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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Japan, Veteran Benefits, Purple Hearts and a Golf Classic

Getting to know passionate and knowledgable people is among the many positives of this blog. Below are bits of their shared expertise and information that could prove helpful.

For Florida Veterans – From a 22-year Army veteran who prefers to remain in the background, two links for Florida veterans: VAwatchdogtoday.org and the American Legion Department of Florida.

An Airman from the 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron offloads a pallet of supplies from a C-17 Globemaster III March 15, 2011, at Misawa Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marie Brown)

USAF in Japan – The Air Force has created a new, website focused on U.S. Air Force relief efforts for Japan. It’s a one-stop resource with features articles, links, captioned-photos, and video stories and soon daily fact-sheets.

Tax Credit Ending – Contributor and orginator of the My Last Tour Series, Air Force SMSgt. Rex Temple, sends this link and reminder that the Veterans Tax Credit is scheduled to end soon. Veterans who served overseas in the past two years are probably eligible for an $8,000 tax credit when purchasing a home. Under the extension passed late last year by Congress, a contract must be signed by April 30, 2011, but applicants have until June 30, 2011 to close the deal. Check with professional tax preparers on your eligibility. For tips and important military tax information, visit here.

Military Bloggers in JapanMilblogging.com is aggregating military blogs being written from Japan that are covering the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The newest military blog is written by an airman stationed at Misawa AB who goes by the name of Scotty D: I’m big in Japan.  (hat tip-From my position on the way) On Living Overseas and My Life in General is a military spouse blog written by a Navy wife named Nancy.  In her latest post, she writes about what the earthquake has taught her. 

Army Clarifies Purple Heart Rules – A report from National Public Radio journalists Daniel Swerdling and T. Christian Miller. “Acknowledging that commanders have sometimes wrongly denied the Purple Heart to soldiers who suffered battlefield concussions, the Army plans to issue new guidance to clarify when such recognition is warranted, Army officials said Wednesday. In addition, the Army is planning to prioritize appeals from brain-injured soldiers who feel they should not have been turned down for the medal, a hallowed military honor that recognizes those injured in combat.”

And here’s the USA Today article on the same topic. A tip of the hat to Steve G.

Veterans on the Green – The University of South Florida Student Veterans Association is holding a Golf Classic at USF’s golf course, The Claw. It’s scheduled Saturday, April 9, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The fee is $75 per golfer and includes a shirt, golf cart, greens fees and dinner. For details, email vetserve@cchd.usf.edu or call 813-974-1725.

The ABCs of Afghan School Projects

Afghan students are released from morning session at the Bibi Khala Girl's School. USAF Photo: SSgt. Manuel J. Martinez

A simple gift of a notebook and pen to a needy student requires a lot of planning when the school supplies are being distributed to Afghan children. There’s logistical planning like security and transportation. Permission must be gotten from village elders and school administrators.

MacDill Air Force Base’s SMSgt. Rex Temple became expert on those logistics for his School Supplies Drive for Afghan Children that he started during his yearlong deployment.

Bibi Khala Girl's School students walk home alongside U.S. Soldiers and Airmen assigned to PRT Zabul in Qalat City, Afghanistan. USAF Photo: SSgt. Manuel J. Martinez

But when it was time to leave in April 2010, he had to find someone to take over the distribution and do the extra planning.

First Lt. Rebecca Heyse, information officer assigned to PRT Zabul, sings the ABC song with students of the Bibi Khala Girl's School, Qalat City, Afghanistan. USAF Photo: SSgt. Manuel J. Martinez

Another MacDill airman, 1st Lt. Rebecca Heyse, stepped up to help. She is currently serving as an information officer with a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Zabul.

Here’s a recent Air Force report about Heyse and her Zabul team’s visit to the Bibi Khala Girl’s School in Qalat City, Afghanistan.

To view an Air Force video story of the PRT’s visit to the school and oversight of its repairs, click on the video below.

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