Military Moms Most Memorable Moments in 2011

Chelle and Nelson in Charleston, September 2007.

A Sister, a Mom, a Family Prepares for Military Life” – Dorie Griggs.

It’s hard to believe in just over a month my oldest son will graduate from The Citadel. The time, for me at least, has flown by. Looking through photos from his college career, I’m forced to believe the time really has gone by.

Our daughter, Chelle, is the measuring stick. She was a little girl in 3rd grade when Nelson started his knob year (freshman).  She is now a young lady in 6th grade and about 12 inches taller. The photos tell the story best. During the 2007-08 school year she always brought a treasured stuffed animal on our visits to The Citadel. Now she brings a book.

Dorie Griggs knew little of military life until her son joined ROTC in high school. That’s when her education began and has not stopped since. She’s cheered him through four years and graduation at the Citadel and watched as he made his First Jump at the U.S.  Army Airborne School. Through her writing and photos by her husband Stanley Leary, Dorie has taken us along as she travels the unknown road as a military mom.

Tracie Ciambotti and her son, Joshua Nearhoof, Army Sergeant out of Fort Carson, September 2010.

An Army Mom Connects Military Families and Churches” – Tracie Ciambotti.

My son enlisted in the Army two days after graduating high school in June of 2005—five months later he was in Baghdad in the middle of a war.  He received the best training in the world for his new job as an Army infantryman; I however, did not receive any information or training for my new role as the mother of a soldier.  Families that have a loved one in the Armed Forces sacrifice and serve with their enlisted and they need support. 

I could not find one support group in the community or county where I lived in Pennsylvania at the time.  Most communities in this country have support groups for all kinds of things; alcoholism and drug addictions; cancer and many other diseases; crime victims; and many more. 

When Tracie Ciambotti couldn’t find a support group for military moms and families near her Pennsylvania home, she co-founded Military Families Ministry. She has generously contributed to Off the Base – writing about her experience as an Army Mom detailing the emotions of deployment but also the drive to provide soldiers and their families prayer and support.

Jared Agle's official US Marine Corps photo.

A Marine Mom Lets Go a Week Early” – April Agle.

… the Marines made their presence known in our lives. It became very clear that things were going to be different from now on.  Jared called me at work on Thursday, August 5th.  He had just received a call from his Marine recruiter that his departure date for boot camp had been moved up a week early to Sunday, August 9th.  Jared was asked if he could leave a week early.  As Jared said to me, “ I can’t say no mom.  I need to call him back and tell him okay”.  

I was proud of myself.  I told him to go ahead and call the Recruiter back and tell him that he would be ready to go.  I hung up with Jared. My heart was pounding so fast. I was in a panic.  My eyes teared up. I called Roger at work and told him.  I hung up with Roger and cried a bit.  I knew it was coming – I knew this day was coming.  I thought to myself, “the stupid military is already messing with my plans”. 

I thought I was ready for this and was finding that it was not true.  I knew I had to be strong.  I remember thinking that it is only boot camp, it’s not like he is going to war – At least not yet.

April Agle works in the business office at WUSF Public Broadcasting, where I work. She’s not only a colleague, she’s a friend. Her 17-year-old son, Jared, convinced her to sign the papers for the Marine Corps Delayed Enlistment Program while he was still in high school. I convinced April to write about the experience. I also had the privilege of interviewing Jared before and after boot camp in 2010. He’s now serving in Afghanistan.

Momma B tries out a flight simulator - three of her children are aviators in military service.

A Mom, 4 Kids, 4 Services: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines” – Momma B.

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?

This Off the Base contributor goes by the nom de plume of Momma B on her blog: 4starmilitarymom. She’s mother to four children – all are in the military.

Photo courtesy of Lynn Nankervis.

Seven Is Too Young to Join the Army” – Lynn Nankervis.

Today I sat in an Army recruiter’s office while a camouflage-wearing, big-muscled, tough-talking soldier insisted my 7-year-old son was ready to serve his country by enlisting in the military.

Not really.

Sam is actually 17 years old, entering his senior year in high school and considering joining the Army under the Delayed Entry Program, essentially meaning he signs the papers now but doesn’t report to boot camp until after high school graduation next June.

But as I sat with my son in that office listening to the recruiter proclaim all the benefits of a military career, my mind flashed back to a front-toothless Sam at 7 asking me to take him to “McDongals” for a “mikswake.”

This is my baby, my first-born son. How is it possible he is old enough to be thinking about the military? He’s supposed to be playing cowboys and Indians, not defending his country. You can read the full blog entry HERE.

Lynn Nankervis originally wrote this for the Bloomingdale Patch. Her writing was so clear and insightful, I contacted Lynn for permission to re-use her column.  She also writes The Brady Bunch Plus One blog.

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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 jax@emhe.tv. 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.

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

 

Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins, http://www.shootinforfun.com.

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, http://www.shootinforfun.com.

“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.

 

Emotional Cycles of Deployment: An Army Mom’s Overview

Contributor Tracie Ciambotti and her son Josh on his deployment day, June 2011, at Fort Carson, CO.

Every traumatic event we encounter in life triggers a cycle of emotional responses; military families experience this emotional roller coaster continuously due to the frequency of deployments.

The Army’s website, US Army Hooah4Health, outlines the following 7-stage cycle that military families go through with each deployment:

Stage 1 – Anticipation of Departure: Begins when the service member receives an order for deployment and ends when he or she actually leaves.

Stage 2 – Detachment and Withdrawal:  Final weeks prior to deployment

Stage 3 – Emotional Disorganization:  First six weeks of the deployment

Stage 4 – Recovery and Stabilization:  Two months into the deployment to a few weeks before the end of deployment

Stage 5 – Anticipation of Return:  Final weeks of deployment

Stage 6 – Return Adjustment and Renegotiation: First six weeks post deployment

Stage 7 – Reintegration and Stabilization: Up to six months post deployment[1]

This model was updated in 2006 by Jennifer Morse, M.D., Navy CAPT (Ret), San Diego, CA because of the increased occurrence of deployments that military families experience.

Josh and Alison, his wife, when he returned from his second deployment in Iraq--August of 2009.

The detailed description provided in this model pertains to the service member and his or her spouse and children—there is no mention of parents in this emotional cycle.  As the mother of an Army sergeant, currently serving his third deployment, I can personally testify that parents go through an emotional roller coaster too.

Through a series of posts on this topic, I will share a personal look into the stages of the deployment cycle from the perspectives of various members of my military family: a mother, a wife, and the soldier.  I hope to generate an understanding of the challenges faced by the entire family as we experience deployments together.


[1] Morse, J., (2006).The new emotional cycles of deployment. Retrieved pdf June 28, 2007 from the U.S. Department of Defense: Deployment Health and Family Readiness Library: San Diego, CA

Military Mom Collects Prayer Patches for Military Families

Military Families Ministry  (MFM) does a variety of projects to support service members and their families.  One of my favorite projects is our prayer patch ministry which is quickly spreading to a national effort.

A prayer patch is a small knitted or crocheted cloth that we send to our heroes, their families, and our chaplains as a reminder that people are praying for them.  Service members carry the patches in their pockets to remind them of God’s love and protection as they serve–I gave my son, Josh, a brown patch with a cross sewn on it the day he left for Afghanistan.

A prayer patch made by Sandy in Pennsylvania.

Family members carry the patches as a reminder of God’s peace and comfort as they await their loved ones return from war zones–I carry a red, white, and blue patch in my purse.  Chaplains use our prayer patches to encourage and comfort service members in basic training, war zones, and counseling situations.

We have individuals and groups across the country knitting and crocheting prayer patches for us.  Each patch is prayed over  by one of our MFM groups prior to shipping.  So far this month (June 2011), MFM has sent almost 800 prayer patches–most of which went to the chaplains we support.

Prayer patches made by groups in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

Our Colorado group is sending prayer patches to Josh for his entire platoon and we have already sent cards and patches to the wives of the married soldiers in Josh’s squad.

I have recently connected with a chaplain who is currently serving in Afghanistan.  He and nine other chaplains are ministering to over 4000 soldiers for a year-long deployment.  MFM is taking on the challenge of getting 4000 prayer patches so every soldier these chaplains have contact with can carry a prayer patch.  If you knit or crochet–will you help us?  Visit our website to view the guidelines and download a pattern or email me at tracie@militaryfamiliesministry.com.

An Army Mom’s Deployment Day: June 11, 2011

The line-up of duffle bags as soldiers ready for deployment from Ft. Carson.

Saturday was deployment day for many Army families from Fort Carson.  The site of the duffel bags lined up on the side of the parking lot was unsettling; I knew each one represented a family that was about to say good-bye.  I didn’t count the bags, but estimated that close to 300 soldiers left for a year-long deployment in Afghanistan–my son was one of them.  Although this is Josh’s third deployment, it was the first time that I was with him on the day of his departure.

We started at the company command location on post and while the soldiers stood in line to draw their weapons, which they carry with them the entire trip, the families waited outside.

Families and thier loved ones spend precious minutes together prior to the call for formation and a year-long deployment in Afghanistan.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting most of the men in my son’s squad and some of their wives.  Several of these couples are experiencing deployment for the first time.

Tracie Ciambotti takes a walk with her son, Josh, before his third deployment since joining the Army.

Next, we went to the gymnasium parking lot where families huddled close together, taking every opportunity afforded to them to get one more kiss or another hug.  Every direction I looked, I saw a family savoring every minute they had left together.  One soldier knelt down as his young daughter inspected his weapon; another held a newborn baby while his wife and two daughters clung to him; many soldiers posed with their families for that last photo.

A call to formation was ordered and the troops immediately responded, each one taking his place in the line-up as role-call began.    As each name was shouted out that soldier proceeded to the gym entrance, made sure his back pack fit into the required box for the carry-ons, and then disappeared into the gymnasium.

The call for formation.

Soon they emerged from the other end of the building and rejoined their families.  Josh’s squad gathered in one area as we waited for the moment we all dreaded–the final role-call.

That call came and each soldier reached for the final hugs and kisses, grabbed his weapon and back pack, and headed for the building as his name was called.  My son said, “Okay mama, I gotta go” as he reached down for our final hug.  I said, “Take care, I love you and will be praying for you every day”.  He replied, “I know Mom, love you too”.  After Josh and Alison shared their final embrace, he headed into the building.

Alison’s Facebook post Saturday night said, “There are no words to describe the pain of watching him walk into that gym. May our countdown start now!”

Tracie’s son Josh hugs his wife Alison.

Tracie Ciambotti is the Co-founder of Military Families Ministry (MFM) and mother of an Army sergeant. Her previous blog contributions:

Deployment Week: A Mom’s Realities

Deployment Week: Packing, Pictures and Prayers

A Day to Honor Mothers: They Serve in Many Ways

How Do You Define True Patriotism?

When War Gets Personal

An Army Mom Connects Military Families and Churches

Deployment Week: A Mom’s Realities

Tracie Ciambotti with her son Joshua Nearhoof, an Army Sergeant out of Fort Carson.

As a military mom, the one thing you don’t want to see or hear the week your son deploys to a war zone is a story of a fallen hero or a wounded warrior.  Unfortunately, I have seen and heard both in the last few days. 

Saturday morning on the front page of the Denver Post was the picture of a mother and a father holding a small child as they sat on a horse-drawn carriage which held the body of their son.  The baby was the ten month old daughter of  Cpl Brandon Kirton who was killed in Afghanistan in May.  Tears streamed down my face as I read the story about this fallen hero.  He had only spent two weeks with his precious baby girl.     

As hard as I try to control my thoughts and emotions, I can’t help but think, this could be me.  This is a reality of life as a military mom, when your child is deployed in a war zone, you know that at any moment on any day you could be the one getting the knock on the door with news that will forever change your life.  It is a constant effort to manage these thoughts and not allow them to take over your day.

Yesterday morning, I received a phone call from a friend who is also a military mom and a member of my Military Families Ministry group in Colorado.  She received a call from her son, who is an Army staff sergeant from Fort Riley, Kansas, and currently deployed in Iraq.  His location was hit by mortar attacks overnight and he was injured in the attack.  He is now in Germany being treated and prepared for transport to the states. We are so thankful that he is alive and was able to make that call home–but we know he has a long road of recovery ahead of him.  He has a wife and two small children, who–along with his parents–wait anxiously to hear where he will be transported to so they can join him.  

These events are harsh reminders of the possibilities that exist this next year as my son serves in Afghanistan.  I could be facing either  of these situations; however, I must choose not to focus on the what-ifs because they are nothing but a trap for fear and heartache .

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