10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine

Times are hard right now; we get it. Especially for a parent who works from home. Can I be honest with you for a moment? A little part of me was hurt when I got the call from my kids’ school saying that they’d be closed for the entire month due to the Coronavirus outbreak.


First, I was filled with feelings of hurt, then anger and confusion, followed by panic. After realizing that I’d have to provide breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for my kids for an indefinite amount of time, I panicked. Now I know why people were emptying out the grocery stores. It wasn’t because of fear of the virus. It was for fear of not having enough food to last the duration of this pandemic. Here are a few ways you can continue to work and keep your kids fed and occupied during the quarantine.

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine

Lock the snack cabinet.

If your kids are anything like mine, if you don’t lock the snack cabinet, the snacks will diminish on day one. Limiting their junk food intake will be key to your family’s health and survival during the quarantine.

Create a meal plan.

It doesn’t have to be fancy five-course meals, but having some sort of meal plan will save you time and money. Check out My Living Logical for easy meal planning ideas.

Make pre-portioned snack packs.

Take an hour and build a few pre-portioned snack packs for the kids. It doesn’t have to be foods you’ve made from scratch. Just something you’ve put together that can be enjoyed individually throughout the week. Get a package of snack-sized bags or small portion containers. Divvy up fruits, cheeses, and crackers (or whatever you’d like); and write names and dates on them. Place them somewhere your children can get to them without asking for your assistance.

Make snacks easily accessible

Ever tried placing a hanging shoe rack in your pantry? It’ll not only save you time but space as well. You can also create a designated snack bin or drawer in your pantry or refrigerator.

Create a daily schedule/checklist for your kids

Chore charts and daily checklists are everything! Print this free Daily Checklist and get started. List everything from routine hygiene and schoolwork to daily fun activities.

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Create an activity plan.

Pinterest is a great resource for all types of fun interactive and solo activities for all ages.

Time block your work schedule

Create a schedule that will work for you and your family. If that means working a few hours at the break of dawn or after your children are sleeping, do it. Divide your work between active and non-active family hours. Side note: If you block out long breaks (half an hour or so), it will minimize the interruptions from your children while you work.

Schedule conference calls or videos during quiet time.

I know what you’re thinking; when are my kids ever quiet? If nap time is not a thing in your home, create a quiet activity like watching a movie, backyard play, journaling, or whatever else will keep your kids in a relatively quiet state.

Be realistic about your work goals

Unless you have a hard deadline you need to keep, give yourself some grace. Know that everything is not going to go as planned. Allow some flexibility in your day, you’re going to need it.

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine

Be patient and positive

This situation is new and uncomfortable for everyone. All of our routines have gone out the window, making way for a new normal, at least for right now. Be patient with your children and your spouse. They may not understand the difficulties of being a work at home parent, especially when everyone’s home.

Lastly, take breaks during the day. Go hang out and do an activity with your children. Show them that you love them and care about their well being during this very foreign time. It’s hard for them too. Your attitude influences your children’s mood. Embrace the suck, it’ll be over before you know it.

popular

5 little reasons why getting married on active duty sucks

When I was a young, motivated recruit at Parris Island, my drill instructor stood behind a stack of foot lockers assembled into a podium. “This is the most important period of instruction of your life,” he said with a thousand-yard stare. What were we talking about?

“Marriage.”

For an unknown amount of time, we sat there, listening to passionate warnings from our most-feared mentor. He recited romantic tragedies that gave Greek myths a run for their money. Afterwards, he gave the obligatory lesson on the administrative process of enrolling your new family for benefits.

Today, I pass those words of traumatic wisdom onto you, the young, love-struck recruit.


10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine
Happens in every branch. (Mark Baker)

1. Deployments don’t get easier, you get tougher

Marines are tough — and they need an equally tough spouse to weather the storm of deployments. We’re the tip of the spear, and you need to make sure that’s what your spouse bargained for.

Some deployments are shorter than others and they involve varying degrees of danger — but they don’t easier. You need someone that, when the going gets tough, they get tougher. But it’ll always suck.

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine
“But you said you wanted to travel, babe!” (Julie L. Negron)

 

2. You’re not getting out of work, you’re doing different work

Some troops use their marriage as a way to get out of work, and there’s nothing single troops can do but watch them put on those already-sharp skates and get out of dodge — but it’s not all free time and rainbows on the other side.

I had a master gunnery sergeant who referred to his wife as the ‘sergeant major’ of the house. When you’re single, can you just pack your stuff in your car and hit the road. Married Marines, however, have much more red tape to navigate.

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine
At least you don’t have to police call at 0530 now.
(Terminal Lance)

3. You’ll miss being a degenerate

Gone are the days of actionable intel from the Lance Corporal Underground, last-minute trips to a bar crawl, and the spontaneous brawls between Alpha company and Charlie company.

Sure, you might not miss the part where the Big Green Weenie conducts acts of terror. You won’t miss random formations, the duty needing something or drunk people breaking your stuff, but you will miss time with the boys.

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine

4. Everyone knows your secrets

Your spouse needs friends. Naturally, the spouses of your friends are the first round draft picks. They can keep each other informed on what your unit is doing, important dates and if you’re being delayed.

In a way, it’s convenient. Even if you haven’t had the opportunity to speak with your loved one, he or she knows why, and won’t worry. However, that’s not the only thing they’ll talk about. Assume nothing is sacred. Susie and Kelly know your secrets in and out of the bedroom. OPSEC or the whole unit will know your search history, too.

5. Contract marriages are, uh… flimsy

A contract marriage is when two people fall in love — for money. The Big Green Weenie and the law’s blue version will hold hands while they unceremoniously wreck your life. Not only is it illegal to marry someone for the increased pay and benefits, but your spouse will inevitably betray you.

Before your first deployment is over, your house will be sold, your truck will be gone, and they’ll upload a video wearing your favorite shirt that can’t be shown on YouTube.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing

Content warning: the following article features an open and frank discussion about suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) There’s not a damn thing wrong with asking for a helping hand when you need it most.

Times are rough right now. We’re at the brink of a global pandemic, schools and places of work are closing and people are panic buying things that aren’t usually in short demand. But the factor that is hitting the closest to home for most folks is, well, everyone staying home.


This is what is known at social distancing. It’s an important step in ensuring that the most vulnerable of our population stays away from anyone who may have contracted the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s a drastic measure that’s annoying to most, but it’s going to save lives in the long term. And that’s not something that should ever be understated.

Yet, there’s also an unseen side effect that could potentially harm another group if it’s not handled properly. The disruption of a daily rhythm, potential loss of work and social isolation could impact a vast number of people already fighting through depression and that ever present thought of suicide: veterans.

The Centre for Clinical Interventions lists two determining categories for depression – biological and psychological. Genetics, hormones and neurotransmitters all play their part in making someone more likely to be genetically predisposed to depression but loss, stress and a sense of unfulfillment can hit anyone. At this moment, there’s plenty of that going around.

Even going back a few months before COVID-19 took the world stage, finding a steady paying job wasn’t that easy. Bills can pile up and somehow it feels we’re always just one paycheck above water. But at least some of us had a handful of buddies we could go out to drink with or to see a movie with. Now, it feels like all of that was swept away and we also have to worry if we’ll have enough toilet paper to get through the week.

Right now, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut drastically. Even if you haven’t, you’re probably working from home without seeing anyone but the ones you live with. You might be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn’t go to the grocery store before it turned into a scene from The Walking Dead. Thankfully, this isn’t the end times and the internet can still connect us while we’re standing more than six feet from anyone.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=298&h=e86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20&size=980x&c=744452975 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D298%26h%3De86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20%26size%3D980x%26c%3D744452975%22%7D” expand=1]

Quick sidenote: toilet paper is something that is typically used at a set rate. Unless you’re planning on hiding for months or TPing your neighbor’s place, you don’t need to stockpile TP.

(Photo by Ingrid Cold)

I urge you, please keep in regular touch with anyone you love who’s been hit hard by this social isolation. Chances are they’re not doing so well. Check up on them. Call to see how they’re doing.

Depression is a real disease and the final symptom could be suicide.

This advice goes for everyone but us in the veteran community already had compounding factors before the outbreak. The “22 a day” is still thrown around, albeit those often-cited numbers come from a 2012 study and they’re more accurately at around 17 a day after a much needed cultural shift within our community. That’s still not great; it’s still far above the national average. Often, we’ve been able to find the one ember that kept our flame burning. But for a lot of veterans, that fire could be extinguished with social distancing.

Don’t take this out of its intended context. Social distancing is crucial at this moment. We just need to adjust to the shift in how things are done. Hotlines are still open. The VA Mental Health facilities are still open. And if you’re concerned and feel symptoms of the coronavirus, there are always video conference calls available to connect you with a mental health specialist or doctors.

You are never truly alone.

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For health and safety reasons, the hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. For good reason.

(U.S. Navy photo by Diana Burleson)

I say all of this… because I found myself in that dark place. The part where I wrote about how people are feeling is mostly pulled from what’s going on with myself.

I recently attempted to end my own life. I’ve been fighting through my own depression for some time now and it reached its boiling point. It probably wouldn’t be wise to go into details, but I will share the thought that got my feet back on the ground. It was the thought that no one would ever be able to explain to my cat why I’m never coming home. Make of it what you will, but thoughts like that can help pull you out of an irrational moment.

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I mean, I love my family and friends. But I wouldn’t ever want to hurt this good boy.

(Picture by Eric Milzarski)

It was through the help of my buddy from the Army and my loving wife that I was able to come back. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still in that damn tunnel. I’m now seeing a mental health specialist at the VA regularly and I can honestly say that it was the right choice. No judgement. No negative consequences. And I feel silly for hesitating this long. Just open arms –metaphorically speaking, of course. I kept my six feet of distance and sanitized my hands, because the VA also houses elderly and immuno-vulnerable veterans. And if need be, they’re still doing video calls for anyone feeling any symptoms.

If you know anyone who’s in that dark place, reach out to them. Go in person if you have to, but there’s always the phone. There are always online video games. There’s always a meme you can tag them in. Anything will help. It may not feel like it while we’re self-isolating until things go back to normal, but we are never truly alone.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Pentagon discloses its count of China’s nuclear warheads and says the arsenal could double this decade

The Department of Defense disclosed its count of China’s nuclear warheads for what is believed to be the first time in a new 200-page report on China’s rapidly growing military power and said that the country’s stockpile of nuclear warheads may double this decade.

The department assesses that China has an operational nuclear warhead stockpile in the low 200s, a small but deadly force that could make an adversary with a larger arsenal think twice. “Over the next decade, China will expand and diversify its nuclear forces, likely at least doubling its nuclear warhead stockpile,” the Pentagon argued in its annual China Military Power report, the latest of which was released Tuesday.


The Pentagon report explains that China is believed to have “enough nuclear materials to at least double its warhead stockpile without new fissile material production.”

Discussing the report at a virtual American Enterprise Institute event Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Chad Sbragia stated that “just looking at number of warheads by itself is not the entire picture.”

He said that “China is expanding and modernizing and diversifying its nuclear forces across the board.”

“China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms,” the new Pentagon report states.

The newly-released report also noted that China intends to put at least a portion of its nuclear forces, particularly its expanding silo-based force, on a “launch on warning” status, which would mean that some weapons would be armed and ready for launch with limited notice during peacetime, as the US does with its intercontinental ballistic missile force.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper previewed the Pentagon’s expectation that China’s nuclear warhead stockpile will double over the weekend, writing in a social media post that “as Communist China moves to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile, modernizing our nuclear force and maintaining readiness is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The US is in the process of modernizing the various legs of the nuclear triad in response to advances by China and Russia. At the same time, the US has been pushing China to join an arms control agreement placing limits on nuclear arms expansion.

“If the US says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China would be happy to participate the next day,” the head of the Chinese foreign ministry’s arms control department said in July, the South China Morning Post reported. “But actually, we know that’s not going to happen.”

The US has several thousand more nuclear warheads than China has in its stockpile. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that the US has a total nuclear weapons inventory of about 5,800, an arsenal only rivaled by Russia.

In addition to its assessments on China’s evolving nuclear force, the Pentagon also reported that “China has already achieved parity with—or even exceeded—the United States in several military modernization areas.”

In particular, China is outpacing the US in shipbuilding, land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles, and integrated air-defense systems.

The Department of Defense says that China has “the largest navy in the world” and “is the top ship-producing nation in the world by tonnage and is increasing its shipbuilding capacity and capability for all naval classes,” it has over 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles, and it has “one of the largest forces of advanced long-range surface-to-air systems.”

China’s objective as it modernizes its fighting force is to achieve a world-class military by the end of 2049, a goal publicly stated by China’s leadership.

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

Humor

The 5 stages of grief as explained by holiday staff duty

There’s nothing more disheartening in the military than pulling staff duty or charge of quarters on a Holiday. Although it’s not nearly as bad as something like discovering a terminally illness or losing a loved one, every single troop, regardless of rank, finds themselves working through the Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as the “five stages of grief,” when pulling holiday staff duty.


Let’s start from the top:

5. Denial

The holidays are approaching and you decided not to put in your leave form and lounge on-base for the extended weekend. Then, the duty roster is posted outside of the Commander’s office.

You see your name, highlighted in yellow, on the calendar. You frantically look at it again and then immediately to your phone to verify that it’s the date of the holiday — it is.

via GIPHY

4. Anger

This can’t be happening to you. Either you internalize your frustration or you send it up to the chain of command: There’s got to be a mistake! This can’t be happening to you of all people!

You just pulled it a few weeks ago! You already pulled it a few holidays back! But at some point, you stop being angry.

via GIPHY

3. Bargaining

As holiday staff duty draws nearer, you ask around. Maybe somebody’s willing to trade dates. Maybe you know a guy hurting for cash and offer a little payment under the table. If you’re feeling desperate, you might trade ridiculously expensive crap for someone else to take your place (I’ve seen someone trade a PlayStation for a single day of duty).

via GIPHY

2. Depression

Sadly, no one will take it from you and the thought of going AWOL won’t leave the back of your mind. You’re screwed. Get comfortable, because you’ll probably be stuck in this stage of grief until about hour twelve of pulling staff duty.

via GIPHY

1. Acceptance

Finally, acceptance sets in. The anger goes away. The depression simmers. This is just the way things are and that’s just fine.

New-age “philosophers” and those annoying Facebook images of inspirational quotes draped over an idyllic landscape are wrong: Acceptance isn’t a grand epiphany that makes everything better. It’s giving up the will to be angry. It’s the moment you stop trying to fight the Big Green Weenie.

via GIPHY

Speaking of Holiday Duty: 6 times Gen. ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis was a gift we didn’t deserve

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 ways to water your own military marriage lawn

We see you. Peering through the windows of your government-issued duplex at the neighbor’s waving flag, sizzling grill and luscious green patch of America. No amount of rent-controlled water allowance has produced grass so green on your side of things, despite the best of efforts. How is it that lawncare has suddenly become a relevant metaphor for marriage? Happily ever military didn’t tell you about the unspoken vow we all recite, to endure. To preserve during droughts, rebuild after landslides, and endure no matter where we’re planted.


Military marriage is about watering the lawn you have today, and sometimes, calling it for what it is and putting down a patch of turf to get by. Here to help is advice from spouses in it for the long haul.

We all pick fights when the schedule goes completely nuts.

“I’m guilty of misdirecting my anger at my husband, when really it’s the late nights and last-minute changes that I’m angry at,” says Kayla Narramore, United States Marine Corps spouse.

A good marriage requires balance, but all too often, everything you had planned gets scratched at the last minute. Remembering that unlike conventional jobs, when they’re coming home, what happens next, and how long they’ll be gone can all change at any given time. Analyze what, not who you’re frustrated with instead.

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine

Relying on friends is how we all get by

Your service member is your life partner, but your military friends are who you can depend on. Scheduling a kid-free hair appointment, catching the flu, or even a night out are all normal tasks spouses rely on each other to tackle, but all run the risk of being canceled without much notice. Try penciling in your spouse as the back-up, with a non-active duty person as the primary. Always hope that they can step up, but this insulated plan keeps a fight or feelings of being let down out of the equation.

Counseling is not only for quitters

Between deployments, training, and schools that last for months, it’s no wonder why the common state of marriage in the military a bit is out of whack. Cohabitating is hard for anyone. Yearly marital checkups should be as commonplace as yearly physicals. Sometimes a nasty cold needs to run its course and sometimes may require treatment. There’s no body or no marriage that lives its life with a completely clean slate.

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine

 

We don’t love putting ourselves on hold either

“I’d love to open a bakery, but we move so often that’s nearly impossible,” explains Tiana Nomo, Army spouse when discussing her stress points. Coming to grips with what’s feasible versus possible is where spouses reframe their world in a positive light. While no one would blame you for feeling envious of their consistent career, remembering the bigger picture is helpful in eliminating circular arguments. Rehash the five-year goals often, to be a truer reflection of both parties’ interests.

We don’t always find fitting in easy 

“I had gone from working multiple fulfilling jobs to being alone, as a stay at home mom while my husband was deployed. My walls were up, to say the least,” says Anna Perez, Army spouse about her time at their first duty station. Military spouses may have one large common denominator but come together from opposite ends of all spectrums in career, life, expectations, and culture. The same can be said for the service member, however, with most of their days and time welded together, bonding appears to come more naturally than for the spouse. Without a secure network, it becomes easy for spouses to begin isolating themselves, even within their marriages. “I reached outside of the post, and into the local town where I found friendships and mentors who changed my outlook and career path,” says Perez who has her sights on becoming a lawyer.

Picking up on a theme? So much of military life is unpredictable, taking marital expectations through drastic ups and downs. Learning to love through potential decades of military service requires a strong tolerance for upheaval and a willingness to hang on, even if by one rooted strand.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how the military gets ready to deploy anywhere in the world in 18 hours

Typically, troops get their orders to deploy many months in advance. In times of stability, you’re looking at twelve months gone and then twelve months at home. Everyone in the unit has ample time to get their ducks in a row before heading off to war.

But when sh*t hits the fan, the United States Armed Forces can gear up entire brigade-sized elements of troops and put boots on the ground in just under eighteen hours.

Now, getting troops ready to go isn’t the hard part — troops usually keep a rucksack packed and a rifle on standby in the arms room. It’s the logistical nightmare that comes with transporting all of the required gear that makes this feat truly impressive.


10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine

At any moment, the Currahee are ready to drop in like it was D-Day all over again.

(U.S. Army photo by Major Kamil Sztalkoper)

In the Army, brigades that are officially ready to deploy are called Division Ready Brigades. In the Marine Corps, they’re called Marine Expeditionary Units. To be certified as one of these units, there are several requirements, including pre-deployment training, gear staging, and mountains of paperwork.

The 506th Regimental Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, KY, earned “reactionary force” status in 2007 and, impressively, has maintained it ever since.

“The purpose of the division ready brigade is to quickly move Soldiers and equipment to support emergency situations requiring DoD support,” said Col. Thomas Vail, the then-506th RCT commander told the Fort Campbell Courier. “We are well prepared for this task in terms of leadership, Soldier discipline, and staff expertise. The 506th RCT has conducted rehearsals and back briefs just like any combat mission tasked to the brigade.”

They earned this by staging a mock deployment to get everyone, including their gear and vehicles, ready to go to Fort Irwin’s National Training Center. All vehicles needed to be staged, all artillery guns needed to be prepped, and all connexes had to be packed with everything they’d need within 72 hours of landing.

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine

These Marines are always on call… Ready to be tagged in.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

To remain ready, some units have pre-staged gear that they never touch. As you can imagine, having and stashing gear only to be used for rapid deployment requires cash — which, unfortunately, isn’t in excess for many units.

The Marines, however, have always been known for doing more with less. In this case, they do this by keeping their Marines on a fifteen month cycle: they spend nine months training stateside and six months aboard a Navy vessel offshore.

They strategically place their Marines on the Naval vessels nearest to where they expect to be fighting and stay ready to hop onto landing crafts at any moment. The Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit take this one step further by remaining permanently forward-deployed out of Okinawa.

Maj. Jacob R. Godby, the 31st MEU assistant operations officer, said,

“The size of our AO requires us to train for a wide variety of missions which requires an extensive range of equipment and the best trained Marines anywhere. In Okinawa, we have the resources and training grounds that allow us to train for almost any mission we could be tasked with. MEUEX allows us to begin putting the pieces together as we move closer to embarking for our next patrol.”

It’s a logistical headache, but it’s a challenge that only the most intense units have been able to successfully pull off. If there’s crisis in need of the U.S. Armed Forces, these guys can be there within the day, letting other troops bring in the rest of the gear after them to establish a more permanent presence.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Today is National K9 Veterans Day

National K9 Veterans Day, March 13, is a day set aside to honor commemorate the service and sacrifices of American military and working dogs throughout history.


It was on March 13, 1942, that the Army began training for its new War Dog Program, also known as the “K-9 Corps,” according to American Humane, marking the first time that dogs were officially a part of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Also read: 13 pictures of military working dogs being good puppies

The rest, as they say, is history. Officially a part of the service, the dogs of war span centuries and include such heroes as Sgt. Stubby, the original war dog, Chips, the most decorated dog in World War II, Lex, who retired with his fallen owner’s family, and Cairo, the Navy SEAL working dog on the bin Laden raid.

Today’s military dogs are valued as important members of their military units and even have their own retirement ceremonies, awards and medals, and memorial services.

 



MIGHTY CULTURE

You love watching military reunions. We wish you could see the goodbyes.

On Tuesday night, the nation watched as President Trump praised a military spouse for her sacrifices and efforts, and then surprised her and her children. “I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight and we couldn’t keep him waiting any longer!” The woman looked genuinely surprised.

She gathered her two young children close and they watched as her husband, handsome in his dress uniform, walked down the stairs toward them, as members of Congress and millions of television viewers cheered.

But some of us in military families saw something different.


As pleased as we were for that family, and we were very pleased, we were also cringing. We knew more, much more, was happening under the surface, and would be happening for many days to come. I’ve been married to a soldier for 17 years, and he has deployed nearly every year of our marriage. I know this subject well.

Some of us call these public homecomings “reunion porn” because they’re shared for the entertainment of the spectators, not for the health of the family. Surprise public reunions are such a part of our culture now, after 18 years of war have overlapped with 15 years of YouTube, that in the later weeks of a deployment, well-meaning friends and family members will start asking us what our plans are for the reunion. They look on expectantly, hoping for details of jumbotrons — like we’re supposed to be organizing a flash mob on top of taking care of absolutely everything else. For them, these are grand milestones that should be celebrated en masse, like over-the-top engagements and increasingly complex gender reveals.

But a deployment reunion does not have the unfettered joy of an engagement or a birth announcement. It’s a complicated stew. There is joy, undoubtedly, but there is also trauma. There is survivor’s guilt, and resentment, and weeks of awful reintegration that loom, in sleepless nights after endless fights. On some level, I wish that every reunion video was paired with a deployment video, bookends of the war experience, and that you didn’t get to celebrate the hello until you had agonized through the goodbye. I wish people saw that many months before that child was surprised by a smiling, uniformed parent in an elementary school classroom, he had to be peeled and pulled off that deploying soldier by the parent who was staying home. I wish people saw that service member gulp, blink back tears, and force him or herself to turn and walk away. Not out of indifference or cruelty, but out of duty.

I wish people could hear the screams – the actual screams – military teens and tweens make when they are told their parent is deploying. Again. I wish the cheering crowds knew what it feels like to give birth alone, in a town where you know no one, and to take that baby back to an empty home without a clue of what to do, but having to do it anyway.

I wish they knew what it feels like for a service member to meet his own child on Skype, and not get to hold her in his arms until the baby is already crawling. Or to not be at the bedside when their child goes into surgery. Or to miss a graduation, and every game, recital and play.

I wish they saw me, sitting in a patio chair in the July heat, trying to hear my husband over a spotty satellite phone connection, with gunshots and mortar rounds perforating the conversation. Then hanging up and putting on a brave face to go back inside the house, because it was time to give my dad more pain medicine so that he wouldn’t feel the cancer that killed him.

I wish they heard the three volleys. I wish they watched the flag being crisply folded. I wish they hugged strangers at military funerals because it was obvious those strangers needed hugs. I wish they pushed the wheelchairs and suffered through the night terrors and witnessed the humiliation of a brain-injured warrior trying to remember his own address.

But, of course, I don’t actually wish everyone could see all of these raw moments. No one should have the worst days of their lives televised. I suppose what I really wish is that the same good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are sincerely happy to see our military families reunited would pay more attention to the war. I wish they knew where our service members were deploying to, and why.

I wish they knew our lives, even when the scenes aren’t pretty or heartwarming, so it wouldn’t feel like we were carrying these burdens alone.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the top issues facing military families this election

Every four years, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make our voices heard. While elections are always important, this year feels particularly critical. A global pandemic. Heightened racial tensions. Upholding or repealing Supreme Court decisions. New and old military adversaries. Economic impact… the list goes on. While military families are concerned with the macro issues facing the country, they’re also incredibly concerned about the “micro -” those issues that many Americans can’t understand because they don’t live it – things like military spouse employment, PCSing and base housing. In just a few weeks, Americans will determine our next commander in chief.

To better understand the issues paramount to our military families, WATM spoke with Military Family Advisory Network’s Executive Director, Shannon Razsadin, to talk about the results of MFAN’s 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey.

Here are 6 of the top issues facing military families this election:


Have questions about voting? Please visit Iwillvote.com or text ACCESS to 43367

Mental Health Care

The need for and reliance on mental health care was a common thread throughout the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey. However, the greatest obstacle to accessing mental health care was the ability to get appointments. Those who left military service within the past 10 years were more likely to have accessed mental health care for themselves or members of their families. The more recently they left service, the more likely they were to have accessed mental health care. About 14.6% of respondents said they had accessed mental health crisis resources for themselves or their families. They expressed a need for emergency mental health care for the following reasons: specific mental health diagnoses; suicidal ideations and attempts; and feelings of stress, grief, and hopelessness. They also described difficulty receiving care, such as long wait times and less attentive medical personnel. When asked if participants themselves had thoughts of suicide in the past two years, one in eight respondents to this question responded affirmatively.

Finances

Most respondents, 77%, said they have debt. The amount of emergency savings varied significantly depending on demographics: 27.4% of currently serving military family respondents said they have less than 0 in emergency savings, while 49.2% of veteran family respondents (those without a military pension) and 22.2% of military retiree family respondents (those with a military pension) reported having less than 0. Nearly a quarter (23.5%) said they do not have a practical or viable plan for seeking assistance in a financial emergency.

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas/Released)

Moving

Moves are expensive for military families, and they are causing long-term financial strain for some. On average, families are losing about ,000 per move in out-of-pocket costs and losses and damage to their household goods. The average unreimbursed out-of-pocket expense during a move was id=”listicle-2648395695″,913, and the average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was ,920. The majority of respondents, 68.2%, said they experienced loss or damage during their most recent moves. Respondents said the moving support they need the most is financial.

Housing

Choosing a place to live is an essential process during a move, and the choice can affect families’ lives for the course of their tours. Exploring military families’ housing choices and experiences has been a perennial topic in MFAN’s support programming surveys. Between the 2017 survey and the 2019 survey, MFAN fielded a study on the state of privatized housing that was a catalyst to an overhaul of the system, a budget increase, and the Tenant Bill of Rights. The current research showed that concerns about privatized housing still linger, making it the number one reason families choose to live on the economy. Those who choose military housing do so for financial reasons and because of base amenities. Among the respondents living in military housing, those in lower enlisted ranks were more likely to have negative satisfaction rates, and the least satisfied respondents were those ranked E4 to E6. There was a very clearly statistically significant relationship with those ranked E4 to E6—they were more likely than any other group to rate their experiences as very negative across all areas of satisfaction rates measured.

Employment and Entrepreneurship

MFAN has explored military family employment needs and transition experiences in every support programming survey. Many of the responses have not changed. For example, in 2013, military spouses said they needed more assistance, specifically for spouses trying to build and maintain careers. In 2017, respondents said their job search experiences were generally negative, and they said they had difficulties with employer bias, location obstacles, child care, and unsuccessful searching. These themes emerged again this year.

Active duty military spouses are still struggling to find employment. Respondents said that the demands of military life, being the primary caretaker to children and needing flexible schedules, are obstacles to finding gainful employment. They are looking for remote and portable work that will help them build lasting careers. They were more likely than any other demographic group to have given up trying to find work. Meanwhile, those who had transitioned from service told a very different story. Veterans and retirees said their greatest obstacle is an employer who is willing to hire them. They would like assistance preparing for interviews and marketing themselves effectively with polished resumes.

Both groups placed a priority on assistance that would help them find open positions, and they have not been able to receive support. Nearly one-third of respondents said they can’t find effective support, and an additional 22.8% said they needed more information about available resources. 05 Active duty military spouses were statistically more likely than other demographics to consider entrepreneurship. Of those who do not currently have a business, 33% said they would consider starting one. However, entrepreneurial spouses of active duty service members reported low earnings, with 70.5% earning ,000 or less and 53.2% making ,000 or less. The most common reasons entrepreneurs chose for building their own businesses were flexible hours and to balance work and family life.

10 ways not to become your kids’ snack machine during the quarantine

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Austen Adriaens/Released)

Child care and education

Child care and school-related support are the top two supports that military families with children wish they had. Child care priorities change based on the age of children; however, respondents with children ages 0 to 12 agreed that hourly care, both in-home and outside of the home, was a top priority. Those with children younger than 5 years old prioritized full-time child care, while after-school care was a priority for those with children between the ages of 6 to 12.

In alignment with their top priority for care they seek, almost two-thirds (64.1%) of actively serving military family respondents said they had to forego a medical appointment due to lack of child care in the past two years. When asked to identify helpful educational support programming for military children, 40.5% of respondents could not think of any that they were aware of or used. The top missing educational supports included special needs support; learning support, such as tutoring and personalized support to fill learning gaps; and transition support to aid military-related adjustment.

Razsadin said:
In the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, military families shared with us the issues that are the greatest challenges to them. They told us that they have difficulty accessing health care appointments. That they need additional assistance as caregivers. That mental health care is critical, but difficult to access. They shared that many of them experience food insecurity. And that many feel lonely and disconnected from their communities. They disclosed that military moves are expensive and cause long-term financial strain. And that putting aside emergency savings is difficult. They talked to us about difficulties finding child care. And how hard it can be to secure (and keep) employment.

In many different areas, military families trusted us with their struggles and shared what makes military life difficult sometimes. And MFAN is committed to moving the needle on those critical areas they’ve identified. But Election Day is an opportunity for all military families to directly use their voices to address the issues that are most important to them. To speak up about what matters to them. And to vote so their voices are counted.

The people and issues military families vote for are up to them. That military families vote means our election results reflect the beautiful diversity of our force.

To learn more about President Trump’s stance on military issues, visit: https://veterans.donaldjtrump.com/issues

To learn more about Vice President Biden’s stance on military issues, visit: https://joebiden.com/militaryfamilies/#

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How one Navy spouse will literally walk through her husband’s next deployment

In the military space, there are all kinds of strength, variations of independence and endless examples of courage. Jennifer Mabus, 2018 Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru-hiker and new Navy spouse is planning to literally walk away from it all (again) with her husband’s next deployment.

In the spring of 2018, Mabus and her now-husband Owen began a long-distance friendship at quite possibly the most inopportune time in each’s lives. Mabus was setting out to hike the PCT and Owen, a Navy diver, was gearing up for deployment. With one quick chance to see each other on a layover work trip, the two had just one shot at meeting face to face before both set out.


PCT 2018 Day 1 | The Day I Poured Out My Dad’s Booze

youtu.be

“We communicated every chance we got the entire time I was on trail and he was deployed, but there was never any tension. We were both doing our things and clearly understood that from the beginning,” says Mabus, who credits their communication and mutual respect aiding to the love within their story.

Mabus, a mechanical engineer, made the cross country move to Virginia this January, taking her first steps into life as a military spouse. “My dad was a Ranger. I had some idea about what this life would be like, but it wasn’t what I imagined being ideal for myself to be honest.”

“Coming into military spouse life, it is the partner who undergoes major changes. It’s a challenge to face the potential of losing some of your identity, to be the one who is left behind,” says Mabus hesitantly in reflection of still searching for her niche now.

Luckily for Mabus, adaptation was a skill she honed while on trail. “Humans can adapt to anything. On trail, no matter how great your plan was, the likelihood was that it would be altered or changed. That’s a lot like military spouse life I’m finding out.”

Couples bring all sorts of skills and expectations into marriage, but for these two, the mutual understanding of accomplishing huge feats (deployment and thru-hiking) simultaneously or otherwise, was a goal they wouldn’t lose sight of. Pre-pandemic, Mabus had coordinated a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) at the same time Owen was to deploy.

“He knows how much life this brings to my life. Being married now, we had to check-in emotionally because there would be a chance, I may not be home when he gets back from deployment,” she says nervously.

Dependents worldwide understand the monumental pressure of holding down the fort when service members are gone. While certainly unique, Mabus’ plan to pursue her own hard thing might not be so shocking to comprehend after hearing just a few of her reflections of her time on trail.

“There’s a deep disconnect from life’s stressors and a newfound connection to yourself that happens. This isn’t a weekend getaway, it’s dedicating every day to walking forward with extreme intention,” a feeling she has yet to find elsewhere.

“I’ve never been prouder of myself, of my body, or the trust I had in what I could do,” she said.

When asked about keeping up with communication expectations now as a married couple Mabus shared, “Last time, I sent postcards from each town I reached. We both left messages, videos and picked up conversations when each had the chance. The understanding that each of us might be out of touch for a few days or delayed in responding is important.”

Managing expectations for military couples is an obstacle we all tackle in ways unique to our relationship. Missing “scheduled” calls and experiencing what feels like radio silence for days on end is taxing. Imagining deployment when both parties not only accept, but expect to both give and receive these lags in communication has to eliminate byproducts like resentment, fear or even anger.

The unexpected mix of experiences and perspectives that live within the military spouse community is everything that keeps the group (military spouses) amazing. Mabus’ outlook, strength and unique plan will undoubtedly shake up a few mindsets, and for that we’re giving her the biggest high five we can. We’ll be catching up with her Youtube trail diary (from 2018) and low-key stalking her Instagram for her next adventure.

https://www.instagram.com/thewhimsicalwoman/

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers: Today and always

Gold Star Mother’s Day is a day to recognize and honor the mothers of service members who have died in the line of duty. Each year, there are events and meetings for Gold Star Mothers and their families.


Service Flags

The Gold Star has long been a symbol of a loved one lost in combat. During WWI, flags became a way for families to let others in their communities know about the status of their loved ones in the military. Blue Stars displayed on flags meant that a household had someone in the military who was deployed. Additional stars indicated additional family members.

If a family received news that their loved one had been killed in action, the star’s color was changed from blue to gold.

A Grieving Mother starts an organization 

In 1928, Grace Darling took the informal practice of flag display and formalized it into a non-profit organization, American Gold Star Mothers.

After her son, George Vaughn Seibold, volunteered for military service during WWI, Grace looked for ways to help her local community of veterans. She started visiting veterans in the greater Washington area, hoping that her presence might help them. When letters from her son stopped arriving in the mail, Grace feared the worst.

George’s remains were never found. Grace quickly realized that self-contained grief would eat her alive. So, she and 25 other grieving mothers met to create a formal organization that would help them collectively deal with their grief.

American Gold Star Mothers is formed

On June 4, 1928, Grace Darling and twenty-five other mothers formed the American Gold Star Mothers non-profit organization. Six months later, the organization was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia. Within 90 days, the organization had almost tripled in size. Currently, the organization holds a congressional charter under Title 36-211 of the United States Code.

American Gold Star Mothers Inc. works on behalf of Gold Star families to educate the public on the unique challenges that Gold Star Mothers face. Their aim to inspire “true allegiance to the United States of America.” To advance this mission, the Gold Star Mothers hold an annual convention and have events centered around Gold Star Mother’s Day and Veteran’s Day. They also partner with Wreaths Across America to coordinate wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and 1,200 other locations in the U.S. and abroad.

Criteria for membership 

Membership into American Gold Star Mothers is open to any woman who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident who has lost a son or daughter in active service in the military, regardless of the place or time of military service and regardless of whether the circumstances of death involved hostile conflict or not. Membership is open to mothers of service members missing in action as well.

The current charter was ratified in 1984 and also includes mothers who are from U.S. territories or insular possessions. Membership is not contingent on whether the service member was killed in action or in the theater of action.

Non-adoptive stepmothers are also eligible for membership if they assume responsibility for the service member before the age of fifteen. Husbands and children of Gold Star Mothers are eligible to join as Associate Members. Honorary membership is provided to mothers who were not citizens or legal residents when their service member child was inducted.

National Gold Star Family Registry

National Gold Star Family Registry is a program that honors those who have died while defending our freedom. This non-profit is the first comprehensive database of fallen heroes that’s ever been developed. It allows family members a space to publicly remember their loved ones and serves as a historical log of those who have died in combat. Educational resources and personal accounts are also provided, which might help future generations better understand our nation’s heroes. Information for the registry is compiled from public sources, including the Department of Defense and the National Archives. Launched in 2010, the registry recognizes the need for families to be able to share the stories of their heroes with the world.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 reasons military spouses need to vote

Your vote matters. It really does. What happens in Washington trickles down to us. Defense budget cuts and the decision to invade or aid are a result of who is sitting in those seats. It is our job to make sure that we put the best person for the job up there to represent us. Do your research on each of the candidates. Don’t just listen to their ads. Find out how they have voted in the past and figure out who stands for what you stand for.

Then, vote in your next election. Make your voice heard for you and for your family. Many have sacrificed for our right to do that.The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees and protects women’s constitutional right to vote. Not only does this anniversary mark a monumental event in history, but this incredible centennial celebration has a huge impact on military families, whether we realize it or not. After all, there are over one million military spouses in the United States with approximately 92% of them female.

Active duty military spouses, uniquely positioned between military service and civilian life, are arguably as important to the election process as their service member counterparts. And yet, it is hard to sometimes see the effect that our votes make, especially with the current political climate this election year.

Sometimes when we begin to feel downhearted about the status of politics in our country, it’s fairly easy to also begin to feel discouraged about voting. We may say to ourselves: I’m only one person and it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things. The fact of the matter is this: Whether or not you like it, every single aspect of your life is affected by politics and every single one of those politicians were put in power through a popular vote.


Here are 4 important ways that military spouses can affect change simply by exercising our right to vote!

We Pick our Spouse’s Next Commander in Chief

As military spouses, who becomes the next Commander-in-Chief should matter. Regardless of political affiliation, the person voted into office is our spouse’s boss, and voting for the best person should be top priority. As military spouses, prior to voting it is important to do our research and determine who we believe is the best candidate as our country’s next president and Commander-in-Chief.

We Determine the Senate and House Representatives

Beyond the next president, we are also voting for members of Congress: The House and Senate. These people influence what happens in the military and the national laws passed. From pay raises to veterans benefits, national and world aid as well as decisions on war, these are all driven by those in office. By not participating in the voting and election process, we are turning a blind eye to our ability to affect change in those areas that directly impact our spouse’s lives.

We Make a Difference Locally

Military spouses move regularly, so this may not register as something important. Believe me, it is! Those locally in charge are going to have a bigger impact on your life than those in Washington. Your local votes matter. During smaller, local elections, you will be voting on the mayor, the school board, the city council and issues that affect the community. Whether you have children or not, or if you still live in the area or not, this is important. As military spouses, you might not live where you vote, and you do not want to change that. That is ok! You can still vote for your state and area of residency by accessing your absentee vote ballot. There is no excuse anymore. Vote local, every single election.

We Become More Aware 

As military spouses, being aware of what is going on in Washington and throughout the whole country is important. Spend your time researching and going beyond what you hear on the news. You can talk to people who are working for change and you can learn more about our country’s history and where we have been. Please stop looking on social media for information and focus on reputable sources. After all, voting literally puts you into history.

Your vote matters. It really does. What happens in Washington trickles down to us. Defense budget cuts and the decision to invade or aid are a result of who is sitting in those seats. It is our job to make sure that we put the best person for the job up there to represent us. Do your research on each of the candidates. Don’t just listen to their ads. Find out how they have voted in the past and figure out who stands for what you stand for.

Then, vote in your next election. Make your voice heard for you and for your family. Many have sacrificed for our right to do that.

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