Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Shannon! A beautiful and thought-filled Navy Spouse. I hope you enjoy getting to see a small glimpse of her Navy way of life. Thank you, Shannon!
1. What branch is your husband in? US Navy, active duty
2. How long has he been in? 13.5 years
3. How long have you been married? 10 years; we married (3) months after meeting each other.
4. What is your favorite wedding-day memory? We didn't have a traditional style wedding (I so want a 10-yr wedding to include fam and friends this year and wear the big dress and he in his chocker whites). He was currently on "work-ups" with his command (sea-going) and that means all year long he's in and out to sea. Creating a really nice traditional wedding to include family and friends wasn't working out for us so we opted to do a justice of the peace style wedding. In the city we lived in there were only three to choose from. The one we selected requested us to come to his place of business that also happened to be a very nice funeral home (that was his retirement job!!!). So, while a wake was going on in an adjacent room, we were married in his office. Starting off where we'll end up. Ironic, huh? :) Actually, having him officiate was an honor because he was a "distinguished citizen" having served in public service for many years, mayor of a couple of cities, photos (in black/white) all over the four walls of his office (some with presidents). He was a gracious individual.
5. Do you have children? We have three: Keagan (b) is 12, Keaton (b) is 10, and Kaitlyn is 8.
6. How do you help them cope with military-life? If you grow up in it, you don't know any other way. Our challenges come in the form of relocation and deployments. With those experiences, I encourage conversation to get a pulse-check on where they're at emotionally and mentally. With deployments I encourage/foster communication with their father and participate in deployment-related activities or events. It depends on what their age is at the time of the deployment that determines our activities and age-appropriate coping techniques. When it comes to relocation we become involved in events in our community, tour their new schools, allow them to choose their own bedroom, encourage making new friends, etc. We strive to include them in on some decisions while they're experiencing changes and transitions to give them a sense of control and ownership.
7. How many deployments have you been through? We have been through two six-month deployments as a family but numerous (couldn't even count how many) out-to-sea work-ups where he could be gone for a few days, few weeks, or few months (and it not be considered a deployment). My husband calculated that through completed work-ups, he's been gone more than putting two six-month deployments together. Work-ups are more challenging than a deployment because they're in and out to sea over an 18 month timeframe. It's disruptive to the family flow and I'd prefer him to just be gone for six months to maintain family routine and minimize disruption though we both hate that he misses out on important events (birthdays, holidays, award ceremonies, sporting games, milestones, etc.). (A note from Leanne: I totally understand this! Of course it is hard to say goodbye to our loved one for long periods of time! But the in-and-out can be very disruptive to family routine.)
8. How many PCSs? Amazingly, only one. Since my husband has four dependents (three children and one spouse) we were basically required to stay in Norfolk, VA until 19 months ago when we finally were able to move. It's a funding issue on the military side (or needs of the Navy) once you have four dependents versus three. From our current location, we will try an overseas tour.
9. When someone asks... "What can I do for you?" What is your response? Hmmmmm, my first response to this is, "no one really asks me that as a military spouse." I'm thinking the only time I'd be asked this question is in relation to deployment. In that context, I don't think "civi's" (civilians) think to ask because we're home (and life *must* be easy for us) and the deployed member is away. They're first question I receive is usually, "How is your husband? It must be so hard for him to be away from family. I can't imagine." And it is hard for him. It's also hard on the homefront family, too. Sometimes civi's forget to ask us that. All I'd really like for them to ask is, "how are you coping, too? Can I invite you and your kids over for dinner one night and cook for you?" Oh, yes, yes, YES!!! :)
10. What would you really like to say? But, if they were to ask me, I'm not sure how I would respond. If it's in relation to deployment, I'd probably laughingly say, "take my kids for a day!" (Leanne: Amen!) so I can experience a breathing moment to myself. If my husband is home, I wouldn't ask for anything. Most homefront spouses aren't going to ask others for much of anything so as not to be a burden. They tend to rely on other military spouses because there's automatic connection and sense of, "I understand you" without having to say it.
11. Where has your [favorite] base been? Why? If you mean, where have we been stationed, we've primarily been in Norfolk, VA. My husband has been stationed there for three consecutive tours with USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (carrier), NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER PORTSMOUTH (hospital command) and USS BATAAN LHD-5 (amphib ship). Navy usually does a sea/shore rotation. We're on "shore" duty orders in Millington, TN though he still travels. Next we go back to sea.
If you're referring to "support base", it's in the form of other military spouses, friends, co-workers, church and family support groups attached to the command.
12. Where do you find the support you need when you need it? From fellow military spouses who understand this unique lifestyle, from Family Readiness Groups attached to commands, quality of life agencies who provide resources specifically to the military community, and, first and foremost, God.
13. What do you miss most about "civilian life"? Nothing.
14. What do you love most about "military life"? The changes, moving, experiencing the highs/lows of our lifestyle, the benefits, working for the military, and the pride and patriotism I feel when I see my husband do his job.
15. What in "military life" could you do without? Ummm, I don't know because our unique-ness is part of the territory of the military lifestyle. But if I could minimize anything it'd be having to miss important events while the service member is gone.
I hate that my husband misses birthdays, holidays, baby's first walk, first words, the one soccer goal that clinched a win for the team, an award one of our kids received, parent/teacher conferences (though we're working towards changing to include Skyp or VTC for these events), snuggle time on the couch, seasons, normal family vacation. But, his job is part of a bigger event, bigger way of life that is bigger than us (though family is a huge event). We try to include him in these missed events in special ways as much as we can. He loves his job, serving his country and that's one of the reasons I feel in love with him so I support him in that way.
16. What are you passionate about? military lifestyle, prevention education, life skills topics (stress, conflict and anger mgmt, family violence, marriage enrichment, and etc.), military children, educating the public on our unique experiences and lifestyles.
17. What is your favorite color and why? I can't name one because I love all colors. I love color period. It depends on how I use color but I lean more towards earthy colors such as browns, green, golds, and red.
18. Do you have a favorite quote? 1) "Work is vacation; home is work." Work is easy because I love my job. I love my family, too, but we are all different temperaments and we must work together daily to create a successful family life. At times, it gets hard but it's so worth it in the end. 2) "It is what it is." Gotta make the best of the situation and move forward.
19. When you move to a new base what is one of the first things you do? Integrate into our community, become familiar with our surroundings, search our base quality of life agencies, participate in command functions, find out where the sporting leagues are at (soccer fam). (Leanne: These are great ways to get to know a new community!)
20. Has anyone in the community (business, church, neighbor off base, etc etc) ever gone out of their way to help you, as the spouse of a military-member? Yes! Our old babysitter back in Norfolk, VA. Her husband is a retired Navy Chief so she was very familiar with our lifestyle and challenges. After 10 years of child care service for us, she's more to us now, like a grandmother. She would keep our children with our odd working hours and also overnight or for a long weekend so my husband and I could spend one-on-one time together and reconnect periodically as a couple. That was SO important to us. She and her husband are more like family to us now.
21. Do you use on base facilities? Commissary? NEX? MWR? Child Care? Services of that nature. Why would you recommend one of these services in specific? Yes! We use the commissary, youth center, teen center, MWR, NEX, and Fleet & Family Support Center. I'd recommend them because of the discounts and theire understanding our needs and challenges. Especially with the child-care centers...having our kids connect with other kids who live the same ways is a big deal. Military children have a strong sense of military identity!
Thank you, Shannon, for taking the time to give us your unique look on the military-lifestyle! I too can appreciate her answer to Question 9.:
""How is your husband? It must be so hard for him to be away from family. I can't imagine." And it is hard for him. It's also hard on the homefront family, too."I hope you can take the time today to ask a military-spouse, the face behind a hero, "How are you doing?"!
- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com
PS: I can't wait for next week's Face Behind the Hero! (I'm even a little giddy at the thought.)