Guest Mama of the Month

Let me tell you a little about myself.  I am a single mother with just the one son.  It has always just been Colton and I.  I was middle age when I had him.   He has been the light of my life and also the reason for my murderous thoughts.  He has been a handful but really a pretty good kid.  He is an eagle scout and I have instilled in him service to your community.    For years, he talked about being a Marine.  Then one day, his senior year and after his 18th birthday, he came to me and explained he wanted to join the Iowa National Guard.  He explained his reasoning, which for him was very mature and well thought out.  We set up an appointment to visit the recruiter.  He graduated from high school in May 2015 and off to Ft. Benning on Aug.3, 2015.  And then Ft. Rucker’s to finish out the year with his AIT.
 I sometimes feel that oh, he is justin the guard and not as important as the active military.  After a little over a year and half in the guard, he was promoted to E4 – Specialist/Corporal.  Another mother told me, “Oh the guard it is easier to get promoted.” But after reviewing his life as a guardsman, I don’t think those statements are true.  Oh I know, you are thinking they only have drill once a month and two weeks annual training.  They have jobs, families, college, lives, and freedom, how hard can be it??  Guardsmen can be called up at any time for either state or national emergencies, or at the discretion of the President.  These men and women drop their everyday lives to serve, many times seeing the worst of people’s nature in times of crisis.  They are the calm and helping security that people are looking for or the ones they blame.  Iowa has two units deployed at this time, with more to follow next year.  One of those units’ is my son’s.  While he was left behind, his fellow soldiers are in contact with him and share their stories.  These soldiers are put in the same situations as full time military.  They have the same missions and level of danger, but with only monthly drills and two week annual training.
I am active in our local American Legion.  I volunteer a lot with the Boy Scouts of America.  I am active in church and the Moose Lodge.  I volunteer with Military Mama Network by sending boxes and cards.  Everyone who offers their life to protect and defend our country deserves to feel loved and appreciated.  One day, it will be my son that will need to feel that Mama Love from a stranger.  I started an Iowa MMN chapter and met some of the MOST fantastic ladies and a few good men!  I wanted to let them know that they are supported and cared about.  We bond together while creating our own missions supporting active military, guardsmen, and our veterans.  I have the same sense of worry that they will be called up to be deployed.  I have the same sense of pride you all have when you see them in their uniforms.  Who doesn’t love a man in a uniform?  Don’t worry, I am not a cougar!
Military Mama Network has provided me with a way to share, support, and grow as a person and military mama.  I believe that even the littlest act of kindness affects a person’s life.  Smile at a stranger, holding the door open for someone, letting someone go in front of you in line.  Maybe it is the Boy Scout in me, but I always try to do a good turn daily.  It costs nothing and leaves you feeling good.  To me, that is what Military Mama Network is about, doing a good turn or mission.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Thank you for letting me babble on…  Stay strong, be brave, and always know that MMN has your six.
Cynthia

Local color has new meaning 

By Adam Strunk, Newton Now

Kris Thomas methodically tapes piece after piece of red white and blue construction paper on the glass window of Cato Fashion, where she’s an assistant manager.

She has 2,100 strips to hang by July 4. She’s quickly running out of space at the location, 401 Windward Drive, and will have to start hanging them at the store next door soon.

She has them arranged in an alternating pattern. She’s made an american flag out of the papers that hang above the door.

From the street, Thomas’ labor looks like someone went overboard on store decorations for Independence Day.
But when people walk closer, they can see the work represents a mosaic of American service. Printed on each piece of paper is the name of a veteran, either living or deceased.
“My son is in the military,” Thomas said. “So this is near and dear to my heart.”
While some people might hang a flag or light a few fireworks to celebrate July 4, Thomas said she wanted to do something more by honoring those who served.

She’s been asking on social media for names of veterans, and she’s been getting responses locally and from all over the country.

She handwrites them in a notebook, each with a name, branch and if they’re living or have passed away.

“I have people who have sent names from as far as Florida,” Thomas said, adding she had no idea what started as a very small display would grow into her current massive undertaking.

The project started out a few days before Memorial Day at the store. She said they had just gotten in some patriotic T-shirts. The store’s manager suggested they put some info on the window about the shirts.

Thomas said she’d like to put the names of some veterans up on the window next to the writing.

She put out a call online for some help.

“We had 350 names in four days,” she said.

Seeing the idea had struck a chord, beginning in June, she began asking in local social media groups if people had more veterans they wished to honor. And in little over a month, her count of names had grown to 2,100. She’ll be taking names until July 4.
She said the display has been a hit with customers.

“They love it,” she said. “A lot of them have enjoyed it—especially the American flag above the door.”
Thomas has had a little help with the work. Her sons, including the one in the U.S. Army Reserves, have come by to help with the project.

Thomas expects her son to ship out in the coming months.

Thomas said she hopes her entire project reminds people to think of those who served and are serving on this holiday.
“We want people to realize the military is the reason we are free,” she said. “I’m standing here in sandals and not having my face covered because our men and women fought.”

You can Make a Difference Locally and Nationally

Spring has sprung and here on the East Coast the rush begins to prepare for summer.  We crawl out of our winter gear, shake off the dark and look forward to the refreshing changes of the season.

Keeping in mind that change has the opportunity of happening on a daily basis, and knowing we in this group are Military Minded and want to serve, help, support…lets think of ways we can Change the lives of those Military members Active or Veteran who need us!

How…

Even before becoming a Military Mom I was in the habit of contacting my Local Elected Officials, I’ve always felt, if they need me to vote for them, I need them to hear me, help me.  I contact my newly elected local officials, from Municipal, County and State Levels, to National level.  I don’t make it long…I don’t make it political…I just introduce myself as a constituent, I briefly explain my family and one or two major concerns and then I ask how they stand on those concerns. Pretty simple, and I’ve always gotten a response…  “I’m a Military Mom, I have a Veteran Son, My son relies on Veteran Administration Care”…simple non complicated statements…just ask how they feel.  And if you don’t agree with them, you might then want to take the conversation to the next step and call their office, or follow up with another letter or email.  It’s an easy way to support our Military and also get to know how our government work. You can find the contact information for your State at  http://www.gov.com/statelocal/

Let MMN know how your experience works out!

Free Stuff…

I don’t know about you, but I am always amazed at the Free Stuff you can get, sometimes its useful, sometimes its clutter…don’t just discard it, donate it!  I keep a running box of shampoo, body wash, toothpaste and other toiletries that I either get from Hotels, or samples or even coupon deals…when I have a full box I drop it off at my local Veterans Affairs office, I luckily have one right down the street but you may have to locate yours, call first and introduce yourself and MMN and let them know your wish to donate some unused items, I am sure they can find a use for them.  I add in socks that can be universal male/female and I always have one or two of those Free T Shirts from events…lanyards, hats, work gloves…keeping it small.  Many times your local VA Office won’t have storage room so if it’s too big they will turn away, so keep it small and simple.

MMN

is ALWAYS looking for those who can send boxes to our Active Duty military…we have ongoing means of donation and we have emergent need requests that go out…watch our page, sign up for the ongoing box drives. Check out the menu on our website and look for the Box and Card section.

And our Veterans always need you…

As a newer Veteran mom I realized right away that once your loved one is out of the Military the world is a different place for them.  It’s a more complicated life, hinged on many aspects they can’t anticipate or control.  It’s a frustrating maze that changes with each Government administration and very rarely are our Veterans “kept in the loop” meaning, they sometimes can’t keep up with the changing information. They may experience lapses in coverages, or payments…rent and car payments etc don’t wait, and may not be understanding of the issues facing our Veterans.  Lend a hand when you can, lend an ear or a shoulder, more important  listen!  An overwhelmed and emotional person sometimes doesn’t make the best decisions and sometimes a stranger just listening helps to clear a cloudy mind.  If you have the time volunteer at your local Legion Hall, Veterans Group Home, if you are not sure what resources your local community may have in place contact your County or State Veterans groups and ask, they will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.  A few hours a month can make a huge difference.  If you live in a Community that supports a lot of local interaction and activities contact your town or local administration and ask that they remember to include the Veterans, not just the Senior Citizen Veterans but All the Veterans in your community.  Speak for those who might not know how to speak for themselves.

As always I leave you with this, MMN would love to hear your comments or questions regarding our stories, it’s a pleasure to serve our Military and we are dedicated to sharing our passion.

~~Sue

 

 

Jenn’s Story: I Love/Hate the Army

I have such a love hate relationship with the army. I miss it every single day. I struggle every day living in a military community and seeing everybody, including my husband, wear the uniform that I no longer get to. I feel caught between two things. I never deployed, so I constantly feel like I never really served, and yet I am severely disabled by my time in service, and so I feel like I should still be able to call myself a veteran, because I sure sacrificed a lot.

 

 

 

And then I’m angry, because three years later the army is still messing with my life. I didn’t get a job because they couldn’t get me the correct papers needed for veteran’s preference. (Apparently my dd214, Separation orders, and proof of disability weren’t enough.) I really needed this job, as I can no longer just go out and work anywhere. Some days I’m in a wheelchair. Some days I have to wear braces all over my body. Some days I have temperature regulation issues.

This job would have fit that niche that I need, and I really really needed it to be able to support my family. The VA? I’m being told five to seven years before that might kick in, and I have to track down all 48 doctors that have seen me, acquire all of their office notes, and manually scan them into a computer, (That’s over 2000 pages). I just didn’t imagine that three years later I would still be so angry, still be so f***ed, and above it all, still want to be a part of it so badly.

 

 

 

 

 

Cherain’s Story: Prior experience with military helps…somewhat

I HAD experience

Military service runs deep throughout my family and has since WWII. Off the top of my head I can think of at least 8-10 family members who have served.  I had prior experience.  Lots of it.

My youngest son decided that he wanted to join the military in 10th grade or so. He first wanted to go to the Coast Guard and then decided that he would join the Army. He enlisted in August 2015 at 17 years old. 

This required (as many of you know) that his father and I sign him in. This was an unsettling experience for me to undertake and I had reservations.  I pondered how would his life be impacted if he had to wait an additional 8-10 weeks to initiate the process after his 18th birthday? With that in mind I asked him “Are you sure that this is what you want to do, and are you ready now?” He said that he was ready and his father and I signed on the dotted line.  Just like that our 17 year old baby was a man and enlisted in the US ARMY.

I made sure that I poured as much information about signs and symptoms of depression, hearing loss, PTSD, etc., into my son prior to him leaving for boot camp. I did so based on my experience as a VA therapist and seeing my young and old patients struggle to get what they need. I encouraged him to advocate for himself, and stand tall walking in the word of God as he served our country. Most of all I reiterated to him that I would be here no matter the situation good or bad, and that it is ok to ask for help.

Finding Support online

While he was at Basic, I found Facebook groups for guidance regarding what I’d  experience as an Army mom. I am familiar with military life in a sense my husband is a DOD employee for 25+ years. We have lived near several military bases and my children became accustomed to friends leaving every three years.  I found several groups some specific to the location of my child at the time, and then I found Military Mama Network. MMN resonated with me because of the service that it provides to all of the branches of the military. MMN inspired me to send care packages to my son’s battery at Camp Casey for Veterans Day. The process of making all of the heartfelt cards with my then 4 year old daughter allowed here to connect with the important work that her big brother is doing.

Lessons Learned Waiting

In recent months there have been ups and downs as to the emotions that I have felt.  To date it has been 15 months and 2 days since I have hugged my son! I can proudly say that he is back on US soil but has not been home yet due to training. I completely understand that and I patiently await him coming home for Christmas. Today, I am not stronger because my son serves but I am stronger because his service has solidified my faith. His service has caused me to remain calm in the face of the unknown. I’ve learned to stand steadfast when I wanted to be a puddle on the floor,  so I can encourage him. 

His service has taught me to embrace the moment, realizing that before we know it this moment becomes a memory. Through his service has I have gained a large community of brothers and sisters to lean on. I never worry about the inevitable time that will occur when I cannot be right there if something happens.  I know that if I put the word out for help for my son that a Military Mama, Poppa, etc., will come to the rescue.  Until I can make it to him.

 

In closing, I would like to offer the words that his recruiter offered to me prior to his departure “No news is good news”.

Submitted by Cherain

Miss You Too: Family events while serving our country

I served as a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy from 1981-1987.  Although it is a great honor to service our country there can be very lonely moments. Missing family events is a fact of life if you or someone you love chooses to serve.

I was transferred from Great Lakes, IL which is 1 hour from home to Yokosuka, Japan at the young age of 21.  My first year there was difficult just being 10,000 miles from home so young and my niece being born.  During 1985 my second year in Japan which still resonates as one of the hardest years of my life.

Many family events happened,  including me having my first child.  I knew I would have to pick which to attend, and which to miss, because of the expense to come home and the leave time needed.

My sister and soon to be brother in law were wonderful and planned their wedding day to be in my leave window.  My dad was being ordained a deacon in the Catholic church on September 15th and my sister was getting married October 5th.  We ordered my dress over the phone so I could be in her wedding party.  Leave was requested by myself and my ex-husband and we were saving like crazy to come home for a celebratory 3 weeks.  My son was born March 31st and we were preparing to travel with a 5-month-old infant.  Through all the planning although I was stressed I was so excited to come home and celebrate with my family. I’d been missing them since the day we left.

Then the military lowered their boom and rescinded my then-husband’s leave and I would have to travel a 19-hour flight alone with an infant.  We made the decision that it was too much for me to make that trip alone.  I was missing yet another event.  Now I had the task of calling my sister to tell her I couldn’t be in her wedding and calling my dad to tell him I couldn’t make his ordination.  To this day two of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had.

As the summer creeped along and we got closer to September and October my depression of being so far from home became very real.  My family did a fabulous job trying to keep me involved with monthly phone calls and always telling me how all the planning was going.  I was so grateful for the updates but at the same time would hang up and cry because I was missing so much.

September and October came and as my family was celebrating these events I found myself crying missing everyone so much.  My sister and parents purchased videos of the ordination and wedding and sent them to me so I could enjoy their day.  I remember being so excited to watch them all while not realizing how much I would cry.  I will forever be grateful my family included me as much as possible 10,000 miles away.

Fast forward 20 years and that infant son joined the Navy.  My son has been gone all but 7-10 days of every year of his 11.5 years on active duty I find myself feeling a new level of sadness and emotions when he has missed major family events.   This is a fact of life for all active duty service members but I know I’m not alone in thinking it is one of the loneliest and most difficult times for families and the service member.

Being someone who has experienced these feelings as a Sailor, mom and aunt I think  about what we can do from our side of the experience.  We can do many things to help our service member feel a part of family events: pictures, videos and texting details from the events.  Facetime and Skype from family events may be a good idea, or it may make things more difficult on our service member.  Have the conversation with your service member.  It doesn’t replace them being here but I would hope it helps them with the loneliness during these times and the emotions of service their country doing a job they love and being far from home.  Luckily with technology today there are more options than were available during my active duty time.

As for the family member, I’ve found a great deal of comfort in belonging to MilitaryMamaNetwork.  The “mamas” get it.  And I have found an extended family who speaks my language.  On those difficult days, I know where I can go to share my thought and feelings.