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Sometimes the term selfish gets a bad rap, especially if by being selfish you really are trying to set yourself up for success to take care of others who need you, day after day, to be your best or close to it. It’s pretty empowering to prioritize yourself to the top of the list and then watch your fellow moms do the same: we can do it, better together, as neighbors and friends and parents and people.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

So what’s stopping you from joining a GORUCK club or starting your own?

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Instagram.

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 MILSPOUSE

Military spouses create profit-for-purpose to connect entrepreneurs with opportunities

Moni Jefferson and Flossie Hall are serial entrepreneurs and military spouses. Over the years, they have each owned several businesses and looked for ways to increase entrepreneurship among the military community. Through their combined passion to create something that would build a profit-for-purpose while also creating a social impact, the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurship (AMSE) was born.


“It’s a crazy evolution. We are now tapping into a space where it is so needed. People are really recognizing the value of entrepreneurship for military spouses but also the lack of resources and trusted places to go,” said Jefferson. She explained that she created The MilSpouse Creative for this reason, to connect and help grow the ability of military spouses to find employment within the entrepreneur world. Jefferson shared that when she brought that community and merged it in with Hall’s ideas, they knew they had something special.
Military spouse needs a kidney donor

AMSE is a digital platform where military spouse entrepreneurs can connect with each other and partner to build opportunities and support one another. The membership includes both free and paid options. The aim is to give military spouses the tools they need to grow, scale and thrive in their businesses. The free option will give members resources, tools, and access to campaigns, or opportunities to be hired. The fee-based option can be paid monthly or yearly and includes master classes with guest experts, a coworking virtual space, tools, a private slack channel, VIP access to events and campaigns and much more.

“We are three pillars; we have the membership which services and provides to the spouses. Then we have the campaigns which helps with economic empowerment by paying spouses for their work. Then the military media marketing,” shared Jefferson.

Hall shared that they were working with big corporations and advising them on how to work within the military community. She continued by saying, “We are telling corporations that there is a military spouse entrepreneurship community here that needs you and if you don’t have a program, you should, and this is why. Then we help them build their programs.” When those companies are then ready to hire, AMSE is directing them to military spouses within their Association.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

“The education piece [of AMSE] is really key to support them. The three pillars play into each other to support the companies, the community, and then continue to support the spouses,” said Hall. She and Jefferson are building a safe space created by military spouse entrepreneurs for military spouse entrepreneurs. They label themselves as a social impact agency. This space is allowing military spouses to not only work – which targets that 24 percent unemployment rate of military spouses – but to find their purpose and not just a career.

“It’s easy to get lost in the sea of google trying to figure out what to do first. We’re here to say here’s step one, two and three. No question is stupid, we are all here together and living the same lifestyle,” said Hall. Jefferson expanded on that by discussing the importance of the support that members of AMSE receive to make their goals come alive.

One of the barriers contributing to the high unemployment rate among military spouses is issues related to childcare. On Feb. 26, 2020, Blue Star Families released its survey results for 2019; 45 percent of military spouses reported being unable to work due to high costs of childcare. When AMSE released its 2019 impact report and polled spouses, the numbers showed that only 7 percent were struggling with childcare.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Hall and Jefferson explained that this is because a military spouse entrepreneur can work around the needs of her family and their spouse’s service to the country. Of the spouses polled within AMSE for the impact report, 89 percent are able to work from home with their businesses. This eliminates the need for childcare, in most cases.

Jefferson referenced the focus within organizations and large corporations where they have made huge strides in creating programs geared towards veterans, but they seemed to forget the spouses. This is where AMSE came in. “Now they are realizing that the spouses are the backbone of it all and are asking how they can help,” said Jefferson.

AMSE has been open for close to four months and currently has around 400 members. They shared that they have built partnerships with companies like Amazon, LinkedIn Military and Google to name a few. Both have been hard at work within the government to make positive changes for military spouse entrepreneurs. “We don’t want to just talk the talk, we are tired of talking about the problems, we are working on the solutions at this point,” Hall shared.

“We need to change the mindset that military spouses should just volunteer, give their time or be part of a nonprofit. No, we are challenging them to build big powerful businesses,” Hall said. Both agreed that they are no longer waiting for companies to catch up. Instead, they are taking it into their own hands and demanding that military spouses be paid what they are worth.

When asked to describe their agency in one sentence, it was easy for them. AMSE, to them, means impacting the military spouse community with economic empowerment.

They are well on their way.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

CNO sends a message to the Fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday sent a message to the fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday.


Below is the text of his message:

Shipmates, this year we are celebrating our 245th Birthday virtually, around the world, together.

Although this birthday is different than in past years, what has not changed is how proud we can be of two and a half centuries of tradition, as well as our Sailors and civilians who continue to build our legacy with family members and loved ones at their side.

Today, Sailors stand the watch from the Western Atlantic to the South China Sea, and from the High North to the South Pacific. Your Navy enables prosperity 24/7/365 – at home and abroad – by helping keep the maritime commons free and open. And I promise you that our allies and partners – as well as your fellow Americans – all sleep better because you are there.

Our birthday is an important occasion because we celebrate our rich past, recognize the accomplishments of our shipmates today, and look to our bright future ahead.

The Navy needs you to be the best that you can be. Serve others. Be courageous. And always remember that America has a great Navy.

Happy 245th Birthday Navy Family. See you in the Fleet, Shipmates.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor
201006-N-BB269-1003
MIGHTY CULTURE

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.

In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.


Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Courtesy of Jenny Byers

“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.

PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.

“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”

The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.

“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”

Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Courtesy of Sophie Pappas

“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”

While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.

Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:

“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte

“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella

“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons

“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste

“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers

“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci

“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe

“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Courtesy of Kelly Callahan

“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan

A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:

“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Dear Military Spouse: Here’s why we appreciate you

Military.com | By Jacey Eckhart

I’ve met two or three military spouses in my time who could not be appreciated enough around the clock, much less on Military Spouse Appreciation Day. I had the feeling I could put diamond tiaras on their heads and roll up a red, white and blue Corvette convertible to take them home and they would sniff, “Is this all?”

This note is not for them. This note is for you.

This note is for all of us who would do just about anything for our service member, but feel a little wary of a day set aside by the president as Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

To us, the stuff other people want to honor seems like normal life.

Just this once, let someone mark Military Spouse Appreciation Day and your everyday awesomeness, would you?Advertisement

We appreciate your ability to hope.

This year a military spouse reminded me that when it comes to military life, hope is not about everything turning out OK. It is about being OK no matter how things turn out.

No matter what you are struggling with (and you’ve shown us that everyone has something) we see you holding onto the kind of optimism that allows you to keep trying. That not only makes all the difference in the world for your family, and keeps us moving forward, too.

We appreciate your vision of your family.

I bet you carry this magical vision of your own family in your head.

You see the way you used to be when you were young and in love and thought you could handle anything the military demanded. You see the way you are now juggling more than a dozen years of war.

Yet you still dare to envision a future for your family where everything turns out OK. Where the kids all go to college. Where the right job opens up for you. Where your service member leaves the military and finds new work that satisfies. You are the transition plan the whole country is counting upon.

We appreciate your help blindness.

No one will offer help quicker than a military spouse. If we see someone struggling with a stroller or a couple of screaming toddlers or the three-day flu, we are the first to offer help.

Somehow, when we are the ones with the three-day flu, we become help blind. We cannot possibly think of anyone we could ask for help. While we appreciate this trait so many of us share, we really gotta realize that the help highway goes in both directions.

We appreciate your social courage.

When you are a military spouse, you are always the new kid. It is part of the territory.

But you know from experience that everyone is a stranger only once. We so appreciate your ability to boldly go up to a stranger, introduce yourself and start talking. And if you are the kind of military spouse who doesn’t approach strangers, we really appreciate it if you smile when we talk to you first. Woo boy.

We appreciate your lists.

“I don’t know how you do what you do!” might be the most annoying phrase spouses hear in the course of a day. It seems to imply that somehow we were stupid to take on a military marriage.

But we really appreciate the way you do what you have to do. It’s too much for any one person to do. Yet you do the ‘too much.’

You deal with what is on your plate. You use your constant lists to keep track of what has to be fixed and what has to be done and what has to be turned in and what has to be paid for. You control the uncontrollable. Prodigious.

We appreciate your idea of sexy.

Hate to tell you this, but not everyone thinks of combat boots as sexy. They don’t look at someone in cammies or khakis and think, va-va-va-voom. Strangely, you do. And you keep thinking that no matter how long you are together. MarinesArmyNavyAir ForceCoast Guard — the uniform doesn’t matter. The person inside does.

We appreciate it when you show up in person.

So often we hear from writers who participate in conferences and balls and holiday parties and command picnics because it is “expected.”

You know the command can’t demand you show up (cuz you don’t work for them). But you let yourself have the wisdom of understanding that often the presence of a real person makes all the difference in the world. Thanks for that.

And if you got the job because you showed up at the event, good on ya. You deserve it.

We appreciate your ability to create normal.

Even if your life is decidedly not normal, military spouses have a way of creating normalcy no matter how they are living.

No matter where they live or how crazy their service member’s schedule might be, they create rituals around mealtime and bedtime and holidays that make kids feel safe. They set up their household goods and make homes in the plainest places in the world. They become someone worth coming home to.

We appreciate your indignation.

When it comes to your own benefits, spouses like you can be a little complacent. Put it on the list and you will deal with it later.

But don’t let anyone give your service member less than what they earned with their own blood, sweat and tears shed for this country.

Insult a service member and expect to deal with the kind of political outrage only a military spouse can muster.

Most of all, on national Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we appreciate your uniqueness.

As you continually remind us, there is no such thing as a “typical” spouse. This is a community in which not fitting in IS, in fact, fitting in.

Spouses come in an infinite variety. We usually have only one thing in common — that we love someone in uniform and that we would sacrifice what we want in order to make sure they have what they need.

It’s a life. It’s our life. And on Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we love that we get to share it with you.

Keep Up with the Ins and Outs of Military Life

For the latest military news and tips on military family benefits and more, sign up for a free Military.com membership and have the information you need delivered directly to your inbox.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A simmering crisis between 2 allies could create a new headache for the US in a volatile region

In the last month, Greece and Turkey, two US and NATO allies, have repeatedly come close to a military clash over a piece of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.


Background

The latest tension ignited after Turkey reserved an area in the Eastern Mediterranean to survey for underwater natural resources. But the area is within the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece (though Greece hasn’t formally declared an EEZ due to tensions with Turkey).

Turkey disputes Greek sovereignty and has deployed the research vessel Oruç Reis to the region with a fleet of warships to guard it. Greece has responded by sending its fleet.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

The survey ship Oruc Reis sailing with Turkish warships. Turkish Ministry of Defense

Despite the Turkish claims, and according to international law, the area of sea in question and the seabed under it belong to Greece because of the small island of Kastellorizo.

Although the island is about 2 miles from Turkey, it is inhabited and part of Greece. Thus, according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Kastellorizo has the same rights as any other part of Greece.

Although the US acknowledges the validity of the Greek position, it will not take sides in the dispute because of its close relationship with both countries.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Kastellorizo, Greece’s easternmost island, is just 2 miles from mainland Turkey. Google Maps

The two fleets have been circling one another as tensions simmer, threatening to explode with the slightest accident, such as one a few days ago when Turkish frigate Kemal Reis tried to overtake Greek frigate Limnos.

Due to poor seamanship, however, the Turkish vessel did not calculate its path correctly and was rammed by the Greek warship. Although the damage was not life-threatening, the Turkish ship had to go into port for immediate repairs.

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The Turkish frigate Kemal Reis after colliding with Greek frigate Limnos. Hellenic Ministry of Defense

Geopolitical situation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has calculated that this is the opportune time to act. Indeed, the international stars seem to be aligned in his country’s favor.

First, the US is heading toward a heated presidential election, which has historically distracted American attention from foreign affairs.

Second, Erdogan has a close relationship with the White House and has used it to reassure its ally.

Third, Ankara is shrewdly using Germany’s current presidency of the EU Council, which rotates between EU members every six months.

Germany and Turkey share a lucrative trade partnership. According to the World Bank, in 2018, Germany exported almost .5 billion worth of goods to Turkey and imported just over billion, making Berlin third in both imports and exports among Ankara’s trading partners. There is also a significant ethnic Turkish population in Germany that influences German politicians’ decision-making.

Despite its relatively weak global voice, Berlin is a leader in Europe, mostly because of its powerful economy, and has assumed the role of an umpire in this dispute.

The Greek position is to abide by international law, which is on its side, and meet every Turkish provocation with determination and force. Meanwhile, Greek diplomacy has managed to isolate Turkey, with a host of nations — including Egypt, Cyprus, and Israel — condemning Turkey’s actions. The US and France have conducted military drills with Greece in the area as a show of solidarity. (The US and Turkey have also conducted recent exercises.)

Crucially, Greece’s chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Constantine Floros, has said that a Greek response to a Turkish attack would not be confined to a particular area, likely making Turkish officials think twice before acting.

The Turkish position is to force Greece to the negotiating table — something, interestingly, that Greece also wants and has looked for since Turkey unilaterally stopped diplomatic discussions on the issue in 2016.

Ankara understands that its position in terms of international law is weak and its allies in the region few. Thus it believes that threatening war would make Greece more amenable to an agreement that gives Turkey a slice of the natural resources pie.

Turkey does not recognize the International Court of Justice or UNCLOS, both of which would be key in settling the dispute.

Implications for the US

The implications for the US and for NATO of a conflict between two members of the alliance are hard to judge. There has never been an incident where two NATO allies came to blows.

US-Turkish relations have been steadily deteriorating in recent years. Turkey’s purchase the advanced Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system prompted the US to refuse delivery of the F-35 fighter jet. The Turkish invasion of northern Syria and targeting of the Kurds, a longtime US partner and a leader in the fight against ISIS, led to sanctions against senior Turkish officials and to tariffs on Turkish steel.

Moreover, the recent revelation that Ankara has been providing Turkish citizenship and passports to Hamas operatives is bound to further upset US-Turkish relations. The US declared Hamas a terrorist organization in 1997. The passports offer great freedom of travel to Hamas terrorists, aiding their malign activities.

Adding insult to injury, Erdogan recently hosted two senior Hamas leaders the US has branded Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

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US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill during an exercise with Turkish navy frigates TCG Barbaros and Burgazada in the Mediterranean Sea, August 2020. US Naval Forces Europe-Africa

The US does not want to push Turkey toward Russia or Iran, and successive US administrations have recognized the country’s value to US interests in the region, both in its general location and in the assets based there, like the nuclear missiles in Incirlik Air Base.

Yet if Turkey needs to be pushed to change its behavior — as its actions suggest it would be — then the US will have to rethink the geopolitical balance in the region.

Erdogan understands and takes advantage of his country’s strategic importance to the US, leveraging it to pursue an increasingly pugnacious foreign policy that often directly conflicts with the US’s.

If it comes to blows, the US and EU will call for an immediate end to the hostilities but probably do little more than that. It’s likely, then, that Greece and Turkey will sort it out between themselves, with the lasting geopolitical implications only becoming clear once the smoke has cleared.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (National Service with the 575th Marine Battalion Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

On or off post? What’s the best location for your family?

Considering where to live? Take a look at this list of common pros and cons. After all, a housing situation is one that should not be taken lightly. Even if a location will be short-term, there’s no reason to give up preferred amenities or preferences!


Thankfully, military families are given a choice on where they’d like to live. Take a look at the rundown of each scenario in order to find the best overall housing fit.

The pros of living on post

Living on location can come with a number of perks, including standby maintenance, a choice at housing sizes or styles, and avoiding the hassle of paying.

-Safety Factor: Living on post means background checks before folks can enter the premises. Guards at the ready, etc. If you’re headed to an area where safety might not be as high as you’d like, remember this.

-Nearby Amenities: Pools, parks, rec centers, and more, all within a few blocks!

-Choice of Sizes and Styles: Usually by rank, military members and their families can choose from a few styles of homes.

-Less Work in Requesting Maintenance and Payments: Repairs, maintenance, and more, is there at the ready.

-Access to Social Events/Ability to Make New Friends: Living on post means you have neighbors who are in a similar situation to you. Let the kids play and make nice with the folks on the street for quick friendship opportunities.

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The cons of living on post

On the flip side, there can be stress and red tape when moving to on-base housing. Consider what could go wrong before committing to your next home.

-So. Much. Paperwork. As with anything military-related, there’s paperwork galore!

-A Lack of Communication Between Civilian Housing Management and Military Rules/Entities: Many on-post housing entities are run by civilian companies, which can lead to misunderstandings or discrepancies in military standards.

-Inability to Get Away From Work. For the Service member, it’s riiiiiiight down the block.

-Possible Wait Times or Unavailable Units: There are busy moving seasons, which can mean a backlog of available houses, or that the house you want isn’t available at all. This is a common scenario when waiting to move on post.

-Additional Standards That Must be Followed: There are rules on yards, pets, and more. When living on post you’ll have to pay close attention so as not to break any ordinances.

The pros to living off post

Living away from base comes with its own positives. Determine if this is a move you’d like to make.

-Freedom!

-Opportunity to Invest. Ready to buy? With off-post options, the real estate market is your oyster.

-Getting Away From the Office … and away from military life. Sometimes you just need a break.

-More Housing Choices in Price and Location: Scan the neighborhoods and find the spot that best suits you and your family’s needs. For instance, not having next-door neighbors, etc.

-Can Potentially Save Funds: With more choices comes more pricing options, too.

The cons to living off post

Here, too, come potential downsides. Be sure to weigh the possible risks.

-You’re On Your Own: When dealing with a bum landlord or testy neighbor, you have to go about things the old fashioned way. There’s always JAG, but you’ll have to do the legwork.

-Distance From Work: Remember that living off post comes with a daily commute.

-Distance From Community Events and Programs: It can be harder to stay in the know or get to on-post events when you don’t live within the action.

-Removal From Community: In the same light, it can be harder to feel included or involved when living as a civilian.

-Stigma: When applying for housing, dealing with neighbors, etc., there could be a stigma involved with military life.

When choosing your next housing situation, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each scenario so you can find your best housing outcome. But wherever you decide, home is where the heart is.

Military spouse needs a kidney donor
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Watch Russians Trying to Provoke the United States Military in Syria

The tough talk coming out of the Kremlin has been increasingly more provocative in the days since American and Russian troops were involved in an Aug. 25, 2020 armored vehicle crash that injured seven U.S. service members.

U.S. official Capt. Bill Urban says the Russian troops used “deliberately provocative and aggressive behavior” in northeastern Syria. There is a series of established means for the Russian and American forces in the country to communicate and the Russians blatantly disregarded those channels.


Instead of communicating a request for passage through an American-controlled zone, a convoy of Russian armored vehicles made and “unauthorized incursion” into the area. They met a joint American and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) convoy, which they decided to “aggressively and recklessly pursue.”

As the U.S. convoy moved, it was sideswiped by Russian vehicles, and buzzed by an extremely low overflight from a Russian helicopter. While the seven servicemembers sustained injuries consistent with vehicle accidents, all are said to have returned to regular duty.

There are now videos of the provocative behavior circulating on social media sites. The Russian Embassy in the United States blamed the US for the collision, after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mike Milley and the chief of Russia’s General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, discussed the incident via telephone.

General Gerasimov said the American-led coalition in Syria was informed of the Russian convoy’s passage and that it was the US convoy that was attempting to block and delay the Russians’ passing through the area. The Pentagon confirmed the conversation, but none of the details announced by the Russians.

The National Security council released a statement to CNN that revealed the vehicle struck by the Russians was a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) and that Russia’s behavior was “a breach of deconfliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019.”

This most recent clash between American and Russian military forces came near the northeastern Syrian town of Dayrick. A number of incidents involving US troops coming under attack from Russian-back Syrian government forces have occurred in recent weeks, including a rocket attack on a U.S. base and a skirmish between Syrian and American convoys.

Russia is opposed to the continued American presence in the SDF-controlled eastern provinces of Syria, which contain much of the country’s oil fields – and are used by the Kurdish-led SDF to fund its continued anti-ISIS operations in Syria. Though President Trump has ordered all but 500 US troops to leave Syria, the United Nations estimates there are still some 10,000 or more ISIS-affiliated fighters operating in the country.

The last time American forces engaged in a direct altercation with Russians in Syria, it resulted in a four-hour firefight between Syrian government troops with the help of Russian mercenaries and a cadre of U.S. troops in an SDF headquarters building. No Americans were harmed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military child care: Good or good enough?

No, I’m going to be honest because the truth needs to be said. The lack of childcare and the extensive regulations preventing effectively running centers is unsuitable to the needs of those it serves.

Military families cannot maintain financial security without stable employment, and they cannot maintain stable employment without adequate childcare. From extensive waitlists to limited hours, military families are often left scrambling to find child care. This leads to families using uncertified daycare facilities, over capacitated in-home care, and other, sometimes unsafe options for child care.


Did you know that military child care facilities service over 200k children? According to the latest Congressional Research Service report, there are about 23 thousand employed at military child care facilities around the world. These facilities bring in 400 million dollars in fees alone. This number does not include additional funding provided by Non-Appropriated Funds (NAF) or other entities. It’s no surprise that the Army receives the bulk of financial support from Operation and Maintenance Funds. However, what is intriguing is that they have the least amount of allocated child care slots for military sponsors than any other branch. Why is that? Another military mystery.

Before obtaining child care at an on-post military installation, you must register your child. Some installations offer walk-in registrations for child care, while others require appointments to be made. You are required to produce medical documents, including physicals and shot records for all children. This is a standard operating procedure as child care facilities on and off-post want to ensure the health and well being of your child.

However, If your child has special needs like he/she takes daily medications, has an IEP, or allergies, buckle up because it’s going to be a bumpy process. I have both a child with special developmental needs and a child with food allergies. You can imagine how long and arduous the registration process can be—collecting documentation from doctors, meeting with the SNAP team, waiting for approval, all painstakingly redundant. Once you’ve made it past the registration process, you have crossed over to the waitlist realm, where weeks turn into months, and even years.

So tell me, what’s the longest you’ve waited for military child care?

The longest I’ve waited was six months. I honestly checked my child’s status every day for at least two of those months. The explanations for the long waitlists were: limited staff and lack of space within child care facilities to accommodate families in need.

The Military Child Care Act was originally created in 1989 because of concern for the conditions of off post child care facilities. However, the DOD’s evolution of caring for diverse military families has been slow to accommodate the needs of the 21st Century military family. With that being said, many strides have been made. Some installations offer date night care once a month allowing parents after-hours care, up to date academic curriculum to help prepare children for school, and FCC’s to help with overflow.

The staff members I’ve personally encountered are kind, loving, and have genuinely cared for my children. But many of them were overworked and often expected to excel with limited resources. Despite this, there is a way you can help positively impact military child care facilities.

What You Can Do

  • Speak up about insufficient care at your local installation.
  • Volunteer at the CDC. Jobs like planning activities, cutting projects, and other office work does not require you be an employee and allows the center’s employees to man more childcare rooms.

Together, we can help make our military child care facilities accessible and adequate for everyone. Holding our leadership accountable and asking them to fight for our families isn’t wrong, accepting sub-par care is.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

3 important lessons for navigating marriage after the military

I awake with a start. John isn’t in bed beside me. Throughout his military career, I never could grow used to an empty bed. Unlike before, I hear him breathing. He is in his recliner on the other side of the room. Either insomnia, a migraine or back spasms have pulled him away from me tonight. I ask if he is ok before realizing he is sound asleep. The rhythmic sound of his breath lolls me back to sleep as well.

There was a time, early in our marriage, where we both craved one another’s attention. We never wanted to leave each other’s side. Twenty years later, three kids, two deployments and many many nights apart, we’ve become more accustomed to absence then togetherness.

We are relearning what it looks like to be together, always.


Quarantine and Retirement 

I’ve been hearing from friends whose spouses are either recently retired or working from home currently with no end in sight. The struggles are similar. Our routine at home is now chaotic. It’s similar to the disruption of reintegration but for a much lengthier stretch.

These three hard truths about what marriage is like after the military, apply just as much to what marriage is like during quarantine. But don’t panic! You will get through this, and it is possible to still like one another by the end of this long stretch of too much time together.

Here are a few things I have learned:

1. Be flexible and forgiving

It is extremely difficult to continue forward with the routine when there is a new person in your space. Knowing that your spouse is just one room away while you are trying to get your to-do list complete is frustrating. It would be much more fun to join in watching that movie or whatever else is happening. I mean after all isn’t more time together what you craved during that last deployment?

Look, it’s ok not to want to be together 24/7 even if that’s all you were craving in the normality of 2019. For many of us, 2020 has brought more together time then we could have imagined. It’s ok not to spend every second together. It’s also equally ok to not finish that crazy to-do list and just enjoy some extra time with your soldier.

Drop the guilt. Everyone right now understands the need to focus on mental health. Plus, there’s no need to worry about unexpected guests dropping by, so yes, the dishes and laundry can wait.

2. Find time to be alone, even if you have to hide in a closet 

I am an introvert. I used to wake at 0500 to see John off to PT and soak up the quiet early morning with a book and a cup of coffee before the kids woke up. Our new normal means that this house is never empty. The kids are doing e-learning and even the hobbies that once took John out of the house after retirement have ceased. There is much togetherness going on.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the extra time with one another, but sometimes it can be too much. In those moments, I need a timeout. I need to recharge by being alone.

What does this look like when the whole world is shut down?

Here are a few ways I’ve figured out how to get my alone time.

  • Long drives through backroads with the radio cranked all the way up
  • Walks through the neighborhood
  • Adult coloring books while listening to an audiobook
  • Noise-canceling headphones while writing
  • Longer showers
  • Sitting in the closet with the lights off enjoying the silence

3. Open communication makes all the difference

Communication while in the military had its challenges. We spent ten years learning how to communicate long distance, how to keep the dialogue going across oceans, and then how to understand one another after surviving vastly different challenges. My world of toddlers was not the same as his of war. It took effort to hear what the other was saying and the perspective we each brought to the conversation. The same is true now.

One of the things we’ve learned since retirement is that just because we’ve been married twenty years doesn’t mean we actually know the other person well. We may have been married but we inhabited very different spaces during that time.

All of this togetherness now is giving us the opportunity to get to know one another for who we are today. We are learning how to ask questions and how to listen in new ways. It’s a little like dating, the excitement and frustration are there. The only difference being the commitment to keep doing this, to keep trying, to keep growing together, and to maybe come out of this year closer then we were when it began.

The most important lesson I’ve learned during this time of increased togetherness and struggling to get everything done in the weirdness of 2020 is to be kind to myself. It’s time to drop the guilt because it isn’t mine to carry.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A deployed carrier has a coronavirus outbreak. Her husband is on board.

Imagine your spouse or family member is deployed on a carrier. Now, imagine it’s during a global pandemic, which has notoriously infiltrated cruise ships, rendering hundreds of passengers ill. Finally, imagine you learn that your loved one’s ship is impacted by scrolling through Facebook and reading a headline.


Unfortunately, this imagined scenario is one military spouse’s reality.

Elizabeth (whose last name we won’t use for personal security reasons) was looking at Facebook, taking a much-needed break from quarantine with her four kids, when she saw a friend (whose husband is deployed with hers) had posted an article by Business Insider that immediately stopped her scroll: “There has been a coronavirus outbreak aboard a deployed US Navy aircraft carrier.” The article states that there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt – Elizabeth’s husband’s ship.

Her heart sank. “We haven’t heard from them in awhile,” she said in an interview with WATM. “Anytime anything noteworthy happens, communication goes down whether on purpose or by coincidence,” she shared. She immediately got on the phone with other spouses to see if anyone had heard through official or personal channels what was going on.

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Communication varied. One spouse got a voicemail from her sailor that he was fine. Another received a quick email saying there were only two cases on the ship, while one other had heard 15 sailors had it. This rumor mill is exactly why comms are shut down, to prevent misinformation for families desperate for an update.

When asked if she was upset she hadn’t heard from her husband, Elizabeth laughed. “Oh, I’m not surprised,” she said. “He’s a team player. I know he would make sure all of his people had a chance to use the phone or email if there was an opportunity to do so before he did. He’s been in for 14 years and he’s been deployed a lot — he’s had almost six years of sea time. Really, this is not even the worst communication he’s had on a deployment. I’ve gotten used to that — nobody has all of the information; you just hope for the best and wait for your family member to contact you.”

But in the meantime, Elizabeth feels the weight of the gravity of the situation.

“I’m trying not to go into panic mode yet,” she said. “It’s the military, you just don’t know, but I hope if my husband was sick, someone would tell me.” Elizabeth also wants to know what protective and preventive measures are being taken. “It sounds like from the article that the sick sailors were medevaced and now it’s just business as usual. But in my mind, the likelihood of it being isolated is very small. They’re on top of each other in close quarters and there are 5,000 of them. They use the same phones, touch the same doors, eat together, share work space. It’s a floating petri dish. I want to know what they’re doing to sanitize. How closely they’re monitoring things. Is someone asking them every day? Are they taking temperatures? Are they really doing everything they can to keep our sailors safe?”

While Elizabeth is worried about her husband, she also has a healthy dose of perspective and a great sense of humor. She’s thankful to be surrounded by family and a community that continues to support her. “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she said. Elizabeth and her husband have a five year old, three year old and twins who are just one and a half. “We had a lot of time on shore duty,” she laughed. “We got cocky thinking we would have one more and then boom: twins.”

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

When asked how she’s really coping with four kids in quarantine and a spouse deployed on a “floating petri dish,” Elizabeth took a long sigh but said, “Honestly, I feel like military spouses are better prepared for this than anyone. With military life, we spend a decent amount of time figuring it out on our own. I wouldn’t say this is even the most isolated I’ve ever been. The ‘not knowing what’s going to happen,’ not knowing what the schedule is going to be in a few weeks or months, it’s par for the course for us. I’ve been through the ringer enough times with the Navy, but for a lot of our friends, this is their first deployment. Mostly my heart has been with the ones who haven’t been through this before because I remember how it felt when all of this was new.”

Elizabeth shared the importance of reaching out. “Military community is so, so important. I love that the word encourage literally means to impart courage … that’s who the military spouse community is for me — it’s courage by proxy. The news is full of stories of women who are worrying they might be forced to give birth alone due to coronavirus restrictions, but military spouses have been giving birth to babies without family or husbands there, often overseas, for as long as time. They’ve moved alone, pursued careers alone, overcome all of these obstacles. One of the things you deal with is that feeling of isolation, which is so perfectly themed for where we are in the world right now. But you’re never really alone.”

Elizabeth continued, “It was so hard to hear the news of coronavirus on the ship, but it was so great to be surrounded by so many people who exactly know what we’re going through. There is strength in numbers. We’re not the only family going through this. We’ll be okay.”

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