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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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

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

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Off the Base is proud to  welcome another contributor, Michelle VanHuss, also a member of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club.

Michelle with her mother, Grace O'Donnell.

By Michelle VanHuss 

All four of my parents (my parents divorced and each remarried) were police officers. So when I was old enough to start thinking about the kind of guy I wanted to marry, I decided that I did not want anyone that was a police officer, firefighter, or in any branch of the military. 

I never really thought about it as a child, but as an adult, especially after 9/11, I didn’t want to wonder if my future husband would be coming home. A nice, clean-cut businessman would do. So when I met a cute guy through a friend in June of 2004 that worked in “computers,” I was thrilled.

One problem; he left out the rest of the sentence. Yes, he worked on a computer but it was as part of his job as in the U.S. Air Force. Thankfully, it was a few dates in and I kind of liked the guy.

Michelle and her husband on a day trip to the Taj Mahal.

Our relationship was quickly put to the test. When we met, he was already set to take a position overseas. Our “dates” were saying good morning and good night over webcam and instant messenger and over the phone, spending a small fortune in phone cards. Six months after we met, I was able to fly out to visit him and returned home with an engagement ring.

A few months later, I was able to stay with him for two months. Our relationship grew over trips to wonders of the world, exotic foods, and learning about a culture halfway around the world. But unfortunately, it meant that my family didn’t meet my fiancé for the first time until long after we were engaged.

Michelle with husband, TSgt William VanHuss, and daughter Kelsey.

We married in April 2006 and didn’t move in together until I finally moved from Florida to Ohio to join him in June. No sooner had I put some clothes away in the closet, he was leaving for three weeks to Korea. The following spring he deployed for the first time. It wasn’t until the fall of 2008, for the first time in four years, we actually had spent a year living together or even in the same country. Thankfully, our time apart has been limited for the past few years.

It sounds backwards, but somehow, because of the distance between us, we had to really want this relationship and had to work hard at getting to know each other. But, we never had to work on staying in love. April 2011 will be our five year anniversary and the first anniversary since our daughter was born this January. Yet, we won’t be together. He’s away training right now.

He will deploy sometime next year. This time we’ll have lived through it before, we already have Skype set up and ready to go, and I’ll have a little girl to keep me company. This time he’ll have two girls to love from a distance and two girls waiting for him at the airport when he gets home.

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