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How do you give back during the holiday season? Do you volunteer? Do you do small random acts of kindness? What do you do? While I volunteer year round I do extra during the holidays to help make sure everyone has a great holiday. Each fall I figure out and develop a plan that centers around our military members and veterans and what I can do for them. It usually revolves on small homemade or store bought goodies of all types that let them know they are being thought about. I learned that small stockings can be hard to find and when you do, they can get expensive but making my own DIY Gift Bags were a snap! Sure I could buy them but when you are needing a bunch it is often cost effective to make your own. Plus, I could have the sizes I need with all sorts of different patterns. They are a great way to wrap, give, and repeat during the holiday season.
A few years back when we lived in New Jersey my husband had to preform a job for the Army that he did not sign up to do. He was a detailed recruiter. This means he was selected by the Department of the Army to become a recruiter. He did not apply for recruiting duty or change his MOS (job), they wanted him to be a recruiter. This is not a job that my husband and many other soldiers would pick for themselves but it is a job that needs to be done. What better way to recruit new soldiers than use those doing the job already? Whether they want to be there or not.
It’s that time of the year again, it is time for Memorial Day. Memorial Day for many is the long awaited weekend that welcomes summer. A time to head to the beach, pool or fire up the grill for a BBQ. There are those who confuse Memorial and Veteran’s Day and for this I kindly ask please do not Thank a Veteran on Memorial Day. That’s not what Memorial Day is all about. Memorial day is the day to remember all of our soldiers that have fallen while in the line of duty. My husband has lost several brother’s at arms, I know those who lost their spouses, children who have lost their father. I don’t know many in the military community that do not know someone who gave all.
With Memorial Day on us I want to urge people to do something a little different this year. Find a way to remember those who gave their all so you do not have to. An easy way is to look and see if you have any military history museums in your area. Living in the Fort Bragg area we are blessed with several great museums but if I could only pick one it would be the Airborne and Special Operations Museum.
The Airborne and Special Operation’s Museum has been in Fayetteville since August of 2000 and tells the story of the Airborne and Special Operations Soldier from the 1940’s until present time. Since it opened in 2000 I have gone several times but it wasn’t until I went on the blogger familiarization tour with the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau that I was really able to get a deeper look into the museum. We have gone on our own and taken family in the past but I have always had a little one or two so while I was able to walk through the museum I never was able to really give it the full attention it deserves. Even with the blogger tour I would have loved more time. There is just so much to see and learn.
When exploring the museum there are two routes to go, explore the outside first or the inside. Outside you have the original Iron Mike statue from Fort Bragg. There are also memorial stones and pavers lining the walkways up to the museum. There is also something outside that you won’t find elsewhere, a memorial to the K-9 Soldier. On Memorial Day (Monday, May 25,2015) at noon they will be holding a special memorial day ceremony to honor the bravery and dedication of the special operations K-9 Soldier.
Since we were visiting on a rainy day we went straight inside. Upon entering you see 2 paratroopers hanging from the ceiling. Here is one of them:
Once you have signed in you are set to explore the museum. Inside they have a temporary exhibit, the main exhibit and a simulator ride. The current temporary exhibit is, Task Force Ranger And The Battle of Mogadishu. This is better known to many from the book and movie, BlackHawk Down.
This exhibit just received the John Wesley Powell Prize, an award that is typically given to museums such as the Smithsonian! It really is a great exhibit and thanks to receiving the award we get to keep the exhibit a bit longer than planned. You have until October 2016 to check it out.
Here are a couple highlights from the exhibit:
There are no words to describe this note.
Moving on we go onto enter the Main Exhibit hall.
Walking through there is something to look at at every turn.
I loved looking at the uniforms and how much they have changed but also have stayed the same. The unit patch for the 508th is exactly the same logo today!
There was honestly too much for me to include in this blog but here are some of the bigger exhibits:
You walk through the 1940’s to present day with close attention to detail in an attempt to not miss a thing. I saw pictures that were similar to those of my grandfathers from World War II, you can read about how the Pathfinders began and why they were important, learn about different weapons and gear that was used. The tour is self guided so you can spend as much time or as little as you would like!
When you finish looking at the exhibit there is one more experience waiting for you. The Airborne and Special Operations Museum also has a simulator ride! They just updated it and it was to debate during Armed Forces Weekend but I have something for you. Here is a sneak peak of the ride:
I’m sorry but if you want to see how it ends you will have to go to the museum!
The museum is located at:
100 Bragg Boulevard
Fayetteville, North Carolina
The museum Hours are:
Closed Mondays and Federal Holidays.
The museum will be open on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veteran’s Day.
We are closed on Federal Holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, and Easter.
The Exhibit Gallery closes at 4:45.
They recommend allowing 2-3 hours to tour the museum grounds.
Admission is free to the museum but they accept donations.
You do have to pay to ride the Motion Simulator, it is $5; half price for those under 36″. Tickets are available in the gift shop.
If you check out the museum from May 16 thru June 27th 2015 you will also have the opportunity to check out the North Carolina Field of Honor. Hundreds of American Flags are flying honoring those who serve, who have served and those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice. The Field of Honor You can read more information about the North Carolina Field of Honor HERE.
American Sniper has been out for a couple weeks now and I finally went to see it. My husband had no real desire to see the movie (or any military related movie in general) but an opportunity arose when I had the chance to go to a private viewing for Team Red, White and Blue Fort Bragg. What can I say, I was curious. So, I avoided the various blog posts floating around critiquing the movie and went with an open mind. Along with a bit of wonder about why the audience was so quiet at the end.
As a spouse of an Army soldier I kind of knew what I was getting into. I “know” what my husband’s job is and the kinds of things he does while deployed. Well, to a degree. I am not there to see with my own eyes what he has seen and we do not really talk about it. That may sound completely insane to some people but we don’t. It is what works for us. My husband is also not that soldier that goes around telling others his old war stories either. Many Army guys are the same way. The subject of war is delicate and personal, each soldier has there own story.
While we may not speak in depth of what happens over there I do know bits and pieces. There are the spouses who do talk about things in depth with their soldier and blurt out things at coffees. To my husband showing me a Facebook message from a distraught mother who had lost her son and him not sure how to reply. I know enough. I know enough to know my husband goes out on missions where he may or may not have been involved in a fire fight. I know he has been shot at and he has shot at others. He has seen things blown up right in front of him. He has seen death. The death of his brothers and the other casualties of war, the bad guys to the innocent. His eyes have seen much in his four deployments to the sandbox.
As an Army spouse, I know all to well what the hardships are like. My husband and I got married when we did because he may or may not be deploying. His company commander even gave him the day off to get married. Four months later he was deployed to Kosovo. That was in 1999. That was our first taste of deployment. It wasn’t until after 9/11 that deployments became a regular word in our household. My husband deployed back to back with little down town in between. When there was down time he was either training or away at a school. It was just me and my boys. My husband and I joked that he was just some guy who visited. He liked deploying. It was what he joined the Army to do. It is what he trained for. He’s really good at his job too. Did war change him? Yes, how could a soldier that has seen and been in combat not change.
Life without my husband wasn’t always easy. I managed because what else was I suppose to do, just cry? I pulled up my big girl panties and dealt with whatever was being handed to me. I had high risk pregnancies, had surgery, dealt with getting my second son diagnosed with autism, sick kids and whatever else came my way. Trust me there was a lot. Me and Murphy, we go way back. I won’t even mention the times when I was on pins and needles hoping to hear from my husband after something horrible had happened. I’ve been called stoic more than once but we all have our breaking points. I’ll just say the shower is an awesome place to cry it out. I know i’m not the only military spouse that has done that.
This has just been our life. Five total deployments, four to the sandbox and with a few more years left to retirement who knows if there will be another one. So I fully knew what I was getting into when I sat down to watch American Sniper. I watched and there were funny parts, things I could relate to as a spouse and things I imagined were similar to what my soldier may have experienced. The movie had many similarities to my own life. Yes, there were things that may have been exaggerated but overall it was a good movie. If I had one wish for it, I wish they would of dove further into the subjects. Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper did good but I left wanting more of the story. Simply because I know so much more is there.
The movie ended on a somber note, with Chris Kyle leaving to take a struggling vet out. Then a statement of how he had passed and then actual footage from his funeral and all of the support he had and then it was over. No happy ending, just a somber reminder and a silent audience with many in tears.
If anything American Sniper is a good reminder to all of those out there who have forgotten what exactly our soldiers do for their freedom. The movie also gives a taste of what spouses live through that isn’t all rainbows and sparkles. It brings light to the issue of PTSD. Many of our soldiers experience so much when deployed. Over the years at war the military has gotten better about reintegration but the process is not foolproof. There are many programs out there to help returning vets. We lose far too many soldiers each day, an estimated 22 a day if you want to be particular. In my opinion that is far too many. There is so much that we can do to help our veterans. It is just a matter of doing it.
Interested in more ways to help Veterans check these great organizations.
When speaking about veterans many have heard, “A Veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable ‘To My Country’ for an amount “up to and including my life.” I have been blessed to have veterans in my life and I am beyond thankful for all that they have done. Both of my grandfathers served in the Army and fought in World War 2 and I am married to my favorite veteran who is a soldier in the US Army.
It is coming. Well at least it looks that way, a government shutdown. Get ready to embrace the suck. Here are some tips to get through the coming weeks.
What is shutting down?
Many people don’t realize the bigger picture and what all a government shutdown may include. It is not just the military as many may think as they have been used as political and media pawns. This issue is big and has ripple down effects. It affects not only the Department of Defense but the National Park Service, various departments of Homeland Security, federal courts and more. You can look HERE for a list of agencies that will or could be affected.
It is what it is and figuring out what to do with your bills comes next.You need to figure out how to pay your rent/mortgage, electric bill, water and other bills. The best policy here is to be proactive and call and contact your creditors. They may be able to work with you they may not. You never know what they can offer unless you call. The worst thing they can do is say no. Remember the organizations listed above that can help you.
So your soldier still needs to go to work without getting paid, what can you do about gas money? Start a carpool with other families in your area. Yes it sucks that they have to go to work and not have the money to go but what are you going to do? You make it work. It’s all about rolling with the punches.
Feeding your Family
I am constantly looking for ways to feed my family for less and a looming government shutdown has me looking at where I can cut back especially since the commissary will be closed. A good place to start is to create a meal plan and stick to it. This helps you when it comes time to make a grocery list and when it comes time to shop. To help you meal plan use your grocery store ads and buy what is on sale. To save more money use coupons.
Here are a few healthy and economical foods:
Water, healthier and cheaper than soda and other sweetened drinks.
Eat Beans, they are economical, full of protein and fiber.
Brown Rice, whole grain and full of vitamins
Sweet Potatoes, low in calories and full of vitamins like Vitamin A and C.
Frozen Veggies, steam instead of boil to avoid nutrient loss.
Kale and other leafy greens (cabbage,spinach,collards), are nutrient rich and full of vitamins and can be prepared several different ways.
Plain Yogurt, you can mix in various things to change it up such as honey and fruits. If you use greek yogurt you will have added protein.
Peanut Butter and other nut butters, a great protein source and heart healthy unsaturated fats
Eggs, Great protein source and full of other nutrients.
Oatmeal (old fashioned oats) Heart healthy and helps lower bad cholesterol.
Final Thoughts on Money
It is time to prioritize what is important and to budget, budget,budget! There will be things that you cannot get around spending money on and you need to allow room in your budget for these expenses. Just as you need to remember to allow for emergencies. Be smart about your money choices. Ask yourself do I really need Starbucks or can I make it myself at home. Check out these copycat recipes to try it at home. Pinterest is a great place to look to find copycat recipes, handy household money saving tips and more. You can do this with style and grace. After all military families are special. We can take on any challenge that is sent our way.
Just a few final tid bits on a possible government shutdown that we currently know:
Quality of life will be affected. There is no way around it.
There will be reduced support services on post as many civilian employees are furloughed. These services will vary from installation to installation.
Your soldier will still be at work but PCS’s, TDY’s, schools and training may be disrupted.
Death gratuities to those who die on active duty during this time would not be paid.
There will be various effects to healthcare on installations that may vary from installation to installation.
As previously stated, stateside commissaries would be closed.
What else can be done?
The time is ticking down but your voice is important! Let your elected officials know how you feel!