Military spouses work hard all year long to keep the family running on the home front, so they deserve a little something special this holiday season. Here are some of our favorite ideas for pampering the military spouse in your life.
Fairwinds Candle Company is a veteran- and military-spouse owned candle company. All of their scents are Navy-inspired like Commitment, Gig Line and Topside, these are a perfect gift to give your Navy military spouse or military spouse friend.
The Altruist Wine was developed by Markham Vineyards to honor those serving in the military and as first responders. The deep Merlot is a great gift idea for your fellow military spouse or for yourself — because we all need a little wine to get through this military life.
Owned by a Navy Reservist who served in Desert Storm and her sisters, Soap Cauldron is now creating beautiful artisanal soaps and skincare products. The small-batch products are made with pure plant oils, gourmet butters and natural botanicals. You can get a gorgeous gift set to make gift-giving easier or pick out the perfect scent for your military spouse.
If you are looking for the perfect gift for a military spouse going through a deployment, look no further than Brave Crate. Brave Crate offers a monthly subscription box that helps military spouses count down the months during deployments with self-care items and even resources through their private Facebook group.
Charliemadison Originals is a military-spouse owned bracelet company that offers gorgeous beaded bracelets and necklaces that are military-inspired, first-responder-inspired and more. This set of Milspo Strong bracelets is a perfect gift for your military spouse- although you can find others that are branch-specific, too.
We know that military life can be…well, chaotic to say the least. A Life and Apples Wellness Planner is a great gift to help your military spouse start the new year off organized, as well as track her own self-care and wellness. They have pages for your to-do list as well as meal planning, fitness tracking and gratitude journaling.
Looking for the perfect subscription box for your military spouse? MilSo Box is a military-spouse owned and inspired monthly subscription box full of self-care items like beauty, treats and even jewelry. Each month has a theme, and the monthly box will help you get through this crazy military life one day at a time.
Modern Rosie offers prints, canvases and accessories that mostly focus on the Navy military spouse life of those on cruisers, destroyers and submarines. But this “Do Not Pack” tumbler is something that all of us military spouses can get behind. And need for our next PCS filled with coffee (or something a little stronger).
Military-spouse owned shop, Jane & Cope offers gorgeous handmade leather earrings in a variety of colors, styles, designs and prints. We love these leopard white ones that are perfect for a night out with your service member, but they have ones that are elegant enough to wear to your next ball, too. These make a great gift for your fashionable military spouse!
The Admiral’s Daughters is a former military-child owned shop that offers apparel and prints. We are loving their naval station prints like this one of Jacksonville, although they offer several others like Norfolk and San Diego, too.
Stationed in Hawaii or just missing it? This military spouse owned shop creates sea glass art straight from the beaches of Hawaii. If your military spouse’s or military spouse friend’s favorite duty station was on the beautiful Hawaiian islands, then a gift of Aloha or a set of pineapple magnets made from their favorite beaches is a perfect gift this holiday season.
One thing military spouses always have on them is their phones. We don’t dare miss a text, phone call or WhatsApp message when our service members are gone! This portable charger will make sure that your spouse’s phone is always charged so they never miss those all-important calls.
This veteran-owned cosmetics line offers lip color, eye shadow, lashes and mascara. If you have a beauty-buff military sposue, shopping from Raquel Riley Thomas Cosmetics is a perfect gift for her as well as a great way to support the military community.
Capt. Stephen Scott (left), and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Eric Carver receive the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor award at the North Carolina National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 18, 2020. (North Carolina National Guard/Lt. Col. Matthew Devivo)
Two North Carolina National GuardAH-64Apache pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor last week for providing cover to Army special forces in a remote Afghanistan village in 2018.
Army Capt. Stephen Scott and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Eric Carver, both of the 1-130th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, received the medals for their support of the 7th Special Forces Group’s Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 7225 during Task Force Panther, according to a release.
In November 2018, troops from ODA 7225 were dropped off in a remote area of Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province when they began taking heavy enemy fire, the release said. Scott and Carver, flying in an Apache, quickly identified enemy positions and “engaged them after permission was given,” it said.
One of the objectives during the night raid was to capture a senior Taliban Leader in Deh Rawud District, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brandon P. Faia, ground force commander for Special Forces ODA 7225, said in the release.
Acting as co-pilots and gunners, Scott and Carver were “repeatedly engaging a robust enemy force at … close range to friendly forces,” according to their award citations, obtained by The Fayetteville Observer.
Their steadfast reaction “resulted in a successful mission for ODA 7225 without injuries or loss of lives,” the release said.
Faia hailed their achievement, and said the two were consistently reliable in risky situations.
“Pilots and Green Berets have their own languages,” Faia said. “We could always count on Carver and Scott to chime in and say, ‘Oh yeah, the place you are going to is not safe, but you can count us in.'”
He added, “Immediately we became friends.”
Three months earlier that year, Taliban fighters launched an offensive assault in Ghazni province that spilled over into neighboring districts. Insurgent assaults continued weeks following, with many Afghans fleeing to southwest regions like Uruzgan and where Afghan forces faced off against Taliban fighters, according to the Washington Post.
A member of the “shark watch” on a Coast Guard cutter had to open fire on a shark this week to dissuade it from continuing to approach his crew mates.
When you’re out on the open ocean, even recreational activities require proper planning and safety precautions, as the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball demonstrated in dramatic photos released earlier this week.
A carefully planned swim call, or a period of recreational swimming organized by the ship’s crew, started like any other — with rescue swimmers standing by and an armed “shark watch” standing guard from an elevated position, keeping his eyes trained on the surface of the water for any signs of danger.
Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball during a swim call (Coast Guard photo)
The Coast Guard maintains a “shark watch” or a “polar bear watch” any time crew members are in the water and there’s potential for danger posed by indigenous wildlife. This time, it was Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron who was tasked with keeping a lookout for any aspiring “Jaws” star as other members of the crew got a chance to kick back and enjoy the warm Pacific water.
Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron on Shark Watch (Coast Guard)
It wasn’t long before Cintron and others spotted the grey silhouette of what appeared to be a longfin mako or pelagic thresher shark approaching the swimming crew. Cintron stood ready, and as the shark closed to within 30 feet or so of the swimmers, Cintron was ordered by his chief to open fire. The gunfire likely came as a real shock to the swimmers; many of whom were not aware of the approaching shark until the shots rang out.
Cintron fired a “well-aimed burst right at/on top of the shark to protect shipmates just feet away,” according to a post on the Coast Guard’s Facebook page. It seemed to do the trick at first, only to have the shark once again turn and close with the swimming crew, who were now working to evacuate the water in a calm and organized manner. As the shark once again closed to within 30 or so feet, Cintron fired another burst.
Cintron firing on the approaching shark. (Coast Guard photo)
“ME1 fired bursts as needed to keep the shark from his shipmates with amazing accuracy. The shark would wave off with each burst but kept coming back toward our shipmates,” according to the post.
It’s important to note that bullets lose a significant amount of energy the minute they impact water. In fact, it’s common for bullets to come apart and tumble harmlessly in just a few inches of water. There was no blood in the water near the shark, and according to Coast Guard public affairs, there were no indications that the predator was injured in the altercation.
The close encounter with a shark ultimately proved harmless, with the entire crew back on board and only one reported injury (a scrape, ironically enough, right in the middle of a tattoo of shark jaws on one crew member’s leg). Still, this unusual engagement is incredibly rare. According to Military.com’s Patricia Kime, the last reported shark sighting during a Coast Guard or Navy swim call was in 2009, and no shots were fired.
“We have hundreds of years at sea between all of us and no one has seen or heard of a shark actually showing up during a swim call. This goes to show why we prepare for any and everything,” ship officials wrote.
The 3-year-old daughter of Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerome Cinco, a hospital corpsman with Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, holds her father close before his departure from Marine Corps Base Hawaii on a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. Unlike their last two deployments — supporting Task Forces Military Police in Iraq — 1/12 will revert back to its primary mission and provide artillery fire support to 2nd Marine Division (Forward) during ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the province.
On Tuesday night, the nation watched as President Trump praised a military spouse for her sacrifices and efforts, and then surprised her and her children. “I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight and we couldn’t keep him waiting any longer!” The woman looked genuinely surprised.
She gathered her two young children close and they watched as her husband, handsome in his dress uniform, walked down the stairs toward them, as members of Congress and millions of television viewers cheered.
But some of us in military families saw something different.
As pleased as we were for that family, and we were very pleased, we were also cringing. We knew more, much more, was happening under the surface, and would be happening for many days to come. I’ve been married to a soldier for 17 years, and he has deployed nearly every year of our marriage. I know this subject well.
Some of us call these public homecomings “reunion porn” because they’re shared for the entertainment of the spectators, not for the health of the family. Surprise public reunions are such a part of our culture now, after 18 years of war have overlapped with 15 years of YouTube, that in the later weeks of a deployment, well-meaning friends and family members will start asking us what our plans are for the reunion. They look on expectantly, hoping for details of jumbotrons — like we’re supposed to be organizing a flash mob on top of taking care of absolutely everything else. For them, these are grand milestones that should be celebrated en masse, like over-the-top engagements and increasingly complex gender reveals.
But a deployment reunion does not have the unfettered joy of an engagement or a birth announcement. It’s a complicated stew. There is joy, undoubtedly, but there is also trauma. There is survivor’s guilt, and resentment, and weeks of awful reintegration that loom, in sleepless nights after endless fights. On some level, I wish that every reunion video was paired with a deployment video, bookends of the war experience, and that you didn’t get to celebrate the hello until you had agonized through the goodbye. I wish people saw that many months before that child was surprised by a smiling, uniformed parent in an elementary school classroom, he had to be peeled and pulled off that deploying soldier by the parent who was staying home. I wish people saw that service member gulp, blink back tears, and force him or herself to turn and walk away. Not out of indifference or cruelty, but out of duty.
I wish people could hear the screams – the actual screams – military teens and tweens make when they are told their parent is deploying. Again. I wish the cheering crowds knew what it feels like to give birth alone, in a town where you know no one, and to take that baby back to an empty home without a clue of what to do, but having to do it anyway.
I wish they knew what it feels like for a service member to meet his own child on Skype, and not get to hold her in his arms until the baby is already crawling. Or to not be at the bedside when their child goes into surgery. Or to miss a graduation, and every game, recital and play.
I wish they saw me, sitting in a patio chair in the July heat, trying to hear my husband over a spotty satellite phone connection, with gunshots and mortar rounds perforating the conversation. Then hanging up and putting on a brave face to go back inside the house, because it was time to give my dad more pain medicine so that he wouldn’t feel the cancer that killed him.
I wish they heard the three volleys. I wish they watched the flag being crisply folded. I wish they hugged strangers at military funerals because it was obvious those strangers needed hugs. I wish they pushed the wheelchairs and suffered through the night terrors and witnessed the humiliation of a brain-injured warrior trying to remember his own address.
But, of course, I don’t actually wish everyone could see all of these raw moments. No one should have the worst days of their lives televised. I suppose what I really wish is that the same good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are sincerely happy to see our military families reunited would pay more attention to the war. I wish they knew where our service members were deploying to, and why.
I wish they knew our lives, even when the scenes aren’t pretty or heartwarming, so it wouldn’t feel like we were carrying these burdens alone.
For anyone high school age or under, America has been at war since they took their first breath. Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, a conflict that is ongoing, it has been a nation at war. In this time span, American troops (and drones) have fought in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya, Libya, Uganda, and Yemen. To a kid, this is all very far away if they know about it at all. Such conflicts are only fleetingly headline news and barely make their way into pop culture (unless, of course, you count conflicts on galaxies far far away). But kids should know about war. Right? Is it a parent’s duty to tell them about the conflicts their country is engaged in? And if so, how much should we tell them?
It all depends on where a child is in their development. Parents of older children can engage in more complex conversations about the dangers and reasons for war, using their history lessons and entertainment as an entry point. But when it comes to a kid under the age of 7, things require a bit more finesse.
“The brain is rapidly evolving during growth and development, and it leads to very striking differences how kids understand these kinds of concepts” says Dr.Chris Ivany, a child and adolescent psychiatrist working in the Washington, DC area.
The conversation about what war even is needs to cater to a child’s understanding of the physical world while not resorting to metaphors that are either dangerously reductive – “it’s like when mommy and daddy fight” – or frightfully apocalyptic. It’s a conversation about life and death, politics, morality, and human nature. None of those topics taken alone are easy to convey to a child. Add them together and you’ve got a quagmire that needs to be explained in simple, non-terrifying terms.
That’s even tougher when parents seem to freak out about every new news item. The fact is, people have been freaking out about war’s representation in the media for generations. We’re only a few decades removed from Cold War anxieties that caused Boomers to duck and cover at the sound of an air-raid siren, and only about 30 years from the emergence of the current 24-hour news cycle, which came to prominence during the Gulf War. As we enter another period of escalation and deescalation with Iran, it’s on parents to try to calmly explain what’s happening in the world without leaving children shaking in their boots.
“Even more than the words that are spoken back and forth, the tone and way in which discussions like this happen between parents and kids are important,” says Ivany. “Kids pick up on worries and anxieties that parents may have. Parents (should) model the idea that there truly are hard and scary and bad things out in the world, but (also how) we get through them.”
Pop culture can help. Certain touchstones provide context, which is exactly what a child needs to understand the world around them.
“A 4-year-old seeing war presented in a Disney cartoon (like Mulan)… it probably doesn’t overwhelm him or her and then you can have a conversation about it. That same 4-year-old watching the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan is going to be overwhelmed and it’s not going to have the same effect,” says Ivany. “The exposure to the various points in pop culture or discussions in school, as long as it’s developmentally and age-appropriate it’s probably a good thing. Unfortunately, war is a reality and we need to understand it. If it leads to a productive discussion because it’s not an overwhelming topic, it opens the door for future discussions.
“As the brain grows and matures, you can have another discussion that’s more complex than when they were four. And they’ll do that because they feel like engaging you was helpful and not scary: You created a line of communication,” says Ivany.
That line of communication can lead to more productive discussions as a child ages and starts to understand the concept of war on a deeper level, touching on the reasons for war, the concept of morality and “just war”, and the ethical and moral aspects of conflict.
Still, war, even in abstract, is terrifying. That’s why it’s important to stress with children that they’re fortunate in that war isn’t immediately encroaching on them, ready to wipe them out.
“Kids tend to internalize and put themselves in the middle of things that logically doesn’t make sense, and that may result in fears that aren’t logical to adults: ‘If it’s on the TV screen, why wouldn’t it be at the door? If a missile can fly from Iran to Iraq, why can’t that missile fly to the suburb where they may live?'” says Ivany. “Especially in kids up to the age of 7, part of this conversation is a reassurance that they are safe, and this is not something that they need to be worried about on a day-to-day basis.”
As for kids with loved ones deployed, Ivany stresses that while conflict has its casualties, it’s essential that they understand, “the vast majority of soldiers come back just fine. Any time somebody is hurt it’s a tragedy, but most of the time people are safe.”
Simply having a conversation, to begin with, can be tough. But being open and honest is the key to helping assuage fears and anxieties about war. And, as with all things parenting, those conversations can evolve into larger lessons on life outside the battlefield.
“You can use conversations about serious things like this to help encourage growth and development in other areas,” says Ivany. “It can lead to a helpful discussion about compassion for other people, or it could become a launching point about speaking out about what’s wrong and to be able to take personal positions on things (like standing up to bullies). These conversations about war oftentimes provide an opportunity for other discussions that are helpful in kids’ development.”
Picking up the pieces after a public tragedy is tough when you are self-employed. But it’s doable.
In August 2007, my husband and I were living the dream — just four years earlier, I’d founded my own public relations practice just outside of Washington, DC. A few years after that, my husband joined me in the business and added his graphic and website design skills to our offerings. Our business prospered and we were busy taking care of our 3 kids from his first marriage, and dreaming about buying a home and getting pregnant or adopting.
Life was looking up, and we headed to the beach in Georgia for a week of much needed rest with some friends.
We spent one idyllic day at the beach with the kids swimming and all of us in the sun and having fun. I remember riding a beach coaster bike with fat tires and the basket full of sandy magazines, and feeling like all of my DC stress was peeling off with the ocean breeze. I still remember the sound of those wheezy pedals as I headed back to the beach house to get ready for a big meal with the gang.
Then our lives – quite literally – blew up.
I realized on the way back that I’d missed a call from my mom, so I called her back and she didn’t pick up. I then called my aunt, who told me that my brother, US Army Specialist Christopher Neiberger, age 22, was killed in combat that day when a roadside bomb exploded.
It felt like my life also exploded in that moment. I remember dropping the phone. I remember hearing someone screaming. Then I realized that the person screaming was me. It was the moment everything changed.
We hurried to my parents’ home in Florida. A news release was issued by the Army after our family was notified, and soon I was managing reporters not for my clients — but on behalf of my humble and grieving parents.
Only 24 hours after I’d been carefree and pedaling on that beach bike, I sat down alongside my two surviving brothers to talk with our hometown newspaper and tried to sum up what the legacy of my little brother would be.
Those days in Florida were busy — our friends and family wanted to be with us, and we were also meeting with the military, planning a funeral for our hometown, and organizing a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery.
Before long, one of my clients called.
I had turned in a magazine story just before going to the beach and she needed me to check my interview notes and fix something. I paused, told her what had happened, and said I would try to find time to fix it later that evening.
I sent the revised copy to her standing with the laptop at the end of the driveway using a neighbor’s WiFi signal, as my parents were still on dial up. I also sent an email to our clients updating them on our situation and extending our time away to two weeks. I looked up at the stars and wondered how the hell we were going to survive this.
But survive it we did. His funeral was held in the church my husband and I had married in — and it drew hundreds of people — including demonstrators, counter demonstrators, TV crews, and hundreds of people who just wanted to show they cared. It was touching, overwhelming, and so much more all at the same time.
We flew home to DC the next day to get ready for the family to arrive for the burial service. I frantically vacuumed sand out of my living room carpet, bought towels because I had no time to do laundry, answered the door for floral arrangements and casseroles, and made a plan to get everyone to the cemetery on time in rush hour traffic with the army casualty officer.
Ten days after Chris was killed in combat in Iraq, he was buried in section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery.
The media covered the burial with our family’s permission, so there was footage on the news and in newspapers around the country.
I got up early the day after the burial service to say goodbye to my family and picked up the newspaper — there was a photo on the front page of the metro section of The Washington Post showing us getting our flag the day before at the cemetery. I made a mental note to pick up a few more copies and started to go back to bed — I was exhausted from the last 10 days.
My husband and I looked at each other and it was like a light bulb went off in both of our heads. It was our wedding anniversary. We agreed on cards and dinner. Then my husband said his stomach still hurt, and he thought he should see our doctor. I always think he’s a hypochondriac, since my dad is a doctor, so I joked, “I’ll even drive you to the appointment since it’s our anniversary.” It was such a normalizing moment — a reminder that we were “us” and life could somehow start again.
But even after all we’d just been through, life still had other plans.
Our doctor told us to get back in the car and drive straight to the emergency room. Oh crap, I thought.
In the hospital, they called a doctor out of surgery on someone else to look at my husband. Now anxiety began churning my stomach into ugly knots. I knew they wouldn’t do that unless there was something really wrong.
And he had emergency surgery that night for a condition that could have killed him — an incarcerated hernia that, thankfully, didn’t go septic.
We never got the cards. Or dinner. An evil nurse threw me out of his hospital room.
I sat in the waiting room and wept into the same Washington Post I’d collected from my driveway that morning. In 11 days we went from being on vacation, to my brother dying, to that hospital waiting room. I was emotionally now at rock bottom.
Hopefully nothing tragic ever happens to you. While my story might be unique to me, all of us face struggles in life. It’s challenging to figure out how to start again, after tragedy strikes. Here’s what I did to rebuild, and my advice:
1. Start slow and take time off.
My husband had a month long recovery, so we did not attend business meetings or networking events for a while — and thankfully much of DC shuts down in mid-August. Yet client emails kept coming in. I mowed the lawn and we ate some of the casseroles people had brought, and read our email. We took our time to ease back into the rhythm of business life.
2. Continue to communicate with your clients and contacts.
After a tragedy is when your clients and contacts need to hear from you. Some of them will legitimately care about you and want to know you are OK or how they can help. Others will be concerned about the ongoing work you do for them and how their work might be impacted by what you’ve gone through.
3. Lean on people you trust.
This is where having a network is a huge bonus. I had a friend who typically helped cover press calls for my clients while I was out town on vacation each year. She helped me beyond that first week, and knowing she was there to help my clients gave me one less thing to worry about.
4. Keep your contact lists — not just your client lists — and communication systems up-to-date.
While I had a list of our active clients, I didn’t have a ready-made list of some of our other contacts, like the people we networked with or former clients. We didn’t have a business e-newsletter (like we do now) that I could easily send a message out to or a business Facebook page. Having those would have made letting people know we were taking time off, and letting them know when we reopened, a lot easier.
5. Signal when you are ready to start working again.
Only you know when you are ready. Some of your contacts or current clients may want to offer new work or get started on a project, but be unsure of your availability and not want to bother you. So you have to signal that you are ready again for business — whether that means you write emails, or you make phone calls, or send out an e-newsletter and make a Facebook post.
6. Remain open to new things.
In those first couple of weeks back in the office, I was sent two proposals and invited to bid on them. I looked at them and thought, wow, these would be great. I wasn’t hopeful I’d win the work, but I thought writing responses to them would get me back into my groove. Just the act of writing them, would let me dream about doing new work and get my creativity flowing. Amazingly, we won both of those jobs, and a few months later, I took on a gig managing public relations for an organization that assists families of fallen troops.
7. Have good insurance and know your risk exposure.
Thanks to good health insurance, we didn’t face a huge bill from my husband’s emergency surgery. Because we are both self-employed, this event drove home how important it is to have good health insurance and to know what our risk exposure is financially if something happens. Every year, we use what my husband calls “the scariest spreadsheet ever” for open enrollment for work benefits during November and December, so we can evaluate the real financial impacts if a “major medical event” were to happen to one or both of us when we choose a health plan.
8. Keep a cash reserve in the bank that you can easily access.
We also had a cash reserve in the bank when our tragedy hit in 2007. We could afford to take some time off and not be stressed about paying our bills, but we also didn’t want to dip too heavily into the kitty either. A good rule of thumb is to keep at least three to six months of what you need to pay the bills in easily-accessible accounts (meaning your funds are not tied up in IRAs, or investments with withdrawal penalties).
9. Seek help when you need it.
I began getting back “out there” at networking events and it wasn’t all good. At a women in business networking event, everyone attending had to get up in front of the entire group and talk about their business and family. I did fine on the business part, but when I got to the family part I cried and felt embarrassed. The reality was that I had spent so much time tending to everyone else and their needs in all of this — that somewhere deep inside I had forgotten to take care of myself. I found help with a therapist and the peer support of other gold star families.
Life can change in an instant and right now we may all feel like we are living in a state of perpetual crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Making some preparations — whether it involves getting your finances or insurance in order, keeping your records and contact lists straight, or being flexible and taking care of yourself — can give you stability and boost your peace of mind.
In the military space, there are all kinds of strength, variations of independence and endless examples of courage. Jennifer Mabus, 2018 Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru-hiker and new Navy spouse is planning to literally walk away from it all (again) with her husband’s next deployment.
In the spring of 2018, Mabus and her now-husband Owen began a long-distance friendship at quite possibly the most inopportune time in each’s lives. Mabus was setting out to hike the PCT and Owen, a Navy diver, was gearing up for deployment. With one quick chance to see each other on a layover work trip, the two had just one shot at meeting face to face before both set out.
PCT 2018 Day 1 | The Day I Poured Out My Dad’s Booze
“We communicated every chance we got the entire time I was on trail and he was deployed, but there was never any tension. We were both doing our things and clearly understood that from the beginning,” says Mabus, who credits their communication and mutual respect aiding to the love within their story.
Mabus, a mechanical engineer, made the cross country move to Virginia this January, taking her first steps into life as a military spouse. “My dad was a Ranger. I had some idea about what this life would be like, but it wasn’t what I imagined being ideal for myself to be honest.”
“Coming into military spouse life, it is the partner who undergoes major changes. It’s a challenge to face the potential of losing some of your identity, to be the one who is left behind,” says Mabus hesitantly in reflection of still searching for her niche now.
Luckily for Mabus, adaptation was a skill she honed while on trail. “Humans can adapt to anything. On trail, no matter how great your plan was, the likelihood was that it would be altered or changed. That’s a lot like military spouse life I’m finding out.”
Couples bring all sorts of skills and expectations into marriage, but for these two, the mutual understanding of accomplishing huge feats (deployment and thru-hiking) simultaneously or otherwise, was a goal they wouldn’t lose sight of. Pre-pandemic, Mabus had coordinated a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) at the same time Owen was to deploy.
“He knows how much life this brings to my life. Being married now, we had to check-in emotionally because there would be a chance, I may not be home when he gets back from deployment,” she says nervously.
Dependents worldwide understand the monumental pressure of holding down the fort when service members are gone. While certainly unique, Mabus’ plan to pursue her own hard thing might not be so shocking to comprehend after hearing just a few of her reflections of her time on trail.
“There’s a deep disconnect from life’s stressors and a newfound connection to yourself that happens. This isn’t a weekend getaway, it’s dedicating every day to walking forward with extreme intention,” a feeling she has yet to find elsewhere.
“I’ve never been prouder of myself, of my body, or the trust I had in what I could do,” she said.
When asked about keeping up with communication expectations now as a married couple Mabus shared, “Last time, I sent postcards from each town I reached. We both left messages, videos and picked up conversations when each had the chance. The understanding that each of us might be out of touch for a few days or delayed in responding is important.”
Managing expectations for military couples is an obstacle we all tackle in ways unique to our relationship. Missing “scheduled” calls and experiencing what feels like radio silence for days on end is taxing. Imagining deployment when both parties not only accept, but expect to both give and receive these lags in communication has to eliminate byproducts like resentment, fear or even anger.
The unexpected mix of experiences and perspectives that live within the military spouse community is everything that keeps the group (military spouses) amazing. Mabus’ outlook, strength and unique plan will undoubtedly shake up a few mindsets, and for that we’re giving her the biggest high five we can. We’ll be catching up with her Youtube trail diary (from 2018) and low-key stalking her Instagram for her next adventure.
The United States needs to “up its game” in the Arctic, which is an increasingly important region as global warming opens up new sea lanes and makes oil and mineral resources there more readily available, the U.S. defense secretary has said.
The Arctic, which lies partly within the territories of Russia, the United States, Canada, and a handful of other countries, by some estimates holds more oil and natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Moscow has been intensifying its energy development there.
Russia has also embarked upon its biggest military push in the Arctic since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, beefing up its military presence and capabilities.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is moving to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air, and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and build new ones as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.
“Certainly America’s got to up its game in the Arctic. There’s no doubt about that,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Alaska before leaving on a trip to Asia.
Part of that would be an increased Coast Guard presence, with more icebreakers and other specialized vessels needed in the Arctic, he said.
Mattis said the Pentagon already relied on Alaska as a base for operations in the Pacific, and the interceptor missiles the United States maintains there already constitute the cornerstone of the U.S. homeland defense.
But he said that the warming of the Arctic had spurred a new rush for resources in the region that the United States has been reluctant to join.
“So the reality is that we’re going to have to deal with the developing Arctic… It is also going to open not just to transport but also to energy exploration,” Mattis said.
The United States and Russia have both expressed interest in boosting Arctic drilling, but Russia has gone further in developing its Arctic resources. Currently, the United States prohibits oil drilling in wildlife refuges in its Alaskan Arctic wilderness areas and most offshore areas.
Beyond the competition between Russia and the United States, early 2018 China outlined ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes that have been opened up by global warming.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
China also has been helping Greenland, whose territory covers a major portion of the Arctic, develop its vast, mostly untapped mineral resources.
China itself has no Arctic territory or coastline, so its increasing interest in the region has prompted concerns from Arctic states over its long-term strategic objectives, including whether that includes military deployment.
Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan, standing alongside Mattis, said there was bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to view the Arctic in more strategic terms.
“I agree with the secretary, I think we’re behind, but I think we’re finally starting to catch up,” Sullivan said.
Studies show that much of the oil and gas resources in the Arctic is concentrated in Alaska, which the United States purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 million. It became the 49th U.S. state in 1959.
In Ray Bradbury’s non-fiction book Zen and the Art of Writing, he reveals how he once tried to write in his garage during the summer but quickly became distracted by his kids wanting to play with him all the time. Bradbury was a good dad, and so, he played with his kids when they came to bother him in the garage, even if it meant his writing didn’t get done. In the essay “Investing Dimes,” Bradbury reveals his solution was to create a kind of office for himself away from home where he could get some work done. And so, he retreated to a library where he could rent typewriters by the hour by popping in a dime. The result was the novel Fahrenheit: 451.
I’m no Ray Bradbury, but I am a writer, and writing for the internet is my job. I’ve been working from home on and off since my daughter was born in 2017, and before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I also faced this problem: Writing in the garage just doesn’t work because my kid is just too damn cute. And so, I started renting a desk at a local co-working space. But then, COVID-19 happened. And now, like so many working parents across a variety of professions, I’m back to working at home, which means the work I’m doing is constantly being put in conflict with my parenting. In a new piece for the New York Times, writer Deb Perelman puts it like this: “In the COVID-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both.”
That’s a headline that captures the story — the story of parents right now — and it started a huge trend on social media the second it was published. It’s so obviously true it’s not even funny. People like Perleman, myself, and the late Ray Bradbury are somewhat lucky compared to most American parents insofar as I can type this little essay out on the back steps of my house, hunched over, while my toddler is sleeping and my wife is getting some much-needed downtime. But my working hours are all over the place. There’s never really a time I’m not working and that also means there’s never really a time when I’m being present for my kid either. This is what the COVID-19 economy has done for parents in all kinds of professions. It’s turned us into people desperate to hold onto our jobs, but unsure how we’re going to do it.
As Perelman points out, when and if public schools re-open, it won’t be easy on parents to make decisions, and yet, the outrage is almost non-existent. “Why isn’t anyone talking about this?” she writes “Why are we not hearing a primal scream so deafening that no plodding policy can be implemented without addressing the people buried by it?”
Why not indeed? Perelman’s main points are familiar to most parents. While there’s a giant public debate over how one should behave, there’s a reality edging closer to parents’ viewpoint; which isn’t about what should happen, it’s more about what will happen. “I resent articles that view the struggle of working parents this year as an emotional concern,” she writes. “We are not burned out because life is hard this year. We are burned out because we are being rolled over by the wheels of an economy that has bafflingly declared working parents inessential.”
Which is pretty much what has happened at this point. Parents need to keep making money to keep their families going, to keep their kids safe. But there’s no real infrastructure from our governments and institutions to help us figure that out. Despite centuries of so-called “progress,” families are essentially still on their own when it comes to figuring out how to fend for their kids. On some level, we know this, and it’s what we signed up for. But what the world seems to have forgotten is that it’s very obviously not even remotely fair. The economy has always been situated to basically scam American families, but what the pandemic has revealed is just how deep that scam goes.
Everyone who is living now had parents of some kind. The kids of today, the kids we are fighting for in this pandemic have an uncertain future. And that’s because parents are invisible workers. Relatively speaking, Bradbury had it easy. This generation of parents has it bad. And it’s only when everyone admits it that things will get better.
Now, you can bring that magic to bedtime. Whether it’s for you, your little one, a grandchild or just that Disney lover in your life, calling for a bedtime message is easy, fun, and best of all, it’s free.
The author’s daughter sound asleep at Disney. Photo/Tessa Robinson
For a limited time (until April 30), ShopDisney.com is offering bedtime messages from some of our favorite Disney characters. Callers can choose a special goodnight greeting from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy or Goofy. The messages are so endearing, tucking your little one in for the night and telling them to have sweet dreams.
Even though spring break trips are canceled and the legendary theme parks have shut down all over the world in response to COVID-19, we all could use a little Disney magic.
When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are Anything your heart desires will come to you If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.
As the entire Defense Department continues to make changes in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sergeant Major Troy E. Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, delivered a video message to the entire Corps on Monday, thanking Marines and families for their continued effort in this difficult time. The top Marines also explained why training must continue at Recruit Training, and Marine Corps-wide, despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.
The message was first shared via the Marine Corps’ Facebook Page, and has since been disseminated on a number of other outlets.
General Berger opened the video by acknowledging the difficult times Marines and their families have been facing and will continue to in the weeks to come. The Commandant made a point, early in the video, to tell families that they should be proud of the hard work their loved ones in uniform are doing throughout this difficult time. He also assured families that every measure is being taken to help ensure Marines remain safe and healthy as they continue to work and train amid the pandemic. The two went on to thank unit commanders for exercising good judgement despite the uncertainty that has come along with some elements of the spread of COVID-19.
“As leaders, we know what right looks like. It may look different tomorrow, but today right looks like this, and you make that call,” Sgt. Major Black says during the video. “And you have the Sergeant Major’s and my full support, we back you all the way,” General Berger added.
Near the end of the video, General Berger explained in clear language why the Marine Corps can’t simply stop training, and why recruit training facilities like MCRDs San Diego and Parris Island are so essential to the Marine Corps’ readiness and the nation’s defense as a whole even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, climb various obstacles in the obstacle course for recruits on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. The obstacle course is composed of different obstacles that are designed to physically and mentally challenge recruits. USMC photo/Dylan Walters
“Why do we continue to do recruit training in the middle of this terrible virus?” General Berger asked himself aloud rhetorically. “We never get the chance to pick the next crises, where it happens, or when it happens. When the president calls, Marines and the Navy team, we respond immediately. So we must continue to train. We have to continue recruit training, because this nation relies on its Marine Corps, especially in tough times.”
For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.
If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.
No matter how well you plan, PCSing is expensive. You’re going to make (at least) 15 trips toTarget to get all the little things you had no way of knowing your new home lacked. You’ll probably be ordering a lot of pizza and eating in restaurants while you wait for your household goods to arrive. And, you’ll be doing all this spending while your family is likely living on just one income. It’s the catch-22 of military spouse life: You can’t afford childcare until you have a job, but how can you search for or accept a job when you can’t afford to pay someone to watch your kids?
Starting this month, soldiers and their families can get extra help with childcare expenses after PCSing from Army Emergency Relief (AER), a non-profit organization that helps soldiers with unplanned financial hardships caused by military service. AER will provide up to 0 per month to qualifying Army families through grants and zero-interest loans to help offset childcare expenses, for up to 90 days following a move.
AER’s assistance goes hand-in-hand with a program all the branches of service have to help families find and pay for childcare. Last year Secretary of the Army Mark Esper (now Secretary of Defense Esper) heard the cries of military families and put together a plan to help families find and pay for childcare. Under Esper’s plan, the Army (and now all the other branches of service, too) pay a subsidy to service members to cover the difference between the cost of childcare in a Child Development Center (CDC) and the cost of a civilian childcare center.
The Army program subsidy, for example, pays up to id=”listicle-2645026519″,500 per child per month. Which, while it may sound like a lot of money, in some areas, for some families, was still not enough. “The childcare piece has always been a struggle for families with young children, especially dual-income families,” said Krista Simpson Anderson, an Army spouse living near Washington, DC, who serves as the Military Spouse Ambassador for AER. “Let’s say your kids are in daycare at the Child Development Center at Ft. Carson, and then you PCS to Ft. Bragg. You don’t automatically get a slot at Bragg. You get put on a waitlist. But you have to have childcare so you can go out and find a new job. The CDCs are usually more affordable than daycares in the community, but you may have to use a community daycare or a babysitter while you wait for a slot at the CDC. This money is intended to help with the difference in cost.”
AER’s CEO, LTG (Ret.) Ray Mason said that even with the Army Fee Assistance program, some families were still experiencing an average of 5 in additional out of pocket expenses for childcare.
AER is funded entirely by donations and distributes grants and loans based on need. So, to get the extra financial assistance, soldiers or their spouses must go to the AER office on their new post and show proof of their income and their monthly expenses.”Individual soldier readiness and spouse employment are top priorities for the Army,” Gen. Mason said. “Providing child care assistance helps soldiers focus on their mission, while also supporting spouses returning quickly to the workforce after they arrive at a new duty station.”
When military spouse Ashley Salas heard about the “front porch project,” she knew it was something she had to do. “As soon as my friend showed me this idea, I decided to go for it,” Salas said on her company Facebook page. “I reached out on my neighborhood page and had people message me their address. I had 76 families. 76!!!!”
The idea behind the project is simple: photograph families on their front porch in this era of social distancing and quarantine. Salas plotted a route and off she went.
“I went house to house… jumping in and out of my car, about 1 minute per house, and took a photo for them to cherish because you know what? THE WORLD IS SCARY right now,” Salas shared on Facebook. “We are quarantined to our homes. We are asked to social distance from each other. We are asked to be safe, wash hands, and take this seriously.
We can all do our part and stay home as much as possible. Wash your hands. Keep your distance… but always love your neighbor.”
The results are magnificent. Some sweet, some hilarious, all incredible memories for these families and Salas.
What a memory I’ll cherish forever. And when it was over, I cried… so many emotions, but this night gave me so much joy for everyone.