[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]M[/dropcap]artin, Jaz, and I visited our old stomping grounds this afternoon: the Fort Myer commissary which is where we did our grocery shopping when I was still active duty in the military. For those who aren’t familiar with them, military commissaries usually aren’t as expensive as civilian grocery markets, and we always found good deals there. Since it’s a good 30-to-40 minute drive (at least) from our home, we only went shopping every other month or so, filling two shopping carts full of goods to last us.
However, we stopped doing the commissary runs once Martin became a full-time stay-at-home dad and active couponer who shopped more frequently at the stores near our home. Even when he joined the military, (which allowed us commissary privileges again), we didn’t return because he was able to stretch our dollars much further through local couponing. Even when he was gone all those months for basic military training, he had shopped and planned ahead of time, so I didn’t need to go shopping (except for the fresh stuff) while he was away.
Unfortunately, this last trip of his was so last-minute, he didn’t have time to prep our cupboards and food pantry, at least not in the way he did before. Of course, the kids and I were totally fine and not wanting for anything. But I don’t coupon like Martin does, and I refused to go shopping in his place. So, we just used up what we had.
After he came home, he resumed couponing to replenish our pantry, but it takes time since not everything is on sale at the same time. Yesterday, as we used up the last can of red beans and the last box of rice, and as Jaz walked past us clutching the last box of cereal, Martin and I looked at each other and admitted, “We gotta go to the commissary and resupply now.”
So, off we went and it was a wonderful trip down memory lane as we passed my old office building, familiar restaurants, and other places we haven’t seen in awhile.
We had Jaz all to ourselves, and it was the sweetest, easiest shopping experience in a long time. It wasn’t crowded, and Martin and I were in agreement for almost all of the purchases.
“…Yes, I need THIS brand of coffee creamer. Yes, I know that costs less, but this is MORE delightful…”
The commissary still looked the same, and as we walked through the aisles full of elderly retirees and servicemembers in uniform, I couldn’t help but think of all the times we were there with the girls, when we went shopping as a family, as chaotic and overwhelming as it was.
Crazy times. But sweet memories, too.
For today’s Flashback Friday, this was a post about one such commissary run.
Like the corners of my house, this corner of the Internet has collected dust in recent weeks. The only thing missing here — other than my presence — is a wad of pet hair, but frankly, my expectations and standards right now are pretty low, I wouldn’t even care if there WAS a dust bunny on this page.
And I usually hate dust bunnies very much.
But I’ve since decided dust bunnies add character. Let’s just say my house is exploding with character, thankyouverymuch. Continue reading →
I’ve written about the “deployment curse” on this blog before. It’s a military thing, and not specific to deployments. It also happens when the military member leaves on temporary duty, or even just a short business trip. It’s very similar to Murphy’s Law, but in addition to the whole “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” part of it, there’s the caveat that all of it will happen within the first week or two of the loved one’s departure.
I took some leave time and drove Martin out to Delaware yesterday. He’s on active duty orders for a month now, working at Dover Air Force Base, one of the Air Force’s busiest transport hubs in the United States. He was originally scheduled back in January to do three months of this hands-on work experience there. His bags were packed, our childcare arrangement was in place. However, the morning of his scheduled departure, he was put on hold because of ‘paperwork issues’ and we hung in a state of suspension ever since.
Of course, after awhile, one gets a little numb from just hanging there, especially being told so many versions of “I’m waiting to hear back from so-and-so … just hang on … the paperwork will get to you tomorrow … I’ll call you back …”
Not our first rodeo, of course. But nevertheless, it was still jarring when he got an email — an email –on Monday with his orders requiring him to travel to Delaware on Tuesday for him to begin work today.
That was awesome.
Fortunately, I am blessed with Sarah, my friend and fellow Air Force mom who lives just five minutes away, the same one who used to come over and help me fold clothes when Martin was at BMT. She came over and stayed with the kids while I dropped off Martin. We wanted the minivan to stay with the kids, and I need my car for work, so he took his bike and metal detector because there’s not much else to do in Delaware.
When I returned home, the kids were all fed and ready for bed. And she cleaned my entire first floor. Even the bathroom. That’s a true friend.
No lie, though — even with a super clean house, all my planning in place, and my flexible attitude, this first day was rough and exhausting. Jaz was wired. Lola was a tad bit more dramatic than usual, no doubt a reaction to having her Dad suddenly gone again. Admittedly, I was also a bit more dramatic as well, having had less sleep, and needing to get up earlier.
But we’ll get used to this new routine in no time. And, thank the lord, this is only for a month. I’ll sneeze and it’ll be over. It’s nothing compared to the six-months to a year some of our friends are doing for deployments right now.
Before I know it, Martin will be back and we’ll adjust with a new routine all over again.
I am pretty awesome at making lists. Any occasion. Any need. I have several lists running in my mind at any given time. Here’s one that I call “Things That Happened on a Monday.”
1) My zebra-print wellies (love that word) arrived in the mail just days after I ordered them. For awhile, I was leaning toward polka-dots, but then I saw these, and the search was over. Though not intentional, I have more than a few zebra prints in my wardrobe. Plus, zebras are known for their stamina, and so am I. However, zebras are also known for their excellent eyesight and I’m blind as a bat. So … moving on … Continue reading →
There was a moment a few months ago when JB’s wife, Jessica, paused as she was talking with me and a few others after his retirement ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada.
We were standing at a back table in the room, looking over JB’s military memorabilia, and she was explaining a few of the photos. She had stopped herself after saying, “… after he got hurt.”
She smiled at us.
“You know, there was a time when I couldn’t say that without bursting into tears.”
It’s taken me a few months to write this blog post for much the same reason. I still get teary when I think about it, but it was such a moving and emotional experience, and one that really made me appreciate what it means to be thankful, which is one of the recommendations for living the Good Life.
While I have written often about that day in Iraq, and can talk or write about it without feeling as much of a tug anymore, attending the retirement ceremony for my team’s broadcaster was way more emotional than I expected.
As far as Air Force retirement ceremonies go, it was nice and traditional. There was a summary of JB’s military accomplishments as a broadcaster, and recognition of his family and colleagues. There were laughs, nodding heads, and polite applause at all the right places. You could tell everyone involved and in attendance really admires JB, and put a lot of effort into it.
However, it was after the ceremony when I got a huge emotional wallop straight to the heart.
His mom came up to me.
Until that moment, I never met JB’s family. While he may have mentioned his parents a time or two, I knew more about Jessica and his kids from the stories we shared while deployed together.
And since the deployment didn’t stop for JV and me after JB was evacuated, I wasn’t able to really keep connected to his recovery as much as I would have liked. The most we got were updates through our colleagues and mutual friends until social media allowed us to reconnect some years later.
Of course, I knew that JB’s family would be at the retirement ceremony, but it never occurred to me that they would want to seek me out, but that’s what his mom did. I was leaning over to read some of his certificates when she came up to me and asked, “Are you the young lady who was with JB in Iraq?”
I looked up at her and said, “Yes, I’m Julie. I was the writer on his team.”
She politely put her hand out.
“We’ve heard so much about you, the girl who was with him,” she said.
“Oh, are you a relative?” I asked, still not sure who I was speaking to. She offered me a warm smile.
“Oh, I’m his mother,” she said. “I can’t thank you enough for being there for him.”
I remember repeating, “His mother? His mother!” as it dawned on me who she was, but before I could think or say anything else, she was wrapping her arms around me as I began to cry, telling her I was so glad to finally meet her.
Let me be more honest: I was a shuddering, hiccuping, sobbing mess, totally caught off guard by my reaction. I just never considered that I would be mentioned whenever the events of that day were shared with JB’s family, but then to have his mom there, wanting to meet me?
It was a lot.
She rubbed my back, explaining how she and her husband had no idea where JB was while he was deployed, that they weren’t expecting a call like the one they got when they learned he had been injured, how they traveled to him when he arrived stateside for care at Walter Reed, that they were relieved to learn he wasn’t alone when the attack happened, and how grateful they were for the things everyone did for JB that day.
Between gasps for breath, I blubbered about how bad he looked the last time I saw him, how pale and weak he was, how the last thing I did was kiss his sweaty bald head as they carried him away, and how great it was to see him so healthy again, to see him standing and walking.
And then she said, “You know? He’s okay now. You don’t have to worry now. And you’re okay, too. We are so thankful for that.”
I’m not sure how long we stood there like that, but eventually, she pulled away and turned to her husband behind her, and said, “Hey, this is the girl who was with JB over there.”
And then her husband approached me, and JB’s older brother (a former Marine), and even though I tried to compose myself, it was just so much to be surrounded by all of that. After we talked some more, I rushed to a corner of the room to check my make-up to make sure my meltdown wasn’t too obvious.
I was fine during the rest of the reception, and even stayed behind to help clean up, but as soon as I returned to my hotel room, I sat on my bed and cried some more.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I cried out six years worth of tears.
For as much as I’ve shared about my deployment experience, there’s so much more I haven’t shared because it’s just so exhausting and draining.
The aftermath of that incident (both immediate and long-term) and the way things were handled by some of the “leadership” (quotes intentional) were about as traumatic as the incident itself, and changed my perspective on many, many things.
For all the wonderful things that happened to me because of my Air Force service, there were very bitter things to happen, too. Time, focusing on all the opportunities ahead of me, and the amazing support of those close to me during that time helped lessen the burden.
Yet, when JB’s mother approached me, and talked to me, she unintentionally opened up some things that are still very raw and emotional … and yet in the process, her words healed my heart in a way I absolutely wasn’t expecting.
There was a reason I was there that day, why I was a part of that team, and why I was moved to do the things I did, and as I thought about these things, and the words she said to me, I felt like an incredible weight was lifted off my shoulders.
I’ve never questioned or doubted my service over there, but she gave me an answer I didn’t know I needed.
Exactly seven years ago today,I stood with many others at Arlington National Cemetery to honor Maj. Troy Gilbert after his F-16 crashed in Iraq while he was defending soldiers on the ground who were under attack.Today, on the anniversary of his burial, I stood once again at Arlington National Cemetery with many others to honor and welcome a part of him home again.The circumstances of Troy’s death in November 2006 are pretty dramatic. He was providing surveillance and reconnaissance for ground forces north of Baghdad when a coalition helicopter went down. As American forces were securing the helicopter and the people inside it, insurgents attacked them. Troy flew in, strafing the insurgents, and flying less than 200 feet from the ground. Continue reading →
Her husband Jason had to go and get promoted in the Air Force. And what happens when people get promoted in the military? They get moved to a place where they can embrace their newfound rank and responsibilities and all that jazz.
So the Air Force sent him to Utah. Nearly a whole continent away from Washington DC.
And even worse? He decided to take his whole family with him, including his wife Kara!
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you recognize Kara. She is my very dear friend who took care of Jaz after he was born. At the time, I was working as a contractor for the Department of Defense, and during my maternity leave, the contract changed and instead of working from home like before, I was required to work in Maryland three days a week.
It just so happened that Kara lived five minutes from my new office, and when she heard about my dilemma, she just said, “You bring that baby over to my house.”
And that was it. I dropped off Jaz in the morning, visited him for lunch, and drove home with him in the evenings. It allowed me to continue nursing him, and it gave me such peace of mind and heart because I know she adores my boy just as much as I do.
Yet there was comfort in the fact that she was just a drive away in Maryland.
But alas, life in the military means life on the move. So this weekend, we all went out for one more dinner and ice cream. The kids acted crazy, and we talked as if we’ll be seeing each other next week. Because, thanks to social media, we can still be in touch all the time.
In fact, she refused to say goodbye. She just said, “See you later!”
And I know we will.
But it’s not the same.
I’m going to miss my Kara.
Fortunately, the very next day, the kids and I got to spend time at a birthday party for our friends’ son.
The party was held in a building filled with giant trampolines. You walk into a huge industrial room, and there are wall-to-wall trampolines. And you jump around … off the walls, to the side, all over the place. It was exhausting. But also very sweet to watch the kids have such a great time.
Especially Jaz. He loves to hop around!
There was another area in this place that was filled with game machines that spit out tickets, similar to Chuck-E-Cheese, and of course, the kids were all over those, too.
Apparently, Jaz inherited his father’s lucky streak, because he played one game, smacked one button, and won more than 600 tickets.
The girls had so much fun cashing those in for him!
Random: I don’t like new pens that don’t immediately write. How long must I scribble before it is going to take me seriously?
It’s the cheap Alpha Basic from Skilcraft. I think it’s law that every government office has them in stock, but NONE of them work. Ever. Blech!!
Another random: I **NEED** Facebook to accept gifs. I really do.
Martin and I stepped out onto our back porch shortly after midnight to go look up. I considered waking up the girls, as we’ve done in the past during such celestial events, but both of them crashed pretty late and they need their sleep.
Besides, it was nice to step outside and be alone with my husband, illuminated by nothing but the moon.