Military Spouses on 35 Things Civilians Should Know

Photo credit: Military

Photo credit: Military

The staff at Military Spouse Magazine compiled a list things to know for people who don’t have a family member in the military.

Here are the top seven from that list:

1) We appreciate you too.  You have offered support, thanks and encouragement… and for that we truly are grateful.

2) When our service member separates from the military or retires… we can sometimes feel completely lost.

3) Speaking of homecoming… if a family is having a hard time adjusting after a service member returns, it does not automatically mean he/she returned with PTSD.

4) Sometimes the period after the return HOME can be the hardest part of a deployment. Love us and support us when they are gone, support us when they return too!

5) Even though it can sometimes feel like it, we know that our lives are not that far removed from yours.  In many ways we are exactly alike.  We don’t want our differences to define us.

6) Many of us are fiercely patriotic.  It does not mean that we think you are any less patriotic than we are.

7) Most military spouses want to work! Just like our children, we have to start over in our career every few years.  According to a Department of Defense report, the military spouse is paid on average $3 per hour less than her/his civilian counterpart. Spouses also tend to be under employed, which means they agree to be hired into a position for which they are over qualified. Military spouses usually have a vast amount of experience they bring with them. Even if it’s only for a few years, employing a military spouse can bring experience that you can’t find anywhere else. Take a chance and hire a military spouse! Chances are you won’t regret it.

Why not read the full list at and then do something special for a military spouse.


Help Celebrate 250,000 Visitors Reading Your Stories

Off the Base creator, Bobbie O’Brien, at the controls of a C-17 Globemaster III, thanks to the generosity of the pilot, Maj. Gaulin, and the 621st Contingency Response Wing, based at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

On a Saturday afternoon in October 2010 – this blog was created as part of my Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism 2010-2011.

My deepest thank you to Mrs. Carter and to my many contributors and readers.

Off the Base has thrived and surpassed the milestone of 250,000 views – in just over two years.

Giving Thanks

The success is due to writing and photos from contributors such as Army spouse Jackie Dorr. Her first blog post: Five Years, Two Kids and Four Deployments Later.

Thanks to Dorie Griggs‘ insight and research – a lot more parents understand what their son is experiencing at the Citadel. One of Dorie’s biggest challenges now: A Citadel Mom Marks Her Son’s Transition to Army. Her son deploys soon.

Tracie Ciambotti shared so much of her heart as her son served multiple tours in Afghanistan and she got her daughter-in-law to contribute. Tracie wrote several entries and penned a book about her journey: Battles of the Heart: Boot Camp for Military Moms.

There are many more contributors including some I’ve yet to meet. But, a thanks is also due to Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Rex Temple – for our joint radio series My Last Tour (the inspiration for this project) – and to his wife Liisa who helped me establish the blog and contributed: What I Wish I Had Known About Military Retirement.

What You Can Do

The mission was and continues – to give voice to veterans, active duty military and their families  and help civilians better understand military life and tradition.

Help celebrate your veterans and military – share your story with Off the Base. How do you recognize Veterans Day – will you:

  • visit a VA Hospital
  • stop by a military cemetery
  • send a thank you note to a veteran you know

Veterans what is the most memorable thing a civilian did to acknowledge you and your service? Send me your suggestions and stories at or write them in the comments section.

Thank you — your stories are being read and shared!

Military Spouse Learns of Husband’s Death on Facebook

Ariell Taylor-Brown (Photo courtesy

It’s happening more often with the growth of social media – a military family learns of the death of a loved one before official notice.

This time it was Ariell Taylor-Brown who learned of the death of her husband, Staff Sgt. Christopher Brown, two hours before Army soldiers arrived at her home with the official notice according to Columbus, Ohio station NBC4:

“I was told via Facebook,” said Taylor-Brown. “It was a girl in his platoon. She wrote to me and told me to call her immediately,” Taylor-Brown said.

Taylor-Brown called her, and the soldier told her of the death. Taylor-Brown, who has two children and is pregnant with the couple’s third was at home alone with the kids.

She told me over the phone, right in front of my kids and I completely had a meltdown. She wasn’t supposed to but I guess she took it on her own power to do it,” she said.

Staff Sgt. Brown had been in Afghanistan just a week, starting his fourth deployment, when he  was killed. Brown, was killed April 3 in Afghanistan after he died of wounds suffered in an IED attack according to

When a Military Spouse Blogger Reaches Out

Lori Volkman's bio photo from her blog: Witty Little Secret.

Lori Volkman, who writes the military spouse blog: Witty Little Secret, wrote an open letter to Kari Bales, the spouse of the Army staff sergeant charged with killing 17 Afghan civilians.

According to, Volkman’s blog appears to have gone viral and gained her national media attention. But, maybe more important, her blog which strives to support military families, did so for Bales. The Army spouse responded to Volkman’s outreach and posted a response.

The Witty Little Secret post: “Open Letter to Kari Bales”. An excerpt:

“Dear Kari,

I can’t imagine the thud you felt in your heart and the ice that coursed in your veins when you heard a knock and saw a uniform standing at your front door. I can’t fully imagine the fear and the shock and the way that you couldn’t breathe as you thought about what this visit could possibly be about. Was probably about.

And then, the relief in your stomach that quickly turned to sickness when the shock wore off that your husband was alive, only to be told that something terrible had happened for which your husband was the primary suspect.

A portion of Kari Bales’ response posted on Witty Little Secret. An excerpt:

“When I read your letter I began shaking and crying. You had so eloquently summed up all of the questions and emotions that I had been feeling since my whole world had been turned upside down. I am not looking at the news very much these days. Instead I read your letter every night before I go to bed and let all of the supportive words and prayers sink in.

Check out Witty Little Secret for more on her journey as a military spouse, lawyer, mother and blogger who describes herself:

I cry sometimes, write sometimes, and I do a lot of stinking laundry at 10:30 pm. I’m an over-achieving sarcastic wordsmith with inappropriate thoughts and a desire to make sense of it all.

In this case, she has helped and given perspective to at least one military spouse, Kari Bales.

Military Families: In Their Words

Combat boots and a little girl's "Daddy Comes Home" shoes.

This marks the 600th entry to my blog Off the Base. The best way to note that milestone is to turn it over to some thoughts from military family members. The families – the grandparents, mothers, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, children – and veterans are the reason I created the blog. I wanted a place that gave them a voice and that could help civilians better understand the stresses and successes military families and veterans experience.

He’s My Brother – from Get Out of the Cube

“My little brother is a little less than half way through his first deployment to Afghanistan with his National Guard unit. He and I have always been really close. He’s 8 years younger than me (he’s 31), and he was always my side-kick.

“For me personally right now, I would say the strongest feelings I have are 1) constant worry, 2) frustration that I can’t do anything to protect him, and 3) guilt.

“The guilt thing is strange. It’s like I don’t want to enjoy things, since it seems so unfair and selfish for me to be relaxing or laughing it up, when at the same moment he could be fighting for his life. Being optimistic is a challenge, especially given the sentiment there from recent events combined with what my brother’s role is. It’s no walk in the park. I can’t imagine how he feels. Putting on a positive public face is a daily challenge.”

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Military Moms and Wives Share Deployment Coping Skills

Many couples schedule pre-deployment photos to preserve their memories.

Tracie Ciambotti writes eloquently about the emotional cycles for a mom when a child deploys. Her words resonated with some military moms and spouses. Their comments follow:

Lynlee Darby – The fear at times becomes almost too much

Thank you for putting into words what is on our hearts. My son Chance is going for his second deployment soon and we are at the stage 1. I want to be with him every second I can…..and he has many people he wants to spend time with. Its one of the hardest things I have ever done. I tried to make his time at home Christmas as special as possible. And to cherish each second I had with him. We have a large family and he has lots of friends. It is so hard to get everything in.

I am not sure how to describe how I feel! How do you describe so much pride and belief in your child at the same time your heart is aching knowing he will miss meals, be cold, be in danger, not sleep in comfort and be away from everyone he loves. And the fear at times becomes almost too much. I try really hard to keep in the front of my heart and mind that God has a plan for him. And He can keep him better than I can (which is hard to admit since he’s my baby!)

I know a lot of parents are facing deployment of a child right now and I hurt for them also. Just like I hurt for the girlfriends and wives and children of those who are deployed. I wish there was some way to ease the pain and fear, just one day at a time and a constant reminder that God is ever-present.

Tracie with her son Josh prior to his deployment.

Gerry Overbo – I am trying to be very strong

Thank you so much, my son deploys out at the end of this month. His first and as a mother this is very emotional, as I sit here reading tears are streaming down.

I am trying to be very strong because I don’t want him to worry about the home-front. As a single parent, he always was my rock … what I need to do as a military mom is make this as easy on my solder as possible.

Deployment day at Fort Carson.

Laurie Hammerschmidt – We are so much stronger today

This is my husband second deployment. I believe that these stages of deployment are different for Moms vs. Spouses, New Spouses vs. Seasoned Spouses, and then there are spouses with children, young and old. Deployment affects many in many different ways. My husband and I believe that these deployments will either make or break your marriage. We have been fortunate as we feel we are sooo much stronger today, together than we were at the beginning of the first one.

I give you credit for trying to put into words what its like., but really there is no describing the absence of your spouse in your life for a year out of a time, not having your dad there for all the special things in your life. I have dealt with natural disasters alone, college life and expenses alone, broken down cars, sickly, near death family members, illnesses, broken bones in our children, car accidents, broken down appliances, boy friend issues, holidays, some deaths, snow removal….and many other things to numerous to mention….

But my husband is a proud soldier, a good soldier, a good husband and father. He loves his country and what he does. He is respected by his superiors as well as his charges. No matter how hard it has been for me, I will always be here for him and support him, because I know this is just as hard, if not harder, on him.

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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