Typical Military Exchanges, and not-so-typical Modern Occurrences

The other day, just like so many other days, we drove onto a military post. This happens almost daily. Sometimes we go through the guarded entrance multiple times in a single day. Such is the life of people in the service. And it becomes so much ‘the norm’ that on the rare occasions I bring a ‘civilian’ in with me and have to fill out a visitor’s pass, I find it entertaining how the novelty of being allowed ‘on the base’ can possibly be held in any spectrum of excitement for anyone. The same old show your id, wait for the little gate to go up, and drive through is part of my mundane routine.

But today, as we drove onto Rammstein for a second time, something hit me in a new light. As my husband handed the E4 (maybe E5) our id’s, the less than 10 second conversation went something like this:

“Hey sir, ma’am.”

“hey, how’s t’going.”

“livin’ the dream.”

“yeah, sounds ‘bout right. Stay warm, brother. Take it easy”

“Everyday. Thanks.”

More was exchanged in those 21 words than can quite be understood when just reading the short dialogue in black and white. There was a bond between these two men, my husband and the young man on duty, that existed instantaneously. The sincerity of feeling in what may look like colloquialisms runs deeper than what appears to be catch phrases. They were speaking the same language, communicating concisely what shared experiences in military service put into those phrases that make them more profound. Each expression held empathy and weight as the young man, seeing my soldier’s position in the quick glance of an id card, knew immediately that the man in the car understood and experienced his own scenarios of ‘gate guarding’ – as the three simple words, “stay warm, brother,” conveyed. His response was not just wrapping up a 10 second routine, it was honest gratitude expressed for a fellow soldier giving him the brief acknowledgement he deserved for being out in the snow, doing his duty, and doing that menial task with…well, if not quite a smile, a visible good attitude.

All this hit me as we rounded the bend to the post exchange. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen such exchanges over and over (although where we are stationed now, the personnel of the base is so small, the task of gate duty is out-sourced; not that the non-military personnel are no less friendly or appreciated, but it lacks the ‘buddy in arms’ connection that a military post with military personnel manning it has). As we got ready to go into the mini-mall of this larger post, I told myself that I must try to get this written down.

We enjoyed a little stroll and some shopping, but were interrupted by a new event that I have not experienced before. In the middle of my Love wanting to spoil me and buy a lovely Irish wool sweater (one of the benefits of an overseas post, vendors from nearby European countries bring their lovely wares in for eyeballing right in our own little shopping centers…though I rarely buy from them), there was an announcement over the loudspeaker:

“Attention, all customers and employees, there is an emergency. Please exit the building immediately at the North entrance. I repeat, this is an emergency – please gather your belongings quickly and exit the building.”

Now this was new. I was not nervous, everyone around me seemed calm, moved with purpose but not uncontrolled by any means to the exit, chatting as they went. Once outside, we asked a couple of people if they knew what was going on. Then my husband saw the bomb squad headed over toward what is I think the airstrip and airport.

There was no explosion, no chaos, just people casually leaving, or gathering in small groups to talk and maybe wait out the shut-out, and I heard plenty of people making jokes like wanting to get out and play in the snow anyway. We needed to make the 2 hour drive back home, so that won over my curiosity to stick around and see what the result was (bomb threat or false alarm?) and my desire to buy that lovely grey sweater.

I certainly hope that this second occurrence never becomes as ‘mundane and routine’ as the first. I pray our military posts remain a place of safety. Unfortunately, there have been few and far between cases of tragedy inside those guarded walls. I do worry how much longer these rare incidents will stay just that – rare. I wonder if being an American military wife will continue to seem like a secure life situation, despite the irony in my better half coming face to face with such dangers as a fact of his job. I don’t know the outcome of the emergency call (or if I will have the privilege of finding out). But I do know that, for now, we’ll be passing through those check points plenty of times as always. Maybe from this point on though, I’ll remember to have respectful recognition for the security surrounding the doorways to military life as well as those keeping that door secure.

*I did end up being able to find out that the incident was just an empty threat, and the individual was apprehended quickly. Just so you know everything on the base was calm and quiet. False alarm, thank goodness.

Army Wives, 173rd version

You probably heard about the show Army Wives that aired from 2007-2013. As an army wife, there were things about that show that made me laugh, that I agreed with, that made me cry. And then, of course, there were plenty of things that made me shake my head at how Hollywood can really take something too far – but I bet you’ve never heard of The Battle Hard wives of the 173rd.

Maybe one day, you will. Maybe one day, we’ll share our stories for the world to see. I know that long ago, in my introduction and reasons for blogging, I said I wouldn’t be naming my military appreciation by name, but this time I have permission. I won’t share all their names – the first wives I encountered in Italy many years ago. But at least one hero among them: her name is Colleen Wood.

In the lives of many army wives, this woman’s name will always be held in a place of honor. If there was a purple heart for keeping spouses sane, caring for single soldiers, running amazing FRGs, holding the hands of newly arrived ladies in the face of uncertain and difficult deployments, making difficult phone calls to the states, and later continuing to carry the banner of support years after her duties are fulfilled, I have to be completely biased and say there is only one FRG leader that would take all. And how does she do it? And still be mom to 3 boys, love and support her husband, be a teacher and friend, and balance life’s ups and downs? I don’t know, maybe she’ll write a book one day and tell us 🙂 One token that she has contributed recently was by starting a journal for The Battle Hard Wives for us to remember that very uncertain deployment to Iraq, now over 10 years ago.DSC02658.jpgI’m the latest Battle Sister to have this priceless journal in my living room. I’ll be adding stories of my own to our thoughts, reflections, tears, encouragement, rants, and whatever else comes out of our hearts and fills the pages, after some of those feelings have lain dormant for a while. When Colleen first took the time to reach out to us all, get the wives connected again, and set out on her mission of a joint journal, I did not really understand how important and impactful this will be. We went through a life changing event together: sending our husbands and loved ones on a deployment that began with the first jump into combat for the 173rd since Vietnam, with so many unknowns in being part of the initial invasion that our need for each other was stronger than our military connection had already begun by already being stationed overseas. We relied on each other so much in those 13 months. And now, we are remembering.12295478_10208420553731345_6430159626114761740_n.jpgColleen Wood, I hope you know how much of a hero you are in our hearts: and I hope we can let you know how much we appreciate all you’ve done and continue doing by sharing our stories and reaching out to others with the same care.

A Tie, Some Scissors, and a Bank

How on earth does that go together? I’ll tell you, and it just happened today to me for the first time. I mean, it’s not everyday you walk into a bank and a total stranger offers you his tie and a pair of scissors to add to the chunks happily cut out by various females behind the counter and elsewhere.

At this point in time, you are probably as confused as I was when I watched the teller take scissors to a perfectly good tie while attached to the gentleman in the business suit. And they were conversing as if this was perfectly usual! My curious sideways glances invited me in on what was happening however: as I finished my own much more boring transaction, the man walked up to me and offered some scissors to participate in this fun, destructive act. He then explained that this childish cutting is part of a German tradition on the first day of a commonly celebrated holiday: Fasching. Here’s a little video so you can get a small picture of the events going on over the next week around here:

While this particular holiday may not make it to a permanent location on our family calendar, it’s always fun to see different celebrations from another culture. Encyclopedia Britannica has a nice little blip on the history of events: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/202177/Fasching.

As a military spouse, I cherish these impromptu events in my life. It’s unplanned, unexpected, and sometimes utterly necessary. The fun and humor in getting to experience diverse cultural events, especially when they come at me in funny forms like chopped-up menswear, balance out all the challenges that come with trying to learn a new language, figuring out where to buy groceries, and overcoming the other various challenges with being stationed overseas.

A brief and humorous event in the life of a military wife living overseas

conversation between my mother and I on Facebook
oh bother….I’m on the stupid Skype phone trying to
get thru to the nm dmv so I can renew my driver’s license.
Just got an email saying the pelisse will no longer be lenient
with expired licenses and will be hauling people off to jail
and impounding their car. no exagerating. mine expired nov ’14
 at least I have my arizona license still that’s good until 2048 –
 but it’s got my maiden name so I think I’ll bring that
around with me including my marriage certificate

oh no but that would be difficult for them to do long distance!!
I guess I can do it online, but I went to fill in the info and it tells
me I have some outstanding citation in another state so I have to call.
not happy

outstanding citation!! wow.. you are in trouble with the LAW!!
going on 9 minutes on hold –
wasting Skype money and listening to the same
irritating line of music and being told that mvd online
has no wait time….well I’d use it if i could!!!
I know!!! I’m either wanted in the states or
chancing going to a german prison!!!! ah!!!!!!!

oh no… you have not been praying for a new ministry have you… like a woman’s prison ministry…

LOL
man, no, but I think I’ll stop digging into
info on persecution. this is tough enough
now I’m stressing that I will be on hold so long
it’ll use up my minutes before someone even
answers the dang line!!!!!

im sorry
yay!!!
I’m able to get an email and fill it out she
shows nothing that says I have a citation

there you go!!
did you see my status? hee hee
(we take a short break from this conversation to allow the reader to see 'my status'):
  • “did you know that many mvd transactions are now available online? just go to http://www.mvd.newmexico.gov…that is IF you don’t have some bogus citation in some un-named state stopping you from getting your license renewed…and are now sitting on a stupid iPad via Skype listening to the same line of awful music and the same ‘helpful’ information for the past 10 minutes. this is fun. this is me hoping to get my license renewed via phone??? I hope. since the alternative is apparently chancing getting hauled to German prison by some police who decides to stop me for not wearing my seatbelt only to find out my license expired and makes my overseas license invalid…I mean, I always wear my seatbelt…er”

    Kathryn Jaramillo  yuck! Hope you get it straightened out!
    29 mins · Unlike · 1
  • Melissa Solecki Yes! I was able to renew mine over the phone and they emailed me a temporay license. WAY better than taking 5 kids to the MVD. Here’s hoping you don’t get hauled off to prison!!!!
    27 mins · Edited · Unlike · 1
  • Melissa Roland yeah, a trip 14 or so hours on a plane with 2 kids would be no fun either. but after being on hold 18 minutes the nice lady has a special military spouse form she’s emailing me. sigh of relief right here
    26 mins · Like · 4
  • Melissa Roland oh geez….with 6 attachments. well, I was going to go to bed; guess not for a while
    24 mins · Like · 1
  • Melanie Lynn Kertley and she wants it in triplicate!
    22 mins · Unlike · 1
  • Melissa Roland oh I am SOOO happy right now. after looking at the different attachments: they want my name signed in blood with two witnesses taking a video, a complete physical done by a real doctor with notes and notarizations, an autograph from all of my husband’s commanding officers….well that might be a little exaggerated, but nonetheless, I was discouraged. THEN I tried the website again: badaboom! online app done and license in the mail! phew!
    and now, back to our previous snooping of conversation....

Continue reading

Christmas Wrapping Comes in Cardboard

unnamedAnd if you are connected to the military, especially if you’ve been stationed overseas, you know exactly what I mean when I say that. So here is my tribute to the people behind the mailed gifts, those precious boxes that we call Care Packages.

Through the years, I’ve sent my share of care packages, to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of those first ones were over a Christmas ten years ago, complete with a mini-tree and little tiny ornaments. And of course my own excitement in receiving boxes from home, from loved ones while we lived in Italy.

And now, I’m the recipient again: and I want to say a big public thank you to my mom and dad, my best friend, my husband’s family – for taking the time to fill a box with goodies, stand in line at a post office, and get it all done in time to sit under my tree and tantalize my kids with thoughts from stateside.

Do you know someone who’s far away from home? Well, if you didn’t get a Christmas Care Package out, those kinds of things are much appreciated ANY time of year. Your time and energy spent buying and mailing little goodies can brighten a soldier or his family for much longer than you’ll be wishing people around you ‘season’s greetings’ and ‘Merry Christmas.’

unnamed-1