Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

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


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

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book
Victoria Kelly — Navy spouse, mother, poet, and novelist

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

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

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

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

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

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

his face toward the roar of the jets overhead, looking

the way people look in the rain in movies

when they are happy. To him the were

as beautiful as children, those gray,

hairless beasts that had brought us here,

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

and I loved him . . .

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Space Force is heading on deployment – to the Arabian Desert

It’s easy to joke about the Space Force. From their ridiculous motto to their seal, it seems like the leadership for America’s newest military branch is just asking to be the butt of jokes. Space Force is the sixth branch of our military and the first new branch since the Air Force’s creation way back in 1947. At least the Air Force had a precursor (the Army Air Corps) and a definite need. With the Space Force, we’re not so sure.

We’re no closer to getting personnel on the moon than we were back in 1947, and it seems like everyone from Netflix to Star Trek is getting in on the jokes.


Now Space Force just made it a whole lot easier.

In September, a squadron of 20 airmen deployed for Space Force’s first foreign deployment – all the way to far off distant Dubai, UAE. The squad was sworn in as Space Force recruits at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, becoming the military’s newest first foreign deployed trips. What makes this swearing-in unique is that all 20 squad members were already searching overseas with the Air Force. The group of enlisted and commissioned Airmen assigned to the 16th Expeditionary Space Control Flight and the 609th Air Operations Center was deployed to Qatar. With their swearing-in comes a new uniform and a new place to call home for a while.

Air Force Col. Todd Benson, director of Space Forces of US Air Forces CENTCOM, said that the group was making history as the 20 members officially switched branches from the Air Force to the Space Force. The ceremony officially transferred Space Operations and Airmen in core space career fields, including space operations and space system operations. In the future, ceremonies will induct professions in common career fields like acquisitions, intelligence, engineering fields, and cybersecurity.

According to a press release, the squad has been stationed in the UAE as part of support for combat operations.

During the swearing-in ceremony at Al Udeid, the newest Space Force personnel were flanked by American flags and massive satellites. Soon more will join the “core space operators” to help run satellites, track enemy maneuvers, and avoid conflicts that happen in space.

Benson reiterated that the missions aren’t new, and neither are the personnel. But what is new is the price tag. The force is expected to grow to at least 16,000 troops by 2021 and have a budget of 15.4 billion. Some leadership worries this entire project is a vanity push for President Trump ahead of next month’s election, though there’s no conclusive evidence to support that.

The growing concerns over the weaponization of outer space are conversations that senior military leaders have been having for decades. As outer space ownership becomes increasingly contested, many cite the need to have a space corps devoted specifically to American interests.

Of course, military presence in the Middle East is nothing new. We’ve been there in some capacity for generations.

But according to historians, the Middle East might just be where the first “space war” was actually fought – that is, if you’re willing to accept the use of a satellite-based GPS mission as a “space war.” During the 1991 Desert Storm operation, US troops used satellites to push Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, making military history in the process.

Since the 1991 use of satellites in combat, threats from global agitators have grown. In his briefing welcoming the newest personnel, Benson declined to name the “aggressive” nations the Space Force will monitor and track. Unsurprisingly, the decision to deploy the Space Force to the UAE comes just months after the ramp-up of tensions between the US and Iran.

The 16th Space Control Flight, part of the 21st Operations Group, was operational from 1967 until 1994. It was reactivated in 2007, and its mission is to protect critical satellite communication links to detect, characterize, and report sources of electromagnetic interference.

MIGHTY CULTURE

PCS life hacks I learned from watching ‘Tidying Up’ on Netflix

As military spouses, when our husbands or wives announce they finally put in for orders, our minds drift in one direction after we’ve learned possible locations…

Prepping for our PCS

As we have moved from duty station to duty station, our family has collected PCS purges from other families, thrift store finds we needed while waiting for our own household goods to arrive, souvenirs and other mementos, and of course, boxes from three duty stations ago that we’re too afraid to even open and sort through.


Every PCS ends up the same way – we’re stressed out, frustrated about going through our stuff and hoping we’re still under the maximum weight allowance, and then we’re passing our stress, anxieties, and frustration onto our children because we’re now trying to do a million things before the movers arrive.

But what if I told you that it could be different? What if we didn’t have a million things to sort through? What if our homes were already pretty much prepped for the next PCS, no matter what time of the year it is? When I stumbled across Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, I was skeptical. I hadn’t heard of her before and I hadn’t read her books, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, though I had learned about how people within the Japanese culture often purge any objects within their homes that do not bring them joy on a regular basis.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

(Flickr photo by TheMuuj)

Like many other military families, we start sifting through our stuff months in advance of a PCS to get rid of what we don’t want or need anymore, and I wasn’t quite sure that anyone could make it easier than going systematically from room to room, starting with our storage.

And yet, as I watched, I was quickly sucked in because you could actually see the joy she experienced teaching people how to become more tidy, and she even has a system, which she calls the KonMari Method, which is to organize by category rather than by location, and also to tidy the five categories in the home in a specific order:

  1. Clothing
  2. Books
  3. Paper
  4. Komono (Kitchen, Bathroom, Garage, and anything miscellaneous)
  5. Sentimental Items

According to the KonMari Method, you should hold each item individually and ask if it brings you joy. If it does not spark joy, it should be given to a friend or donated (check out your local installation thrift store information and how to donate!) However, if it is an item that is well used but does not spark joy (I’m sure my garage tools would fall under this), you can keep the item and try to change the way you feel about those items.

If you’ve been holding onto clothes that don’t fit, Marie says you should ask: do those clothes inspire you to work out so that you fit back into them or do they make you dread exercise because you don’t fit into them anymore? Marie also believes that folding your clothes is another way to show love and appreciation to your clothes, and to maximize storage space, she has a method of folding your shirts and pants into thirds so they can stand upright, which is similar to how servicemembers learn how to fold in bootcamp.

So what does it feel like for an item to bring you joy?

Marie says that the item should spark the same feeling as holding a puppy or wearing your favorite outfit, giving you a warm, positive feeling. If you do not get that feeling and it is not something that you use regularly, you should let the item go and thank each item before you donate or give it away.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

After you sort through the first three categories by taking everything out and touching each item, the next step is sorting through the Komono category, which includes all of your miscellaneous items (everything in your home that is not clothes, books, and papers (such as legal documents, orders, and military records) as well as the garage and kitchen.

Marie is a huge fan of using boxes to store items that are of like-size as well as sorting items into categories. She recommends standing items up when possible, designating spots for everything, and using tiny boxes in the kitchen to give everything a “home.”

For the final category, Sentimental items, there are many categories – memorabilia, old letters, photos, and even old medals, challenge coins, and uniform items could be considered to have sentimental value. Marie challenges you to store your sentimental items where you can view them, such as putting photos into frames and coffee table albums so that they can be more easily viewed. Military families could utilize shadow boxes for our uniform items and/or medals to display them, and there are also great challenge coin holders available on websites like Etsy.

Can our next PCS move be different?

The best thing about the KonMari Method is that she doesn’t expect you to complete this in a day – you are literally touching every item in your home and purging the items that do not bring you joy. Our family’s goal will be to use the KonMari Method in the spring and late fall so that the next time we need to move, it won’t be such an overwhelming process to purge all of the things we hadn’t been using in the past 2-3 years.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to make a great living room obstacle course

Long before obstacle-course races became the dad fitness fad du jour, kids enjoyed crawling, jumping, and swinging from station to station in PE class. And they still do, even if not all of them want to train for a Mini Mudder. Most young kids have a good notion of what obstacle courses are (the world looks like one when you’re small enough) so getting them to race through homemade gauntlets is fairly easy and, when it comes to tiring them out, incredibly effective. It’s an activity that naturally builds on itself because kids will want to provide feedback on specific obstacles and courses can have endless permutations, at least until someone breaks something. The perfect obstacle course should be challenging, silly, and easily deconstructed or reconstructed. But, most importantly, it should be safe ⏤ so no fire pits!


Prep Time: About 30 minutes.
Entertainment Time: 20 minutes to two hours.
Energy Expended by Child: Mostly physical, unless you want to throw in a puzzle or two.

What You Need:

  • Things to jump over, onto, or from. Interlocking foam play mats and tumbling mats are great. So are ropes, toys, cushions, and very stable pieces of furniture.
  • Things to crawl under or through. If you don’t already have a play tunnel, pull a sheet taut and have them crawl under it, army style.
  • Things to throw. Make a station where aim is important. Throwing is a skill very young kids can develop.
  • Things to balance on. An extra piece of woods in the shed can be a balance beam. So can a floorboard if everyone agrees it’s surrounded by lava.
  • If you’re setting an outdoor obstacle course up in the backyard, there are plenty of ready-to-buy obstacles, as well.

How to Play:

The best way to play ‘Obstacle Course’ is by building several stations, each with their own challenge. Depending on the age of the kids, they can help with this part. Here’s an example (note that writing it down can be helpful and make comprehension part of the game):

  1. Balance beam.
  2. Knock down all the cans.
  3. Jump from block to block.
  4. Ride the tricycle across the living room while making a silly face.
  5. Crawl through the tunnel.
  6. Drag a heavy thing past the line.
  7. Walk a ping pong ball with a spoon.
Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

The individual stations can be anything and are only limited by space and imagination. You can add special challenges as kids figure out how to manage certain obstacles. It’s also important to note that stations can reoccur in each running of an obstacle course. It is, for instance, a great idea to get kids to jump multiple times between activities that require more precise muscle control. This forces kids to engage different muscles and tires them out.

It’s also important to note that obstacle course are not merely physical. They are based on rules. It’s good to establish a points system that informs timing (plus 10 seconds for falling off the balance beam) because it incentivizes kids to really do the thing while turning you into a referee and arbiter of success, which puts you in a better position to encourage certain approaches or dish out positive feedback so kids feel like they’re making progress over time. If they aren’t, it also puts you in a prime position to obscure that fact.

To that end, it’s smart to make yourself one of the obstacles. Make kids dodge balls you’re throwing, chase you down, or play the levels game. This allows for you to make the course increasingly difficult and gets you directly involved, which is likely to ramp up interests (kids are predictable like that). On that same note, it’s a good idea to try to do the course — the parts you can fit through — to set a baseline time for your kid to beat. A bit of competition, no matter how silly, provides kids with a way to compete with mom and dad and understand their abilities and bodies in relation to other people’s. This leads to an ability to do a kind of athletic self-assessment that can be helpful later in life. It also tends to lead to absolute exhaustion.

Wrap Up:

Obstacle courses are a great way for your kids to burn off excess energy. And if they ever get tired of the same old course, change the theme or turn it into a narrated adventure: Superhero tryouts, ninja training, find the hidden treasure. Younger kids will especially enjoy embarking on the course as a character on an expedition. In the end, not only is it satisfying to watch your kids challenge themselves but also to watch them enjoy something you all built … even if it was made with couch cushions.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 valuable tax tips and benefits for military families

The holidays are over, and we are now in the year 2020. It’s a good time to start working on our 2019 taxes, because April 15 will be here before we know it. Taxes are overwhelming and complex, but there are numerous tax benefits for military families, so it is important to understand the basics.


Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Income

Servicemembers receive different types of pay and allowances. It is important to know which are considered as income and which are not. For servicemembers, income typically includes basic pay, special pay, bonus pay, and incentive pay.

Exclusions

Items normally excluded from income include combat pay, living allowances, moving allowances, travel allowances, and family allowances, such as family separation pay.

Combat pay exclusions are a substantial benefit to servicemembers and spouses. Combat pay is that compensation for active military service for any month while serving in a designated combat zone. This may also include a reenlistment bonus if the voluntary reenlistment occurs in a month while the servicemember is serving in the combat zone. Note that for commissioned officers, there is a limit to the amount of combat pay you may exclude.

The most common living allowances are Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Subsistence. Moving allowances are those reasonable, unreimbursed expenses beyond what the military pays for a permanent change of station.

Sale of Homes

Servicemembers and spouses often decide to purchase homes when moving to new duty stations. Often, we then turnaround and sell the homes a few years later before moving again.

What happens if you make a profit from the sale of this home? If you are fortunate enough to profit, you may qualify to exclude up to 0,000 of the gain from your income, or up to 0,000 if you file a joint return with your spouse. This is referred to as the Sale of Primary Home Capital Gain exclusion. Normally, this exclusion requires that you owned the home for at least two years and lived in it for at least two of the last five years. There is an exception, however, for servicemembers. If you were required to move as the result of a permanent change of station before meeting these requirements, you still may qualify for a reduced exclusion.

Claim for Tax Forgiveness

If a servicemember dies while on active duty, there are circumstances where the taxes owed will be forgiven by the IRS. Contact your closest Legal Assistance Office immediately for assistance using the website provided later in the article.

Extensions

If April 15 is quickly approaching and you are running out of time, remember, there are several different extension requests that military families may make. If the servicemember is in a combat zone, an automatic extension covers the time period the servicemember is in the combat zone plus 180 days after the last day in the combat zone.

Avoid Tax Scams

In November 2019, I wrote an article on common scams during the holidays. Unfortunately, scams are not limited to the holidays. There are numerous tax scams that have stolen personal information and millions of dollars. Scammers use the mail, telephone and email to initiate contact. Please remember that the IRS never initiates contact by email, text messages or on social media pages to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contact through the regular U. S. Postal Service mail. Finally, the IRS never uses threats or bullying to demand payments.

If you have any questions, contact the IRS with a telephone number you find on its website (www.irs.gov) and verify what you received is legitimate before doing anything. To protect yourself, only use an IRS telephone number from its website. Do not use a telephone number you received that you suspect may be part of a tax scam from an email, text message or social media page.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Signing Tax Returns

Normally, both the servicemember and spouse must sign jointly filed tax returns. If one spouse will be absent during tax season, it is advisable to have an IRS special power of attorney, IRS Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative). You may access this form on the IRS website.

Military Tax Centers

Annually, many Legal Assistance Offices worldwide help servicemembers and spouses file their federal and state income tax returns starting in early February. Last year, for example, Army Legal Assistance personnel and volunteers prepared and filed over one hundred thousand Federal and over sixty-four thousand State income tax returns saving servicemembers and their families more than million in tax preparation and filing fees.

If you don’t live near a military installation, visit the Department of Defense Military One Source website at https://www.militaryonesource.mil for additional information on accessing free online tax assistance.

Legal Assistance Offices

If you have specific tax questions or receive correspondence from the IRS, contact the closest legal assistance office to schedule an appointment. Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website (https://legalassistance.law.af.mil) that I provided in the October 2019 blog to locate your nearest legal assistance office. The quicker you address your issues, the better likelihood that you will successfully resolve them.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Valuable Tax Tip for 2020

Finally, here is a valuable tip for next year’s taxes. Does it seem like every year you are scrambling to find tax documents and receipts from throughout the tax year? Relieve this stress by getting a folder and writing “Tax Year 2020” on the front of it. Keep it in an easy-to-find place, and every time you receive a document or receipt that may impact your taxes place it in the folder. That way, at the end of this year, you will have most of the supporting documents you need already together.

Future Blogs

Be on the lookout for future blogs that will continue to discuss specific legal issues often encountered by servicemembers and military spouses. As always, this blog series will help to protect your family and you!

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

What are military brats like when they grow up?

The term “military brats” is familiar, unifying and isolating all at once. Military brats have a subculture all their own. Although they didn’t choose their upbringing, they’re often proud of their family’s military roots. The effects of military lifestyle during childhood are profound. Psychologists have established that parental absence and military spouse stress during deployments lead to increased levels of anxiety in military children. 

Interestingly, psychologists have yet to study exactly what happens to military brats when they grow up. Military brats simply aren’t tracked once they outgrow the title. Based on anecdotal evidence and studies on child development, however, here’s what we’ve discovered. 

The good 

Resilience and adaptability

The stats don’t lie. Military families move, on average, 10 times as frequently as civilian families. This equates to once every two to three years. It usually takes a few months to settle into a new home. It takes even longer to make solid friendships and get used to a new school. Military brats learn through experience to adapt to change and acclimate quickly in new environments.

Discipline and hard work

Military parents are often labeled as “strict,” but it’s only because they tend to expect their kids to follow the rules. They also learn by example; military families go where the military needs them to go at a moment’s notice, without question. Military life isn’t for the faint of heart, but watching your parents make a commitment like that and follow through makes a lasting impression.

Tolerance

The military has, historically, been somewhat ahead of the curve in terms of racial equality. Troops work together to serve a joint mission, and they become brothers and sisters regardless of ethnicity or race. This culture applies to families living in military housing, too. Military brats are military brats; they grow up playing with whomever is available, and their families all have something in common. As a result, they are likely to be stronger proponents of diversity later in life. 

Good at teamwork

One of the pros of having a parent who’s periodically deployed is that children learn to be active participants in their household. For months at a time, military spouses function as solo parents. To keep the gears moving, kids are required to do their part to help. They’re often expected to pick up the slack around the house, assisting with younger siblings, doing daily chores and taking more responsibility than an average kid would. When they grow up, they’re unlikely to become a slacker in group projects. They’re used to pulling their own weight, and it will show when they hit college or get their first job.

The not so good 

For the most part, the positives outweigh the negatives. The downsides to military life are very real, however, and what a military brat turns out like depends greatly on their individual experiences. Some adapt well to military life, while others struggle with behavioral problems.

Anxiety

The most frequently reported negative effect of growing up as a military brat is anxiety. Deployments are hard on military spouses, and they’re often equally hard for children. As kids mature and become aware of the risks their parent’s deployment brings, they can become fearful and worried. The stress of frequent schools can also trigger anxiety. For some, this results in behavioral problems in school and slipping grades.

Interestingly, the emotional impact of deployment can be mitigated, at least in part, by the parent still at home. If the acting caregiver is calm, positive and present, kids are more likely to make it through each deployment in a healthy mental state. 

Hyper-independence 

Though seemingly counterintuitive, military brats have the potential to become hyper-independent. Because they can’t rely on many constants in their life, they may lose trust in others to provide stability and comfort. Again, this depends greatly on individual experience.

An adjustment to civilian life

Most military brats carry their military brat status for life. Somewhere between the ages of 18-24, however, they age out of their dependent status. They face a similar adjustment period as military members do when they retire. They’ve likely lived with military support for all of their lives, and learning the ins and outs of the civilian world can leave them feeling shell-shocked.

The bottom line

military brats
These stats from 2017 demonstrate the scope of the issue. There are many military kids out there who may need more, or different, support than they’re receiving.

The ups and downs of military life have a profound effect on the children who grow up with it. And those children grow up to become adults. There are thousands of former military brats out there, and it’s critical that we further explore how military life affects them long term. 

What is clear is that the length of deployments and the conditions at home are strongly correlated with the child’s mental state. Because of the physical and emotional disruptions of military life, the fundamental tenets of parenting that we all try to follow become even more important. The stability, presence and support of military spouses can reduce the effect of deployment on their kids. With that in mind, it’s crucial that military spouses have a support system of their own. For more mental health resources, Veterans Families United has several helpful connections.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

10 memes perfect for the military spouse

Canceled plans? Been there, done that. Holidays alone? Nothing new. Making friends as an adult? A daily norm. Learning to live with everything in your house broken? It’s a non-issue. These and so many others are daily norms for military spouses — AKA milspos. And what better way than to celebrate in these most loved (or most hated) moments than with a good collection of memes? 

Take a look at some of these all-too-real memes that describe perfectly the life of a military spouse. 

  1. The stages of deployment in terms of personal hygiene 
Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Don’t act like you’re shaving your legs while they’re gone. 

  1. When you see your Facebook friends complaining about solo parenting for a day

Cry. Me. A. River.

  1. When friends and family asks how you are and this is your response

Milspo’s best friend.

  1. When someone says you “knew what you got yourself into” but it’s not how you remember your vows.
Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Not that we’d change it, but can’t we still be surprised about the craziness?! 

  1. When most of your milspo friends joined an MLM at some point or another. 

Hey, it’s a job that travels! 

  1. When the universe aligns and you meet a new bestie.
military spouse meme
(Via Military Wives Connect / Facebook)

The stars don’t always work in your favor, but when they do, it’s magical. 

  1. Life just moves quicker in the military

Whether or not this was you, it’s funny. 

  1. When everyone is freaking about COVID and you’re just like ???
military spouse meme

Different day, same lack of control. 

  1. When moves never get easier, you just lower your expectations
(Via Military Spouse Chronicles / Facebook)

What was said on moving day (week, month) doesn’t count. 

  1. Civilians, new military girlfriends, still full of logic and hope
Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

It’s always so sad before their expectations are crushed. 

No doubt that 2020 has brought on some of these memes and brought them to life for real — not just as a once funny joke. Luckily the military has given us the tools to deal with quickly changing plans … even if we aren’t happy about it.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

US aircraft carrier and Japanese warships sail together in South China Sea

The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) participated in a cooperative deployment with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships JS Izumo (DH-183), JS Murasame (DD-101) and JS Akebono (DD-108) June 10-12, 2019.

Reagan, Akebono, Izumo and Murasame conducted communication checks, tactical maneuvering drills and liaison officer exchanges designed to address common maritime security priorities and enhance interoperability at sea.

“Having a Japanese liaison officer aboard to coordinate our underway operations has been beneficial and efficient,” said Lt. Mike Malakowsky, a tactical actions officer aboard Ronald Reagan.

“As we continue to operate together with the JMSDF, it makes us a cohesive unit. They are an integral part of our Strike Group that doubles our capability to respond to any situation.”


Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships with US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, in background, during a cooperative deployment.

(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship JS Murasame, foreground, alongside US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a cooperative deployment.

(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Japan Maritime Self- Defense Force ship JS Izumo, left, alongside US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a cooperative deployment.

(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Heroes Linked connects veterans with jobs, resources

In this time of Covid, many veterans have been on the job hunt and have had to adapt to the changing job climate. Layoffs, restructuring, furloughs, pay cuts, and other corporate moves have made life a bit rough for many in the workforce. A lot of veterans, whether they have just separated or have been out for a while have been looking at ways to keep ahead of the economic downturn.

It’s not easy but there is a great resource you can use.


Heroes Linked is a site that gives veterans a chance to link up and get advice from mentors in the field they work in or want to work in. You can get advice on resumes, how to approach a job interview, what skills you need to work on or obtain, or just meet someone that will be your in for the job of your dreams.

We Are The Mighty talked to David Tenenbaum who is a Director and Advisor for Heroes Linked.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

David served as an Air Force Captain from 2001-2007. He joined before 9/11 and was an aviator who flew recon missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. “When I got out, I had a pilot’s license and master, but no transition plan and no idea where to go or what to do,” David told us. He started his own business during the recession. His business model wasn’t lucrative.

That led to him pulling up his pants and headed to LA. David worked for We Are the Mighty for a big as our Director of Business Development before going into digital publish and ad operations. He also learned a bit about veteran advocacy and got very involved in helping fellow veterans. Heroes Linked contacted him for help with media services, but his passion for helping veterans led him to become a Director and Advisor for the site.

So, what is all about? Heroes Linked is a non-profit that pairs a veteran with an advisor in that veteran’s field or prospective field. Are you thinking of going into insurance? Heroes Linked will pair you with an advisor that will be your north star when it comes to breaking into the insurance business. Thinking of starting your own company? You will get paired with an entrepreneur that will give you advice that comes from their own success. As David tells us, “The coolest thing is it connects two individuals where they have an environment to have candid conversations about their future”.

Now some of you are probably thinking, that’s great if you are just getting out but what about those of us who have been out for a while?

Well Heroes Linked is for you too. Have you been working in sales for 10 years and struggling to get a promotion? Have you been hating HR and want to move into IT? Heroes Linked will help you connect with the right people, so you have a great place to start, instead of starting your journey blindly. Many of us go to LinkedIn as a way to network. But how many of those connections, do you actually chat with. How many of them engage you and give you great advice?

What if you are a spouse or Gold Star Family member? Heroes Linked is for you too. You just register using id.me and then you unlock all the resources that they have for you.

Heroes Linked was started about six years ago. Folks who were concerned about veteran well beings started fundraisers to help the local veteran communities. After a while, those folks asked, “Instead of raising money for other Veteran Service Organizations, why don’t we help ourselves?” The idea to focus on career development took shape and off it went. Launched five years ago under the MVAT.org umbrella, it took two years for the site to get built. The last three years, it has been up and running and helping everyone from lance corporals to generals with career help.

Yes, you read that right. David told us about a general that signed up as an advisee. When David noticed this, he asked the retired general why he wasn’t an advisor. The general talked about his separation struggles and the need to look outside his own bubble for advice.

And who is giving the advice? Right now, Heroes Linked has about 450 advisors spread around the country. “There are no prerequisites”, David tells us, “We don’t place restrictions on who can be an advisor.” This is a process in shared interest and shared expertise. David explains, “We have CEOs, judges, lawyers, Green Berets, and generals. But we also have guys who got out as E-5s who are business owners who have a ton of experience.”

It’s a great concept that other organizations struggle with understanding. Someone who served as an E-5 in the Air Force might have great advice on how to get a job with a defense contractor that a 22-year Master Sergeant needs. Once a new enrollee signs up, they are matched via computer with their new advisor. There is also a directory where you can search by location, job title or area of expertise.

Advisors can also talk to each other and be advisees as well.

Heroes Linked also offers more than job help. The advice and talks expand to help the veteran with any issues he or she might have. As we all know, our transition and path isn’t just about our job. It is about getting support, having people to talk to, and having people who understand our walk so far. That is another great part about Heroes Linked. You can vent to your advisor about your career, life, finances, your struggle as a vet while getting someone who has walked in your shoes.

David tells us a great story about this. “We had an advisee who was a Marine Corps Major who was working at the State Department. He was looking into launching his own company but lacked confidence and certainty and it was impacting his career. We said, ‘Here are resources that will launch your business as an entrepreneur’ He was able to get advice he needed and start his business. He then shared his venture with the Heroes Linked community and was able to staff his company from the network of the site!”

So what’s next? There are big plans to update the site moving forward. “We are moving to resemble a linked in with a feed. There will be a search, place to upload your resume, and a job board,” David tells us. These changes should launch in the beginning of November. There is also a push to get more advisors. As the job market has changed due to Covid-19, there are a lot of veterans that will need help on finding a new career and navigating these times.

David emphasizes, “I see Heroes linked as this resource that veterans with a lifetime of career development and a platform for well-being.”

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Today is ‘Gold Star Spouses Day.’ Here are 5 things to know.

Gold Star Spouses Day has its origins way back to World War I. The families of servicemen would fly banners and hang them in their windows. These banners had a blue star to represent a service member in uniform. But, if their loved one was killed in action, the color of the star was changed from blue to gold, thus notifying the community the ultimate price that family had paid for their country.

1. The Gold Star lapel pin was created in 1947

Following the popularity of the banners, in 1947, Congress approved the design for the official Gold Star lapel pin/button. This was introduced to represent service members who had died in combat. The pin takes the form of a gold star on a purple background.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

2. The military bestows the Gold Star upon families 

During the funeral service of the fallen military member, senior officers present the Gold Star Pin in addition to the national colors to the spouse or next of kin as a mark of respect for their sacrifice.

3. Gold Star Wives/Spouses Day began in 2010

In 2010, the first Gold Star Wives Day was observed. Two years later the Senate passed a resolution that codified Gold Star Wives Day, which was set to be observed April 5th each year. To make it more inclusive this was changed later and renamed Gold Star Spouses Day.

4. Gold Star Spouses Day raises awareness

Gold Star Spouses Day brings awareness of the sacrifices and grief these spouses have faced in the name of their country. However, possibly more importantly, it brings awareness for the Gold Star survivors themselves of the large network of resources and assistance that is available to them. A few examples of the resources available to these spouses are: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), scholarship resources which include the Pat Tillman Scholarship and the Fisher House Foundation Scholarship for Military Children, in addition to the Army’s Survivor Outreach Services (SOS).

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

5. Gold Star Spouses Day is observed in many ways

While Gold Star Spouses Day is not a national holiday, there are many installations that have their own programs to observe this day. Many of the installation observances focus on the military fitness and lifestyle. For instance, there are quite a few remembrance 5Ks which are run on April 5. There are also remembrance efforts seen online and on social media. One such effort is the Facebook campaign which urges Gold Star families to share photos and memories of their fallen loved ones.

While Gold Star Spouses Day is one day set aside each April to acknowledge the sacrifices of these military family members, their grief and loss is something that should be remembered each and every day. These special families have lost a loved one in the name of freedom, in the name of the United States. Their family member willingly fought, served and gave that ultimate sacrifice. This is something that should never be overlooked or forgotten, rather is something that should be acknowledged every day. Without these tragic losses, Americans would not have the freedoms they hold so dear, nor would America be the proud country that it has always been. It is only through the willingness to give everything that Americans have the ability to hold onto the patriotic pride that is so important.

This Gold Star Spouses Day, and every day, take the time to remember these families that have given so much. Never take for granted the freedoms America has been given and fought for. Keep these sacrifices in mind each day, and be grateful for the men and women who are so willing to pay that ultimate price for their country. Whether you take to social media or see one at your local military installation, thank a Gold Star Spouse today.

MIGHTY CULTURE

We must speak out against the flaws of America

Last week, I read an article on this site called, “America, Where Are You Going?” in which the author (anonymous) bemoaned recent social and political activism of his or her fellow military spouses.

I read all the way to the second page, where one line jumped out above all the rest: “However, that mutual understanding and respect that our spouses should never be publicly political seem to have fallen to the side for a few…” (emphasis added).

Dear Anonymous, I could not disagree with this sentiment more. Here is my rebuttal.


For over twenty years, I’ve served my country by making sure that my spouse’s home and family are taken care of. I make lunches and brush hair and comfort babies when they haven’t seen their daddy in too long. I make sure that if he is called to deploy, he can leave our family knowing that we are taken care of and focus on the job in front of him. I love my country. My work isn’t a sacrifice so much as it is an act of patriotism and pride.

At the same time, it is out of a deep and abiding love for my country that I recognize her flaws and errors. It is also my duty to speak up and call for change.

In 1830 the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, and my ancestors were robbed of their homeland in Mississippi. Choctaw Nation would start the trek west to Oklahoma where they would be confined to a reservation in a wholly new environment. My ancestors survived, though many others didn’t.

This story was told to me as a child. I could hear the pain in my grandmother’s voice as she retold the story her grandma told her. The early 1800s was one of many dark chapters in American history. But my Nation grew strong and built a future in Oklahoma.

Ever since then, I have been firmly grounded in the understanding that my country has deep flaws that we should all mourn. We also have the promise of freedom and the opportunity to grow that is lacking in so many places around the world. My American story goes back far beyond the first European settlers, then later was enriched by Italian and Welsh ancestors. I am rooted in this country in deep ways. This makes me both confident in the future that is possible and aware of the blemishes within.

Part of my duty as a patriot, as a military spouse, and as an American is to speak out against actions that harm our citizens and dishonor our history. Of course we can be publicly political! We’re stakeholders in this great American experiment, aren’t we? That means we get a say in how our country’s run. In fact, as military spouses who have lived in all different kinds of places, we have unique insights on how different systems work. Our perspective is tremendously valuable to the political process.

Those who suggest that spouses should never be political are likely the spouses who benefit most from the way things are now. I do not have that luxury. My Nation does not have that luxury. For us, our existence is political. If we do not speak up, we risk being erased entirely.

At the very end of the article, the author wrote: “The military is not just one entity, it is a family made up of individuals, all with different outlooks on life, political affiliations, religions, every race, and every culture imaginable.”

On this we can agree. Military spouses are no more of a monolith than any other demographic in America. I have military spouse friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Transgender, socialists, and conservatives. All of us come into this military life with passions and beliefs, some that change and some that grow stronger. The shared experience of serving together bonds us across those differences with a strength that is rarely seen in civilian circles.

So of course: I no more speak for all military spouses than they speak for me. (I’ll add that in the original New York Times article I’m pretty sure this author referred to, that was made abundantly clear.) However, it does not mean that we do not speak at all. On the contrary, we cannot and must not remain quiet when we see injustices. We can and must stand up and say enough.

If you’re interested in political activism like me and what to know where to start, I recommend checking out the Secure Families Initiative. They host nonpartisan webinar trainings on how to be the best advocate you can be, whether that’s lobbying your elected officials or simply telling your story. It’s a super cool community of kickass military spouses!

My voice is important, my voice is unique, and my voice is mine. I am not speaking for my spouse or anyone else, but I am speaking for what I believe is best for my family, national security, and my country.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to ask what kids are feeling during stressful times

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

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


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

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

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

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

As with most things in life, timing is everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Giving birth while your spouse is deployed

Having a baby is supposed to be a happy and joyous time. You imagine having a perfect delivery with your spouse by your side, and grandparents filling the waiting rooms. Within our military community as we understand all the change of plans that may happen, we are often forced to plan for a different scenario. A plan that includes giving birth to our sweet bundle of joy while our husband is half a world away on deployment.


As a first-time mom it can sometimes be devastating to think that you won’t have everyone together during this time. You will be angry and upset and wonder if there is any miracle that can happen to bring your husband home to join you. Sometimes it can happen, but other times the timing just does not work out. This is something that my family has now experience twice during our military journey.

My husband was deployed in 2007 as part of the troop surge in Iraq on a 15-month deployment when we welcomed our oldest into the world. While I was giving birth, my husband was patrolling the streets of Baghdad. I had this huge fear with this being our first child that my husband would be home for the birth, but I would not deliver in time before he went back. If that happened, then our son would be 8 months old by the time he returned home. Due to this fear of mine, we opted to have my husband come home on his RR after the due date to ensure he had time with his son and to meet him. So, when it came time to deliver, two of my friends and my mom joined me in the delivery room.

In 2010, my husband would again be on deployment when we were due with our second son. This time we planned for my husband to be home for the birth on his RR during his 12-month deployment to Iraq again. We had this perfect plan about him being home a week before hand to make sure there was adequate time for us to all be together. In true military fashion I would go into labor early this time and have our child 2 days before my husband landed back on US soil. This time I would call a friend who lived an hour and a half a way to come join me during labor and delivery. My husband would learn of the birth of our new son when he called me right before boarding his plane from Kuwait to Germany on his way home.

Twice my husband met his children as newborns next to airport security.

While giving birth without your husband with you is not a plan anyone wants to prepare for, it is often one we need to consider. While it does completely suck, there are things you can do to lessen the hard blow of your spouse not being with you.

  • First, know it could be a possibility. Knowing that this scenario might happen will help lessen the disappointment blow if it becomes reality. Having that realistic expectation can help put other plans in place so you will not be giving birth alone.
  • Make your contingency plan. If your spouse cannot be there with you then who can be? Having a close friend, sister or your mom as your support person can make a big difference and makes sure that you will not be by yourself. Find someone who either already plans to be in town during the time or has a flexible schedule to be there.
  • Use that technology. We have come a long way since my experiences in giving birth without my husband. Now we have the ability of facetime, video chat, and other apps that can allow you to skype your husband in and have him still be apart of the moment. Worst case is that you video it for them to watch later.
  • Make your husbands presence known in the room. I had several pictures of my husband throughout the room, and one taped to the side of the plastic clear crib the hospital uses. I also had several of his shirts that smelled like him – one I wore at times, and the other was used as a sheet, again in the hospital’s plastic clear crib. For me, it was important for our sons to know their dad was still with them.

As a military spouse we are used to planning, making a back up plan, and a back up to the back up plan. If you think there is any chance of the possibility that your spouse might miss the birth due to a deployment or even a school (because we know flights can be delayed), make the plan now. Having it in place and never needing it will be much easier than scrambling at the end.

In whatever plan that happens, just know that it will make for a beautiful story!

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

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