Memorial Day: An Army Mom’s Reflection

Army Mom Tracie Ciambotti and her son, Josh.

I awoke this morning thinking about how different this Memorial Day is from 2011’s.  I recall—all too well—the dread that plagued me this holiday weekend last year as my son was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in early June.  Those last couple weeks prior to his departures are always difficult with the constant anticipation of having to say good-bye looming.

This year I am so thankful to have him home on American soil and relieved that my daily battle with the worry and fear that accompany his deployments has ended too.

Many of our nation’s sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers have come home from war over the past year.  Sadly, some will forever be remembered as fallen heroes; others are now wounded warriors fighting to recover from severe injuries or missing limbs; many are struggling silently to reintegrate into non-war life and regain some sense of normalcy—if there is such a thing.

Thousands of service members are currently deployed in war zones; others have just begun their tours of duty; some are now preparing for an upcoming deployment.

I doubt we will we ever know the full impact of war on our military families. Continue reading

Military Offered Free Admission to NYC Motorcycle Show

Photo courtesy of the Progressive Internationl Motorcycle Show in NYC.

BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Husqvarna, Triumph, Victory, Yamaha, Zero Motorcycles are unveiling new bikes at this weekend’s Progressive International Motorcycle Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Organizers contacted Off the Base to let active-duty military know they will be admitted free if they show a military ID.

The three days – Friday through Sunday – are packed with North American debuts, one-of-a-kind custom bikes, celebrity appearances such as the World’s Fastest Woman on a Motorcycle, Leslie Porterfield.

If you’re not near New York City this weekend, you can also checkout the upcoming shows at other venues HERE including one planned at Daytona Beach March 14-17, 2012.

101 Ways to Thank a Veteran and More

A WWII African American soldier. Photo Courtesy of Still Picture Branch (NNSP) of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Put a Veteran in the Library of Congress

Number one on my list: the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.  The Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center hopes you’ll mark Veterans Day by taking time to talk to a Veteran, video tape or audio record the conversation (it must be 30 minutes or longer), and submit it for inclusion into the Library of Congress records.

There are specific guidelines and forms, but the Library of Congress has a user friendly website and a downloadable “field kit.” What a better way to pay tribute to the veterans in your family than to ensure their voices will be part of the national archives for generations to come.

WWII Army Air Corps letters home. Courtesy of the James K. Martin Family on Flickr.

Write a Letter to a Veteran:

Operation Gratitude suggests you write a letter to a Veteran. Its Letters to Heroes project gives you a few simple instructions and an address to send your Letters to Veterans of Previous Conflicts. You can also write a letter to wounded warriors and currently deployed service members.

And it’s a two-way project. You also can send in the name of a Veteran who would like to receive a gratitude letter.

Other Ways to Thank a Veteran

How do you plan to mark Veterans Day? The website has a list of 101 Ways to Thank a Veteran.

1. Take a Veteran out to eat; whether it is a fast-food chain or a fine-dining establishment.

2. Are you a knitter or crocheter? Make a scarf for the cold-winters ahead. Donate them at a local-VFW for a veteran in need or contact Operation Gratitude to see how to donate.

3. Listen to their stories with interest. If they are a war-veteran they have seen things you will never see. Listen and Learn.

4. Call and Visit a local nursing home or VA Hospital. Find out what you can do to help. If you quilt make a blanket for a needy veteran. If you bake call and find out if you can bring in something special. Bring a book to read to a veteran “ready and willing” to listen. We all have talents that can be used.

5. Send an ‘E-Card‘ through the American Legion to the Veterans in your life that use email.

You can find all 101 suggestions HERE, but don’t be limited to this list – create your own special thank you. A Veteran will appreciate any effort.

Women Veterans Get Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Barbara Marshall and her family caught a glimpse of their new, 5,000-square-foot home July 21, 2011, courtesy of the ABC reality show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The house will enable Marshall to continue her mission of housing and supporting homeless female veterans. DOD photo by Elaine Sanchez

ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has truly joined forces to support an amazing military family. Tune in for the season premiere this Sunday, September 25, which features the heart-warming story of a Navy veteran who has made it her life’s passion to support female veterans.

Barbara Marshall created the Steps and Stages program at the Jubilee House, in Fayetteville, North Carolina to assist homeless female veterans with their transition back into civilian life.  The program provides a place to live, teaches life skills, aids in job searches for these women who have faithfully served our country.

Barbara served in the Navy for 15 years and currently has a daughter serving active duty.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched the Joining Forces initiative earlier this year and asked every citizen to get involved in supporting the military families in their community.  This show demonstrates how people working together can make a difference in the lives of our military families.

Tracie Ciambotti is co-founder of the Military Families Ministry.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition brings together volunteers from all branches of the Armed Forces, a local builder, businesses, retail stores, and many citizens from the local community to build a new 5000 square foot home for Barbara and The Jubilee House.  Michele Obama joins the team on this incredible project which enables Barbara to expand her life’s work and help more female veterans.  You won’t want to miss this amazing show.

Military Families Ministry is registered with the Joining Forces campaign.  If you are interested in supporting the military families in your community, visit our website to learn about ways to get involved.

EDITORS NOTE: Tracie Ciambotti was contacted by a representative from ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition show and asked to preview their season premiere and then write a post about it to spread awareness and get more people watching. 

Show producers also asked Elaine Sanchez, contributor to the Dept. of Defense Family Matters Blog, to write about the TV show:

Additionally, the show’s producers are seeking families whose houses need major alterations or repair – “homes that present serious problems for the family and affect the family’s quality of life.”

To be eligible, families must own their single-family home and be able to demonstrate how a makeover will make a difference in their lives.

Rather than apply through the normal channels, interested military families or people who wish to nominate a military family can email a short description of the family’s story directly to Jackie Topacio, casting producer, at Jackie told me she wants to make sure she personally reads every story submitted.

Please don’t wait to apply; the deadline for nominations is Sept. 29.

The email should include the names and ages of household members, a description of the family’s challenges, an explanation of why the family is deserving of a makeover or is a positive role model in the community, photos of the family and their home, and contact numbers.

For more information on the application process, visit  the “Extreme Makeover” website.

A Mom, 4 Kids, 4 Services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines

Off the Base has a new contributor. She goes by the nom de plume of Momma B on her blog: 4starmilitarymom. She’s mother to four children – all are in the military – one in each branch Navy, Army, Marines and Air Force. So far, as a mother she’s gone through four deployments in the last two years with her children. The youngest is still in ROTC in college. She is an “Army brat” growing up and currently is based in Bangladesh. Here’s her first contribution. It’s important to note three of  her children are pilots.

Momma B in a flight simulator.

September 7, 2011


“Mom, I was surprised you didn’t call me about the crash? ” CRASH?! I had heard about a possible F/18 crash but I had been very busy that week. When I Googled, I could find no mention of it. Besides my Marine was sick in Florida not in California….My mom radar was definitely on the blink. As an aviator’s mom (make that triple aviator’s mom ) I scan the news daily for any mention of a mishap that might remotely involve my boys or any of their compadres. And when a news crawl or Google alert pops up I am on the phone, if possible, checking  to make sure my kid is safely on the ground.

Such is the life of a military pilot’s mom. It doesn’t matter if they are deployed or not. Every day, they do battle with physics. My Marine in his F/18 defies gravity and the speed of sound, flying way too close to another airplane to make a mom comfortable. My P/3 NFO is up for hours in OLD airplanes-thankfully soon to be replaced. And my Army ROTC cadet in helicopters-those things fly way too close to the ground, don’t you think?

Momma B in a Bangladesh market talking to her sister in New York.

But this accident sneaked right past me. Thankfully the pilot – a buddy from flight school – and the “Whizzo” escaped to tell the tale, despite sustaining serious injuries.

I should mention I am also the wife of an aviator who has flown for 40 years in and out of the military. I have seen the black smoke of an accident more than once. But when it is your kid at the stick, it brings the word worry to a whole new level.

When two of them deployed last year to the far east, people would ask me if I was relieved they weren’t in Afghanistan. Not really – the skies they flew near were not necessarily friendly. But that is what they do – and they are proud of it. So I pray, and scan the news, and pray some more. The Navy Hymn has a verse for aviators ” Lord guard and guide the men who fly…” yes please do.

The National Guard Looking for 1 Million Facebook Fans

National Guard Photo: MG Maria Britt, commanding general, Georgia National Guard, looks through the sights of an M119A2 howitzer during a visit to the 1-118th Field Artillery Annual Training.

A nod to for passing the word along. The National Guard is closing in on 1 million fans on its Facebook Page.

When the Marines were nearing 1 million, I posted it on this blog to encourage those so inclined to sign on and hit the Like button.

Now, here’s an opportunity to help the National Guard hit that magic mark. As of Sunday evening, the Guard’s Facebook page had more than 956,000 fans. estimated it would take until September to hit 1 million. Obviously that will come sooner if you respond and get your friends, family, work colleagues and others to do the same.

“Always ready, always there” is the mission of this nation’s oldest military branch that serves states and the federal government. The Guard has played a key role in both Afghanistan and Iraq and suffered losses. Becoming a fan on their Facebook page is one small way to acknowledge their sacrifice.

You can follow the popularity of each military branch on Facebook Pages Leaderboard.

Deployment’s Emotional Cycles: Stage 1 for an Army Wife


Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins,

Anticipation of Departure for the service member and spouse is different from what I experience as a military mom.  The first stage of the emotional cycle of deployment is a very busy time for the soldier and his or her family and brings mixed emotions.

The service member is away from home frequently due to extensive training and preparation which touts the reality of the looming separation for the whole family.  The bond between unit members grows immensely as they are completely focused on the impending mission.  In addition to preparing for the work side of deployments, there are many personal items that need tended to: wills and power of attorneys, house and auto repairs, decisions and arrangements about where spouse will spend the deployment, final visits with family, medical and dental visits–these are just a few.  This stage can be stressful for the soldier as he juggles the final preparations for work and home while trying to spend quality time with family.

My daughter-in-law, Alison, shared her thoughts and experiences with this stage:

Josh and Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins,

“The anxiety prior to deployment is overwhelming because I feel such pressure to make the most of every moment I have left with Josh while I’m constantly fighting emotions for the loss I am about to experience when I have to say good-bye.  Josh and I created a wish list (similar to a bucket list) of things to do before he deployed and we accomplished everything.  We truly lived like we were dying and savored every outing and relaxing moment together.  I treasure the dinners, movies, walks, fishing trips, hugs, and we had intimate conversations that we struggle with during deployments.  We learned a lot about each other and our relationship as husband and wife during the month prior to his leaving.   

Our fun trip prior to deployment was a hog hunting excursion in Oklahoma which Josh picked.  It was both satisfying and sad; I know how much he enjoyed it, but the reality is he wanted the experience in case he doesn’t get another chance.  

We have professional photos done prior to every deployment; it is very important to me to have fresh photos to treasure if they are the last ones of us together.  This may sound morbid but I never know when such opportunities are the last.”

I commend Alison for her strength and willingness to share her innermost feelings.  She is a loving and supportive wife to my son and an amazing example and mentor to other Army wives.

Josh and Alison on their hog-hunting trip prior to his third deployment.


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