Tagged: military spouses

In Preparation for Valentine’s Day: A Cautionary Tale

Posted by Kelli McKinney

military cupidsWhether you are firmly lodged in Camp Romance or you think Valentine’s Day is a trumped-up excuse to sell greeting cards, there’s no getting around that date on the calendar. Like it or not, Valentine’s Day is big business for a lot of people and has been since the first cards were mass produced in the 1840s. Not 1940s, friends, 1840s.*

I still don’t know what I’m getting my love to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. Playing the numbers, the odds are that I’ll possibly buy candy (58 million pounds of chocolate are sold in the week leading up to Feb 14) or indulge in a little sparkling wine (174,000 gallons of the stuff are sold during the week of Valentine’s Day).* But I’ve done that before, and it didn’t end well.

There’s a little story I’d like to share with you a story of a Valentine’s Day gone horribly wrong. Once upon a time, there was a young woman who was smitten by a young man. We’ll call him Carl (not his real name). Carl asked her to have dinner with him on Valentine’s Day. She was very excited, as she had recently experienced a bitter breakup of a previous relationship and was ready to move on. Plus, she had developed a substantial crush on Carl after they became study buddies in their Introduction to Introductions class in college (not the real class).

Well, this young woman spent an entire part-time bookstore clerk’s paycheck on chocolate, a tasteful plush bear, and an even more tasteful bottle of wine for said Carl, in hopes of wooing him to return her affection. Carl was very smart, and very handsome, and also had a part-time job.

But Carl did not have any common sense. Because Carl showed up at her doorstep bearing a dead fish in a bag. A whole, dead, fish. As a gift. On Valentine’s Day. Oh yes, he did.

When she looked at him quizzically, taking the stinky bag from his proudly extended arms, he smiled and said “As in, there are others in the sea.” Oh, Carl. You really shouldn’t have. It went downhill from there. You probably already know that that was their first and last date.

In the end, it all worked out fine, because only a year or two later the young lady met her best friend, and fell in love, and he proposed and it has been an adventure ever since. But I digress.

So if you’re ready to aim and fire a love bazooka at your servicemember or military spouse like our pair of cupids up there, I’d like to suggest, right underneath “Dead Fish in a Brown Paper Bag,” a few other gift ideas that you should NEVER give your valentine. I’m just looking out for you.

For example:

A gym membership:

gym membership 

Nothing says “we need to talk” quite like a gym membership. Except maybe this next gift idea…

 

A gift card for Dental Whitening

dental whitening 

But honey, I thought you loved my smile?

 

Really, personal hygiene products of any kind are not big libido boosters. So avoid gift wrapping these:

nose clippers

 

And unless your valentine specifically asks for one, do not get him or her any gift that requires feeding, grooming, walking or litter box training.

dog in box

I’m as much of a sucker for a furry face as anybody, but pets are big time responsibilities, not last-minute gifts.

If you know your love at all, you know what gifts would be off limits and what would be welcome, and odds are good that if you’re not sure, you can ask for ideas. That’s a sign of concern, not of weakness, my friends. Hey, maybe this is the year you can invest in yourself and take a class or two?

However you celebrate – or don’t – here’s wishing you all the happiness your hearts can hold on Valentine’s Day. And unless you’re actually going fishing (which would also be awesome), or you are a cat (which would be weird) I hope no one brings you a dead trout.

 

*sources: history.com, US Census Bureau

Lesbian ‘Spouse of the Year’ Wins PR Battle Against Bragg Officers Spouses Association

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Ashley BroadwayWhen the Association of Bragg Officers Spouses at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, turned down Ashley Broadway for membership because her wife, LTC Heather Mack of the 1st Theatre Sustainment Command, was also a woman, they probably didn’t expect this: Readers of Military Spouse magazine chose Broadway for the Fort Bragg Military Spouse of the Year.

She will now go on to compete for the Army-wide spouse of the year title.

Broadway has been with her wife for over 15 years. They are raising a son together and have another child on the way. Broadway now serves as a board member and the Director of Family Affairs for the American Military Partner Association, an organization that works to support and connect spouses and partners of gay and lesbian service members.

First Lady Michelle Obama gave the organization a boost last year by receiving them at a Mothers’ Day Tea.

Broadway received a number of nominations from readers of Military Spouse, who cited a number of contributions she made to the community even prior to the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which forced same-sex partners and spouses of military members into the shadows, since getting outed usually meant the end of the servicemembers’ career.

Some highlights from her nominations:

Ashley has worked with many of these gay and lesbian military families to show them how they can utilize the Army’s Family Care Plan to list the same-sex spouse as a care giver, thereby giving them access to the base and enabling them to give better care to their family. She has a heart for all military families, especially those with children, and is constantly working to help them. Not only does she personally give up her time and energy to help them, she is always working to help their stories and the unique struggles they face be told in the media.

She has given money out of her own pocket to help lower ranking families with moving costs. (Not covered by the military for same sex families.)

Ms. Broadway is a veteran of over 15 years as a military spouse, including two deployments for her spouse, and seven PCS moves.

Broadway perhaps got a boost at a critical juncture – when she was rejected for membership by the Fort Bragg Spouse’s Association, her story circulated widely in social media circles in the military spouse community. She was also profiled on Time magazine’s prominent Battleland blog. And finally, the AMPA mobilized its members to vote for her via their Facebook page, which had 7,853 followers.

In December, Broadway applied to join the Association of Bragg Officers Spouses. They turned her down, however, simply stating that she “did not qualify.” Broadway responded by going public – and asking the Association’s board of directors to reconsider, via an open letter on the Association of Military Partners of America’s website.

The Bragg Officers Spouses Association took down their Facebook page as the story began to gain traction in social media. They also took down their bylaws from the website, pending review. The Association of Military Partners, on the other hand, ramped up their social media and traditional media outreach.

In the mounting public relations battle, the battlefield calculus was rapidly moving in Broadway’s favor.

The Bragg Officers Spouses Association then offered her a “special guest” membership. Broadway told them “nuts.”

“Ashley is not a ‘guest’ military spouse. She is a military spouse, plain and simple,” Stephen Peters, of the American Military Partner Association, said in a statement to Military Times. “So the idea that the organization, in order to end the negative attention they are getting because of their outright discrimination, wants to give her a ‘guest membership’ is not only offensive, but ridiculous.”

On January 25th, the Association caved, announcing publicly that they were changing the criteria for membership to include any person with a valid marriage certificate to a Fort Bragg officer from any state. They publicly invited Broadway to apply for membership.

Brides Across America

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

military brideIt’s a common story throughout the services; a couple discovers a deployment in their near future and push their wedding date up, often times having a very small ceremony with a judge or the base chaplain. Meaningful, but not quite the romantic ideal that many couples envision. Then life generally gets in the way, especially in terms of finances, and a formal wedding is forgotten.

Brides Across America wants to help. It provides wedding dresses for military brides with a two basic considerations; deployment and time. Eligible brides must be:

  • Planning a wedding within the next 18 months or have gotten married in the past five years without a formal ceremony,

and

  • One of you was deployed to qualifying area within the next 18 months (for future weddings) or past five years (if already married).

Qualifying deployment areas are Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Japan, Korea, Qatar, Bahrain, and Libya.

Bridal gowns are new, samples, or gently used, in the most recent of styles and by well known designers. Depending on donations, veils, tiaras, jewelry, and other accessories may also be available. What is not available is alterations; brides must pay for these on their own. Each bride may choose one wedding gown.

Bridal salons across the country are hosting these shows throughout the year; however, not every state is represented (a full list of stores is located on the right side of the home page). Pre-registration is required; there are a limited number of gowns available at each show. If your salon is fully booked, you are put on a notification list for the next give away.

Bring with you your military identification or driver’s license and deployment papers that list time and location of deployment. Entrance to the show is $20 per bride, which is fully tax deductable. This fee goes toward fundraising for another military assistance group, Patriot Rovers, matching formerly abandoned dogs that are now trained for ADA assistance to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury, free of charge.

There are a few general rules of thumb when attending a bridal event, especially a non-profit bridal event.

  • Don’t bring everybody. One, possibly two people, but not the entire entourage. It’s going to be a bit crowded.
  • Get there when it first starts. It’s a first come, first serve environment. You’ll have a larger selection.
  • Wear comfortable, easy-on, easy-off clothes. Sweats are good, as are leggings.
  • Have patience. These stores are doing this for free. Granted, many hope to make side sales, but they are donating their employees, time, and square footage for a good cause. They may be a bit slower than they usually are because of the sheer number of brides.
  • If you don’t find something you like, don’t feel guilty. Walking away empty handed is better than having a dress you loathe. Another bride will love it.

Brides Across America is a 2012 Joining Forces Community Challenge Finalist, White House initiative to help support programs that support the military and their families. Financial donations to Brides Across America, as well as donations of lightly used bridal gowns and accessories, may be made here.

Military Spouses Speak Out on Infidelity – A MilSpouse Blogosphere Roundup

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military infidelityDavid Petraeus, the retired four-star general and now-former Director of Central Intelligence is not the first flag officer or former flag officer to have succumbed to Zipper Failure Syndrome. And he will not be the last. In fact, as I write this, the investigation that exposed his infidelity to his wife of 37 years now threatens to take down the current Afghanistan/Pakistan theater commander, Marine General John R. Allen.

Infidelity has been with our military since the founding of the republic. Author and military wife Siobhan Fallon explored it deeply in her recent collection of fictional short stories, entitled You Know When the Men Are Gone.

There is, in some circles, an unwritten understanding among deployed troops that “what happens on deployment stays on deployment.”

Let’s address the omerta code of silence among those who deploy, right off the bat. From an anonymous commenter posting on the blog of Wayne Perry, the husband of an Army medic stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas:

“Based on my 25 years of experience of being a military wife, it has a profound effect on everyone, including those of us who lost their long lasting marriages to adulterous men…. military or not. In my experience, the code of silence between the military personnel is outrageous as I have seen first-hand over those twenty five years… and it not only sickens me but reminds me that we are all human and if it’s not acceptable to you it shouldn’t be for anyone else either. I rarely, if ever, post on blogs… but this just has my blood boiling and thought I’d just chime in for those of us who tried so hard to keep it together only to have the code of silence be an acceptable form of just “doing your job”. Needless to say, I’m now single after all those years of sacrifice because I no longer found it acceptable for myself but for anyone else in my circle. It’s now been three years since my marriage ended due to infidelity and regardless of the situation, I don’t wish that on anyone… military or not!”

Infidelity? “I’m not here for that,” adds Jacey Eckhart, a long-time writer on military affairs and a Navy spouse herself. “I’m not here for that. Neither is he. My sailor does not have direct deposit so that I can take my boyfriends to dinner. He doesn’t spend his weekends painting our kitchen so I can entertain some other guy. He isn’t scrimping on himself to send our kids to college so that another man can have his picture with them at graduation.”

Bri Thomlin, the “Tiny Texan” and the wife of a Marine stationed in Hawaii, writes:

Yes, I do get very lonely. It sucks when he’s away. Sometimes I am strong and can make it through a week as easy as a breeze; however, some days I break down and cry, sometimes it’s when I’m not supposed to like when I’m on the phone with my husband or Skyping him when there is an ocean or entire continent between us. Though the days are long, distance is far, and the nights get very lonely, I love him. That’s the bottom line, I love my husband. Loving him means, I wait. It really is that simple.

Charlie Sherpa writes: “I’ve seen too many families ended by infidelity – and not enough careers.”

Another commenter shares her story:

“I was an active duty female officer (pregnant) when my husband cheated on me. He was also active duty and paraded his lover all over the base. Ironically, the one that lost their credibility was me, because I allowed this behavior because I am Christian and tried to work the marriage out. I was severely depressed and alone, as I had just lost both parents in the year prior to this and had no other relatives. Anyway, the military found a way to turn it around on me, the woman, and when I was heart-broken I was dubbed weak and sensitive.”

Another anonymous guest commenter from the same thread writes:

Adultery is destroying the moral fabric of the military. The younger enlisted find it so commonplace that they don’t see wrong in doing it. With so many Senior Enlisted and Officers doing it, they think “why shouldn’t we?”

Now, clearly, there is selection bias at work in these samples. These are people writing in to a community of like-minded people. Those who self-select to write military blogs are likely to take the role of a military spouse very seriously – as are their readers. Nevertheless, there was no dissent in the comment threads I found discussing infidelity in the military. It didn’t matter if it happened before the news about Petraeus’s affair broke or after. Everyone commenting in the military spouse blogosphere I found stated unequivocally that infidelity is unacceptable to them. A few stated they caught their spouse cheating and forgave them – some multiple times.

Did Petraeus know better? Absolutely. He is the guy primarily responsible for writing the current U.S. military counterinsurgency doctrine, or COIN. The governing document outlining COIN contains an entire chapter dedicated to the vital importance of personal integrity at every level to ensure the success of American arms against insurgencies.

On a more personal note…

That said, a hallmark of Petraeus’s leadership style was the forgiveness of human failures as well. “People make mistakes,” he wrote. It’s clear he made a big one.

Few go into a marriage intentionally planning to cheat. Those that do are at least borderline sociopaths. But the insidiousness is this: plenty of people fall into the trap without planning to in advance. They wouldn’t call it “temptation” if temptation were easy to resist.

Petraeus spent nearly ten years constantly away from his wife. When he finally returned to CONUS as the CENTCOM commander, his job still required a lot of traveling and relentless focus. When President Obama sacked General Stanley McChrystal, then the Afghanistan theater commander, he tapped Petraeus who promptly left his wife almost overnight to go back to war. 

Petraeus spent a longer time away from his wife than Eisenhower, Patton, or General Lee (who could sometimes make it home between battles to visit his ailing wife).

Few marriages could survive that – and our country perhaps abused that marriage. But Petraeus, at the time, was the man for the job.

Nevertheless, Petraeus could have declined the CIA Directorship and went back home to heal his marriage after nearly ten years (and more!) of his duty, honor and country coming first. He took the CIA directorship anyway – and behaved recklessly.

I cannot judge what people separated for ten years do. Every marriage has its own internal logic and set of ground rules, both spoken and unspoken, and I don’t second-guess what good people feel they need to do.

Do you have an experience with infidelity in military life? Share in the comments.