Perhaps you’ve read Justin’s letter to his mom, reflecting on what it is like for an active duty soldier to leave his family behind.
We are looking forward to reading an inside look from Justin’s wife, Catherine. She’s an experienced spouse and sometimes “single” mama navigating life married to a man in the Army. Read on for more articles and blog posts Catherine will be sharing.
Hello! My name is Kate. Let me introduce you to our family! My husband, Greg, has been in the Army as an active duty soldier for about 4 1/2 years. We have five “military brats”, Gregory 10, Connor 6, Nathan 4, and twins Michele and Owen 19 months. My husband is currently 5 months into a year short tour to South Korea. This tour is our family’s second experience with daddy being away. The first time was to Afghanistan almost 4 years ago. My husband was home from basic for three months before he left for the sandbox. When he deployed, it gave me a first hand knowledge of just how hard it can be for me and for my children.
Three Years Later…
Here we are three years later, 5 months into a short tour and even though we have our hard days we are doing it together and getting through day by day. I try so hard to help my kids through the nights of missing daddy and provide the best care I can keeping us all super busy to pass the time. However it never prepared me for what my 6 year old said to me last Monday. It was a crazy busy Monday. I came home from picking up the kids from school, started helping with homework. We had cold cereal for dinner that night because I was just to exhausted and stressed to cook. I felt so guilty for not having a hot meal for them. I got the twins up to bed and decided to allow the older boys to watch cartoons with me a little later and have a popcorn movie night before bedtime.
Connor (6) came over and sat down with me and we started talking about how school went. He told me of a secret Mother’s Day craft he was working on! He was quiet for a few minutes. Then he said that a fellow student told him that their mom was a single mom because they don’t have a daddy. Before I could try and think about how to explain to him that sometimes families are built differently he asked me a question. Mom? Are you a single mama because my daddy is in Korea? Because I know you love me and you do a good job. I love you mama. I miss daddy. I cried. And I cried some more. He asked me what was wrong. I said that I miss daddy too.
A Kid’s Perspective
He brought me a whole new perspective on how my kids perceive our crazy military life. I knew that my husbands short tour was going to be hard for us. Everyday I see the struggles my children go through. I feel stressed to the max some days. I feel like I’m not going to make it until bedtime some nights. My kids don’t see the messes. They don’t care what they had for dinner. They see their mama working hard for them. They see me doing it alone. And they miss their daddy. They see me doing a good job where sometimes I feel like I am failing. I tried to prepare for the struggles of a long separation, but I never thought about how they perceive me while daddy is away. They make me proud to be their mama!
Grab your box of tissues and start reading about my birthday mission.
Saturday a mom approached me about delivering cakes to her son in tech school which I wanted to do. And THAT was the last simple thing that happened.
His two favorite cakes she couldn’t order online, so she sent me money to order them (plus some extra to donate to MMN) The hunt was on to find these cakes.
I called at least 10 different stores to find both of these cakes and visited 4 stores to be able to buy them both. I spent over 2 hours driving around town finding them. My toddlers kept asking to eat the cake and if they weren’t so hard to find, I may have had let them. Ha!
I got to the base no problem but then I stopped a random Airman and found out the address the mom had was to his post office box not to his building. By the way he was so polite and helpful, y’all are raising them right.
His mom had to call him and ruin the surprise which I felt bad about. He came out to the parking lot so I didn’t have to wake up 3 toddlers. I was exhausted.
Then after presenting the cakes and telling him happy birthday, he smiling the whole entire time, he looks at me and goes “I have no idea what’s going on”. That just made me tear up. He was so surprised and you could just tell so happy.
Today’s cake hunt was worth it because this Airman got a birthday surprise that he was just so appreciative for.
His mama got the video of it all but I just wanted to share the picture with you.
From his mama:
Special thanks to Catherine Mirelez and her lovely and beautiful kids for connecting me and my son on his Birthday! Catherine, you are a God-sent angel to me and my son! You have had connected me to my son on his special day. The video that you sent me literally made me cry (a great tears of joy).
This was his first time away from me and first time of not celebrating his birthday with us! You made him happy! You made me happy! I salute you for your great kindness and having a big heart! I actually have prayed for this and it’s a God-answered prayer! You are indeed God’s instrument!
You are an amazing Mom, wife, and friend! You are a great example and role model not only to your children but also to everyone! I do appreciate all of your time and effort to make it happen! I can’t thank you enough! I’m so thankful to God he sent you to us! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Btw: You’re beautiful inside and out and your children are so beautiful too! I fell in love with your family! Kindhearted family! Hugs and kisses to you all! I wish to meet you all someday!
The response I get a lot of when I mention I’m married to a service member is “awh you must move a lot”. Insert my kind smile and nodding. Sometimes people just don’t know what to say so they say something incredibly annoying.
Let’s talk about how much I love PCSing or moving for all you not in the acronym business.
1. The movers will always be late, won’t pack your precious dishes correctly, and spell your last name wrong on every single box.
My last name is Mirelez but once we moved and it was spelled: Mireles, Morelez, Morales, Moroles. I can keep going but it just hurts. I had to go back to over 100 boxes and rewrite our last name because yes that matters. I also has to verify our number on every single box as it was going onto the truck.
My only wedding gift I got was 12 dollar per piece wine glasses. I barely use them they are more for when fancy people come over. I’m more of “if I’m gonna drink, I want a plastic cup that I can’t break” type drinker. And they just wrapped them up with the equivalent to newspaper and tossed it in the box with plates. I hyperventilated every single time I thought of them until I unwrapped and saw the damage.
It goes faster to just pack your own stuff and just hire friends to load up the truck. You will also have less grey hair.
2. Pay someone to clean your house after the move out.
You just survived the packers from the underworld, the movers just left after shoveling all your possessions on a truck, your children are whining because their favorite toys are packed even though you left out a suitcase full of stuff, and you stand in the middle of your house and realize you still need to clean.
Hire someone. Don’t do it with friends. Go out drinking with those friends and pay someone to clean. Spending money through PCS season will be the only way to save your sanity.
3. You are gonna leave something important on the truck.
That birth certificate that you need to enroll your kid into school? On the truck. Your military ID that you need to get on and off the base because your husband went ahead and moved before you? DEFINITELY on the truck. But you know what’s not on it, your 3 year collection of bath and body works lotion and liquor collection because the company refused to pack anything liquid.
Lotion up and liquor down.
4. Meeting new people is horrible.
You have to do the small talk, gauge if your new neighbor is gonna rock the next 3 years or not, find your group of people. I’m personally a semi hippie but I don’t judge people for not wanting to save the environment. It’s hard for me to find alcoholic hippies who eat steaks while binge watching Pretty Little Liars. It’s a small breed of us.
Smile through it though. You’ll meet some of the most amazing people out there. You’ll meet women who inspire you and some that you wonder why the purge hasn’t been legalized yet.
5. If packing was miserable then wait to unpack.
Your furniture won’t fit this new house. The rooms will be too big and the kitchen too small. You will hate deep cleaning another house.
“Ew. Who lives so filthy. Oh wait someone is saying that about me.”
You know that look of the house where everything looks tossed around and kinda sorta match up, yeah that’ll be your house. Unless you buy every room to overlap and match, but who has that type of time. Not me.
6. Embrace the suck.
You married someone who is a hero. They will do things most dream of. Your life is no longer yours, it’s the militaries. You can choose to marry and move and deal with it or you can let him move and live apart. Trust me it’s more fun with him.
When I finally just embraced the suck and rolled with the stupid, it got better. You’ll never understand how nice it was just to laugh it off and move on.
Take it from someone who has packed up and moved 8 times in 7 years, roll with it. Roll with it. Things will mess up, people will upset you, there will be tears, but you’re gonna start fresh and meet some awesome new people.