Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

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

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

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

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

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

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

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

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

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Social-distancing hobbies that will help decrease your stress level

2020 sure hasn’t been the most relaxing year, now has it? If you’re anything like me then you’re over everything.

You don’t even want to scroll social media anymore because it makes your blood pressure rise. I have always been able to fall down the Instagram rabbit hole into trashy reality TV star drama to zone out for a bit, but now even that isn’t possible because they are on hiatus due to quarantine too! So, what am I doing to try and rid myself of some of the negative energy surrounding me these days? How do I disconnect after hearing the newest updates on what it will be like to teach for the 2020-2021 school year? Well, sometimes whiskey. But more recently I’ve been looking into healthier ways to deal with my stress and try to zone out for a bit.


First up is yoga. 

Now, I am hardly the lithe yogi you see in the movies. I used to laugh at the idea of doing yoga to relax. Mainly because I would get so in my own head about not being bendy enough to traditional-looking enough to be in a yoga class. But now I find that it is actually a great way to get out of my head. While I’m still glad no one can see me doing downward dog from the comfort of my living room, I like the soothing music, the calm tone of the yoga instructors, and the 30 minuets a day I carve out for just my own well-being. If you aren’t sure where to start with a yoga routine head to YouTube, one of my favorites is MadFit. She is just very encouraging and calming, even laughing at herself when she falls out of a pose.

I have a friend that turns to meditation when the stress levels are getting too high. 

He told me a quote once that stuck with me. “Meditate 20 minutes every day. And if you don’t have the time, then do 40.” It took me a moment to realize what he was saying. It means that you NEED to make time for the things that will help you be healthy, physically and mentally. While I am not big on meditation myself, I can find a few moments to do some deep breathing when yet another news update rolls across my screen.

You can also turn into your grandma to relax. 

Don’t laugh! There has been a huge upswing in 20- 30-year old’s learning to crochet and knit these days! Maybe yarn crafts aren’t your thing, but you get creative in some other way. Painting, writing, coloring curse words in an adult coloring book. Any of those things help you focus on the task at hand and get you out of your head and your problems for a while. I know that when I wasn’t focused on the scarves I was knitting on deployment (I’ve been an 80 year old woman in a 30 year old body for a long time), I’d end up having to take the whole thing apart and start over. While I never quite mastered anything bigger than a baby blanket, just having something to keep my hands busy that wasn’t my cell phone seemed to calm me.

There is also the option to go get some fresh air. 

Going on a hike or a bike ride or even just walking the dog are all socially-distanced approved activities still. Get out of the house and get your sweat on. Remind yourself from a beautiful mountain top that there is more to this world than the four walls you may feel trapped in these days. Daily I take my dog on a walk that should take us about 10 minutes. However, he likes to stop and smell EVERYTHING. His pace forces me to slow down and enjoy the feeling of the sun on my face. If you live somewhere coastal, you can drive on down to the water and let the sound of the waves calm you the same way. Just get out of the house. Stretch your legs. Breathe deeply and return home refreshed.

Are these things too tame for you? 

Because not everyone is looking to get their Zen on, and I understand that. If that’s the case, see if you can’t swap the yoga videos for some kickboxing instead. And maybe instead of wandering the beach you can see if your local shooting range is practicing safe social distancing standards. I’ll admit that as much as I love relaxing with a good book, there is a serious adrenaline rush that makes me calm down just as much when I have torn apart a target or two on the range. Plus, it makes me feel better knowing my aim isn’t getting rusty…

So, whatever it is that makes you feel a little less frazzled, make time for it. Make it a priority the same way you do your job, your family, your faith. You schedule everything else that is important to you, why not schedule in some time to make sure your mental health can be kept on track with some relaxation too?

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

Lists

6 joys of being a lower enlisted not on holiday block leave

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a sweet moment for everyone in the military. Stateside troops have come home for momma’s cooking and haven’t worn out their welcome yet and even deployed troops shift down into first gear.


But then there’re the troops still on the installation who, for whatever reason, are saving their leave days will enjoy what is, essentially, a free week off. As with everything in the military, your personal experiences may differ, but these are the six joys we’ve experienced of being a lower enlisted not on holiday block leave.

6. There isn’t much to do

The military never fully stops, but when there’s not much to do, well… Troops don’t end up doing much of the burdensome busywork they’re used to doing. You can’t get into the motor pool because everyone with the key is gone. You can’t go to the field or do some training exercise because no one is around to lead it. You’ll probably just lounge around the company area until CoB.

As long as there’re no incidents, troops will probably be cut loose early.

Just relax. Do nothing. (Image via GIPHY)

5. There’s noone around

Hate the lines getting on- and off-post? Hate the lines getting whatever’s discounted at the Exchange? Can’t stand that one prick in your unit? Not this week! This week, it’s basically just you and a handful of others!

Of course, you’ll be given something to do. For example, you’ll probably sweep and mop the barracks, but unlike every other time you clean it and the unit comes back from the field or someone throws a raging barracks party, it stays clean. Chances are, the last person who walked it was you, when you cleaned it.

What waiting for everyone to come back feels like… (Image via GIPHY)

4. Sure, staff duty…

Holiday staff duty ranks up there with watching that prick you hate in your unit get promoted higher than you, getting your nearly-immaculate rifle kicked back for the seventh time by the armorer, and taking a Combatives class with that roided-out monster of a Staff Sergeant who’s ready to knock you out.

Related: The 5 stages of grief as explained by Holiday staff suty

This week, though, it’s nothing. There’s no paperwork to file. Rarely do you need to call “Attention/At Ease” for a ranking officer/NCO because they probably won’t even come by. The duty officer probably won’t care if you bring a TV or computer to play video games — ask them before assuming you can, obviously.

This could be you at hour 16 of staff duty. (Image via GIPHY)

3. Your superiors become more ‘human’

51 weeks out of the year, your superior is — and should be — on your ass. Nothing personal, it just comes with the territory.

If they stay behind for block leave as well, you’ll see an entirely different side of them. They become human again. There’s just no need to keep up the “hard-ass” act constantly. Even they need to relax and enjoy the holidays doing nothing.

Your NCO finally being human. (Image via GIPHY)

2. Chow halls are far better

If you’re a cook, that is. Your work schedule probably hasn’t changed, except now you can practice all of the fun recipes you’ve been meaning to whip up.

If you’re not a cook, eating their awesome, new recipes prepared alongside the higher-quality holiday chow without the long lines keeping you from eating more than two pieces of bacon… Chow halls really do become the morale-boosting, five-star restaurants the cooks think they are.

Eat up. Chances are you’re also not doing unit PT. (Image via GIPHY)

1. Still get holiday four days

But what if you want to just relax and do nothing? Well, the back-to-back, four-day weekends got you covered. Sham for three days; four days off. Sham for another three days; another four days off. If you’re so inclined to go home for momma’s home-cooked meal, just fly home for the weekend and come back to post before Wednesday.

Save the 14 days of leave for two weeks when your unit is busy doing things.

Seriously. Don’t waste your leave days. (Image via GIPHY)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

The dandelion is the flower of the military child and when I learned this, as a military parent, I was disappointed. Why would they pick such an ugly flower (or is it a weed?) to represent military kids? When I looked at dandelions, I saw the problem they caused in my yard, but there is more to a dandelion’s story. When you look past the nuances in the yard you can see a bigger picture.

The next summer as we prepared for our PCS and as the dandelion flowers transitioned from flowers to puffs of seeds, I would watch them blow in the wind and the realization of why the dandelion was chosen to represent my military kids dawned on me. It suddenly made so much sense.


Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Dandelions are made up of three main parts: The flower (seeds), the stem and the roots. They are tough, can survive almost anywhere and are constantly moving and starting over. One summer I decided to tackle my dandelion problem head on. It was an endless battle, but through my struggle I learned so much about this tough flower. The new dandelions that had just arrived in the spring were easy to remove from the dirt. Their roots were barely beneath the surface, as if they hadn’t decided if they should stay or be ready to move on to a new patch of land. But when I encountered a dandelion that had made it through a few seasons, not only was the dandelion on its own a tougher challenge to remove, but its roots were deep into the ground making it even more difficult. Each one seemed to also have a group of friends surrounding it. The landscape around one dandelion was changed not only by making its mark in the yard, but also by adding to its journey by bringing others in along the way.

Military kids often have to form new friendships fast. Just as quickly as they find friends, they are uprooted from all that is familiar to them. They learn to say goodbye and continually start over. It is a part of the life they lead. As we try to move forward at each assignment and build our roots and networks, we can’t forget the friends we made. We talk about friends from different assignments or those who have moved on before us. And while the friendships were special for a season, we always knew they were only for a season. At least for right now.

A few weeks after arriving at our new assignment our two year old, who had never experienced a PCS, said he was ready to go back home. He had been on vacations before and that is what this move across the country felt like, but now he was ready to go back to what was normal and familiar. We tried to explain to our son that this was our new home until it was time to move again. I don’t think he understood all the implications and challenges, but as military kids seem to do, naturally, he let the words slide off his back and began to make his new life in our new home.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Dandelion seeds don’t have any say on where the wind will take them when it is time to venture on. And just like military kids who are along for the ride, they go where their parents and the military take them and find a way to be resilient and start all over again. They put down roots, create new friends, find routines and then a strong wind blows and they get to do it all over again.

And as painful as it is sometimes to watch them toss in the wind, when the dust settles and they find their footing and begin to bloom at each new location you see the beauty that a military life gives. It doesn’t change the pain of saying goodbye to friends. It doesn’t make the tears go away or the fear of being a new kid at school go away. Somehow, through it all they keep pushing forward. It is the only life they have known and despite their choice, they are stronger for it.

Could they have picked a more beautiful flower to represent military children? Of course, there were a lot of different options before landing on a weed. But if you compare a dandelion and a military child the similarities are uncanny. And now when I see dandelions in my yard, I smile and think of how beautiful, tough, and adaptable my children are.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

Photo: Tessa Robinson

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A letter to the spouses of the mission essential personnel

Dear spouses of the mission essential:

There’s been so much written lately about the heroes on the front lines. The selfless men and women bravely going to their jobs to serve their country and their communities. The ones who are knowingly going to work with patients or customers who could infect them. Yes, we rightfully applaud the truck drivers hauling supplies to replenish depleted stores. We extol the cook at our favorite restaurant who keeps making meals and the employees whose tips have been practically eliminated but still run our orders out to our cars. We watch with sheer amazement and horror as our doctors, nurses and medical staff go into the line of fire lacking basic, necessary protective equipment. We honor you all. We salute you all. We love and respect and are grateful For You All.

But this letter isn’t about that. Nope.


This letter is to you — the spouses of the mission essentials.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers
Returning home

You are the ones left behind each morning. The ones left to deal with homeschool and meals and kids unable to play with their friends or understand their math homework that they didn’t quite grasp in a packet.

You are the ones left to carry the emotional burdens of children who are frustrated at a Zoom classroom and don’t understand why they can’t have a sleepover or go see grandma or even play at the park. You are the ones who field countless requests for snacks, a thousand utterings of, “I need help,” and even more declarations of, “I can’t do this.”

You put your own work on hold, your own health, your own sanity to muster one more ounce of patience, one more hug, one more deep breath, all while balancing that other nasty, invisible weight: the burden of your own anxiety. Anxious about the world. Anxious about your spouse. Anxious about their health and your health and your parents’ health and your kids’ health and their screen time and your elderly neighbor’s health and the teachers’ health and your job and your neighbor’s job and the economy and your kids’ education, and given your one hour of free time a week, why you suddenly identify with a character on Tiger King.

Here’s the thing: It’s all too much. And it’s going to feel like you’re failing.

Failing by definition means, “a weakness, especially in character; a shortcoming.” But if we’ve seen anything in this time of pandemic, we’ve seen your strength. Your resolve. Your gracious heart. We’ve seen you stay home and help flatten the curve. We’ve seen you take on additional responsibilities so your mission essential spouse could keep being mission essential. We’ve seen you offer encouragement to your friends on FaceTime when you have none to give yourself. We’ve seen you reassure your exhausted partner that everything will be okay, all the while knowing you will lie awake in the dark in the middle of the night, the echoes of your own fears so deafening you can’t fall back asleep.
Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

We see you. You’re going to be okay. Reframe your measure of success to include a bar that allows for just getting by. Find time for gratitude. Make space for prayer or meditation or simply a silence that isn’t broken by fear or anxiety. We are all in this together and your best is good enough. As my seven year old reminded me yesterday, this is his first global pandemic. Ours too, bud. Ours too.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army says it needs more entrepreneurs

The military needs innovative ideas from small businesses and entrepreneurs now more than ever, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

McCarthy spoke Feb. 21, 2019, at Muster DC, an event in the nation’s capital for military veterans aspiring to be entrepreneurs.

“If you look at the history of the Department of Defense, we were at our best when entrepreneurs were doing business with us,” he said.


As an example, he cited that the first jeeps for World War II were actually designed and built by a small motor company called American Bantam in Butler, Pennsylvania. Later, the design was shared with Willys-Overland and Ford to produce the jeeps on a larger scale.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

1941 American Bantam Jeep Prototype.

DOD was at its best when small businesses brought their ideas and “partnered with big corporations to scale out those ideas,” McCarthy said.

“We got away from that for the last several decades,” he said, adding the Army’s practice has been to put out 1,000-page requests for proposals, or RFPs, specifying the exact size and weight of each component of a system.

Businesses maybe had a better solution, he said, but they would never share it, because that’s not what they were incentivized to do.

That culture needs to change, McCarthy said, and that’s one reason the Army Futures Command was organized. It’s why soldiers have been placed alongside tech innovators at an “accelerator hub” in Austin, Texas.

The purpose of Futures Command is to drive innovation, he said, “so that we can do business faster. So small businesses don’t get their cash flow crushed waiting years for us to make a decision.”

Out of more than 800 programs that the Army oversees, eight have been granted a special “transactional authority” to do business differently, he said.

The Futures Command has eight cross-functional teams: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, Army network, air and missile defense, soldier lethality, synthetic training environment; and assured positioning, navigation and timing.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

A soldier with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System during a live fire training exercise at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, July 24, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

The Army needs a “quick win” in these eight programs, McCarthy said, in order to change the acquisition culture and to keep ahead of near-peer adversaries. The U.S. military has enjoyed a vast technological advantage for years, he said, but competitors are quickly catching up.

McCarthy said he’d like to see soldiers in accelerator hubs across the country so entrepreneurs will have easy access to pitch their ideas.

Entrepreneurs who are military veterans have an advantage, he said, because they are resilient and can deal with stress. They know how to organize and plan.

When getting ready to leave the Army, where he served as a Ranger, McCarthy said at his first interview in Manhattan, he was asked what he knew about finance.

“I said, ‘Nothing. But I know how to plan and I know how to organize and there would be nothing you can put me through that I hadn’t been through already in the form of stress and pressure,'” he said.

After the interviewer stopped laughing, McCarthy said he took a chance and hired him. The company even held the job open for a year, because soon afterward, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred and McCarthy agreed to stay in the Army for a deployment before going to work in New York.

Veterans are not afraid to engage, he said, and have commitment. “Nobody wants to follow a leader that hedges,” he said. “They want somebody that’s playing ‘double-in’ every day.”

Veterans have some of the key attributes business leaders need to have, he said, “especially if they’re going to start their own business.”

Other talents the Army needs most right now include systems engineering and software coding, McCarthy said.

Weapons systems are sophisticated and have millions of lines of coding, he said.

Most failures of weapons systems in the past came from not having the right systems architecture, he said, which resulted in weapons not being able to communicate with other platforms.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to talk to aging parents about them moving in with you

The costs of coronavirus won’t be fully known for months, if not years. Loss of income is already clear. People over 55 years old have been especially hit. Their unemployment rate was 13.6 percent in April, a 10 percent jump from March. While the conversations might have likely taken place regardless, their situation increases the chance that grandparents will have to move in with their adult children.

This is an emotional realization for the whole family. Having grandma or grandpa move in isn’t a simple transition for all parties. It involves issues of space, money, privacy, freedom, and ego. There’s resentment with, “I didn’t ask for this,” and all opinions would be living under the same roof. And parents who want to start the discussion are in the middle, their folks on one side; their spouses on the other.


“It’s a tricky position, especially if there’s tension and conflict,” says Megan Dolbin-MacNab, associate professor of human development and family science at Virginia Tech University.

It certainly is. Before you start feeling disloyal to anyone, remember that this isn’t an inevitable event. It’s just a possibility, one that requires assessing and playing the scenarios. Before you start reconfiguring the house, it starts with a conversation about having your parents move in. Well, two actually.

Talking to Your Spouse About Having Aging Parents Move In

When deciding whether or not grandparents should move into your home, the first conversation should be at home, with your partner. This needs mutual buy-in, regardless of how dire the situation might seem.

“It’s got to be a choice. There is a choice,” says Roberta Satow, psychoanalyst, professor emeritus at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, and author of Doing the Right Thing: Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents Even if They Didn’t Take Care of You.

When you start exploring the alternatives, you’ll see where moving in ranks and that can help make a decision. As you proceed, the main thing is to ask your spouse questions and listen — truly listen — to the answers, keeping in mind the essential fact that you’re making a big request, Satow says. Ask two fundamental questions. “How do you think this would work?” and “What would we expect from them?” This will get you thinking about everything from space allocations to sharing of bills to things you didn’t even consider.

You can’t nail down every detail, but you’ll get an outline and more comfort with the idea. You also want to ask your spouse, “What are your concerns?” Listen again without quickly reacting. You want your partner to be able to express reservations, even anger, and do so early in the process, because things won’t magically work out without intention.

“If you don’t talk about stuff, it festers and then it explodes,” Dolbin-MacNab says.

It’s important to also ask: “What can we do for us if this happens?” Kids already changed your relationship. Grandparents moving in will do it again, Satow says. You might not have any couple time now, but giving the two of you focus amid this discussion will again help with the consideration.

But don’t focus solely on concerns, by also examining, “What’s the upside?” There’s the potential for help with chores and childcare, maybe you two get a night out regularly, and there’s the chance for your folks and kids to deepen their relationship. Considering the positives gives a fuller picture.

Talking to Aging Parents About Moving Into Your Home

This issue may have never been broached before with your parents. If so, it’s not an easy topic to raise. If there’s the slightest opening, some show of worry, use it to start a conversation when you’re not all rushed and the kids are engaged with something else. Acknowledge the awkwardness, Dolbin-MacNab says, and approach it, like with your spouse, as not a done deal. This is not the time for foot-stamping declarations of “You’re moving in.”

Ask your parents, “What are you feeling and what do you want?” It’s their decision as well. As the conversation moves forward, you want to be clear with concerns and expectations, and that honesty might be a new dynamic for all of you, and just setting that standard might be the biggest component, Dolbin-MacNab says.

Ask them, “What do you expect?” as it relates to childcare, bills, household chores and time together. Let them give a sense of how it would look, then give them the picture of your day and your approach to parenting – awake by 6 a.m., no snacks after 5 p.m., we try not to compare the kids to others – and ask, “Do you think you could fit into that?”

Remember: If you’re asking them for something, you need to offer them room to make it their own, and that requires prioritizing what really matters and not caring so much about the rest, Dolbin-MacNab says.

But there’s no need to address every potential conflict. They’ll happen and are best handled in the moment. You’ve set the overall framework and the precedent of talking. Let them know that will continue where everyone can share how it’s working and what needs addressing, Dolbin-MacNab says.

And ask them, “What do you see as the benefits?” It’s a hard time for them. This may be a loss of everything from social networks to furniture and they may feel embarrassed, but getting them to consider the upsides might reduce the sadness and bring in the idea that something different is also something new.

Even when it’s just a potential, it’s easy for you and your spouse to see it as a burden and undue stress. But it’s not what anyone drew up. As much as it’s possible, try to approach it like a team by finding consensus, looking for solutions, and where.

As Dolbin-MacNab says, “We’re all working toward the same goal and we could make our lives easier.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military family embraces camper living

Our family made the downsize of a lifetime – from a 2,667 square foot home to 39 feet. That is, a 39-foot travel trailer AKA camper. My husband, our two boys, ages three and one, dog, and cat – we packed up the essentials, stored what was sentimental and sold/donated the rest.

Now, we are full-time campers. Mobile living where we can pick up and go as needed, living in minimal space and with maximum experiences.

It was a life I never though I’d have, and now, one I can’t imagine not doing.


We have more time outdoors, more time together, fewer things to worry about.

The day we moved into our long-term slot we were full of peppy energy. We were starting this new adventure that was outside the norm, but so incredibly exciting. After settling down around the campfire, I felt the beginning stages of an eventual miscarriage. Here we were, making this epic family move, book-ended with thrills and sadness. There are surprises we can control and those that we cannot, and we were taking in both at full force.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

(Military Families)

In the camper, everything is so simple. Those three bathrooms I had to clean before? I can deep clean the entire camper in less time. Yard work? Now we do it for fun. Because we get to be outside and the to-do list is miniscule.

The absolute icing on the experience: we have time for our kids. So. Much Time. We go on bike rides, walks, down to the park, to the pool – all the outdoor activities that we never seemed to have time for before. I’m not longer tied to things like housework that kept me from being a good Mom. (At least, that’s how it felt at the time.)

This is, of course, why we did it. We were tired of the grind. Drill hours are exhausting as a rule. (Where are you other drill wives at? You are my people!) But with two littles, my self-employment and a too-big yard and house … it was just work – work at home, work at work, work at raising kids. Work at trying to find time for fun and plan for said fun.

Sure it was hard to sell our house; good memories are always hard to leave behind.

But as military life goes, you can’t keep it all. You hold onto what matters, and then you make the decisions you have to make. In this case, it was moving your family into a camper.

Originally it was to help us through a PCS … until we thought, “Why not just do this indefinitely?!”

We had some help in that decision, of course, thanks to the military norm of dramatic and rapid plan changes.

But now, we’re steadily living that camper life. We have wonderful neighbors, and the boys have plenty of friends at the ready at all times. When a tree fell on a neighbor’s camper, we turned it into a block party, cutting firewood and eating pizza.

Because, as it turns out, this lifestyle is a thing. Families of all sizes pile into their campers for PCSs, TDY, and for entire duty station stints. It’s an entire world that I’m fascinatingly taking in as we go.

There are tanks to be emptied. Rules about what can go down the sink. I have minimal fridge space. Neighbors can likely hear me yelling at the kids – blah, blah, blah. But it’s an exciting process, one that fuels me every day.

As for the downsides – no, it didn’t solve every problem. My husband is still OCD about the way the bikes are parked or worried about there being to many things outside the camper. I’m still my normal amount of hot mess.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

(Military Families)

There are moments where we are tripping over one another, frustrated with the lack of space. We are regularly woken in the middle of the night to a propane detector that’s set off by the dog’s gas. (Not making this up; it happens to other people too.) We have to haul up the laundry to use coin machines. But laundry is always my least favorite chore; I’ll never enjoy it unless its’ done for me. And a lack of walking space also means a lack of things I have to clean.

Like everything, there are the ups and downs in life and you decide what’s important. For us, this is the life we get to be a better family, a more engaged, less-stressed version of our former selves. I encourage more people to give it a chance.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch how this vet made $700,000 on his deployment gift to himself

We’ve all had that item we wanted to buy but maybe couldn’t quite justify or afford, but figured out a way to make it happen. For Air Force veteran David it was a 1971 Rolex Cosmograph Oyster. He appeared on Antiques Roadshow this week to tell his story and to have the watch that he so desperately wanted, but ultimately didn’t wear, appraised.


David entered the Air Force in 1971 with a draft number of seven.

He was stationed in Thailand from 1973-1975. While he was there, he flew on Air America and Continental and noticed that the pilots wore Rolex watches. “I was intrigued,” he told appraiser Peter Planes.

At his next duty station, Planes started scuba diving and found that the Rolex Cosmograph Oyster was a great resource to have underwater. He ordered one from the base exchange in November of 1974. With his ten percent military discount, it cost him 5.97. Making only 0 to 0 per month, that was a big buy. When he got it, it was too beautiful to wear. David put it in a safe deposit box and has kept it there since he bought it, only taking it out a few times to admire it. With all his original paperwork and the watch in pristine condition, David fell on the floor when Planes told him the value of the watch.

See his reaction and how much the watch is worth now:

www.youtube.com


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

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

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


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

The pros of living on post

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

The cons of living on post

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

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

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

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

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

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

The pros to living off post

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

-Freedom!

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

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

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

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

The cons to living off post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers
MIGHTY CULTURE

10 reasons to be thankful for military kids

I’m feeling thankful. Maybe because I know orders are on the horizon and there is “change” in the air. Or maybe I’m thankful in spite of it.

Sensing the winds, I can’t help but feel thankful for my military kids. It’s been a long decade filled with multiple schools and countless moves. They’ve said goodbye, more than hello. Yet, they are always ready for adventure. My kids, probably like your kids, always seem to roll with punches, ignoring the winds or leaning hard into it. As a parent, I draw my strength from their resiliency, their never-quit mentality after so many moves. There are many reasons to be thankful for our military kids this season, but here are just a few.


1. Will look an adult in the eyes.

A subtle characteristic of nearly all military kids over the age of six is their uncanny ability to make eye contact with adults when speaking to them. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Military kids can not only speak to adults, but they make eye contact when they do. Sure, my theory isn’t 100% proven, but I challenge you to talk to any military tween or teen for more than five minutes and you’ll notice their ability to hold a conversation with you while making eye contact. Whether respect for adults comes from experience, diversity or taught at home, I’m thankful for it.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

(Photo by Ben White)

2. Are little patriots. 

Whether it’s on a playground, in a classroom, at a sporting event or at a ceremony, when the music of our National Anthem starts, military kids will be the first to freeze, turn to the flag and hand to their chest. Grown adults sometimes forget (or don’t know) to remove their hats, stop SnapChat-ing or put down their hot dog when the anthem plays. You can spot a military kid or a Boy Scout in any crowd when the anthem plays. Military kids have watched their parent put on the uniform with a that little flag on the side arm every day. The American flag is a part of their upbringing and I’m thankful for it.

3. Are includers.

There isn’t’ a military kid around that hasn’t been the new kid at least once. Empathy is learned through experience and exposure – military kids have years of both. My kids will nearly break out in hives if they think someone is being left out at lunch or at birthday party. And I know this character trait is runs in deep with military families. Drawing on experience, military kids include the outsider. It’s their superpower.They will embrace the different because they see themselves in others and I’m thankful for it.

4. Are active participants. 

Need a someone to play goalkeeper? Need a volunteer to be a lunch buddy? Need a kid to stay behind and clean up? Yep, if there is a military kid in a crowd, they’ll raise their hand. Military kids just want to be a part of action, they want to participate, try out and be helpful. Especially after a tough move, military kids are forced to sit on the sidelines until they see an opening, sometimes they have to make their own opening. Military kids are usually all in, all the time and I’m thankful for it.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

(Photo by Gabriel Baranski)

5. Will show up.

New kid having a birthday party? Military kids will show up. School fundraiser? They’ll be there. Need a fifth to play basketball? Just ask. Stocking food at the food bank? They will be five minutes early. Military kids will show up. Whether it’s their upbringing or military values –If my military kid says he’ll will be there, he’ll be there. You can count on military kids and I’m thankful for it.

6. Know problems are designed to be solved. 

Military kids, especially the older ones, have the deeper understanding and experience to know there is a solution to nearly every problem. They’ve been thrown into a litany of situations and forced to problem solve. They learn to adapt. They have to, it is survival. From putting on brave face walking into a new school to helping their family shoulder another deployment, they know problems are just challenges ready to be tackled. Military kids are old souls and I’m thankful for it.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

(Photo by Marisa Howenstine)

7. Are good friends.

Once a friend to a military kid, consider yourself a friend for life. A classmate may not have been in a child’s life for long, but trust me, our kids remember nearly every playdate, experience and conversation. To a military kid, a friendship is treasure they pick up along their journey, a collection of friendships that make up the quilted memory called childhood. Our kids will write, FaceTime, SnapChat, IG and message the heck of out long-distance friends. Military kids have friends across states and continents, but it’s never out of sight out of mind. They are professional friend makers and mean it when they say, “let’s stay in touch.” Kids may not see each other in five years but will pick up exactly where they left off. In truth, our kids need friendships probably more than we’d like to admit. But we promise there is no better friend to have than a military kid. They make the best of friends and I’m thankful for it.

8. Are good for schools. 

There are 1.1 million school aged military kids and most attend public schools. Military parents are usually engaged and involved with their child’s education. Whether it’s volunteering, attending ceremonies, homework help or parent-teacher conferences – military kids come with active parents. Teachers and staff can count on their military family population to enroll students who will enrich their school. All military kids have health insurance and a least one parent is always employed which add stability while living a transient lifestyle. Military students bring a fresh perspective and a healthy dose of tolerance into their classroom. Since military students will attend between six and nine schools through their K-12 education, schools can count on our kids to bring their backpack full of resiliency on their first day of school. They make a school a better place for everyone and I’m thankful for it.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

(Photo by Mike Fox)

9. Are professional road trippers.

Military kids can make a chaotic PCS move into a full-on adventure. They can turn their seven-state DITY move with two dogs into a family vacation. Sure, it’s painful to spend hours in the car with smelly siblings, but I’ll bet you military kids know more about the 50 states, obscure museums, best food on the go and random side show fun than their civilian counterparts. They can sleep in any bed, on the floor, in the car or any restaurant booth almost on demand. They are giddy about a hotel pools, strange souvenir shops, mountain tops, desert sunsets, giant trees and skyscrapers – military kids never tire of being surprised by world around them. They don’t long to return home, but because home is wherever their family is together and for that, I’m thankful.

10. Embrace diversity because they live it.

The upside of moving around the United States and the globe is military kids are exposed to different languages, cultures, cities and people. At ten-years old, my son could read the metro map at the Frankfurt, Germany train station better than I could. At eight years old, my daughter only knew the name for restroom as Water Closet. They would stay up to watch the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn) because that’s where they were born. My kids think Texas is best state in the union, but Ohio is the place they want live because it snows. However, they consider Virginia home because that’s the house they liked best. They witnessed firsthand the Syrian refugee crisis on a train trip to Austria and are forever changed by it. They’ve walked halls and gardens of Alcazar in Spain. They’ve attended mass at Notre Dame in Paris and can point out art from Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican because of a school project they finished at a DODEA school. They’ve had school field trips to National Archives in D.C. and placed wreaths on U.S. military tombstones in France, they danced through cathedrals older than the United States and did somersaults on ancient ruins in Rome. Their favorite sport is futbol, but not the American kind. They speak a little of Spanish, German and French, but wish they knew Chinese and Arabic. We are raising good beings. Whether it’s living in Japan or England, Kansas or California – this life allows us to expose them to so many different people and cultures – something their civilian peers can’t easily do. They don’t know a world full people who look and think like them and they are better humans for it. It’s a gift for our kids to live this military lifestyle and I am wholeheartedly thankful for it.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.


John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,

“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”

Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.

Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”

The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”

In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.

He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).

On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.

In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.

Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”

Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.

The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).

He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.

“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.

The entire indictment can be read here.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways military friends make your life easier

Listen! I’m just going to say it plainly. Military spouses are a different breed of people.

In spite of the fact that the ground under our feet is constantly shifting, we grow invisible roots with each other. And even though the faces in front of us change often, we find ways to connect and thrive. We lean on each other for support to navigate this lifestyle and at the same time create lasting connections.

Looking back, I don’t know what I would have done with out my military peeps!

Here are 5 ways having military friends make life easier…


Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

(Photo by Marco Bianchetti)

1. We cling quickly without judgment

I typically don’t have an issue making friends. What’s cool is having that quality fit right in with the military world, without it being weird. It wasn’t too hard to find my people and start friendships that still stand firm!

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

(Photo by Scott Warman)

2. We share the same woes

A few seconds into a vent session with one of my friends and the words, “Girl, I know right,” are already escaping her lips.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez)

3. We help each other parent military kids through the changes

I had no family (other than my husband) to lean on when we became parents. But I still had a room full of supportive friends at my birth and even afterwards. They provided meals, washed and folded laundry and in general were just there for me.

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

(Photo by Helena Lopes)

4. We are the BEST resources

There are many resources out there for us to take advantage of, but military spouse friends take it a step further. For those who have been there or done that, they provide a filter of what works for specific situations. Where I needed to go and what –specifically- I needed to do. Lifesavers!

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

5. We become family

Some of my best memories have been made with other military spouses and our families. We’ve created our own traditions, been pregnant together, taken world adventures, shared hard times and formed the deepest of bonds. There are many parts of my life that my blood family will never understand or weren’t even able to be a part of because of the distance. My friends were there to fill the gap with love and camaraderie.

This sums up just how awesome, special, and necessary these connections with military spouse friends have been for my life!

What are some of the epic ways your military friends have impacted your journey?

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