There are times in the military lifestyle when you honestly forget that you are part of the military community. When your partner is home living the Garrison life, you get into a groove of normal living. Yes he comes home in a uniform and there are green socks and PTs literally every where in the house, but things seem normal. You appreciate what the Army gives you, and for a moment you forget about the hardships that come with this life.

That is until orders come down. Orders that turn your world upside down and backwards.

Granted people may say, “You knew what you were getting into when you became a military family.” To an extent this is true. We knew that there were going to be hardships and tough decisions ahead of us. However, that doesn’t make things like a deployment any easier.

There has been talk of a deployment to Afghanistan for Tom’s unit for some time now. There was never anything solid or set in stone. We just knew that a deployment was going to occur in the fall.

It was all talk, plus Tom’s contract is ending in a year. This meant that he should be in the window of not going because he would not get back before his out date. You see the Army has rules about you exiting the military. You have to be stateside for so many months and do an out-processing program before you leave. And then this doesn’t even factor in the terminal leave (similar to vacation time in other jobs) that you have accrued and can take off your contract.

Early this summer, the list came out for who had deployment orders.

Tom’s name was on the list.

My heart sank.

This meant that soon after having George, I would lose him for about 4-6 months before he would return.

We both were frustrated and disappointed.

For those getting out, there was a date that was set that you had to have an end date after that date in order to be on. Sounds confusing, but if your contract ended before the end of August 2015, in theory you should not be on this deployment. Tom’s out date is July 9th, 2015.

Tom was the only one that had a date prior to this deadline that was still on the list.

Did I not understand how calendars work?

When he approached the leadership, he was told, “Oh well we know you will do the right thing for the unit and extend.” Or they acted surprised that his out date was within the year time frame, like they had never heard it before.

Now if you know Tom in person, or have gotten any inkling of his personality via this blog, he is not shy with his feelings. He is very upfront about how he feels and where he sits with people and situations. He has been very honest for months that he will not be re-enlisting or extending.

The other thing I don’t understand is why they would have him on the list knowing that he would not complete the whole deployment. They would have to send him back early to begin his out-processing. Tom’s position is a pretty integral part of the communication line, to which his exit during a deployment could have some pretty negative ramifications to the unit’s effectiveness. They would have to train someone else mid-deployment to do that job. Why don’t they do that now before they even leave?

Stubbornness and inefficiency at it’s best. This goes to show you that some leaders are completely clueless and care more about themselves than their soldiers. Unfortunately, this is all that he has dealt with under this current leadership. (I do want to say that when we first got here, his leadership was phenomenal. So I do know that not everyone in the military is like this!)

Well the weeks went by and more conversations were had.

And maybe a week or two before they went on summer block leave, Tom’s name was removed from the list. Permanently.

Can I get an amen? !?!?

It’s not that he was trying to get out of a deployment or neglect his duty. If Tom had to go, he would have gone and rocked it out like he always does. We had begun to accept the fact that this was just another thing in our life we would have to deal with. We had started making plans for the worst, but continued to hope for a different outcome. That’s just how it goes sometimes, and we knew that.

We tried being reasonable and practical about it. However, that doesn’t change how we felt about the situation.

The whole thing was just rotten. It did not seem like the right circumstances. And it always seems to be the people who are not supposed to be there who are the ones who find themselves in trouble. (or this is at least what my scatter-preggo-brain was telling me)

Tom has served in the Army for 2.5 years now, it will be 3.5 by the time he is done. This may not seem like a long time, but he did not intend to make a career out of this. He joined because he felt like it was the right thing at the time, and he wanted to give back to his country. He went to the outskirts and remote ends of Afghanistan once already. And let’s be honest, 3.5 years is a good chunk of time out of a family’s life.

A deployment was not something that we needed to experience again if at all possible. Well really, I am not sure any family needs that experience, but that’s the life.

The Army has given us a lot, and I am so proud of what Tom has accomplished while serving. But to be frank, we are ready to move back to civilian life and be in a more permanent situation and to choose where we live among other things.

It came down to a realization from his unit that Tom would not be extending his contract no matter how many times his leadership would ask. He does have a really good first sergeant that had been looking out for him during this process and made sure the Army did the right thing. Eventually, because of Army protocol, his name had to be taken off the manifest.

So another lesson in just wait in the Army and orders may change….and then change again.

And by golly they might just up and change them one more time just for the giggles. I swear there are people in Washington that  just move paperwork around like inserting random words into a mad-lib game to see how obnoxious they can make things. Who knows, this could change again…

There are definitely moments that I feel guilty that we have skated through this, and that I wont be experiencing the deployment with the other families that I have come to know. It is a shared experience that I just can’t really explain, but it’s like I am not aware of it anymore or just that lucky girl who’s husband isn’t going so what does she know. Like somehow it makes me less of an Army wife, which I know is the most ridiculous thing ever to feel because 1) the deployment has nothing to do with me and my status 2) We have been through a deployment before and 3) oh yes it’s not about me.

But I digress.

I remember how I felt through the first deployment, and I only know that those feelings would be exponentially higher/more intense with George on my hip. I know I would never wish someone else to feel that way if they didn’t have to and would be cheering right along with them knowing their soldier would be staying stateside. Each solider has their own service and gift to give. I am fortunate that Tom has gotten through his mostly unscathed, which is something I do not take lightly. And I am eternally grateful to our friends and many others in this nation who do continue to serve and complete these tours. This experience we have had these past few years as a military family has changed us, and I know that we will continue to support our troops long after we leave Ft. Campbell.

Our time is ending though, and it is the right thing for us. We are headed for a new chapter in the Whitener tale.

So what is on the plate for now?

Well Tom is still scheduled to be here until July of next year. He is looking into some job programs that may shorten his contract, so there is an option that we may head back to Missouri much sooner than that.

Right now his job consists of supporting the unit and ensuring the communication is ready for deployment and trainings. Once the deployment occurs, he will be working with new Joes (new soldiers to the unit fresh from basic) to get acclimated to the unit by doing ranges and other trainings until the unit returns from overseas. Tom is really good at training, so I know he will enjoy passing along his practical knowledge during this time.

As for me, ever since we heard the news about the deployment in the early spring, I have been searching for a job in Missouri. We knew that if Tom did go, it would be best for me to move closer to home for additional support with George. I am continuing that search for the perfect fit right now. Knowing that we are going to be there permanently allows me to be a lot more selective on my search for the time being, so hopefully my dream job situation happens in the next year. Let me tell you, job searching in general is stressful, but add in doing it pregnant…keep praying for me here! Potentially, I could move before Tom does, so there is still a lot of unknown in our future.

We are really just taking it one day at a time and processing information as it comes in. It does make it really difficult to plan things. All these changes and possibilities are one big reason why George’s nursery still isn’t set up. We know everything will come together in due time and happen the way it is supposed to.

Right now we are just happy that long distance due to a deployment is not on our horizon!

Whitener Wednesday-Marriage Year 2

Welcome back for another part of our love saga!

I left you off last week with celebrating our first anniversary apart while Tom was in basic training. You can read more about our first year here.

This was a long year full of ups and downs. (I am emotional before I even start writing this…)

Before I went to meet Tom at his graduation, I received a phone call that would change everything.

My mom called me on a Sunday evening the week I was to head down to Georgia to pick Tom up.

My grandma had suffered from a massive stroke.

These grandparents lived in South Carolina, so after a lot of schedule changes, I made the decision to travel to SC with my mom for the next week and then drive from there to GA for Tom’s graduation. What would happen after that was up in the air since we didn’t know the severity of the situation until we arrived at the hospital.

My grandpa was already having health issues at the time of the stroke and was receiving in home care as well as routine hospital visits for his ailments. That week we were able to get them both in hospice care (in the same room) because the prognosis did not look good for Grandma. It was the most heartbreaking and most uplifting experience to watch these two love birds.

It was hard because we all knew both of their days were numbered. It was hard because there was so much pain in the room that could not be taken away. It was hard because this was also a time that I couldn’t freely talk to Tom, so I had to just wait for him to call to update him briefly on my dying grandparents and my emotional state.

But in a sense it was a wonderful way to spend with them. Even though my grandma could not speak and was immobilized in many ways and my grandpa couldn’t go to the bathroom on his own, seeing their love and devotion to one another in their darkest hours was so touching. Watching Grandma react to Grandpa’s singing and handholding are moments I will never forget. The vulnerability I saw from them was better than any romantic movie.


The time came for me to head to GA to pick up my own love, but also to say goodbye to the love of my grandparents. It was the longest and loneliest drive of my life knowing that I may never see my grandparents again, but knowing that I was about to see Tom for the first time in a few months.

The anxiety and anticipation was at an all-time high.

Tom’s family was able to meet me in GA for the graduation, and we waited in the heat (inferno) for the chance to see Tom again.

I was able to pin his infantry cord on him, which is a great honor (even though the buttons where stubborn and would NOT cooperate).


You can see Tom’s sweat…I blame the heat on the tricky buttons. Okay maybe it was also my clumsy nerves getting the best of me since this moment right here was the first time seeing him in months!


Tom’s parents and sister after the ceremony

We had a good time celebrating his big achievement of getting through. And I was so glad to have him back!

There was something nagging at me though. Since we were still in the eastern timezone, I knew I needed to drive back to SC on our way home to see my grandparents one more time. I just knew that it would be the last time. Fortunately, my husband was used to sleep deprivation (upside of Basic right?) and gave in to my pleading, and we tacked on several hours to detour up to SC one more time.

After a very brief Sonic dinner with them and final goodbye hugs, we headed back to Missouri to celebrate the 4th of July.


We then headed back to Iowa for a brief week before he had to report to Ft. Campbell, his first duty station.

He was able to reunite with our baby girl. She was so happy to see him again!


During this time we caught up with friends, and he bought his beloved Jeep.

It was also during this week that my Grandma passed away. I was so glad that Tom was there to help me through this because I was kind of lost, especially since I couldn’t make it to the funeral.

And then our week was over. Tom had to go to Ft. Campbell, while Grace and I stayed back in Iowa. We had decided that I would stay back just a little longer while he scoped the land there and saw what his orders were like. I had started the job search for the Ft. Campbell area, but I was also starting to get ready for year three at Iowa State. My head and heart where in two different places.

So after 3 months of basic training and only a week back together, Tom and I said goodbye again.


Once Tom got to Ft. Campbell, we learned that he would be deploying in a couple months.

Hold up.

I just got him back, and you want him to go where?

I was really upset about this at the time, but obviously there was no choice in this. We were getting baptized by the Army from the get go. Ready or not we had to go through this.

So as Tom underwent training for deployment, I began the long couple months of training for a new year with my job. I needed to focus on my job and not worry about Tom’s situation. But I also knew that it was going to be my last year at Iowa State-ugh holy emotions. So I was determined to make it my best year yet and end on a high note. We decided that I would stick it out for that school year since it lined up with Tom’s deployment. It did not make sense for me to hurry to get a job in KY in the land of the unknown while I had a great job and a support network in Iowa, knowing that we were about to undergo one of the biggest tests of our relationship.

It was around this time that I decided to start a blog documenting my side of the deployment since I didn’t really see myself as an Army wife at the time. I needed an outlet somewhere. (Holy moly, my have my blogging skills grown since that first entry…)

Right after I successfully led my staff through move-in and the start of classes, I came down to say my farewell to Tom before he headed out for his first tour for 9 months. Long distance was here to stay. Will we ever be together?


The day before he left for Afghanistan.

Tom left and made it safely overseas.

While Tom was becoming a world traveler, I received another phone call.

My grandpa had passed away. He had survived his wife by only a few months.

This was another hard time for me to lose so much so quickly. It was also hard because I didn’t want to be a basket-case every time Tom and I got a few minutes to chat. Those moments are so precious, and I didn’t want to spend it all in tears.

I went to my grandpa’s funeral, which is also the last time I was in Clemson. I wrote more about my grandparents’ influence here and how I was feeling at the time.

I continued my job search to no avail, but I was having the time of my life with my current job in Iowa. I was working with some awesome students and was gaining some invaluable experiences.

The holidays were hard that year. I traveled with Grace alone for the first time, and had to endure the never ending questions of “how is Tom” and trying to be happy about the holidays. We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Tom’s 28th birthday apart.

But on Christmas day, Tom called with a present that could not be wrapped and mailed. They were coming home! They received word that the deployment would be cut short by a couple months. Best present ever!

So I tried getting through the next few months anxiously waiting for the day he would return safely.

Every day came with it’s own battles. I had to believe and have faith that we would get through this. We only were able to video chat one time during his deployment because of the poor connection at his post. (He was on a tiny outpost in the middle of no-where quite literally.) We were able to talk almost every day, which was an absolutely Godsend. It is the only  months of my life that I became attached to my phone and would leave meetings to talk to him in bathrooms or hallways for the 5 or 10 minutes that we were allotted. I cried in a lot of bathrooms that year out of joy of hearing his voice and knowing he was ok and despair of not knowing when the next time we would talk would be. There were moments that I had no idea what he was doing, and there was panic like I described here and here.

But there were many lessons learned during this time apart. Mostly that I loved him more than I ever thought possible, and wanted to tell him any chance I got.

Right before Tom was to return, I ran the Disney Princess Half with a couple of my grad friends. So much fun and such great timing.


And then the day came for Grace and I to see the main man of our lives again that February. Our 6ish months separated by sea where finally over.


We had made it through the deployment long distance. Amen. My soldier was safe and sound on American soil.

We had about a week together before I had to face reality and return to Iowa to finish out the year. I was able to come and visit a couple times before we would move all of our things to Kentucky for the time being.

I was really fortunate for the community I had while in Iowa. They were my family while Tom was gone, and I couldn’t have asked for a better year to end on. Fortunately the timing worked out with Tom’s deployment to make it so I could stay that whole year and take the job search slow. I needed to be there with that support network.

I had the best time with my students, and they kept me sane most of that year. I think our last staff meeting was evident on how I felt about them. (If you guessed that I cried, you would be right. Buckets of tears were shed that night.)


That May I said my goodbyes to Iowa, and Tom and I moved to our current home here in KY/TN.

About a week after settling in, I started a new job here working part-time in the Disability Services office. I was excited and nervous to do something other than housing. I was very hopefully about the prospects of my career and just hoped that this either turned full-time or that the job search I was still in was fruitful in another area.


This meant the world to us. After 5 years of being together, it looked like we would be able to be settled together for awhile before the next thing pulled us apart. We knew that another deployment could happen before he got out, but we were just looking at the present of finally being married in the same zipcode/country/timezone for once.

We began the full transition to living together which had it’s ups and downs. And I finally was experiencing Army life in the flesh.

June of 2013, Tom had to under go surgery to fix a hernia he had gotten while in Afghanistan. He literally had a hole in his stomach where he had to push his guts back in. Gross and cool all at the same time…

This is where we conclude our 2nd year with our anniversary which also coincided with our first (and most likely only) military ball.


Year two was a rough year for us with death, distance, deployments and moving and everything else that normal day living brings. We learned a lot about love and life during this time and how to be happy with the little things. Every moment counts. You never know when the last time you will speak to someone will be (as was evident with my grandparents and Tom’s deployment). So it became even more clear that we needed to voice how we felt and live in the moment to soak up all that you can.

Come back next week as we celebrate our 3rd anniversary and hear a recap of our first year without long distance!

Whitener Wednesday-Our First Year Married

Right after the big day, Tom and I had some big decisions to make. I would say they were not your typical first year of marriage problems. To make sure everyone is following along, the year was June 2011 to June 2012.

I was about to start my second year at Iowa State in a position that I loved. Tom, however, had not been as lucky in the job search realm. He had been interviewing for police positions all over the central Iowa area, and even some departments more than once with no luck for over a year.

We decided after the wedding Tom would apply for one more department. He had always talked about going into the Army. If you remember during grad school, he had considered enlisting, and I wasn’t as on board then. If he wasn’t able to find a police position within the first six months of our marriage, we agreed that he would enlist. I finally saw that it was something he needed to do. We felt that it would help in the future for job searching or it could end up being a career move for him. Either way, it would be a way for Tom to provide for our family and have some career satisfaction.

The next few months we waited for some good news. We filled our time with trying to act like a normal couple without this huge decision on our shoulders. We went to ZooBrew like champs and visited our families.


ZooBrew was one of our favorite summer time activities. Booze and large animals? Yes please.



Getting in some Nuncle Tom and Aunt Teffie time with our beautiful little niece.

During all this madness, we decided it was a good idea to get a dog. It was not our intention to get one until we had things figured out, but things just kind of spiraled out of control one weekend. Before we knew it, we brought Grace home that Halloween. By far the best thing that happened that first year! (Also in writing this, I realized that I have never wrote about Grace’s adoption since we got her prior to my blogging adventure. We told Crosby’s, so I guess I should maybe plan to tell the full story about how we got Gracie lady!)


Grace on the way home with us from the shelter. Now seeing her pictures from back then, I can see she has definitely grown since we got her at 36 pounds!

Grace managed to keep us busy and definitely made things happier for us. We were feeling like a family and things were normal right?

Well our life likes to be tricky and never goes as we planned. There were still no job prospects…crickets I tell ya. So Tom enlisted into the US Army right before our 6 month anniversary. Tom would leave that March for Basic Training, and we would have to endure long distance once again.

Fun story though, while Tom was at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station-where he officially enlisted and did all the initial testing/signing his life away) he got two calls for job offers. One was for a police department, and one was to teach Criminal Justice courses at a local college. Seriously? This is our life…

6 months

Since we knew that Tom would be gone for our first anniversary, we decided to celebrate our 6 month as if it was the whole first year.

I managed to throw the most epic surprise going-away party ever for Tom, which is saying something because I am the worst at keeping secrets. It was a great day to celebrate and be with friends and family before our life changed completely…once again.


Tom humor on our kitchen calendar.

He left for Basic Training at Ft. Benning GA in March and did not graduate until July 3rd after our first year anniversary. For those 3.5 months, we talked mostly in letters. We each wrote one every single day, which are pieces of our life that we still have in a box to cherish for a life time. We talked on the phone twice the entire time. One happened to be around my birthday and the other was on our anniversary. We were lucky that these days fell around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day so they got to use the phone for those things. And my wonderful husband choose to call me quickly as well before he talked with his parents. Such a cool feeling to hear him talk after silence for months.

This kind of distance was much different than our first go around obviously. Since our communication was very limited or delayed, there were a lot of first year marriage milestones that we didn’t get to experience or where one of us had to make decisions on our own without the knowledge or input from our partner. I knew he was out of danger so there was something romantic about writing love letters every day to him before I went to bed. Granted I would rather of had him home, but you have to look at the positives. Every day, I wrote to him “I love you more than yesterday.” And every day it rang true.

Not much else happened those few months besides me taking a picture of Grace every day to mail him. Having Grace was the best distraction while Tom was away. I mean work definitely was distracting too (have you ever been on a college campus during move out?). But really I just hung out with Gracers for the most part being an obnoxious dog mom.


These are just a few of our gems.

I did get to see him for one weekend while they had pass. It was a glorious couple of days. I will never forget how skinny he was then! It was like I was married to a different person.


I also had it in the back of my mind that this could possibly be my last year at Iowa State before we had to move to wherever the Army sent us. So I just tried distracting myself with making the most of the time I had there.

It may sound horrible, but I honestly don’t remember what I did for our anniversary that year. I probably took Grace for a long walk and did nothing if I would have to guess. I may have taken the day off work…

But in all fairness I knew we had a big reunion coming up in the next month with his graduation. I was just counting down our long distance days at this point.

Come back next week to see how year two went with Basic Graduation starting us off! Thanks for reading every week!


At least we looked good that year! (I also had perfected the wavy curl look, so it is obvious I used it on every special occasion…)

Armucation: Ranks and Organization

One of the things that I had the hardest time learning, and still get confused about, are the rankings and how the troops are organized.

Here is the quick and dirty on how the Army does things.

army jrotc ranks

image via

This chart is awesome to remember the insignia and titles for each rank. Most of the time for officers, Tom refers to them as Sir, so I usually have no idea who he is talking about.

They have to wear these insignia all over their uniforms. So if you know what they mean, you should be able to just look at a soldier and know where they stand.

A soldier gets to different ranks by time, experience, and credentials. (Also, I think there is sometimes a little luck and being in the right place at the right time that goes in there. But this is just my opinion) A promotion happens in different ways. For E1 up to E4, you will be granted a new rank once you have the time and service. For E5 and E6, you have to go to a board to receive the new rank. A board consists of three parts:  a PT test, hands on (medical, range, assembling weapons, etc.), and lastly a formal oral board. E7 and above, there is a list that comes out each year for whoever ranks up. From what I could gather about officers, they just earn a new rank with time and service and once a position opens. (Admittedly though, I don’t know much about officers since Tom is not in that arena.)

Here is a website that explains more about what happens at each rank.  I found it to be really interesting!

The other titles I get confused on are the types of organization and groupings.

Here is the breakdown of how soldiers are organized in the Infantry. Let’s start small.

Team:  3-4 enlisted soldiers.

Squad:  2 teams

Platoon:  4 squads

Company:  4 platoons

Battalion:  4-5 companies

Brigade:  2-3 Infantry battalions and sustainment units

Division:  3-4 brigades

Each level has a leader. Team and squads only have an enlisted leader. Starting with the platoon level, there will be both an enlisted leader as well as an officer as the leadership.

So if I were to write out Tom’s full unit description, this is what it would look like:

101st Airborne Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Battalion, 187 Infantry Regiment, Angel Company, Headquarters Platoon.

Before he moved to Headquarters where there are not squads or teams, he would have had this:  2nd Platoon, 3rd Squad, Bravo Team.

If you noticed the 187th Infantry Regiment in that listing but not in my earlier breakdown, I promise you I didn’t mess up. Regiments don’t really exist anymore as far as how things are broken down. They just are there now.

I hope this breakdown, helps you to understand the inner-workings of the Army. You can see how I get confused often!

It seems like I learn things about the Army every day.  I am by no means an expert at all things Army, but I love exploring new topics and sharing what I see as a military spouse.

Hope you enjoyed today’s Armucation.

Do you have any questions about military life? Do you have any topic you would like me to write about? Feel free to ask away!

Armucation: Homecoming Ceremonies

I was one of those people who thought that as soon as the soldier got off whatever vehicle transport they came in on, they would be free to go home.

This is a huge misconception. There is a lot more that goes into a homecoming than the banners and hugs.

These are just my observations of the Army and how Ft. Campbell does homecoming. Every branch and post may do their own variation of things.

Bangor, Maine is the first stop in the US for many of our troops. There are a band of greeters who meet the soldiers as they touch US soil for the first time in months. These greeters come to the airport at all hours of the night to welcome home our troops. Tom said this was one of the greatest parts of coming home. It is very touching to watch videos from here.

Bangor Homecoming Greeters

They can come at all hours of the day. I joked that going to a homecoming ceremony during the day is a myth. I have only been to them in the dead of night. The schedules are also unpredictable. When Tom came home, I feel like they changed the time they were supposed to arrive about every hour that week that they were scheduled home. So there is a lot of waiting.

Glinn Photography

Glinn Photography

Once the troops get home they have to line up for a short ceremony.

Glinn Photography

Glinn Photography

From here, they are released for about 20 minutes to meet with their family.

Glinn Photography

Glinn Photography

These are the moments that are inspiring and the ones to live for.

Glinn Photography

Glinn Photography

Glinn Photography

Glinn Photography

After this very little time with family and friends, the soldiers line back up to go back to their company areas. The families go to a waiting room or classroom in the company area to wait for an hour or more. During this time you are not allowed to see your soldier. The soldiers are turning in all of their sensitive items, getting housing assignments, and other various administrative tasks. For me this was the longest couple of hours because I knew Tom was right outside but I couldn’t see him.

After they are finally released after what seems like days, then kind of everything is up for grabs.

The soldiers are not allowed to drive for 24 hours that first day, and many of them don’t have cars anyway because they sold them before the deployment. So they have to make plans for that.

The units will have a reintegration class they have to attend every day for the next week. It is a way for them to have some stability and routine when their whole world just changed.

Then there are the personal things that you have to get use to again which can take time depending on the soldier and family they are coming home to.

So there is much more than what you see on TV for homecomings, and it ends up being a long process of reintegrating back into the country. It is a very interesting and wonderful experience, but it was frustrating at first that I couldn’t just keep my soldier to myself.

I would encourage people to go to a homecoming ceremony once in their lifetime. It is very awesome to witness!

Have you been to a homecoming ceremony for any branch? What things did you notice from the experience that I did not mention here?

As a side note, Tom and I are being featured on “Date Night Is”  for our date nights. Pretty sweet!