join USO - help other troops and their families as they travel … it’s a process so go ahead and get started … you have to apply, interview, be accepted, get fingerprinted, have training, and then you’re ready to hit the USO. On a recent day, on the early shift there were twenty or so soldiers in the tiny USO sleeping when I arrived a little before 7:00 am … the recliners were full and a few were sleeping on the floor … all they want is a safe place where they can close their eyes. They came in all hours of the night … midnight, 4:00 am, and they poured in all morning. This shift is usually the one that is free to do cleaning … only the kitchen and the office area got cleaned on Tuesday… while the troops slept. Then we made sandwiches, coffee, bagels with cream cheese, bowls of cereal, even Ramen noodles, whatever they wanted that we had. We handed out soft drinks and snacks, cupcakes and pastry. These guys and gals are always hungry, but rarely do they ask for anything. WE have to ask them.
They’re coming from all over – going back to their bases – mainly Marine and Army, but also Navy, Air Force, National Guard. They talked about their families and they talked about their upcoming deployments. They always seem surprised that we’re so happy to serve THEM and they respond with “Yes, M’am” or “Thank you, M’am” … always so polite … that sir or m’am. We greet them, feed them, make them comfortable and find them rides. Sometimes the base is sending a bus … most likely they have to find their own way there … the airport information desk will make announcements that there’s a soldier needing a ride to Fort Bragg or a Marine needing a ride to Lejune or Johnson. Some of them have rides coming and can take more guys. They like to eat, sleep, play video games, watch movies, get online, and sometimes talk. It’s all free …
I think of my son when I see these troops and am paying it forward for groups like Maine Troopers who greeted our guys and hosted them so well in Bangor, Maine when they were deploying. Thank you, Maine Troopers! I’m very proud that the RDU USO has a strong committment to be open 24/7 for our traveling military. Lots of them – especially the younger guys need a place to sleep/rest between flights – lots of times that’s overnight – or MANY hours! We’re a meeting place for military families traveling – connecting with wives/husbands/children - so they can travel together to their destination. USO is one way to deal with ‘the wall’ … serving those who SERVE for us … there are more .
DESPERATELY!!! I want spring to come … winter to be over … because I want summer to come and my son to come home. BUT I’m also afraid for spring to come … that’s when the enemy comes over the mountains to renew their fight oppressing the poor of their own country and attacking their defenders – our sons and daughters. The cowardly worms hide among civilians so that when they get hit, civilians get hurt, too. Spring is when the fighting kicks up a notch … and I’m afraid. I just want to jump OVER spring and go straight to summer … maybe go into hibernation like a bear … and wake up when it’s all over … in time to clean, cook and get ready to greet my son and his unit coming back from the other side of the ocean. But hibernating, hiding, sticking my head in the sand … that isn’t my style … I don’t do things that way … I don’t choose to go through life in an unconscious state (unless it’s surgery)… I charge out to meet it head on!!!
I attack everything with research … know my enemy … know my mission. For instance … Mission Pregnancy Max (he was baby #4) … I didn’t assume I knew it all … medicine changes it’s mind constantly … so-o-o all through my pregnancy with Max, I researched … decided on a different natural childbirth method (did Lamaze with #2 and #3) – decided on Bradley for Max’s birth – went to Bradley classes – ate healthy – did my pregnancy exercises – read and researched my all the way through this 4th pregnancy of mine … I wanted the best for Max – just like I wanted the best for each ONE of my four children. Max has always sung his own version of “My Way” (even before he was born). Max decided he preferred to be born feet first… airborne – all the way – jumping out feet first. Even then – no state of unconsciousness for me – I still wanted to BE there for Max’s birth and be AWAKE – didn’t want to miss anything – thanks to an epidural, I was. So-o-o-o, how can I do deployment any other way? read, research, stay informed, and sometimes find out way too much … more than I needed to know … I just want this to be OVER! I want Max to be safe and come home – I want them all to be safe and come home. NOW!
I’ve warned my husband … deployment is bringing out a new side of me … a new me … a violent me??? maybe deploy the mamas and the papas with our sons and daughters … we’re plenty angry! I realize this resembles a tantrum … at 59 I’ve reverted to the behavior of a two year old. What is this???? someone please tell me !?!?
One Army Mama Bear
Morale … you know your soldier … you can detect his/her mood in a message or the tone of their voice and you know that they’re down … the traveling px is there, but finance didn’t come out first … everyone is out of money and out of smokes (now I don’t want him to smoke, but understand that it’s the stress relief that he needs). The mail gets messed up – packages that are addressed correctly are returned to their senders, mail sent home takes months to get there. We want their heads to be in their job. We want them to be ON – really ON – and sharp! We send letters, funny cards, pictures, and packages. We send crazy stuff like Christmas trees and dart boards, and camping cooking forks with supplies to make s’mores … all to boost morale … for our soldier and all the guys in his tent.
As a parent you sometimes feel a bit out there because you’re not on base or near the FRG. I’m so thankful for a fantastic company FRG leader who keeps us in the loop. I, also, joined a Military Family Support Group near my home, almost twelve months before my son deployed. My motivation was to learn how to support my son’s wife before, during and after deployment – and of course to support my son. I had no idea how valuable this group would be to me. Our facilitator is in close contact with chaplains of several groups of deployed soldiers – all branches of the military. Our group is composed of parents, spouses, children, grandparents, friends, and troops who have returned home from deployment. When our facilitator gets word that there are troops who are not getting mail or packages from home, we ‘adopt’ them and send cards and boxes that say “we appreciate you and the sacrifices you are making for all of us.” Our efforts are to keep morale up and to let those troops know that what they are doing is important and appreciated by people back home.
I joined USO to help troops and their families as they travel and I’m very proud of my local USO because they’re committed to keeping it open 24/7. The Maine Troop Greeters were so amazing to our troops as they were going over and I just wanted to ‘pay it forward’. These things help MY morale and if I keep my morale strong, then I am better able to work on keeping my soldier’s morale up.
It’s scarey to hear our soldiers are down – no, they don’t say so – they NEVER would, but you hear it between the lines in the ‘tone’ of their message – or their voice if you can get a phone call. NONE of the things that get him down are within my control… as much as I would like to … I cannot correct the mail problems – or – ‘suggest’ that finance might make trips out to the FOB more often – at least before the traveling px comes. I’m a LOYAL Army Mom! But I’ve been a Mama Bear longer than I’ve been an Army Mom. Our deployed sons and daughters need to find home stable and strong when they communicate with us. They need us ALL to work together … it’s about morale … it’s about fighting the fight, they fight over there, we fight over here … it’s about keeping them focused on their jobs and staying focused on ours … and it’s about bringing them all back home – safe and strong!
Signing off – One Army Mama Bear
Here we go again … the deployment roller coaster got me again on Sunday night. If you have a son or daughter deployed, you know it well. You are moving through your day, doing the things you do, and suddenly the bottom drops out from under you … you’re in that roller coaster car plunging DOWN, DOWN, DOWN and fast – REALLY FAST! I never did really like roller coasters anyway … it doesn’t thrill me to have my stomach rush up past my lungs into my throat as I careen downward on a narrow track. The big contrast is that on the roller coaster at the fair I knew it was coming … I bought a ticket, got in line, waited my turn to board, and then click, click click we go up the first incline, round the top and careen down!!! Predictable – what goes up – must come down
But now … things trigger my emotions that haven’t before … even last summer a month or so after my son deployed, I asked my Battle Buddy if she would watch “Stop Loss” with me. She did … I was okay. Didn’t like what I saw, but I was okay. A month later I rented “Lions to Lambs” … made it about 15 minutes in and felt a panic attack coming on … put that sucker back in the wrapper and sent it back to Netflix. But then, there are the unpredictable times … walking through a store past the wall of TVs and something comes on the news or going to see “Benjamin Buttons” and the war scene comes on, my daughter says “Mom, close your eyes!” … then there was “Valkyrie” with my husband and my daughter in love I knew it was a war movie, but they’re Nazis for goodness sake – completely unpredictable to feel a panic attack trying to get me in the scene where Tom Cruise is badly wounded – the rest was okay – they were after Hitler – that’s okay with me. But in a split second – my heart kicks in and takes over … in both movies … the soldiers/sailors were somebody’s sons/husbands/daddies/brothers and panic jumped up and grabbed at me. It doesn’t overtake me – I close my eyes and just breathe. That’s my defense … I just breathe … refocus my thoughts … and move on.
I’m a news junkie and just have to stay informed … so admittedly, I make it hard on myself and am doing all the things they told me not to do in Military Family Support Group.
Sometimes though … there are days when I just have to cocoon … you know, stay in my pjs, – stay in the house, don’t answer the phone, and if anyone comes to the door I wouldn’t have answered it either – I’m still in my pjs for goodness sake and can’t pretend that I’m sick. Yes – there’s some crying – and a lot of praying. What’s the hardest? You know your soldier … the hardest part is when you detect in a message or the tone of their voice that they’re down …could be anything getting them down … the food, the heat, the cold, the rain … anything. We do what we can to boost moral … bake cookies, write letters and emails, send pictures and funny cards, mail packages of their favorite things – homemade beef jerky, Chex Mix, gummy bears, games. Then the next message or phone call sounds completely different. They’re out of the funk and have their head straight again. That’s how we want them to be … focused and ready to do their job. The roller coaster is back at the top again … and the view is good. Hurry up summer!!!
Signing off – One Army Mama Bear