Guest Blogger!

A few weeks ago I was asked to be a guest blogger for Future.Flying.Saucers. This was the first time I had ever been asked to write an article, outside of school that is and I did not even have to worry about being graded! It was an honor and a challenge and loads of fun!

I admire the author of FFS, she is a woman of many talents.  She is a stay at home mom who home-schools her children, teaches a woman’s bible study, and is involved in children’s ministries.   Her writing is about life, families, and her love for Jesus.  I must admit when I first saw her blog I was fascinating with her title, and was curious about her blog. Then as I browsed through her articles I knew this was a place God led me.  So I invite you to “pull up a chair, take your shoes off and stay for a few minutes” getting to know FFS, she is after all a “kindred spirit”. 

My article “Military Families Are Never Alone” is how we dealt with the long separations of deployments and TDY (temporary duty).  May  you be encouraged in knowing that you too are never alone.  Jesus lives in each of us.

I would like to thank her again, for allowing me to get out of my comfort zone to soar like a “flying saucer” to new heights. 

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From Letters To Emails

The other day I had emailed a fellow Blue Star mom who also has a daughter and son in law in the Army.  We mentioned the wonderful world of technology and the ability to be in constant contact with our loved ones deployed.

I started thinking back to  30 years ago when my husband re-enlisted in the Army.    His MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was in Communications.  At his duty station at MacDill AFB, Florida, he would go often for TDY (Temporary Duty Assignment) which meant his duty would take him to destinations across the globe to train in all types of climates and regions.  He was always gone long enough to miss, but not long enough for letters.  We did not have home computers, internet, and emails, nor did we have cell phones. I  learned to live with the motto “no news is good news”.

I was actually one of the lucky ones, because of his job at setting up communications, he always had access to a phone line.  And they were sometimes allowed to call at least once during their TDY.  At one time he called home and said, “guess what I am calling on”?  They had to test the White House lines – which we called the red phone and were giving permission to call their families.  So I can honestly say I got a call from the White House infamous red phone!

Other than that time, we would correspond through letters.  25 years later our son would leave for his first deployment and my husband for his last deployment,  emails would replace letters and talking via internet was introduced.  At first the families made appointments with the unit to speak with their husbands and sons through an  internet link set up by their command. By time our son was deployed again Skype was common and now families were able to talk with their loved ones via the internet from the comfort of their homes and often.  So much had changed in just 20 years in how we would write our deployed loved ones.

Can you imagine sailing from Europe to the new colonies knowing you will never see or hear from your family and friends back home ever again.   Today we travel the globe and call, text and email our loved ones from one destination to the next.

Since 1776 when our country fought for their independence to the first pioneers heading west to the Civil War most ordinary citizens were illiterate and usually could not afford the postage to  mail a letter through the official post.  For those that could read and write they would send letters by way of an acquaintance traveling near the letters’ destination.

During WWI the post office had a challenge to get mail to the troops to France.  Mail would need to go to a central point in NY then shipped by boat to France and from there transported with supplies to where the units were.  So mail was slow at its best and often  would get lost as troops continued to move.  WWII saw an improvement with the introduction of air mail but most mail was still sent by ship transport and then on to where the troops were all over Europe.  Visit NotsofancyNancy to read the letters from her dad to her mom during WWII.

With the organization of the Military Postal Service and the APO (Army/Airforce Post Office) and the FPO (Fleet Post Office) mail would now be easily sent to and from military posts all over the world in peace and war.  Through the Korean Conflict to the Vietnam War and to the conflicts our soldiers have been engaged until recently, letters and packages were sent regularly – but still the soldier’s mail would take days and maybe weeks to make its destination. 

Image courtesy of http://www.Daily Clip Art.net

Today we have email, cell phones,social networks, and talking via Skype.  Although it is not that same as having your loved one home, it is the next best thing. 

Communication has come a long way since the time the colonists first arrived on these shores. Letters have become a thing of the past from a bygone era. But as both my husband and son said, there is nothing like hearing your name during mail call and receiving that letter from home.

{pictures courtesy of google search}

Busy Hands

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might” Ecclesiastes 9:10
 
As a young mother my days were filled with everything from diaper changes to kissing boo-boos and from endless piles of laundry to bedtime stories.
 
There were many days I wondered if what I did mattered.  Every day was filled with nonstop activities and housework; it was a busyness that consumed my days.  No matter how I tried to find balance between children, a husband, and every day issues it always seemed something needed done with not enough time in the day to complete it all.
 
Now as my children are grown and I have been happily married for 32 years I can see everything I did mattered, even cooking leftovers to make that dollar stretch a little bit farther. Over the years like all of us, I wore different hats and still do today; the hats continue to change in all seasons of life.
 
God entrusted to me; my husband to honor and respect, my children to nurture and raise in a Godly home and to build that home into a refuge of comfort and happiness for those I love.  What I do matters to my family, friends and those whose paths I cross and may never meet again by helping in my own small way. Hands keeping busy doing what God calls me to do.
 
As wives and moms we know juggling is no easy task and as an Army wife it also meant being a single mom, sometimes with no advance warning.  But we all did it and today many military families today struggle with loved ones deployed to far away places as they raise children alone and lonely dreams fill their nights.  Hands are kept busy building tomorrows children and waiting for loved ones to come marching home.
 
Some days I may fall short and when I do I have Christ ready to catch me and my family to encourage me.  I am secure in the knowledge that I am right where God planted me.  Through the years I knew what needed done and I did it with the mighty strength of the Lord.
 
As wives and mothers we all have our roles and responsibilities and whatever work “our hands find to do”  we are to do it with all of our might.  And wherever our lives take us ~ and whatever we do, we matter to the lives we touch.
{Patty Beggs 2012}

Where Does The Time Go?

Our son – 1 week old

This year our son turned 31. Like all other parents, we ask ourselves, where did the time go?

It truly does seem like yesterday that we were bringing him home from the hospital, in his little Steeler onesie.  He was so tiny yet so big.

Today I see a young man, a soldier and a youth leader.  In the days past I remember a baby who hated to sleep, he was always afraid he would miss something. He enjoyed being with us and never liked to be away from us for long.  But as he grew up he would be the one always going somewhere – from one adventure to the next.  Recently I told him, don’t tell me when you travel,  just let me know when you get home!  If there is a path to walk, mountains to climb and people to meet, he is there.  He inherited my dad’s “itchy feet”, always wanting to see and do what is around the next bend.

One Year Old

When he was a baby one of his favorite games was “sack of potatoes” that is when daddy would sling him over his shoulders like a “sack of potatoes”.  Another game was being attacked by the “mad washcloth” during bath time.  His squeals of laughter would fill our home.

Thoughts go back to seeing both daddy and son sitting together on the recliner watching the Pittsburgh Steelers play.  Today they go to the games and it is just as special as when they sat together, cheering their favorite team on the television.

When he was three years old we were stationed at Ft Gordon, GA where we

In Bosnia with the children
from the school his unit adopted

bought Tommy’s first set of BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniform).  Tom was recently promoted, he then presented our son with his old Specialist 4 insignia.  Wherever we went on post there would always be soldiers who would salute him and make a fuss over the young soldier who out ranked them, bringing smiles to a little 3 yr old boy.  Today, he is the soldier, serving his country and bringing laughter and smiles to children all over the world.

We also share plenty of mother and son moments, when Tom would go out on TDY (temporary duty) we would make a day of it, finding new and interesting things to do, along with ordering order pizza.  So much that it became a family joke that Tom did not have to worry about the milkman coming around when he was not home, he had to worry about the pizza man! 

We also share an appreciation of movies, books, music and travel.  And we both like to laugh ~ but today his is a quiet laugh with a twinkle in his eye that fill our lives.

From his first steps to his first day of school, to the bittersweet moment of his basic training graduation and first deployment to the joyous occasion of his college graduation ~ it has been a honor to watch our baby boy grow into the young man he is today.   We thank God every day for the blessing of being Tommy’s parents.

Graduation Day!
First Grade
Little League
Wacky Teen
Hiking at the Gorge in Ithaca

The Message Of The Cardinal

states symbols USA

The Cardinal, my favorite bird “is symbolic of faith and comes to remind us, that though circumstances might look bleak, dark and despairing, there is always hope. The Cardinal comes to us to remind us to ‘keep the faith’ through circumstances might look bleak, dark and hopeless.  In addition, the cardinal is symbolic of the blood of Christ, reminding us that we as believers are covered by the blood of Christ.”[1]

Years ago I read “When a red bird flies in your path it is a sign from God that He loves us and has not abandoned us”  (unknown) For me, the Cardinal is more than a sign, it is a message of hope and reassurance of God’s presence in my life.

The Cardinal is devoted to his mate staying with her for life, supplying all that his bird family needs in food and in nesting, protecting his mate by ferociously defending its territory against any predator. 

It is the Cardinal that showed me how God sent His Son Jesus to stand guard over us, protecting us, and supplying us with what we need to sustain us in our life – food, shelter and His presence.   Not as ferociously as a Cardinal, Jesus protects us gently as a Shepherd caring for His sheep; He will defend and care for us even at the cost of His earthly life.

Twelve years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer,  the male and female Cardinal found their way to me with their message of hope and would sit just long enough by my kitchen window to bring me comfort and strength to get through another day. 

Over the years with each difficult moment, deployments, complications from bad choices and doubts of my faith – the Cardinal always shows up reminding me of Gods promise that He is always near, sheltering me from life’s storms. 

It is the little red Cardinal who gets my attention when nothing else can.           It is the Cardinal that God sends His message of hope to me.

When our hearts are heavy and the burdens of life start to consume us, may our eyes be open to the message that comes from God’s messenger  the Cardinal, that His presence is all around us – every day and in every waking moment.

What is your message from God that brings you hope, peace and comfort?  Keep it close to your heart finding the perfect peace that comes from God alone.

“You will keep in perfect peace Him whose mind is steadfast, because He trusts in you”Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

Filling In The Void

I read an interesting devotion the other day regarding void fillers.  Void fillers are when we fill the emptiness in our life with “things”.  There are many different ways we can feel emptiness or a void in our life. As a parent and a wife or husband of  soldiers we experience that emptiness in our lives when they are not home and far away leaving a huge void in our lives that we end up filling  with too many “things”.  That emptiness also comes from the first time our children leave home for college or when the need of good jobs take them too far from home.  The most painful is the emptiness and hopelessness that comes from when our loved ones are called to their heavenly home.

As parents we experience that empty nest, when our children leave home. It is amazing how large our home has become and just how loud silence can get.  The holiday tables look so empty and our hearts are aching to fill our homes with all of our children once again.

As a military spouse we say goodbye to our better half as they go off to work knowing that they will not be home at 5 pm.   Our hearts are lonely for the one we love.  Our hearts and homes are empty.

There are many ways to fill in that void – most are good and productive.  For myself, when my husband was away for military duty I earned the nickname “the white tornado”, whenever he would return not only would the house be clean but also rearranged along with closets and storage spaces cleaned out.  I would be on a cleaning frenzy and like a tornado swoop down cleaning and throwing away everything in my path!

Some void fillers are not productive and only waste time and energy.  When our son deployed for the second time I was introduced to the wonderful world of the internet, computer games and Facebook.  I would spend hours surfing the web on genealogy, the history of whatever caught my fancy.  You named it I researched it.  Before the internet and Facebook during my husband’s service I escaped the loneliness like other wives with the tv that kept us company between soap operas during the day and the evening shows from Dallas to Falcon Crest.  The noise of the tv made our nights less lonely.  Through the years I have found more productive ways to fill the void that was left by my husband Tom and our son Tom’s separations through the military with volunteering, crafts, reading and taking classes on post and learning new things which are not only more productive but also very fulfilling.

Now as a mature (not old!) mother and wife I have learned to balance the good and bad void fillers of my life.  I don’t clean as much and limit my computer time ~ although I will admit I am not that successful at limiting my computer time!  I have found so many opportunities to fill my days.  I have also found the center that keeps everything in balance is Jesus Christ.  Once I put Him at the center of my life the void that is left from having a deployed son  or the loneliness of my parents and brother who are no longer with me here on earth, doesn’t seem so empty.   My home may be empty at times, but my heart is full all the time with the memories of those I love who are gone and with the many blessings that God has given me today; family, friends, and countless opportunities to grow spiritually and independently.

What are your void fillers?  Are they good or bad?  What can you do to balance them out?

C Rations

A few weeks ago on one of the Facebook pages I subscribe to, the question came up regarding how everyone likes the MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat).  These as most of you may know are the meals our soldiers can take out in the field with them and just like the title they are ready to eat.  They are made to be eaten quickly, hot or cold, when there are no facilities to cook hot meals.

So I read through everyone’s post and was amazed at how many liked them.  They are very nutritional but in some instances, like the cheese omelet which was voted unanimously the worse, they may not taste very good.

Growing up in the military I was raised with C-rations. Mom would create meals out of the cases of green cans that dad would bring home.  So it was no surprise when my husband started to bring home the MRE’s that I felt right at home and created meals out of them as well.  Now by themselves, they make nice quick hot lunches, but add rice, noodles, more meat or vegetables and you can have yourself a good casserole. 

Here are some pictures to give you an idea what our soldiers had in the past and what they have today:

              

The C-ration and one of my favorites – the pound cake.  You can imagine how surprised I was when I realized pound cake did not come in a can!  Another favorite of ours was the cheese spread and crackers. 

And the MRE – they are filling and full of calories.

Whenever Tom was gone for training or in the field, he would bring home bags of these leftover MRE’s.  It seemed I was the only Army wife who wanted them.   Even when I explained to a few how they could make them taste better, there were no takers.  It is amazing what a little seasoning can do. 

I like to imagine it is the seasoning and my magic touch that is the reason I like the MRE’s or it could perhaps be that the C-rations ruined my taste buds for civilian food!

Hurry Up And Wait

How many of you are familiar with this military term?  I grew up hearing it often in my home.  Dad would mention that term often in his own Army stories. 

So what exactly does it mean?  Well, it is to do something quickly then wait around for what you need to do next.  Dad would often tell us funny stories of a soldier’s life. He often told of the long lines: the long lines to wait in to get a shower, the long lines waiting for chow, and he would often joke about having to wait in line to sneeze.

Growing up in the Army, I found the saying is also true for us dependants.  For instance, I often remember standing in line with mom at the commissary, the PX (today it is called AAFES), and even the dispensary.  And it seems I was always in a line when I attended a DOD (Department of Defense) School in Mannheim Germany. Hurry up and get in line for lunch, to go outside for recess or for the reading room (my favorite place), but once in line we would then wait.  I was never quite sure what we were waiting for because we all got in an orderly line and now we were waiting to set off.  And as we waited, we were like any 6 yr olds and we would get fidgety.  Let’s face it, we were not good little soldiers at attention!

But as dad retired and we lived a civilian life, I put that old saying behind me and adjusted to civilian life.  Unknown to me, this would become a part of my life both as an Army wife and now a PA Army National Guard Mom or if we speak in military terms I am a PAANG Mom!

One of the many stories of hurry up and wait was when our son left for his second deployment, this time to Afghanistan; his unit had to report to Fort Indiantown Gap to board buses to take them to Ft Bragg, NC for their training.  We got him there just shy of 6 am after leaving home to travel the 107 miles to the Gap as we call it.  It was freezing rain and sleet all the way.  And Tom, my husband had a short cut. Let’s just say whenever I hear the word short cut I become very uneasy.  This short cut was no different, because of the bad weather and the need to travel through the part of PA that is our coal region, which is mountainous and, although beautiful in the summer and fall,  it is very treacherous driving in the winter. 

But we made it and he reported in as we went to where the families were gathered.  And then we waited until he returned to say our good-bye and then we thought we would waive the buses off, so we waited again.  Then they got off the buses.  By now it is dawn and the sun is coming up and so we stand with him next to the buses and we wait some more.  They finally re-boarded and drove off. By now we have stood for over 2 hrs, most of it in the freezing cold. But I can honestly say it was worth every frozen second and I would do it again. 

The lesson here is this; when seeing your son or daughter off, take a folding chair with you because you will hurry up and get them to their destination only to end up waiting until they move out.  This also works for basic training graduations and any military ceremony. Another lesson was at Ft Bragg, NC the day of their farewell ceremony when they ran out of seats and, would you believe it was raining, cold, and dreary.

I hate to say this but our son will be leaving for training during the same time of year when he leaves for his third deployment, so this time I think we will get a hotel room and bring chairs, hot cocoa and warm blankets.  It will be a guarantee that we will have a very warm winter and that they will leave for their training right on schedule!

Being An Army Mom

What does it take to be an Army Mom?  Some of us are worriers, some are brave, some may  be in denial, others are planners,  and then there are those that decorate their homes in yellow ribbons surrounded by the Red, White and Blue, and most, I think you will agree, are a little bit of all of the above, like me!  We even had a 3 foot banner to welcome our son home from his second deployment. He said he liked it but it would not surprise me if he filed it away in his mind as one of those things that parents do.   He is preparing to leave for his third deployment, and now the contest is on to see if we can top that last deployment’s homecoming. Maybe, instead of a banner, we will strive for a marching band!  Now the funny thing is, as I plan for his third homecoming, is to understand he doesn’t even have his orders yet.  All they are preparing for now is what our newspaper called “readiness training”.   Since he is in the PA National Guard, you would think all of their training would be for readiness. But that is just my opinion and as, I think about it, and I am not sure I want to know what they do all year-long when they are not in “readiness training”. 
If I had to pick one peculiarity of an Army mom, a planner would be mine.   Now all of you active duty spouses and parents out there, stop laughing.  I know that planning in the Army is the same as thinking in the Army, you just don’t do it.  That is what the Army does, they do our planning and thinking for us, and I have a feeling the Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard are the same.  But I am a chronic planner so over the years as I have planned, I have learned to have a plan B, and sometimes even a plan C.  I am ready for any scenario the Army throws at us, and I must admit I have never run out of plans yet!
So as I sit here planning for my sons return from his deployment, I can’t help but prepare my heart as the day gets closer and closer when we have to say good-bye to him yet again.  With being raised in the military, I thought I would be prepared for the long separations, but I learned all too well when my husband re-enlisted shortly after my son was born that being an Army wife is different from being an Army daughter.  Becoming what my friends and I called part- time single moms would be the hardest challenge I would ever go through.  So I thought, I was 22 yrs old and a new Army wife, what did I know?  But I will be honest; nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for my son enlisting.  When he enlisted in the summer of 2001 with the PA National Guard, I planned my little heart out.  I planned our trip to see his graduation from Ft Benning, I was planning his first meal home, and I was even planning his college graduation 4 years down the road.  Now keep in mind he enlisted in the summer and did not have to report to Ft Benning till the end of October, but that did not stop me – I was planning and I was going to be prepared, no crying and being over emotional for me, no sir, not me, I am an Army brat born and raised, I can handle this.  At this time I just turned 40 so you would think I would have known better, dried eyed I was not!   This time it was not the military that changed everything but the morning of Sept 11, 2001 which changed America forever.  The reality of his enlisting had entered into my life, and I was faced with a new challenge in my life. It seems to me as soon as we get over one challenge another comes swiftly to take its place. 
Now the military comes in to change my plans. Our son was not home but a few weeks from Basic Training and AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) at Ft Benning, GA when he received orders to Bosnia.  When we returned home from our son’s Basic Training and AIT graduation ceremony, it is then my husband informed us that he had orders for Germany.  Part of my plans was to have my husband with me as we both dealt with our son’s first deployment.  In a blink of an eye, half of my family will be half way around the world.  So my daughter then 16 and I planned and prepared for a very long and lonely year.  While they were gone I not only took care of the house, the bills, the repairs, and the decisions by myself, but I also worked full-time.  But it was not all work and worry.  My daughter and I developed a wonderful close relationship; I learned new crafts, got involved with volunteering with the church and deepened my relationship with God.  I found myself changing into a seasoned Army wife and mother.  A rare breed we are, we are as tough as lions and as gentle as a lamb.  We are hard-working, wise, courageous, faithful, strong, and compassionate. We are the backbone of the military.  All of us moms, dads and spouses keep the heart and hearth of America beating. 
As we prepare again for another deployment, I will muster up the all the courage, strength, wisdom, and all the love that is within me once again.  My husband is now retired and he found out during our sons’ second deployment that watching our son leave is one of the hardest challenges he has faced.  He did not realize how difficult it was to stay behind. 
And yes, I am planning.  My plans are how to decorate my house in yellow ribbons inside and out.  Not to mention the red, white and blue that will surround us the year he is overseas.  I am planning on seeing him off where he will receive his final training before he deploys. Naturally I do not even know where that will be yet, but I will be there. And I am planning for when he comes home on leave, making my list for what to send him while he is deployed, and planning for the day when he comes marching home again. 
Patty
This was first published on 4/17/2011 at www.enlistedspousecommunity.com