Sheila Casey on Finding Balance in the Military

Military spousePlease welcome guest blogger, veteran military spouse and BSF Advisory Board member, Sheila Casey.

I have been a military spouse for 39 years. During that time I have experienced all the same things each one of you have…raising a family, moving, deployments, reintegration, children changing schools, volunteering and making lifelong friendships. It has not always been easy but I would not change a moment of it. I say that now although there were days when I thought differently. When military life became difficult it was easy to think “enough” but then I would figure my way through it and get on with life.

What I realized is that I needed something that was mine. I could not live my life through my husband and I needed something in addition to the Army. I knew that one day my husband would retire and that the military part of my life would end. I needed something that would continue. The big question was what. Continue reading

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Welcome, Dora, to the BSF Blog!

HelloHi everyone!

My name’s Dora and I’m new to the blogging world but not to the military one. I would like to share my military wife experiences with others.

I’m like many of you, a wife, a working mom and someone who juggles the many responsibilities that life throws at me. Sometimes gracefully, sometimes not, but I do the best that I can. The best things that I look forward to are the hugs from my kids and when my husband has a “normal” work schedule and we can have a “normal” life. I’m sure one day we’ll find out what that is, but not now.

I hope you’ll join me as I share my experiences on the BSF blog!

Reading, Roller Coasters & Resolutions!

Monday morning, my husband and I loaded up our 4 kids and headed out on a Blue Star adventure…

Reading:

Our first part of the journey took us to Virginia Beach, Va to attend the kickoff of Blue Star Families, Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces event.  The kids were a bit restless after 3 hours in the car, but were a huge help in setting up.  Casey Spurr put my husband Joe right to work putting together the Blue Star Families banner, and my kids helped set up the craft tables and entertain the children of all our fabulous BSF volunteers.

Our program partner KIDS sent HUNDREDS of wonderful children’s books.  Nice, brand new books that any child would be thrilled to receive.  Janice Weinman, President of KIDS, flew down from New York for the event, and was a delightful addition to the day!  It was really gratifying to see so many smiling faces in the crowd.

We had the most amazing balloon animal maker.  He truly dazzled the crowd with his spectacular creations…Senator Warner’s representative even had him make one for her to take back to DC!  The children listened attentively to our terrific readers who shared children’s stories that focused on deployment.  At one point, during Col. Dennis Cunniffe’s reading, a small boy…maybe 2 years old, snuck up and sat next to him on the edge of the stage.  Perhaps his Daddy is deployed, and he was just needing to be close to a man in uniform.

We asked other non profits to come to the event and share what they do for military families.  Fleet and Family Services, the USO, and United Through Reading were there among others.  It was great to see that we made an impact on the families that attended.  On the way out, I spoke to a Mom and her 3 kids.  I asked the children, “Did you all have fun?”  They all smiled and said yes.  But more gratifying was the Mother’s response.  She said, “I had fun too.  And Happy Moms = Happy Kids!”  Indeed!

Roller Coasters:

We drove straight to Vienna, Va that night to sleep at a friend’s house.  He allowed us to treat his house like a hotel…in at 11pm, out at 8am!  We made it to Hershey Park by 10:30 and commenced “Operation Roller Coaster!”   My children are at the age where terrifying roller coasters are their favorite thing.  I have to admit that I enjoy them too.  In a moment of true “knuckle-head-ery” (as my husband calls it) I thought it would be fine to ride one of those crazy, twisty, 100mph, spleen in your throat roller coasters with my cell phone in my skirt pocket.   I was so dizzy after the ride, that it was an hour before I realized I no longer had my phone.  It was then that my darling aviator husband explained G-forces to me…in a not so kind way. I filled out a lost and found report, and began plotting my way out of the dog house.

Hershey Park (pretty good military discount, by the way) has a water park built in the middle, and it requires no extra admission, so we cooled off during the heat of the day with a ride on a water roller coaster (imagine water shooting at you from all directions!) and a float on the lazy river.   Ahhhhh.  On our way out, I figured I’d check with lost and found hoping to at least recover my cell phone chip.  Much to my surprise, they had my phone…intact!  It had a few mysterious dings, but other than that it was 100%.  I celebrated with a Hershey bar!

Resolutions:

Blue Star FamiliesWednesday morning, Joe took me into Harrisburg to meet up with Vivian and other Blue Star Families members at the Pennsylvania State Capitol to witness the passing of a resolution declaring June as Military Families Month in PA.  It was put forth by one of our PA BSF members, and supported by Representative Lentz.

We were meeting early for breakfast at the 3rd street deli across from the capitol.  Joe entered it into the GPS and off we went.  When we arrived at our “destination” according to the GPS, we were in the middle of a not so great neighborhood and no capitol in sight.  Now, my husband refuses to believe that the GPS is EVER wrong, so it was sweet justice to have it screw up in his presence!  We finally found our way there, and I was thrilled to meet our PA chapter director, Cindy Smalls, whose son, husband and son in law are all currently deployed to Iraq with the Pa National Guard.  She is truly an inspiration, and a very motivated Blue Star volunteer.  Carole Singer, Carol Greentree (double blue star mom) Hal Donahue, and Jim White (BSFs Veterans guy) also joined us.

The House chambers are amazingly ornate.  It was wonderful to be there and watch government in action.  When our resolution came up for vote, the entire house stood, turned to face us, and applauded.  It brought tears to my eyes, and I know I was not alone!  Blue Star Members:  make this happen in your state.  Check out the “Take Action” section of our website to find out how.  It is a great way to elevate military family issues in your state!

On the way home we stopped by Gettysburg for a quick visit.  My husband had been many times, but it was the first visit for the children and me.  It was so moving to be on such hallowed ground, and the first time we had to pry our kids away from a museum.  And a great way to end our Blue Star adventure.

War, yellow ribbons and Gatorade

yellow ribbonJust a quick intro about me. I syndicate a column about military living called Out of the Blue and have been trying to live this lifestyle with my five daughters and my Special Ops-always-gone-hubby. I’m involved with Blue Star Families and hope to help this community in many ways. I’m originally from Italy and can cook some mean Italian dishes. I look forward to sharing this journey with you and to learning from one another. The post below appeared last week in my column and is titled, War Yellow Ribbons and Gatorade

My 6 year old daughter Anna rolled on the ground screaming and clutching her stomach as my other children pulled on my arm, covered their eyes and cried. She screamed that the pain in her tummy was too much to take. I tried to touch her, she rolled away, threw up and passed out.

I called 911 and while on the phone Anna came back a little bit, but the dispatcher told me not to take her by car but wait for the ambulance.

My next thought was whether I should take my other four kids in the ambulance, and could they even ride in it?

Quick note: my neighbors aren’t quite on the deployed wife bandwagon. Whenever my husband deploys, they just tell me I need to mow my lawn more often. I tried a few other friends, but no one was around on the weekend. Finally, I sucked it up and called our $15 per hour baby-sitter, who fortunately was able to come.

When the ambulance came, they put Anna on a stretcher, and one of the EMT’s told me to ride in the front, while the other stayed with Anna in back.

As I was leaving I reassured my kids with a confident smile, and told them that most of the time people who are taken to the hospital by ambulance are just fine (really?), and that I’d call them as soon as we got there. My oldest daughter’s eyes were filled with tears and I hugged her, and whispered that Anna would be fine.
I stared at my kids watching the big ambulance go, feeling so small. I clutched my purse with my hands and turned to look at the driver thinking that maybe I should make small talk. He was looking straight ahead and when I asked him which hospital we were going to, he answered in a curt voice, signaling he didn’t want to chat.
I rummaged in my purse, unrealistically looking for strength, but found none. I was scared, and I was angry. I saw cars in my neighborhood with bumper stickers that said ‘we support our troops’ and was upset that I didn’t feel this support in the least bit. I truly wanted to talk to my deployed husband.

My thoughts cleared only when the doctor looked at Anna and said she was fine. Her blood pressure had dropped quickly and he hypothesized that her stomach may have twisted – that’s what he said – and gotten back to place on its own.
The doctor was kind, and the nurses compassionate. I wanted to get a drink of water but didn’t want to leave Anna who was scared of the needles that hid behind every corner of the hospital, so one of the nurses gave m e Gatorade out of the staff’s fridge. She squeezed my hand and told me how grateful she was for all that my husband was doing and that a Gatorade was a small gesture compared to our sacrifices.

And that made all the difference in the world to me. Whatever anger was left dissipated and my eyes welled with tears. That Grape flavored Gatorade (not even one of my favorites) meant more to me than any yellow ribbon magnet. I don’t expect my neighbors and friends to take care of me just because my husband’s gone, they’ve got lives and problems of their own. But little gestures of kindness can go beyond big slogans, and make a real difference.

And sometimes, that’s all the help I need.

Good news or bad news?

I’m a news junkie—I admit it. I think it started once upon a time as I was fantasizing about a career in politics and has perpetuated in my years handling press for various companies. I am only spared my shame by the fact that millions of you out there share my addiction.

Yet it wasn’t until I became a military wife that I realized the true power of the press—and the danger it holds for those of us with loved ones in harms way. I was once again made aware of this friend/foe relationship last week when CNN reported the crash of an F-22 Raptor outside Edwards AFB. As the wife of a “Raptor Driver” my mind instantly ran through the faces of our small community, wondering which one was unlucky enough to ride in that jet. Fighter pilots face the risks associated with going Mach 1.5 upside down doing 9 G turns daily. I’ve managed to live in denial and pretend that my husband, who I liken more to Iceman than Maverick, is sitting at a desk all day playing with simulators. It’s only occasionally that some scraggly reporter interferes with my daydream. I’ve repeatedly joked to Iceman that I’ll learn of his demise on CNN. Then two years ago I was notified of a crash just outside our base by a radio announcer instead of a phone call. The joke wasn’t as funny after that.

All my fears aside, days like last Wednesday and the radio incident are few and far between. But it makes me wonder: what if Iceman was in the infantry? Or security forces? What if I were sitting at this computer, checking the news and weather day after day, knowing those stories of IEDs and tribal street wars were part of Iceman’s reality? Would I be strong enough to turn the channel and pretend not to know? Or would I use that strength to watch Wolf Blitzer without losing my sanity in the process? For all you been there/done that/they forgot to send my tee shirt ladies out there, tell us what relationship you have with the news. Foe? Friend? Frenemy? Take Rupert Murdoch out back and shoot him?

When we woke Thursday morning,  CNN reported that the pilot met his death in the hot desert outside of LA. I know this because in the interim while I was awake I had been refreshing four separate websites every four minutes to find any tidbit out there.  I can only hope his wife wasn’t doing the same.

Ice Queen Out.