Military Spouses’ Most Memorable Blog Entries

Anastin Dorr plays with her Daddy's military boots. Photo by Jackie Dorr.

Five Year, Two Kids and Four Deployments Later” – That phrase is from Jackie Dorr’s first blog post. As an Army Wife and former president of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, she managed to capture the essence of military married life to a spouse who is deployed more often than he’s at home. Here’s a portion of that entry, but I encourage you to take a few minutes and read the entire post.

So what does being a wife to a deployed soldier mean? What is the life like?

Undoubtedly, Murphy’s Law will kick in as soon as Brian steps foot in another country.  The car will break down, the washer will stop washing, the computer network will crash etc…

When cleaning, I will always clean around the dirty pair of socks laying on his side of the bed ( he took them off the day before he left and left them there for me to wash). They remind me of him, so they will stay there until he comes home, as will the three pairs of shoes under the coffee table. When I change the sheets on our bed, his pillow will remain untouched, even if it is the wrong color, it still smells like him and makes me feel closer to him.

Christmas 2010 with Daddy who was 8 hours ahead of our time, yet he stayed awake to web cam with us. Photo by Alexandra Fuller.

Will You Ever Be a Normal Family?” – Alexandra Fuller, another member of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, shared some typical questions she’s fielded from civilians. Her blog entry is a good read because sometimes civilians can say something that may seem harmless yet ends up being hurtful because of the civilian didn’t know any better. You can read the full entry or here’s a portion of her blog entry:

While talking to a neighbor about my husband’s current deployment she asked me many of the normal questions that a civilian wants to know.  “Will he be home soon?”  “Is he in a dangerous area?”  “Do you miss him?” But, one of her questions really stood out.  “When will your husband get out of the military so you can be a normal family?”

She meant no ill will by asking this question.  To her, our life is not normal.

I have been asked many questions about our life and his career.  Yet, this particular question really made me stop and think: What is the definition of a normal family?

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MacDill Enlisted Spouses Remember a “New Angel”

The quilt stitched for MacDill ESC member Lindsey Paxton.

During my membership of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, one of our young members, Lindsey Paxton, was diagnosed with brain cancer. We all felt we needed to do something, to let her know how affected we were and just how much we cared. We all gathered together (some of us crafty and some of us not so much) and began the task of making her a quilt. We accomplished that, with the help of many (including Bobbie O’Brien) and got it shipped out to her.

Lindsey was a young military wife, newly married to her husband Chance. She had her entire life ahead of her, and was stricken with such an awful disease. You would never know it. She remained upbeat and very inspirational.

Lindsey lost her battle to cancer this past Sunday, all the members that she touched were deeply hurt. She left behind her testimony on YouTube, and with that I firmly believe her legacy.

I will always remember her smile, and how a group of women gathered together in hopes of making something that would provide comfort during a long and strenuous battle.

Off The Base: A One Year Summary of Military Families

This is a modified version of the presentation I gave for the conclusion of my yearlong Fellowship as a Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalist.

An Air Force Wife’s Thoughts on Memorial Day

Military personnel and civilians join together to line the streets at MacDill AFB for every "Fallen Hero Homecoming."

This Memorial Day I couldn’t help but reflect on some of my new experiences of the past few months. I have attended my first few Fallen Hero homecomings since moving to Tampa last summer.

Each time, the sidewalks on MacDill Air Force Base slowly fill. People mingle and talk and joke with one another. Some are in uniforms, some are in office attire. Some hold flags, some, like me, hold babies. It is always quite a cross-section regardless of where I’ve stood.

As the first police cars or motorcycles come into view, a silence takes over. Even fussy babies and rambunctious toddlers seem to know that it is time to be quiet as they watch the cars drive by. Of course, the hearse carrying the guest of honor gets my attention, but I can’t help but get choked up looking at the family members in cars behind. They clutch to their cameras. They gasp and cover their mouths. They are stoic and yet you can see that their eyes are glossy and red from tears.

Dayton National Cemetery where Michelle along with the Girl Scouts place flags on every grave annually for Memorial Day.

The families are the reason I attend these homecomings. The journey is over for the soldier but it is just beginning for the parents, spouses, and children. I will continue to take my daughter with me because I want her to respect the sacrifices of others. I know that I am fortunate that my husband does not deploy too often.

Watching a story about the American Widow Project on the Today Show this morning, I caught myself thinking “Wow, I want to do that.” I then realized, no, no I don’t want to be able to be part of that organization.  I can’t imagine going through losing my husband. Those spouses are who my heart goes out to on days like Monday.

Treats for Troops boxed up and awaiting shipping.

When my husband and I lived in Ohio, we participated in placing flags on the grounds at the Dayton National Cemetery through the Girl Scouts. I always found it interesting to listen to the children talk about what they were doing and how much pride they took in placing the flags just right. I plan to find a way to participate in something similar next year here in Tampa.

There are so many great organizations that do so much for military members and their family’s year round. There are organizations here in the Tampa area that I hope to volunteer with when I am able to. Operation Homefront Florida has a variety of events throughout the state. I recently began working on collecting items for care packages for Treats for Troops.

Memorial Day, and every day, I am thankful for all that have served to make this a great country and to those that serve today to keep it that way. Thank you to their families that support them as well.

Michelle VanHuss is an Air Force wife, Off the Base contributor and member of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club. Her other entries include:

Finding a Balance: Redefining Myself as an Air Force Wife

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Reaching Out to Children of Imprisoned Iraqi Women

(This photo is not from the women's prison.) A young Iraqi girl hugs the toys and shoes she received from the Echelon Above Division-Advise and Train team Dec. 16, 2010 at Ur Elementary School near Tallil Air Base, Iraq. Airmen assigned to the EAD-AT team handed out school supplies and toys to more than 70 children. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chastity Boykin)

Imagine what your childhood was like growing up: playing games, running free outdoors or maybe diving deep into a toy box of goodies. My favorite was a box of blocks.

Now, picture yourself growing up behind bars, no playroom, no running free.

A U.S. Air Force captain currently serving in Iraq and stationed near a women’s prison sent the following message to contacts back in the states:

The children of the prisoners stay with their mothers until they reach the age of eight. As you can imagine, the living conditions in the prison are not ideal. If you are aware of any private organization that would like to collect clothing, toys, schools supplies, baby bottles, or other children’s supplies … contact me.

The MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club is serving as the contact point for any organization interested in helping.

Utilitarian item are welcomed like baby bottles and clothing, but you’re also encouraged to send school supplies and toys. Imagine what would entertain your 6-year-old: coloring books (be careful that the images do not offend religious sensibilities), crayons, games, puzzles, bubbles .

As far as the ESC is aware, these children do not have much and are overlooked by many. So any contributions are welcomed.

The goal is to have donations collected, packed and mailed out by 1 June. The contact person for the MacDill ESC: Angie Smith, 8404 Roy Hooe Ct.
, Tampa, FL 33621. Her phone: 813-374-7157. You’ve got less than three weeks before items are shipped.

Finding a Balance: Redefining Myself as an Air Force Wife

Michelle VanHuss is an Air Force wife, Off the Base contributor and member of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club.

Michelle with husband TSgt William VanHuss receiving her Master of Public Administration.

By Michelle VanHuss

I’ve been an Air Force wife for five years but it’s only since I’ve been at MacDill AFB, since this past summer, that I actually feel like one. I think I have had to try to find a balance between the person I grew up as and the title of military spouse I married in to.

When I moved from my hometown of Miami, Florida to Dayton, Ohio, I didn’t feel that I could continue in my career path. I went back to school and got a Master’s degree. I also started to try to work in a new career field.

Unfortunately, I learned early on in our marriage that being a military spouse and getting a job did not exactly go together. During an interview they would sometimes eventually put two and two together and their body language would change and it would end up as “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Michelle with former co-workers Rebecca Fensler and Sarah Kelly and an event they hosted.

It seems while people are supportive of the military and of being married to someone in the military, they don’t necessarily want to have to replace you in a few years. As my mother-in-law, the spouse of a career Airman herself, told me that she would tell potential employers, “I can’t control what my husband’s job will ask him to do, but I do know that I will work to the best of my abilities for you for as long as I am here.” This became my motto and thankfully I was able to land a few great positions and work with some amazing people. 

I know I had preconceived notions about who a military spouse was and in my head and I didn’t fit the mold. I’m not from a military family. I was 26 when I got married. I had a degree and career before I met my husband, and I didn’t want kids for at least a few more years. I felt like I was an outsider that had somehow snuck in the back door.

Members of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club at a homecoming.

However, I’ve come to realize that there is no mold. Military spouses are photographers and tae-kwon-do instructors; professors and students; fulltime professionals and self-employed, with no kids, with 5 kids; from small towns, from large cities. 

The latest personal challenge I’m coming to terms with is: Who am I now? For so many years, I defined myself by my job and my interests and I sometimes didn’t give my families’ lifestyle enough credit.

There is a give and take. For the years of missing out on what extended family was doing due to our moving, the TDY’s (Temporary Duty) and deployments, there are rewards. While my husband’s job keeps a roof over our heads and food on the table, I’ve been able to complete an advanced degree, travel and pursue new interests. And now, I’ll be able to stay home with my baby girl for the time being.

This, along with moving to a base with a great, established support system in place like MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, has made me shift my focus. My husband still has to explain military terms to me. I still can’t tell someone’s rank from their uniform, and I’ll probably never know where most of the places are on any base we ever live at. But, hey, I’m a work in progress. While I’ve always been thankful for my husband and his career, I am now embracing it.

Michelle VanHuss’ previous blog entry:

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

MacDill Honor Escort for Army PFC Michael Mahr

Army Pfc. Michael Mahr of Homosassa was killed March 22 when his vehicle in Logar Province, Afghanistan was attacked with explosives and small arms fire. His family flew to Dover to be there for his return.

Community patriots assemble along Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard each time an Honor Escort brings a fallen warrior home.

This morning, the community will welcome home the fallen warrior. The Angel Flight bringing Mahr home is due to land at MacDill Air Force Base today at 10:45. Military personnel, staff and members of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club will line the streets on base to pay tribute to Mahr and his family.

The Honor Escort will exit the base and drive north on Bayshore Boulevard where members of the Troop Support Alliance and The Lutz Patriots will wave flags and note his return at the Colonnade Restaurant, 3401 Bayshore. The public is invited to join the groups in paying tribute to the Mahr family.

The escort will travel north on Bayshore Boulevard, east on Platt Street Bridge, north on Florida Avenue, east on Jackson, north on Jefferson, north on Cass to the northbound I-275 entrance.

So, if you work in downtown Tampa, take a moment to go outside and note the passing of the Mahr’s Honor Escort. The procession will head north on I-275 to I-75 and Purcell Funeral Home, 114 West Noble Ave., Bushnell.

Mahr was assigned to the 54th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade, Bamberg, Germany which held a separate memorial service. The 26-year-old soldier is survived by his wife, his 3-year-old son, a twin brother, Matthew, and a lot of other family.

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