Tag Archive for Army Spouse

HELP! My Husband is Joining the Army and I Don’t Like It!

An anonymous reader comments:

Hey Molly my husband is looking into a career In the army, I don’t like the idea because he will never be home and could always be deployed and could die. I am 19 he is 26 years old and we have a 5 month old daughter I didn’t not sign up to be a military wife I don’t like the idea of moving every other year and not being able to see him everyday and then spending long time periods away from him I guess my question is what is being a military spouse really like. He will be entering as a E3 but I don’t want to hear the lie from the recruiter I want to ask some one who is there.

Dear reader,

Thank you for writing. Although you are already married, you may want to check out my post, “Should I Marry a Soldier?” I cover some of the questions you ask here but the long and the short of it is that no one can really give you the answers you are seeking.

Your family’s experience in the military will vary depending on your husband’s MOS (his specialty), the post, the unit, and even down to his Commanding Officer and NCOs. And it will also depend on both of you.

As someone who has been there I will not downplay the challenges of military life. At the same time, it can be a wonderful lifestyle for those who are able to “bloom where they are planted.” One of the lessons I have learned in life is that happy people are generally happy wherever they are and miserable people are miserable wherever they go. That said, military life can be intense and can bring out the strengths and weaknesses in people and in relationships.

What I will say is that no one is never home or deployed all of the time. And it seems as if the “operational tempo” may slow in the near future. God willing.

And very few people’s lives happen exactly as they plan. A lot of families find themselves moving frequently.

While the risk of being killed in combat is very real, it is statistically not great. It is the possibility, and the constant threat of this danger, that can be very difficult for both the soldier and his family.

Your question is really a marital issue than a military one. You had a picture of your future for you and your family and you married a man who you believed shared that plan. Now, he has brought something new and you do not like the idea. How you deal with this challenge will shape your future regardless of the decision made.

I am not a marriage counselor but here are my suggestions:

1. Do some research into his proposed MOS. Are there limited posts where he might be stationed?

2. Read up. Go to your library and take out some non-fiction books for new military spouses. You’ll find an honest but upbeat take on what to expect in general. Keep in mind that your mileage will vary.

3. Have him do the same. He needs to come to you with an honest assessment of why he would like to enlist, what he hopes to accomplish in the military, and how this will shape the family’s future. Has he always dreamed of being a soldier? Does he believe it is his duty to serve? Perhaps he sees the military as his best hope for career advancement? Or maybe he wants to provide for his family with the job security and benefits of the military?

4. Make a decision together. This is very difficult because you do not want him to resent you for telling him not to enlist. At the same time, it will be a very unpleasant career and possibly unsuccessful marriage if you are not at least a willing partner in this decision. Just like any other major decision in a marriage, you both need to reach some sort of agreement, even if one person will have to make more sacrifices than the other.

If you cannot do this on your own, you may wish to speak with a clergyman if you are at all religious or perhaps go to a couples’ counselor who can help you talk through these issues in a non-confrontational way.

Whether or not he joins the military, this will hopefully help you understand each other and your marriage better and you’ll come through it stronger.

Best of luck and please update us!

Captain Dad is Now COMMANDER Dad!

My most awesome and beloved husband took command of a great group of National Guard soldiers on Saturday.

Following the change of command, the unit threw its annual Christmas party and I was impressed, delighted, and struck by some of the differences between the National Guard and the Active Duty Army.

The First Sergeant’s amazing and dedicated wife organized the party with help from a small group of regulars and created a real festive scene. There was tons of food–turkey, baked ham, roast pig, fried chicken, sweet potatoes, salad, arroz con frijoles, breads, pies, cookies, well…you get the idea. A local teacher and his band provided the entertainment–a mix of 70s dance music, popular latin numbers, and some Christmas classics. Besides the soldiers, there were unit alumni, junior cadets, the teacher’s class of “troubled teens,” and other community members.

Without the red tape of the regular rules and bureacracy, the party planners had more freedom to make the event work.

There were so many adorable children running around, playing on the castle bounce, making hand painted ornaments, and playing with new toys. The highlight for the younger set was Santa’s arrival on a Humvee!

I really got the sense that the soldiers and families love children as babies were passed from friend to friend, toddlers entertained, and older kids drawn into the singing and dancing.

Because not all of the soldiers had Class As, there was an interesting mix of uniforms and civilian wear on display, including a nehru jacket and a zoot suit.

With the vibrant neighborhood relationship and the obvious unit esprit de corps, I did not miss the regular army’s commitment to precision and uniformity.

Because National Guard members may spend their entire career with the unit, it was clear we were joining a close-knit family.

A lot of this also has to do with the community and how the armory is integrated into its urban neighborhood.

The one somber note came with a presentation of memorial plaques to family members of two fallen soldiers–some volunteers from the unit are part of a deployment to Afghanistan.

Even that sad note was a beautiful reminder of how much these soldiers care for one another.

I am proud to be a part of the family of this new unit and very proud of my husband’s service to our country.

Army National Guard Family Readiness Group

If you are National Guard, I’d love to hear about your Family Readiness Group.

While my husband was active duty, I ran one FRG long-distance (during his OCS–and we were spread out throughout the country) and was the co-leader for another (while his unit was deployed).

During the last year he has been in the National Guard. No one has contacted me about any sort of family group, although I received some general information about the National Guard family programs when DH first joined his unit. They seemed interested in volunteers, but only mentioned something about me going to a training program and that was the last I heard of it.

Now DH is about to take command. His unit is not slated to deploy as a unit during his command. I’m not sure what, if any, contact from me would be desirable for the families. A simple letter just so you know my name and contact information should you ever want to reach me? An invitation to a family day? Monthly e-mail updates about the unit’s training?

So, any insight from y’all would be much appreciated. Feel free to answer whichever questions you like and add your own thoughts:

Have you been contacted by an FRG representative?

If so, was that representative military personnel, a civilian employee, or a family volunteer?

Is your spouse deployed/deploying?

Is your spouse’s NG unit deploying as a unit?

Are there events (Holiday Parties, Picnics, etc.) hosted for families in your spouse’s unit and, if so, have you attended? Why or why not?

Would you attend family events if you were available on that date? Why or why not?

What would you like to see from an NG FRG while your spouse is stateside?

What about while your spouse is deployed?

What information would you like to receive in a letter from your spouse’s commander and/or the FRG leader?

Mrs. Lieutenant – Winner and Questions Answered

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The winner of Mrs. Lieutenant from the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival is Jo, who asked:

Was your info on the four different wives taken from the lives of family and friends, or of strangers? Are you portraying yourself in one of the four women?

Phyllis Zimbler Miller responds to some reader questions:

Great questions! And instead of trying to answer all of them individually, I’m going to write overall replies that I hope will answer almost everything.

Background of Novel/Characters

I wrote this novel based on personal experiences I had in the spring of 1970 when I was, indeed, a new army officer’s wife at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, right after the Kent State National Guard shootings.

Of course I mashed up incidents and people’s characteristics. And I dramatized and expanded incidents and personalities.

But what’s true is that, besides me – a Jew from Elgin, Illinois, on the entertainment committee for the graduation luncheon for the wives of the AOB officers were a Southern Baptist, a black, and two Puerto Ricans, one of whom didn’t speak English. Needless to say, we all had to do some adjusting to each other.

And while Sharon Gold is the closest character to me, I was not an anti-war protester. I had my head stuck very far in the sand in order to ignore the nightly news of fighting in Vietnam because my husband had said on our third date: “I’m going to Vietnam.”

In fact, my husband served two years on active duty, although he had signed up for a third year under a voluntary indefinite program. Then the military decided to reduce the number of ROTC officers on active duty.

Coverage of Iraq War/Fictional Depiction of Combat

One of the differences between the media’s coverage of Vietnam and today of the Iraq War and the fighting in Afghanistan, I believe, is that there was a draft during the Vietnam War. This meant that many more people were affected by what was happening half-way around the world. Today, with an all-volunteer army, the war isn’t as much of a major topic, so I think the media tend to give less coverage to war news.

And as to whether any book or movie can ever completely represent what it is like in combat, I don’t think so. But sometimes there are telling moments in a fictional story that are very compelling.

There’s a moment in the movie THE DEER HUNTER before two of the protagonists escape their captors that has forever stayed with me: An unknown American soldier stands waist-high in water in a wire cage with blood dripping down his face. He’s alive, but he’s not there; he’s retreated from the reality of his surroundings. To me the hopelessness on his face feels completely real.

Various Questions Answered

What I think is most applicable from those days to these days is that it is important to show support for the troops. While showing appreciation doesn’t promise to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder, it must be helpful to have a supportive public rather than a hostile public.

Best perk of being an army wife was when we lived in Munich we could travel all over Europe (on a very limited budget). And traveling around Europe is the one thing I do miss from my army days.

Hardest thing was worrying about my husband being sent to Vietnam.

For people who have no idea what the military is like, I think the most important thing to understand is that it is a very large extended family. And soldiers have to trust their comrades to have their backs. Thus military spouses must accept this reality and be willing to play their part as to what is expected of them.

I frequently blog about Lifetime’s ARMY WIVES at mrslieutenant.blogspot.com. I’ve read the non-fiction book by Tanya Biank on which the series is based, so I know how the stories have been changed from the book. And because it has been 36 years since I was a Mrs. Lieutenant, I can’t vouch for how accurate the series is.

I also can’t say how things have changed for junior officers’ wives since that time. But I’m pretty sure the wife of a low-ranking enlisted man still can’t be good friends with the wife of a post’s commanding general as in ARMY WIVES. [Technically, spouses of service members of any rank can be friends. Fraternization rules apply only to the service member. However, the restriction on fraternization for the service member can make such spouse friendships difficult. –Ed.]

The biggest challenge in writing this novel was giving up being a journalist (I have a B.A. in Journalism from Michigan State University) and learning how to write as a novelist.

While I can’t speak personally about how to stay connected as I wasn’t separated from my husband, I can say what I think is the hardest part of being a military wife: Not having control over your own destiny. Some bureaucrat somewhere can change your life forever. (In my case an army clerk in St. Louis probably saved my husband’s life when she postponed his active duty date until he got a response on his request for a branch transfer from infantry to military intelligence.)

Helping Our Troops

Right now Operation Soldier Care is a collaborative summer project between eMail Our Military and Mary Kay sales director Nancy Sutherland to get sun care and skin care packages to the troops dealing with the desert heat in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Go to http://emailourmilitary.blogspot.com to learn about the different ways you can help this project.

In addition, on my website www.mrslieutenant.com there’s a section about organizations supporting military families and personnel. One in particular – Soldiers’ Angels (www.soldiersangels.org) – is involved in sending letters and packages to deployed troops. And be sure to send your old cell phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers (www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com).

[There is also a post on An Army Wife’s Life about supporting our troops.

Thanks, everyone, for such good questions. I hope you’ll all read MRS. LIEUTENANT, and you can reach me through my website at www.mrslieutenant.com with more questions. And thanks to Candace at An Army Wife’s Life for hosting this giveaway. I really appreciate it.

Please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments section!!!

Mrs. Lieutenant Giveaway

We had a lot of fun last time with our giveaway of a signed copy of Mrs. Lieutenant, by Phyllis Zimbler Miller. Check out her guest post about an Army Wife’s First Day.

So, for the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival we’re doing it again!

Mrs. Lieutenant is a great read for anyone who enjoys Vietnam-era historical fiction, stories about the life of a military spouse, or a book that explores the relationships between a group of diverse women.

To enter to win a copy, just leave a comment here by August 1, 2008, 11:59 PM EST with a question for Phyllis Zimbler Miller.

You can visit the Mrs. Lieutenant site and/or check out her guest post from last month for ideas. You must leave A QUESTION for the author. Comments that simply say, “win” or “hello” or “nice book” will not be eligible. All readers with US, US military, and Canadian addresses are eligible.

Check back and we’ll post (and e-mail) the winner and, as a bonus, Phyllis will also answer a few select reader questions (will post on the morning of August 2). So don’t forget to bookmark An Army Wife’s Life and come back next week!

PS–A reader told me she got an error message. Not sure why Haloscan is acting up, but if you are unable to leave a comment, feel free to e-mail me your comment and your nickname and I’ll be happy to post it for you. Have fun with the contests!!!

When the Soldier’s Away, the Blogger Will Be Silent?

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For the military wife bloggers out there, or anyone whose husband is frequently gone on business trips, do you blog when the soldier is away from home? Do you feel you have enough anonymity or are you not concerned about any safety issues? Does it matter if he is away for a shorter or longer time? (I’m assuming male spouses don’t worry about this…but maybe I’m wrong.)

When DH was active duty, I always felt uncomfortable blogging about his absence while he was on field exercises…yet, I blogged about his deployment while he was gone.

It does not make a ton of sense, but I think part of it was the fact that there was no way to avoid the issue of his deployment on a Military Spouse blog and another part was, living in Killeen, it wouldn’t be that hard for someone to figure out whose spouse was gone anyway. So, blogging about the deployment, on an anonymous blog, didn’t seem to add significantly to the safety risk.

Since then, I’ve started a number of other online projects that are connected with my real name. And people who know me in real life have discovered this blog (and that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms).

DH has left Active Duty, but is still in the National Guard.

Suddenly, when he leaves, I feel exposed.

This time, I feel comfortable blogging about his absense because I’ll have family visiting. He’s headed off to Captain’s Career Course in preparation for taking command this summer. But generally, if he will be gone overnight, I just don’t say anything.

How about you? What are your thoughts and comfort level on this topic?

Photo Credit: Shush

http://www.flickr.com/photos/moonsoleil/2522976634/

An Army Officer Wife’s First Day

Please welcome guest blogger Phyllis Zimbler Miller, author of Mrs. Lieutenant, who has a second novel, Mrs. Lieutenant in Europe, in progress.

Sharon Gold’s First Official Day as a Mrs. Lieutenant

Robert reemerges from the bedroom in his uniform, carrying his uniform hat, and stands in front of her for inspection. She wants to say “good luck.” The words stick in her throat – don’t these words imply the opposite is feared? She says: “You look terrific.”

And he does look terrific if you like men in uniforms.

He kisses her good-bye at the front door. She stands on the balcony and watches him down the stairs to the car. He waves and mouths “I love you.” Then he’s gone.

She is without wheels and all alone.

In my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL, this is the first day that Robert Gold reports for Armor Officers Basic (AOB) training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, in May of 1970. Sharon is left in a strange new place – Muldraugh, Kentucky (not even mail delivery!) – with no friends, no car and no place to go.

Does this sound familiar to many of you? And while the book is fiction, this description is how I felt when my husband of six months reported to the first day of Armor Officers Basic.

I was unprepared to be a military spouse. Of course both my father and my husband’s father had served in World War II. But that war was different. There weren’t anti-war protesters chanting “Hell, no, we won’t go!” – or two years earlier “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” – on college campuses throughout the country. The first draft lottery had been only months before in December, and young men getting draft notices were fleeing to Canada.

Although my husband had told me on our third date that he was going to Vietnam, and although one of his best high school friends (who had volunteered for the army) had been killed in Vietnam, I had my head stuck in the sand like an ostrich. I neither watched the Vietnam casualty reports on the nightly news nor read the newspaper accounts of the combat actions.

And what’s more, here at Ft. Knox I was totally alone because the army hadn’t said whether ROTC second lieutenants reporting for AOB could bring their wives. I refused to stay home, and with great difficulty we had found decent off-base housing. Now nine weeks of isolation stretched before me.

Then my husband came home with an invitation for a function for the wives of his AOB class (see this invite at www.mrslieutenant.com in the section of original army documents). I attended the first function, where I learned that the army had a training program for AOB wives complete with a graduation luncheon. And that I needed to buy the $1 book “Mrs. Lieutenant” by Mary Preston Gross to learn how to be a proper officer’s wife.

Thus began my initiation into being a military spouse. And the plus side was that I started making friends, shared a car with another AOB wife, and had places to go – even if only (after Memorial Day) to the officers country club to work on my tan at the swimming pool!


Visit www.mrslieutenant.com to find out more about Sharon Gold’s fictional adventures as Mrs. Lieutenant.

WIN IT: Phyllis Zimbler Miller is offering a signed copy of her novel, Mrs. Lieutenant, to one reader. All readers with US, US military, and Canadian addresses are eligible.

  1. To enter, just leave a comment here by 9pm EST June 30, either about this post (for example, tell us about your own “first day” as a spouse or soldier) or about something you saw on www.mrslieutenant.com. Comments that simply say, “win” or “hello” will not be eligible.
  2. Click HERE to find out about another way to win from YourMilitary.com.

Does Love Mean Never Having to Say Goodbye? (Ask Molly)

Dear Molly,

I’m 17 years old about to graduate. My boyfriend is also about to graduate and seriously thinking about the military.

I don’t really approve of it. I think that if he loves me he should want to see me and be around me more than anything. He would sacrifice everything for me. Am I right? I know he wants to do this but he says I’m the most important thing. If that’s so why would he want to go?

For the last two years, we see each other on weekends and that’s it. And that’s hard enough. I just want to be able to see him more. And I’m working on getting my hairstylist license. And we have talked about marriage also. He said I could go with him when he went. Is that possible? When would I get to see him?

Dear Reader,

You and your boyfriend still have a lot of life ahead of you. I’m going to tell you what I tell every young person in love who is contemplating major life changes or is uncertain about decisions: find your own fulfillment and do not rush into anything. If you are truly meant to be together, you will still want to get married in a year or two.

I do not agree that loving someone means giving up everything that is important to you. And it is certainly not forcing a person you love to make that sort of decision.

You don’t say a lot about your relationship, but if you have a very solid relationship and believe you can handle the military lifestyle, it is worth it. If your relationship is not solid, then the military lifestyle may make those problems worse. I think you need some time–to find out who you are, to decide if this relationship is really right for you, and to consider the military lifestyle.

What about the military worries you? Take the time together to learn about this option he is considering and then think about whether or not this is a lifestyle you want to lead. Be honest with him, but no ultimatums or drama. Just tell him that you aren’t sure you want to be a military wife.

And he needs to take time, without pressure, and make up his mind. Maybe he only wants to do it for a couple of years, or maybe he wants it to be a career, or maybe he just hasn’t really thought it through, yet.

Assuming he enlists, while he is completing his basic and advanced training, continue to think about what is the right decision for you.

There are several different types of duties. First, he will train for a few months and you will not be able to see him during this initial training. Then, he will be assigned to a duty station. Most duty stations are in the United States or Europe, and you would be able to join him there. If you get married, you will be placed on his orders and you will be able to get on post housing or qualify for certain allowances, based on his pay grade. There are certain “unaccompanied” tours of duty, such as a one-year tour in Korea, but most stations will allow him to bring his spouse.

Times when you will not be able to see him: deployment (at this point in the Army, this is usually 12-15 months every couple of years, but this varies), field training (depends on the mission, but is usually a week or two every few months), some temporary assignments (such as for additional training).

Everyone’s experience varies, depending on the individual MOS (job in the Army) and career path.

If you decide you want to be with him, even if he is a career soldier, then you will be able to change your certification as you move from state to state.

The truth is, life is unpredictable, even if you are not in the military. If you are compatible in your love and your values, then don’t let this break you up.

Hope this helps–you may also want to read advice from me and my readers for a woman who also was not sure if she wanted to be a military spouse: Should I marry a soldier?

Military Divorce (Ask Molly)

A reader writes (details deleted to protect identities):

Dear Molly,

My husband is deployed and due to his infidelity, we are divorcing. I cannot save or keep up bills right now. He is helping with rent but not much beyond that.

I have severe medical problems that cause anxiety and panic attacks.

Is there anything I can do to have the Army help get me back home? I plan to meet with the commander.

Dear Fellow MilSpouse

First, as a fellow wife, woman, and person, I am sorry to hear about your troubles.

As a lawyer’s wife, I must preface all of this with the statement that this does not constitute actionable legal advice and that your best bet is to seek out a family law practitioner in your state who is familiar with military divorce. Laws vary from state to state and the military adds another layer of complexity.

As a former FRG leader, though, there is some information I can pass along that may prove helpful.

  • You do not mention whether or not he has agreed to the divorce. As you are probably aware, he can legally delay divorce proceedings while he is deployed. Even if he is willing to proceed and you agree on everything, his deployment will most likely slow things down quite a bit. Once you have a divorce, any court orders (such as alimony or any benefits to which you are entitled) can be enforced by the military. Here is some information about those benefits for divorced military spouses. As you can see, there are various factors such as the length of his service and of your marriage.
  • The short answer to your question about the military paying for your move is no. However, indirectly, there may be a solution to your financial problems.
  • Before meeting with the commander, you may want to talk to your FRG leader if you have a competent one. The FRG leader may be able to advocate for you in the most appropriate way, especially if she is the commander’s wife.
  • If you do meet with the commander I would recommend NOT approaching the commander to tell him there is a divorce in progress and you want money for moving home. Instead, I would recommend saying that despite the problems you are currently experiencing, you are still at this time his wife and you are still maintaining his household. He is receiving allowances specifically alloted for his household expenses, including BAH (which is higher because he has dependents) and a Family Separation Allowance (which he would not receive if he did not have dependents). You mention he is helping with the rent–I don’t know how your rent compares to BAH, but since you are maintaining his household while he is gone, you should be getting the full BAH and the Family Separation Allowance. Ask to have these moneys directly deposited into an account in your name.

Servicemembers are expected to provide for their families while deployed. However, there is a good bit of latitude given the individual command as to how this is accomplished. So, be sure to approach the command calmly and logically–and hopefully they will make this step easier for you.

Another avenue that may be worth researching is the Exceptional Family Members Program (EFMP) on your post. I do not know if your medical conditions qualify and if they can provide any assistance, but perhaps they can help in some way. Your FRG leader or Chaplain may also be aware of other post or local programs that may able to to help you out.

Hope this information is helpful to you!

A Crossroads…

What should I do with this blog?

Whether you are a regular reader who still stops back now and again and/or has me on a feed reader or you found me through a google search, I’d like your input, please!

This is the situation: DH has left the active duty Army, and I’ve been blogging away elsewhere about my life as a mother and products for the family.

We’ve been house hunting, which, even in this soft market, is incredibly difficult in New York on a civil servant’s salary.

I’ve been trying to raise awareness about congenital heart defects and hopefully also some money…donate now for a chance to win cool prizes!

At any rate, it is becoming more and more difficult to blog from the military spouse standpoint.

So, I have a few options:

1. Delete the blog. I don’t like this one because there are some posts up here that are still useful to people and I don’t want the address taken over by spammers. It has a high Page Rank and could be a likely target.

2. Give the address to another military spouse and back-up the posts to another address for posterity (but this would make it more difficult for people to find).

3. Have guest blog posts, a military spouse (or just military) round-up, a carnival, “Ask Molly” and maybe some other random fun once a week.

I’m leaning towards #3 because the blog would still have its archives, would still be useful to the community, and would give new military bloggers a chance to grab a high value link and maybe some more of an audience.

PLEASE give me your thoughts!

I already get tons of questions that I just answer via e-mail, so that part would be easy. Would you be interested in guest blogging? Would you enjoy a carnival? A link round-up?

Let me know!!!