Archive for Deployment

Meeting Daddy After Deployment #MissionCare

DISCLOSURE: This post was sponsored by Dove Men+Care via MSB New Media. All opinions and words are my own. As always, my time can be hired but not my opinions are not for sale.

Wave after wave of intense contractions and where is that guy who got me into this mess in the first place? Stuck in airport traffic.

That’s probably a nightmare scenario for most first-time moms. The airport for me, though, was Baghdad International Airport.

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YesVideo Video Conversion Giveaway for Military Families

When my husband was deployed, more than any supplies or even homemade goodies, he wanted messages from his family…photographs, videos, video-chats, recordings–seeing and hearing his loved ones. That connection to home is what helps soldiers keep going, during the most difficult conditions.

If you have vintage audio-visual material on almost any format, you can convert that into a special DVD and online digital video for your soldier. Here is a special sponsored message about how you can win a $300 gift certificate to turn your old family videos and other media into DVDs:

Military Families Can Share Favorite Vintage Videos with their Loved Ones Abroad, Thanks to YesVideo’s Holiday Gifting Program

YesVideo is dedicated to bringing joy to military personnel serving abroad through re-living favorite family memories

Santa Clara, CA – January 3, 2012 – YesVideo, the global leader in video and photo digitization, is announcing their Holiday Gifting Program for U.S. Military Families. In January, YesVideo will give away five $300 gift certificates to Military Families. The gift certificates can be used to have their family videos transferred to DVD, as well as online, and materials will be delivered to the winners by Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013.

The contest is open to any U.S. military family who has a loved one serving abroad. Interested families can sign up on YesVideo’s Facebook page.

YesVideo can digitize the following forms of vintage media:

· 8mm film

· 16mm film

· Super8 film

· VHS

· Beta (NTSC)

· VHS-C

· MiniDV

· Photo Prints

· Photo Negatives

· Photo Slides

One $300 gift certificate will cover about 15 videotapes . Once YesVideo receives the footage, the company will transfer it to DVD and store the video in YesVideo’s free, unlimited cloud storage system. Since YesVideo uploads customers’ videos into personal, password-protected accounts, military personnel serving all over the world will be able to view their favorite home movies in time for Valentine’s Day. Links to the videos can be sent via email or shared on Facebook.

“We are incredily grateful to our military for their service to our country, and we want to say thank you to them by delivering special memories to them,” says Michael Chang, CEO of YesVideo. “We recognize that they are not home with their families to celebrate the holidays, and we want to give them the next-best thing – videos of their loved ones.”

The short entry form is located on YesVideo’s Facebook page. The contest will close January 10 at 12:00 midnight PST, and winners will be notified within one week. All media materials must be received at YesVideo by January31 in order to be processed and returned by February 14. Final deadline for winners to submit their videos is January 31, 2013.

To enter the contest, please visit http://www.facebook.com/yesvideo/app_201730886505500

About YesVideo

YesVideo is the global leader in video transferring and sharing. The company’s patented technology allows them to efficiently transfer personal videos at scale. Customers may then view, edit and share their videos in the cloud. YesVideo has unlocked billions of classic family video moments and life events for seven million customers already.

Consumers may drop off their personal film (8mm, 16mm, VHS, Beta, etc), prints, slides and photo albums at one of YesVideo’s 34,000 retail locations, or online at YesVideo.com. All material received by YesVideo go through either the East Coast production facility, located in Norcross, GA or the West Coast production facility, located in Santa Clara, CA.

Help Wounded Warrior Project

Living life to the fullest–despite traumatic brain injuries or loss of limb–that’s what Wounded Warrior Project is about. As of last fall, the Department of Defense reported 1,288 Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn servicemembers with major traumatic amputations. Harder to diagnose but perhaps more prevalent is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Also of great concern is the “invisible” injury of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Our wounded warriors return home and find it difficult to walk, to climb the stairs to their bedrooms, to hug their children. Those with less visible injuries may also suffer from crippling headaches, erratic behavior, depression, and lack of focus. These heroes may have difficulty returning to a normal home and work life.

That’s where Wounded Warrior Project steps in:

Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) takes a holistic approach when serving warriors and their families to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Through a high-touch and interactive approach, WWP hopes to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.

Read more about how Wounded Warrior Project succeeds in its mission.

I am partnering with Brawny® to spread the word about how you can help these Wounded Warriors. Brawny is making a direct donation of $250,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® to benefit Wounded Warriors and their families. From May 1 through December 31, 2012, the maker of Brawny® paper towels will also donate $1 up to an additional $250,000 for every individual who joins us and shares their thanks for our nation’s heroes on the Brawny® Towels Facebook page (www.facebook.com/brawnytowels).

Help Brawny® reach their goal of $500,000 for Wounded Warrior Project by Veterans Day — they are just 2,874 likes away!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Brawny® Towels. All opinions are my own.

Purple Hearts Touched Mine

At Fort Hood, I had the privilege of watching several soldiers receive their purple heart awards. I was there to receive an award for my service to the Family Readiness Group and did not even realize that I would also be witnessing such a testament to bravery and sacrifice.

I watched as each wounded warrior stepped forward with such dignity and as much military bearing as they could muster with their injuries. Several of the less catastrophically injured were heading back to Iraq, despite having the option to remain home for the rest of the deployment. They just could not rest easy until all of their comrades were home, safe.

I thought of my husband and the husbands of my friends, going out on daily missions, escorting convoys throughout the Baghdad area. I put myself in the boots of these soldiers and the shoes of their families–grateful that their lives were spared but also overwhelmed by all the details required for adapting to life with a severe injury. I was so incredibly grateful for their sacrifice and in awe of their strength.

The soldiers I know often say that aiming to be a hero gets people killed. These purple heart recipients were not trying to be heroes. They were doing their duty. Their duty, however, was 1000% beyond what most ordinary people are called upon to do. When it counted, these soldiers kept their calm, made good decisions, and even saved the lives of their fellow soldiers. No, these soldiers were not trying to be heroes. They just simply were heroes.

After watching them, I felt embarrassed getting up to receive my award. How could my work be mentioned in the same ceremony as their sacrifice? The applause from the heroes was so touching. When the soldiers came over at the end to thank us–these heroes were actually expressing gratitude for our small contributions!–I nearly lost it. The only way I kept the tears from spilling as I told them how grateful and proud of them we all were was to remember that these soldiers wanted to see a strong home front united behind them.


I am partnering with Brawny® to spread the word about how you can help these Wounded Warriors. Brawny is making a direct donation of $250,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® to benefit Wounded Warriors and their families. From May 1 through December 31, 2012, the maker of Brawny® paper towels will also donate $1 up to an additional $250,000 for every individual who joins us and shares their thanks for our nation’s heroes on the Brawny® Towels Facebook page (www.facebook.com/brawnytowels). They are almost at their goal of $500,000. Will you help them reach it?

This post was sponsored by Brawny® Towels. All opinions are my own.


Image credit: Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Navy 1st Class Petty Officer Mollly A. Burgess

Tokens of Love

“Here, open it once the bus is gone.”

I noticed he didn’t say, “once I am gone,” which would have an entirely different meaning to us as a military couple, and put the small box in my pocket.

He leaned in for one last bittersweet kiss and I desperately tried to memorize his scent, the feel of his freshly shaven cheek, the look in his eyes. Then, reluctantly pulling away, he reminded me, “No crying,” and climbed the stairs onto the bus that would take him on the first leg of his journey to Iraq.

Once the bus was out of sight, I hugged the sobbing spouses and fought back my own tears. Beginning the lonely walk back to my car, I thought about all the times I would now be alone. Climbing into the driver’s seat, usually his seat, I shut the door.

I removed the neatly wrapped gift from my pocket and tugged on the bow. Inside was a shiny custom Italian charm bracelet, personalized with his unit crest, our names, our anniversary date, a dragonfly to remember our nature walks, and so many others. That’s when the waterworks started, when I saw the beautiful jewelry with personalization, made just for me.

That my macho soldier had personally selected each charm just for me so that I would have a gift to hold onto when I could not reach out to him.

Before riding off into battle, medieval knights used to exchange tokens with their lady loves… and now I know why. Along with a t-shirt of his I never washed, our wedding photograph, and the note inside the box, that bracelet became one of my most treasured possessions.

The note?

It read: “Until I return, may this bracelet encircle your wrist the way I hold you in my heart.”

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Actonia PR Agency. All words and ideas are my own.

Photo by Breanna Walton

Casualty Notification is a Sacred Duty — Not a Facebook Poke

As a military spouse, I spent my husband’s deployment terrified that I would see the black sedan drive down my street or that there would be a knock on the door and I would open it to find a chaplain and a casualty notification officer.

At least I could lay down some of the burden at night–there is a window during which notifications are made. This may seem like a trivial thing if you haven’t spent a year on edge but, trust me, it is some small solace to know you will not be woken or startled at 3am by a phone call or a knock on a door.

That is, unless, another soldier or family member takes it upon him or herself to text message you or notify you via Facebook.

What a horrible thing to do to a military family member!

While it is true that no form of notification can bring the soldier back to life, casualty notification procedures are in place for a reason.

  • The procedures ensure no false notifications. By notifying someone independently, you have disrupted the entire system and created an environment where rumors thrive.
  • You do not know how someone will react to the shock. Fainting, going on a rampage, driving off the road–these are all plausible responses to casualty notification. Let the trained professionals be there to handle it.
  • How someone finds out may affect long-term processing of the grief. People always remember where they were when they found out big news. The ceremony and respect of the official notification system, and the support that the military immediately offers, may ultimately help the family member process the grief. Maybe you do not buy this but it is NOT your call. You do NOT get to take that away from these families.

When a soldier is catastrophically injured or killed in action, his base is supposed to go on communications black-out. There should be a total lock-down of all telephone and Internet signals. And all soldiers and family members should know not to discuss casualties prior to official notification of the next of kin.

Yes, we all knew when someone had been killed in action when no one had any calls that night. Yes, the waiting was tense. However, that is a small price to pay to know that the proper respect will be paid to a fallen hero and his family. We owe our brothers and sisters in waiting at least that much.

(DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp)

Let’s sendCheer to the Military!

My husband deployed at the beginning of December in 2005. Although we did not realize it at that time, I was pregnant with our first child.

I packed up a miniature Christmas tree, tiny little ornaments, and my best cookie recipe in a Christmas Stocking to send him a little Holiday cheer. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, after all.

Six years and three kids later, we treasure each Holiday we have together.

There are many soldiers who have spent most of their special days apart from their loved ones. You can show appreciation for their sacrifice with a care package or even just a handwritten note. It is a small thing but it may mean the world to a deployed soldier and his family.

Cheerios and the USO have made it even easier to sendCheer with postcards on specially marked boxes of Cheerios.

On the way back one night, the kids fell asleep in the car. So, I popped into Walmart while my husband waited with them.

I searched and searched and even asked at Customer Service but no luck! This Walmart did not have the Cheerios in the specially marked box.

This minor setback turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to go back the next day with my kids! Involving them was much more fun. I told them that we had a special mission to find boxes of Cheerios with a postcard to cut out. I explained that these boxes help sendCheer to soldiers, like Daddy, who are away from their families.

Success! My daughter spotted the boxes and the kids counted out ten.

Uh, oh. I think we need a cart!

Locked and loaded and ready to head for the checkout counter…

The woman at the checkout counter saw the loaded cart and asked if we were making treats. “Yes!” exclaimed the kids, “For the soldiers!” I pointed out the postcard on the box and explained that we were going to send off the card and bake some treats.

Once we loaded up the car, we dropped a few boxes off at friends’ houses so that they can send their own postcards. We are also donating two boxes through my daughter’s school’s food drive.

When we got home, my daughter cut the card off the box and wrote a little note to a soldier.

She wanted to write a longer note but there was just enough room for “thank you!” and some drawings.

After, we baked some treats that we’ll send off in a carepackage.  Cheerios has a great website with recipes.  We decided to make the marshmallow bars and add a little hazelnut spread to the mixture.

My kids were so pleased to have completed their special mission to help soldiers, like Daddy! I told them the story of Daddy’s Christmas Tree in a stocking and now they want to send carepackages to lots of soldiers!

Here’s your mission: Next time you are in your local Walmart, keep an eye out for the special displays of marked packages of Cheerios. Cut out the card and write a little note.  When you drop it in the mail, you’ll sendCheer to a servicemember and General Mills will donate $1 to the USO.


This post has been compensated as part of a sponsored charitable opportunity for Collective Bias.

Deployment Care Package Ideas

Here are some great care package ideas from a fabulous reader, and Facebook fan, Heather E. Sosa:


Involve the Kids

If you have kids, you could have them trace each of their hands on the outside of each of the care package and write their names inside with the date so your soldier can watch them grow every time s/he gets a box. Or you could do the same on a piece of cardstock paper so s/he can collect them throughout the year. Let your kids color their hands with crayons or markers.

New Year’s Care Package Idea

Decorate a box with confetti inside, use glue on the inside of the box and sprinkle glitter, confetti, and ribbons.

Inside: Some party whistles, streamers, horns, Plastic champagne glasses, Sparkling cider (if you package it well, cover with bubble wrap and put inside a plastic bag in case it breaks during shipping), vacuum packaged cheese and crackers, or chips, a cigar, some glow sticks or LED light necklaces.

Valentine’s Day Care Package Idea

Decorate the inside of the box with red or pink paper, glitter, streamers. You could make lipstick kisses on the outside of the box, but just make sure not to use a glossy type of lip shine or lipstick, so it won’t get smeared through postage handling.

Inside: Write a personalized poem just for your soldier. Add an assortment of chocolates, candy hearts, and pictures of you and your kids. You can send a small stuffed animal (remember s/he has to travel home with things you send, so try to keep it to a minimum). A white pillow with a picture of you and/or the kids ironed on so he can sleep with you all every night. If you add perfume to anything, put it in a zip lock baggie to preserve the smell. Make a list of things you love about your soldier. I sent my husband a pair of black boxer shorts with red hearts all over them and I made him my own pairs of underwear. I bought a plain white undies and a pair of white boxer briefs and decorated them myself with glitter glue pens and sent those. I wrote “Property of Mrs. Sosa” on his undies, and “Property of Mr. Sosa” on my undies. I also drew a padlock with glitter. Sorry if that sounds corny. Haha.

Saint Patrick’s Day Care Package Idea:

Decorate the inside of the box with green paper, glitter, etc. Draw shamrocks on the outside of the box.

Inside: Fill with anything and everything green. Green beaded necklaces, (non alcoholic beer if you package well like the champagne bottle above). Confetti poppers, any green candy you can find, one of those plastic St. Patty’s day hats or those shamrock shaped sunglasses.

[I once included mini bars of “Irish Spring” –ed.]

Easter:

Decorate the inside of the box with pastel colors and fill with Easter grass.

Inside: Send your soldier a box full of plastic eggs with candies or special gifts inside, including pictures, notes, and toys. A small stuffed bunny plush that sings a song. And any of their favorite Easter candies, like marshmallow peeps, or jelly beans.

Memorial Day and Mother’s Day:

Decorate the inside of the box with American flags and flowers (drawn on the inside to save money).

Inside: Fill with different pictures of you and/or your kids. Take pictures of your mommy/daddy duties and activities with the kids. Maybe send a list of all the things he gets to do FOR YOU when he gets back since he missed Mother’s Day. You could include Tea bags, and snacks.

Father’s Day:

Have a T-Shirt designed/made with a picture of the kids on the front and back and have it say “World’s Greatest Dad” or “#1 Dad” or whatever you’d like it to say. Include a list of the things you will do FOR HIM when he gets back. Send him his favorite snacks, more pictures, maybe something memorable like a gift with “1st Father’s Day” on it. I’m sure you can get something engraved for him.

Independence Day:

Decorate the inside of the box red, white and blue, with confetti, streamers, etc. (I like those balloon weights with the shiny stuff sticking up…)

Inside: Send him red, white and blue candies, like AIR HEADS (if they still have those around) Red/white/blue beaded necklaces, Send some popcorn packets and cigar, and party poppers, glow sticks, LED lighted necklaces again. Include you and/or your kids dressed in red/white/blue clothes and edit on Photoshop with a Happy 4th of July border.

Halloween:

Decorate the inside of the box orange, black, and purple.

Inside: Fill with cotton spider webs, and plastic spiders, rats, and skeletons. Include candies, suckers, (I sent my husband a small pumpkin that I drew a face carving with permanent marker). Color scary ghosts, pumpkins, haunted house, etc on the outside of the box. Include pictures of you and/or your kids in their Halloween costumes (if they don’t have them yet, since you’ll be sending this box before Halloween to make sure it gets there on time, include pictures of them from last year’s costumes).

Thanksgiving:

Have your kids trace their hand on brown construction paper and let them glue orange and yellow feathers on the fingers to make turkeys. Send him those prepackages summer sausages, cheese and crackers. Peanuts, cashews, popcorn, or peanut brittle. You could also send him some Turkey Vienna sausages in a can. More sparkling cider if it’s packaged well. A list of all the things you are thankful for. A Thanksgiving/Fall smelling candle for a scent of “home”. You could throw a few Fall leaves from where you live, in the box to give him a piece of home too.

Christmas (MY FAVORITE):

Send a small Christmas tree (you can find small decoration types at Walmart or a local Craft Store). Send mini shatter-proof ornaments and garland. Wrap small presents in small gift boxes to give him a miniature Christmas where he is. I got my a Christmas ornament that said “Our First Christmas 2008”, they have new ones every year. Send pictures of you and/or the kids. Pictures of his family maybe holding banners or posters saying Merry Christmas We Miss You on it. You could line the box with cotton to look like snow underneath everything. You could include Hot chocolate or hot apple cider packets in a small Christmas stocking.

If you have kids, you could have them trace each of their hands on the outside of each of the boxes and write their names inside and the date so he can watch them grow every time he gets a box. Or you could do the same on a piece of cardstock paper so he can collect them throughout the year. Let your kids color their hands with crayons or markers.

I also made Fortune Cookies at home and made my own fortunes inside. It was really somewhat tricky to make them because you have to mold them after cooking them, but when they are still soft you put the fortune inside and fold it before it hardens. Basically making one at a time.

Some of the things I sent to my husband on a regular basis, included:

  • Cheetos
  • Pringles
  • Bags of Chips
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Vienna Sausages
  • Non-Frozen Microwaveable Dinners
  • Popcorn packets
  • Top Ramen Noodles
  • Yahoo! Chocolate Milk Boxes
  • Sodas/Energy Drinks (Packaged well)
  • Powdered Water Flavoring (like gatorade, crystal light, koolaids)
  • Chocolate Puddings
  • Candy Necklaces/Bracelets
  • Gum/Mints
  • Easy Mac-n-Cheese packets
  • Beef Jerkey
  • Granola Bars
  • Energy/Protein Bars
  • Any kinds of candy that won’t melt

Birthday:

For my husband’s Birthday, I made him a picture of my body spelling out HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

In every box I would send a different colored balloon. Blow up a balloon and hold the air in with your fingers, then use a permanent marker and write him a letter on the balloon. Then deflate and put it in the box. Tell him he has to blow up the balloon to read the letter.

You can make him a care package for his birthday, including balloons and confetti, party hats for him and his friends, party poppers, and whichever gift you’d like to give him wrapped like a real present.

As for non food items, depending on what he has access to, you can send:

  • Deck of cards
  • small board games or hand held electronic games
  • Word search of crossword puzzle books
  • Anything related to his favorite sports teams (I sent my husband a small nerf basketball hoop for his wall in his choo)
  • Air Fresheners
  • Photo albums
  • Disposable cameras for him to take pictures and send back for you to develop and be surprised
  • Socks
  • Razor Heads
  • Underwear
  • His favorite soap


Heather E. Sosa has been an Army wife since May of 2008 and is now an Army veteran herself. With her husband Joel, she has a daughter named Emmalynn who will be 1, in July of 2011.

(Photo by Mark Abueg)

Trooppaws Giveaway: A Perfect Deployment Friend for Kids

When Trooppaws contacted me to ask if I could share their sweet stuffed animal plush puppies, sewn from authentic military uniform fabric, I immediately asked if I could offer one to a reader, instead.

My husband was deployed while I was pregnant with our first child. And, as difficult as that was, not sharing that special experience, the stress after hearing of our daughter’s heart condition, and the early colicky weeks, I cannot compare it to telling children that their beloved father will be gone for an entire year.

Nothing can take the place of a parent or other loved one in a child’s life but offering a special, personalized gift can help ease the anxiety of separation.

The creator of Troopaws explains her inspiration: “The courage of family members left behind is so admirable that my hope is that loved ones find strength and comfort in this personalized keepsake. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Folds of Honor Foundation.”

From the website: Each Troop Paws measures 14″ in height and is made of authentic military camouflage. They each are adorned with a gro-grain ribbon bow tie and attached to the neck is a metal logo printed dog tag on a key chain. The filling of the Troop Paws are 100% soft poly hypoallergenic. On the right sleeve is a woven American Flag label. The front of the Troop Paws has a clear pocket which is where the photo of your troop goes. They are proudly made in the USA.

If you would like to enter to win a Trooppaws of your choice, you may enter one or more of the following ways:

1. Leave a comment below with a tip or question about easing deployment fears for family members.
2. Like Troopaws on facebook and Army Wives’ Lives on facebook and leave one, additional, separate comment saying that you did.
3. Share the giveaway on the social network of your choosing. Leave one, additional, separate comment saying that you did and input the URL of what you shared as your website.

Rules/Disclosure: I did not accept any fees or products for offering this giveaway. I am simply choosing to support this small business that supports us. Giveaway ends 11:59 PM EST, July 6, 2011. Winner chosen at random. Prize will ship to US postal addresses, only. Please do not put your e-mail address in the body of your comment. If you leave your address only in the e-mail field, I will be able to see it and spammers will not.

When Coming Home is not a Homecoming

“There are no happy endings, because nothing ends.”
— The Wizard, Schmendrick, from The Last Unicorn

Intact. We use it when “things” are “not broken”, when they are still “working”.  And we use it sometimes to gloss over the hidden fissures…the cracks that deepen under stress and strain.

My husband returned from Iraq on October 31, 2006–four and a half years ago.  His story is his own and not mine to share. But the story of Odysseus’s return is as much Penelope’s as it is his.

My husband, for whom I had waited so many months, came home but he never had a homecoming.  He returned intact but with a crucial piece missing–his men.

During his deployment, my husband successfully led his men through almost daily missions out into the most dangerous areas in and around Baghdad, often coming under enemy fire.  And every time, he brought each and every soldier back with him.

Then, just weeks before he was due to return to the states, another type of duty called from the homefront.  Our infant daughter, who had met once on leave, would need open heart surgery, sooner rather than later.

He had missed the entire pregnancy–having left two days before the blue line showed up on the stick and arriving home on leave 48 hours after her birth.  But for her open heart surgery, I needed him there.

And what does a man of honor do when duty calls simultaneously in two places, thousands of miles apart?

Reluctantly, my husband left Baghdad.

On his return, there were no cheering crowds waiting to greet him, no music, no parades, no comrades in arms.

Just a curb-side pick-up by me and his daughter, who was dressed in the artillery-red outfit I had selected months earlier for the big homecoming celebration that would never happen.

A few days later, we spent his 30th birthday driving to the hospital where a surgeon would cut open our infant daughter’s chest and give us the gift of hope.

We had every blessing in our prayers.

A few weeks later my husband went to the homecoming that should have been his and welcomed each of his men come home.

My husband is everything I ever could have dreamed of in a partner. He is a loving and involved father. Our daughter’s heart was repaired successfully.

And this is the part where we pick-up right where we left off and ride happily off into the sunset.  Except life never is that way, exactly, is it?

The storybooks don’t tell you what happens after the happy couple reunites.

We’re supposed to be so very happy just to be alive.  And of course we are.  And of course we never forget those who have no reunion.  And that just adds to the guilt when what you feel is happy, yes, but also…complicated.

We had been through everything together, except… Except, when I couldn’t sleep or clean or eat because I was afraid my daughter’s colic would stop her heart, I was alone.  Except, when he was maneuvering his convoy around IEDs and facing death every day, it was his men who were there for him, not his wife.  When I was learning to be a parent, when he was becoming a leader in the truest sense, we were thousands of miles apart.

Gradually, we worked together to build our new life together and learn about each other again–as people, as parents, as partners.  We had misunderstandings and miscommunications. We had celebrations. We had crises. We had victories.

He left active duty to return to his legal career and joined the National Guard. We moved back to New York.  We had another child.  And now, soon, a third.

Our hero was home, and in one piece. Our daughter’s body healed, functioning but without a pulmonary valve. Our family remains together.  We are intact.

We are surviving, even thriving, but there is no happily ever after to the tale.  There’s just life, lived one day at a time…sometimes with sorrow but mostly with joy.