Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Year, Big Changes

I suppose this post has been a long time coming, I just didn't want to accept it.  To quote one of my favorite movies (Hope Floats, for inquiring minds): "Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most."

Endings ARE sad, and the thought of ending the blog that started it all is very, very sad to me.  But.  The simple fact of the matter is, I'm not an Army wife anymore. 

When I started this blog, I was a brand spankin' new Army wife.  I had only been married to my soldier for two months when he left for Iraq, which was the day I began writing.  And my GOD was it scary.

I poured my heart and soul into One Army Wife's Tale as you all watched me fumble through those wretched early weeks of my husband's first deployment.

I kept it real about the struggles we faced with reintegration and maintaining a long distance relationship after he came back from Iraq, but was still stationed in Texas, a good 1,200 miles from our home in Michigan.

I bared all about how wonderful (yet difficult) it was to finally have him home with us for good after he was honorably discharged from the Army in September of 2012- our battles with the VA (which are still ongoing, by the way), watching him feel conflicted over being home while his brothers in arms deployed again, adjusting to actually living under the same roof.

If it happened in my life, you heard about it.  And while I've heard from hundreds (thousands?  maybe...) of military spouses over the past few years about how cathartic my blog has been for them, it has been the best therapy in the world for me.

I honestly don't know how I would have survived my life as an Army wife without the online community that formed around me during my darkest days.

Oh, and did I mention, my silly little blog is now a mother truckin' book?!  Lifelong dream = accomplished.  The opportunities and experiences I've been blessed with in the past three years, none of which would have been possible without One Army Wife's Tale, are immeasurable.

And so it is with a very, very heavy heart that I bid you all adieu.  Why?  Well, like I said...I'm not an Army wife anymore.  My husband is a disabled veteran who will probably spend the rest of his life jumping through hoops with the VA- but our day to day life has very little to do with the military anymore.  We're more and more removed from that world every day.

I will continue to write for the Army Wife Network's Loving a Soldier blog on a monthly basis (as long as they will have me,) and my website,, will remain active. But I do believe, after an absolutely insane few years, that this Army wife's tale has officially reached its end.

The love and appreciation I have for everyone who has supported me during this journey cannot be put into words, so I'll simply say this- THANK YOU for helping me make it through "the middle."  It really is what mattered the most.  I love you all.

(Check out the Army Wife Network's Featured Blogs for your One Army Wife's Tale replacement!)


El fin.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

From Soldier to Civilian: A Year Later

One year ago today, my husband went from "Soldier" to "civilian," and our family embarked on a crazy new journey called  A NORMAL LIFE. 

I've never been more proud of anyone than I was of my Soldier, and I loooooved the way he looked in that uniform.  Being an Army wife was an honor, and I always treated it as such.  But the military lifestyle was never one that was for us, not long term.  When The Hubs was stationed over 1,200 miles away from home at Fort Hood, and especially during his deployment to Iraq, all I wanted was for him to come home, for us to have a normal marriage, and to finally have a "normal" family. 

For a year now, we've had exactly that, and it's been fabulous.  By fabulous, I mean, of course, that The Hubs and I only want to kill each other about 35% of the time.  See, now that we're no longer living on borrowed time like we were when he was in the Army (a couple weeks together here, a stolen few days there), we have the luxury of taking each other for granted.

Some might see taking someone for granted as a bad thing, but it doesn't have to be.  Not if you do it right.  I like just knowing that my husband is going to be right beside me in bed every night, never having to worry about things like staff duty and field exercises.  I love being able to make long term plans, without the threat of a deployment hanging over our heads constantly, knowing that at any moment, everything could change.  We have a routine, and the kids have all come to appreciate their dad/step-dad as a constant in their lives, rather than just someone who comes to visit every once in a while.

We're comfortable now.  We don't pretend to like each other's shows or all the same movies or have this incessant need to spend every waking minute together just because we're painfully aware of how quickly that time will pass.  We don't hold back our feelings to avoid arguments.  It's not that we enjoy fighting, but I think it's unhealthy for couples to never fight.  And we definitely tried to avoid them at all costs when our time together was limited.

I don't wake up early every morning to take an extra long shower, making sure to meticulously shave my legs and spend the time doing my hair and makeup and picking out the perfect outfit.  Don't get me wrong, I still get cute from time to time- but there's no need for that shit every day.  Sleep is way more important.  On the flip side of that coin, The Hubs doesn't bother showering daily anymore (which- GROSS....but he IS a man, and men are gross) and I can't remember the last time he wore cologne.

For all intents and purposes, we're a normal family now.  But while my husband went from Soldier to civilian with a simple signature on a piece of paper, the transition back into "civilian life" hasn't been quite as fast....or as smooth.

It's been a year, and my husband's VA Disability claim still has not been reviewed.  I am SO THANKFUL that his income was not our main or only source of income, which I know is not the case for a lot of military families.  Because we would be SO SCREWED right now!  He puts hundreds of miles on his car every week driving back and forth from the VA Hospital for therapy appointments, consultations, re-checks, etc. 

He struggles daily with his "battle scars," as I call them- both physical and emotional.  His injuries are so debilitating some days that he can't even get out of bed in the morning.  And the PTSD/TBI issues- I think we're lucky, overall, but there are definitely still challenges.

We go through things that I feel like so many people just don't understand.  Everyone has their stuff, but military stuff tends to be pretty heavy.  I'm finding out that you can take the family out of the military, but you can never completely take the military out of the family.

It's been exactly one year since my husband took off his ACUs for the last time.  While they still hang in our closet, collecting dust, the knowledge that he will never again have to put them on brings me peace every single day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

OSMW: Cyber Cult or Good, Clean Fun?

I've never been one to shy away from controversy or criticism, so as I sit here, I find myself wondering why I waited so long to write this particular piece.  It's been on my mind for a while.  Maybe I've been hesitant because I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about the topic I'm about to approach until now.  I've always said I could never be a judge because I can often empathize with all sides of an argument, at least to some degree.  I'm not an unreasonable or set in my ways kind of chick.  I have an open mind.  I strive to see the positive in all things, no matter how negative.  And I like to think I can take a good joke, no matter how inappropriate or tongue-in-cheek it may be.  But I know that in bringing up this particular issue, all of that is going to come into question.  So be it.

What am I talking about?  Four of the most controversial words in the military spouse community:  OVERLY SENSITIVE MILITARY WIVES.  For those of you who don't know what that means (good for you, by the way), Overly Sensitive Military Wives is a Facebook community that now goes by the moniker OSMW, after Facebook shut down the original page due to "hate speech."  (Your first clue that this is not a group you want to be a part of.)

In a nutshell, OSMW is a page that markets itself as a group of "real" military spouses who aren't afraid to speak the truth and shed light on the dark side of the military universe.  It's all in good fun, of course.  Jokes.  All jokes.  And, it has to be said (and is said repeatedly by the page's head admin anytime someone insults her site), that they do "a lot of" good.  They post pictures of missing kids and pets.  They promote fundraisers if they deem them worthy.  Those are good things, right?  Well, yes.  Yes they are.  And truth be told, some of the jokes they post are funny.  So you, like me, may look at those few positives in the abyss of darkness that is this page and think, "Well then, maybe it's not that bad."

But here's the truth about OSMW.  It IS that bad.  It's a 24,000 strong cult of insecure, petty, mean-spirited bullies with too much time on their hands, led by page admin "Six," who, for all we know, is really a 60 year old man living in a cabin on a mountaintop somewhere, getting his jollies from watching women tear each other apart online.

How dare I call it a cult?  We'll get to that in a bit.  First, let's cover some frequently asked questions, shall we?

What is OSMW, exactly?  OSMW is a Facebook community that posts stories, photos and screenshots making fun of certain "stereotypical" military spouses (read: all military spouses, in one way or another.)

Who does OSMW target?  Primarily what they call "dependas."  A "dependa" may possess any or all of the following qualities: works from home or does not work, spends most of her time on the internet, does not take care of her kids, does not take care of her house, spends all her soldier's money, loves Twinkies, carries a Coach or ACU patterned purse.  And it goes without saying in OSMWville that any military wife who is overweight, regardless of whether or not she fits any of these other characteristics, is a dependa by default.  Oh, and if you ever take offense to anything posted on the page, you MUST be a dependa.  It's the only possible explanation.

Here is where I would like to point out one very curious fact: For as much as she loathes the dreaded "dependa," a quick perusal of the OSMW Facebook page will show you that the page admin, Six, is online posting, finding content to post from other pages, and responding to posts and comments literally ALL DAY LONG EVERY DAY.  This is not an exaggeration.  Her posts are constant.  Could it be that she is the very thing she claims to hate?  Someone who stays at home all day and has nothing better to do than stir up drama on the internet??  I'm not a betting kinda girl, but if I was....

If you don't like the page or agree with the content posted, why don't you just unlike it?  This is a very important question, because it's the exact argument OSMW makes any time anyone ever says anything negative about the page or the things posted on it.  The simple answer is that you don't have to like a page for it to show up in your news feed.  If a friend likes or comments on something posted on the page, it can appear in your news feed, whether you want it there or not.  More importantly, though, how is turning a blind eye to a bashing, bullying Facebook page because it's not your cup of tea any different than telling our kids it's okay to turn a blind eye to bullying at school?  It's not.  This isn't just a case of someone exercising their freedom of speech to their circle of friends- it is a public page with close to 25,000 followers.  When your voice reaches that many people, you have a responsibility to be cautious, at least to some degree, about what it is you're putting out there and what kind of community you're creating.

(As to why I, personally, follow the page...mainly for research.  And for the occasional chuckle at one of the few and far between "good jokes" they share.)

How are the folks at OSMW bullies?  OSMW's stance is that everything's done in good fun, and those who don't see it that way either can't take a joke or are overly-sensitive dependas themselves.  Here's the thing: I believe (or, I want to believe, at least) that OSMW started out as exactly what it claims to be- a somewhat light-hearted page designed to poke fun at certain groups of "stereotypical" military wives in theory.  But it's evolved into something much different over the years, and maybe (and here's me looking for the good in people when maybe I shouldn't bother) the page admin is so deep into it that she doesn't even realize what it's become.  (I doubt it, though.)  The best way for me to explain to you how both the page admin and the community she resides over bully people is to give you an example, which will be very easy for me, as I was recently the subject of an attack by said page admin and her minions.

It all started with this post, the page admin schooling people on what September 11th is "really about" and how it's inappropriate for people to be thanking our military on this day.

I was appalled.  Who is anyone to say what's okay and what isn't when it comes to how we choose to commemorate such an important day in our nation's history?  Before I could say anything on the topic (which would have been a first for me, as I never comment on the rubbish that's often posted on the page), someone else did.  After being taken to task by a follower for being cold-hearted and wrong, the page admin responded with this gem:

What this day was "created for"???  September 11th was not "created."  It is not a Hallmark holiday.  It is a tragic event that occurred in our nation's history, one that we each have the right to commemorate how we see fit.  It isn't something that was made up and given a set of rules and guidelines to follow on how it should be "celebrated."  Yes, I recognize that it has since been given the name "Patriot Day," but I don't know a single person who refers to it as such.  I think if anyone ever came up to me and said, "Happy Patriot Day!" on September 11th, I might judo chop them in the throat.  (Metaphorically, of course.)
I wasn't able to quietly disapprove any longer.  This was wrong.  And what's worse, people were agreeing with it!  So I voiced my opinion that it's out of line for anyone to dictate how another person chooses to honor those affected by the September 11th attacks, and pointed out the irony of someone who has made a job out of making fun of the dumb things people say online saying something as stupid as wanting to explain to people why September 11th was "created."  And then, as I should have known they would, the attacks by the page admin and her followers began.  I was called all sorts of names, including a "dependa," of course, because how could I be anything else if I didn't agree with something posted on the page?

As you can see, the page admin clearly encourages such behavior.  It was sickening, but also oddly fascinating to watch how things unfolded after that.  There were the eager puppies, quick to jump through hoops to get that gold star of approval from their master: "I agree with what you said!"  "You are one million billion percent right!"  "Everything you say is the gospel!"  There were the overly emphatic puppets, "OMG, I effing HATE when people do that!  Are you effing kidding me?  How stupid does someone have to be to dare thank a service member on September 11th?  A-holes!!!"  And then there were the ride or die chicks, the ones that came after me with a vengeance.

They insulted my intelligence, my writing abilities, and a myriad of other things. The page admin herself insulted my "reading comprehension."  Then, in jest (and in my defense), one of my friends pointed out that my reading comprehension was in tact as I am an author, and then made a joke about me being "kind of a big deal."  Of course, this set off a whole new sh**storm of people saying all sorts of horrible things to me for calling myself a big deal (which I never did) and questioning my status as a writer.  A post that started out about 9/11 very quickly became a "Who the HELL does this Jenn Carpenter think she is?" witch hunt.  I had people stalking my personal Facebook page.  The very same people who were berating me began sending me friend requests (no thanks) and personal messages about why I should accept their friend requests.  People were insulting me one minute, then liking my comments and agreeing with me the next.  I was so confused.  And then it got worse.

The admin apparently felt the need to clarify her original post by posting this:

So.  What?  Wait, what?  Please, someone tell me if I'm reading this wrong, because I've read it a few times now, and I keep seeing the same thing.  She's now saying that it actually is okay to thank a veteran on September 11th (thanks for the permission, homie), but only if you do so under the correct Presidential Proclamation.  Right?  Huh?  I just.  I don't even.....okay.  Whatever.  But.  Because she can't be wrong, she followed her post up with this disclaimer:

So, first it's not appropriate to thank a veteran on September 11th (which is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard), then it is, but only under the correct proclamation, then she was right the first time, even though she just very clearly admitted she was wrong.  Oooookay.  Again, somehow, even with me staying out of the fray and biting my tongue so hard it was about to bleed, the post became about me.  Insulting me, mocking me, making fun of me.  And then when I defended myself by pointing out facts that these women could very clearly see for themselves if they sloooooowed down and took the time to actually read what was right in front of them, somehow I was looking for attention and trying to make things all about me.  Uh, no.  Y'all made this about me, I most certainly did not.  I was merely defending myself and correcting inconsistencies.  And here's where I admit a personal character flaw: I don't know when to walk away from an argument.  I find it very difficult to accept that there are some people who logic will always escape, no matter how many different ways you try to explain something to them.  I'm workin' on it!
I felt like I was stuck in a bad Idiocracy sequel.  Could people really be so misguided?  Could they really follow someone so blindly that all logic, rational though, and even black and white facts go right out the window if someone contradicts one simple fact, that OSMW is ALWAYS right, no matter what?  Yes, unfortunately.  And that's when I realized that the folks over at OSMW, not the casual viewers, but the die-hard followers, aren't just a pack of cyber bullies, they're a full-blown cult.

A bold claim, I know.  But never one to make baseless accusations, I did some research on what defines a cult.  Here are the top warning signs that you might be in a cult, and how OSMW  fits every single one:

The first and most important warning sign of a dangerous group is that the group places itself and its leadership above the law.  Check.  One of the most deplorable things OSMW does is a thing called "Make 'Em Famous," where the admin posts photos of people along with awful stories about horrible, horrible things they've done.  Sure, she slaps her little disclaimer on there stating that "all stories and pictures are posted as told to her."  She even deletes them after a short period of time, probably because she knows how much trouble she can get into for it.  She doesn't know whether those stories are true or not when she posts them.  The people sending them to her could be the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad jerk faces she's trying to expose.  But once that sort of information is out there, it's out there, whether it later gets deleted or not.  (Hello, screen shots?)  These are peoples lives being messed with.  That's defamation of character, slander, harassment, cyber bullying....whatever you want to call it, it's against the law and it's wrong.  Yet, not surprisingly, it's a favorite feature of the page.

The next cult warning sign is that the leader will tell members how to run their lives.  Check.  Let's return to Exhibit A, shall we?  This admin thinks she's in a position to tell people how to commemorate national holidays, and when it is and isn't okay to thank a service member for their service.  This is just the tip of the iceberg as to the ridiculous rules she shames people into following, for fear that someone might snap a photo of them and their ACU purse or with Twinkies in their shopping cart or an "I Love My Soldier" bumper sticker on their car, making them internet fodder to mock and make fun of for days.

The final cult warning sign is that the group leader has a history of deceiving outsiders.  I'll take this one a step further and say that this particular group leader deceives insiders as well.  She operates under a veil of anonymity, with a fake name and most likely fake photos of herself, yet portrays herself to be a 100% real chick. And her followers, who could come face to face with her and would not even know it because no one knows who she is, buy in to every bit of it.

So there you have it.  I know I've rambled quite a bit, my aching hands and pulsating brain tell me so.  But I had to lay out the facts before I summed it all up, so I didn't sound like just some bitter, overly-sensitive military wife.  Because I'm really not.

Bottom line, the OSMW community is bad news, and does nothing but perpetuate the very stereotypes they claim to be so appalled by.  They put out hateful, mean-spirited content, then tear down, stalk, bully and harass anyone who dares to question or disagree with it.  The page's followers blindly follow a fictitious leader who is more likely than not the thing she loathes most- someone who sits at home all day with nothing better to do than create internet drama by making fun of people who sit around all day creating internet drama.  It's insanity.  And it's dangerous.  It has to stop.

I have no grandiose ideas that this post is going to put an end to OSMW.  Even Facebook can't put an end to it.  They can keep shutting it down, and hopefully they will, but it'll just keep popping back up like the creepy uncle who shows up every week on taco night and wants you to sit on his lap.

Only you can put a stop to OSMW and the other pages out there like it.  Stop feeding into the drama and negativity.  Stop supporting it.  And stop perpetuating this vicious cycle of hatred that these misguided page admins create out of sheer boredom.  Imagine how amazing our military spouse community would be if we put as much effort into building each other up as we do to tearing each other down.

And yes, I realize that this post is going to do the exact opposite of what I intended in some ways, as it draws attention to the page and gives them free publicity.  But hopefully that attention is negative attention, and the eyes through which you look at OSMW are now wide open.

[UPDATE: After I published this post, the OSMW admin banned me from the page.  Being that I'd never personally attacked or gotten out of line with her or any of her followers, there really was no cause for it, other than that she couldn't handle being put in her place.  Not only that, she continued to bash and talk about me after she banned me, so that she and her little jock riders could continue to attack and bully me, and I couldn't respond or defend myself.  For someone who's made it her life mission to make fun of "overly sensitive people," that's quite an overly sensitive move right there, if I do say so myself.  Seems like someone can dish it, but can't take it.  Also, I continued to receive threatening, harrassing emails and Facebook messages for nearly a week afterward, which further proves my point that the OSMW community is a very cult-like environment.  Any group of people that would go after someone they don't know with such vitriol and hatred, simply for disagreeing with their leader, is a cult.  It's as simple as that.  I'm more convinced than ever that the OSMW page admin is a Catfish (as in not who she claims to be), but I don't care enough to try to prove it.  You can't use logic with illogical people, can't fix stupid, can't teach an old dog new tricks- however you want to say it, the point is that I'm done wasting my time on a community of hateful bullies that are a complete waste of space, and do nothing but make REAL military spouses look bad.]

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Never Forget

Always remember.  Never forget.  You’ll hear those two phrases a lot today.  How nice it must be to have to remind yourself to remember, to never forget.  How lucky are those who didn't lose a loved one in the September 11th attacks, who don't have a constant reminder of that day?  How lucky are those who have not sent a child, a sibling, a parent, a spouse off to fight in the war on terror that began that day of unspeakable horror twelve years ago today?  On September 11, 2001, I was as far removed from the situation as the luckiest of the lucky ones.  I knew nobody who was in New York, Washington D.C. or on any of those planes that day.  I didn't even know anyone in the military.  But it still changed my life.  On September 11, 2011, ten years after the attacks, my husband, a soldier, was home on leave from Iraq.  Today, on the 12th anniversary of 9/11, my husband is a war veteran, no longer active duty.  But his brothers in arms are deployed again, and are currently in Afghanistan, fighting in the twelfth year of the war on terror.  And my husband spent his day driving a bus full of military recruits to Chicago to begin basic training, an entire new generation of men and women in uniform willing to make the ultimate sacrifice   For our service members and their families, September 11th never ended.  It's still a very real danger.  Always remember that.  Never forget.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Password Is....

Recently, I had to talk a friend down "off the ledge," so to speak.  She was panicking because of some supposed evidence (or lack thereof) she found in her husband's phone that convinced her he was cheating.  What evidence?  After going through his text messages, Facebook account, emails, and internet search history, she decided that what she found was too clean.  Not one flirty text, "hey, how have you been?" Facebook message from an old girlfriend, or nudie website hit to be found.  Clearly, he was on to her snooping.  Clearly, he was deleting all of the "bad stuff" before she could see it.  Clearly, he was cheating.  Right?  Wait, what?!

Let's be honest, ladies.  Almost every single one of us has gone through our soldier's phone at least once.  I'll admit, I used to do it on occasion.  Of course, I used the fact that The Hubs and I lived over a thousand miles apart for the first two years of our relationship, and therefore he could be living a life that I knew nothing about, as justification.  It's not something I'm overly  proud of, but it's also not something I've done since my husband and I have lived under the same roof.

I think in every relationship, there is a degree of mistrust and unease, no matter how small.  Especially in military relationships, given the long lengths of time spent apart, the high stress, and the complete dysfunction that seems to surround us.  (Seriously, of my husband's Army buddies, I've seen more relationships fall apart because of cheating than stay together in fidelity.)

There's something about being kept on your toes and not getting too comfortable in a relationship that's healthy, to a degree.  But not when it's driving you to madness.  Not when you're grabbing his phone or his laptop any chance you get, scouring his email, his text messages, his call history, his Facebook account, his search history, and anything else you can find for information.  And definitely not when you're so paranoid that you see a lack of evidence as proof that your husband is cheating.

When it gets to that point, there's a problem.  Whether it's that you can't trust your husband or just that you don't (there's a difference- one's his fault, one's yours), constant stalking and snooping is not normal, and it's definitely not healthy.  You either need marriage counseling or a divorce.  It really is that simple.

What's funny to me about the situation with my friend and her husband (which really isn't funny at all, it's quite sad) is the part that stuck with me, even after she hopped off the crazy train.  As she was detailing to me all the different accounts and histories she'd hacked into, I asked, "How did you get into his email and his Facebook accounts?"  Her answer was simple.  "I have all his passwords."  I asked, "You do?"  She said, "Well, yeah, don't you and your husband have each other's passwords?"  My answer was short.  "No."  No, we don't.

The more I thought about it, the more that bothered me.  I started thinking about how, even though this was the first time I'd had a friend come to me upset because she didn't find any evidence of cheating, it wasn't the first time I'd consoled someone who was upset over information she found in her husband's personal accounts; accounts that she had access to because she had his passwords.  

There are lots of couples that share Facebook accounts and have each other's passwords and use the same cell phone.  And while there are sometimes completely logical reasons for the lack of privacy, most of the time it boils down to one thing: a lack of trust.

Now, I'm not saying that The Hubs and I haven't had our trust issues.  We definitely have, especially in our early days when he lived in Texas and I lived in Michigan.  I've gone through his phone a few times, and I know (even though he'd probably never admit it) that he's gone through mine.  But we don't have each other's email and Facebook passwords.  (To be honest, I don't even remember his email address half the time.)  

We have boundaries.  We have privacy.  There are certain things we keep separate.  I always thought that was a good thing.  But my friend's reaction when I told her we didn't have each other's passwords got me rethinking that.  After I stewed over it for a few hours, The Hubs and I had the following conversation:

Me: "So, apparently, we're the only couple in the history of couples that doesn't have each other's passwords."
Him: "Oh, really?"
Me: "Yup."
Him: "Does that bother you?"
Me: "It kind of does, now."
Him: "Well, do you want my passwords?"
Me: "Maybe."

So he gave them to me.  I didn't write them down or anything, and I probably wouldn't get them right if I tried, but I don't know because I haven't used them to stalk his accounts, and I have no intention of doing so.  While there was a part of me that was initially relieved that he felt confident enough to give his passwords to me, that feeling almost immediately gave way to intense guilt.  

He didn't ask for my passwords.  He doesn't seem concerned that he can't cyber stalk me whenever he feels like it.  I still have my privacy.  Why shouldn't he have his?  I almost feel like I need to have him change his passwords, just so he can have his privacy back.  

I still have my moments of insecurity every now and then.  I'm not even saying that I'll never, at any point in the future, pick up my husband's phone and look through it again.  I'm human.  I'm flawed.  But I'd also like to think that I'm capable of learning from my mistakes.  And it was a mistake for me to feel entitled to take away my husband's privacy just so I could feel reassured about things I have no reason to worry about in the first place.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On the Homefront

SSG Maldonado receiving a plaque for outstanding leadership from his platoon before their deployment.

SSG Lupe Maldonado knows how to fight for his life.  With ten years of service in the United States Army and three overseas tours under his belt, it’s what he’s used to doing.  And it’s what he spent all of 2012 training for as he prepared for an upcoming deployment.  After countless hours of live fire and gunnery exercises at ranges all over the country, Maldonado and his soldiers were in the final stages of preparation for their deployment earlier this year when everything changed.
On April 1, 2013, Lupe was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.  Surgery to remove the cancer was scheduled for April 12th, a week and a half later.  That’s when things went from bad to worse.  Lupe’s cancer had spread, and was inoperable.  Recalls his wife, Yery: "He woke up from surgery and said, 'Am I okay?  When can I go back to work?"  And then he felt the ileostomy bag doctors had attached during the surgery, and he knew something was wrong.  "He said, 'I’m not going to deploy, am I?"  Yery was faced with the heartbreaking task of confirming her husband’s worst fear- that he would spend the next several months fighting for his life, but not in the way he'd been planning.
Since that horrible, life-altering day just a few months ago, Lupe has completed a very aggressive course of chemotherapy, and is currently awaiting the results of a scan done to determine if the cancer has shrunk enough for surgery.  But what of his soldiers- the ones he trained, taught, mentored, and bonded with?  By all accounts, SSG Maldonado is well respected by his men, and his leadership has been greatly missed.  But the show, as they say, must go on.  Lupe's squad got a new leader and deployment preparations continued, leaving Lupe feeling disappointed and left out.
Lupe watching his battalion's final formation before deployment, wishing he could go with them.

Before they left, Lupe's platoon presented him with a plaque for outstanding leadership to show their appreciation for everything he did to help them prepare for the deployment.  And Lupe took time out of his full schedule of doctor appointments and treatments to see his soldiers off the day they deployed.  While they are halfway around the world fighting for their country, Lupe will be here on the homefront, fighting for his life.
He'll also be facing a new battle, one that Yery's all too familiar with, but is new to Lupe- holding down the fort at home while his heart is overseas.  Lupe hopes that his soldiers continue to learn even though he's not there to keep them in line, and that they remember everything he taught them about protecting themselves, so that they can make it home safely to begin training for their next deployment, which Lupe fully intends to be well enough to go on with them.
Lupe giving his guys a final pep talk.

To his soldiers overseas, Lupe says: "Stay strong and believe God will protect you.  I wish I could be with you, but I have my own war to fight.  I will see you when you come back to start training for whatever comes next.  Hooah!" 
Lupe's company getting ready to roll out as he leaves the company area for the final time before the deployment.

UPDATE: On February 1, 2014, Lupe Maldonado lost his battle against colon cancer.

Monday, July 1, 2013

'Til They All Come Home

It’s been just a little over two years since I sat at my desk, bawling my eyes out while my husband was 1,200 miles away in Texas, getting ready to begin his year-long deployment to Iraq.  Today, I found myself  once again sitting at my desk, a ball of jumbled nerves with a heavy heart, as my husband’s unit said goodbye to their families in preparation for another deployment.

This time, however, there’s a difference.  This time my husband isn’t going with them.  This time he’s at home with me, over a thousand miles away from where his battle buddies are preparing for battle, their bags packed, their goodbyes said.  Neither of us slept last night.  He’s worried about his friends, and I’m worried about mine.  I feel like we’re all still settling back in from the last deployment, and yet here they go again.  It’s so soon.  Too soon, if you ask me.

I know that my husband is happy to be home, and we’re so thankful that he didn’t have to deploy again.  But I know a part of him feels, maybe, a little bit guilty; a little bit left behind.  And I know that while he’s here with me, safe in his civilian life, a part of him will always be a soldier.  And that part of him left me today to head overseas with his friends, his brothers, his family.   It’s not easy to send someone you love off to war, let alone a lot of someones.  I know that.  And now my husband is learning it the hard way.

As for me, I’ll be praying for our Army family every day.  I’ll be praying for the soldiers to stay safe, for their wives, my sisters, to stay strong, and for the days to pass quickly.  ‘Til they all come home…..

The infamous photo of a little girl who refused to let go of her daddy's
hand during formation as his unit prepared to deploy to Iraq for a year.