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!

Getting a Little Political

Ok, if you have been watching the news at all, you can see that things in Syria are getting pretty serious. If you haven’t been watching, I would suggest tuning in.

Yesterday, the Senate started the vote for military action, first getting it approved in a committee.

We have been talking about Syria for a while in our household. Regardless of what the news is saying, it will affect us as a military family.

A fellow Army wife shared this article yesterday, and it really made me think. It made me think enough that I felt the need to respond in my own words.

Please keep in mind that I am talking from my military spouse lens. This is not meant to be about why we [United States] are considering military action. It is just my reaction to some of the media comments as of late, what I see at work and expanding on that article.

Many people think that our time in Afghanistan is coming to a close, and some even believe we are out. This is false, even though it is something we have been told even before Tom left for his first tour there. I even heard a politician say something to the tune of “We aren’t sending anymore troops there.” Tom deployed the next week to said “there”. One of our very good friends is currently there and schedule to be there until next February. He just found out yesterday that his first expected child is going to be a boy. I don’t think they would agree that we are “moving out” of that area. Also, Tom is scheduled for his second deployment back to Afghanistan next July. They have started extensive training which takes him away from our family for days at a time and often has him coming home at odd hours of the night. This kind of training will continue up until they leave next summer. I sure wish it was true that they were out of that country!

“But we are leaving the county” (and also Iraq) they continue to report. The reality is that, yes, there are less troops being sent over. Many COPs (combat out posts) are being closed, but we are still planning to have a presence for awhile to come.

Military families will not be affected with the current proposed Syrian Plan. Hmmmm… As of right now the plan is not to use ground troops and to take no longer than 3 months from everything that I have read. That is great and I am absolutely on board with that seeing as my hubster is the ground troops. But when you talk about war, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. While this timeline would be ideal, it may not be completely accurate once we begin. We have no idea how the other side or other countries will react to our plan.  You cannot wrap war up in a pretty little package with a bow, which is what I think this plan insinuates. The leaders of Syria are already warning us of what may unfold. Who are we to say they aren’t bluffing? This three month thing could get an approved extension to add support troops to this initial wave.

Plus let’s think about it, if we are going to get involved with military action, some troop somewhere has to take that action. I don’t think they are going to be doing that from American soil, so even though it may be for a couple months, some military family somewhere IS going to be affected. It doesn’t matter if this is the safest plan for our troops, there is always a concern from families. Always. Even when Tom was in a “safe” country on his way back from Afghanistan, I was still worried. I still felt this weight on my chest that I would never see him again. Unless your service member is beside you in person, you have concern and are affected by any type of deployment. And to be real with you, I still worry about him even when he is in the safety of our house. Being in the military is a life altering commitment that while I am honored to be a part of it, the reality is that it affects me every second of every day, and terrifies me all the same regardless of if he is stateside or not. His job is literally life or death. I am not sure how that can’t affect me.

And being gone just for one day affects families. Try saying that it doesn’t affect a family to the mom who has to figure out daycare and carpooling for all 3 kids since their partner is gone. Try saying that it doesn’t to the 3rd grader who didn’t see their mom in the stands at their first little league game. Try explaining how it doesn’t to the parents who just said goodbye to their 18 year old as they board that plane for overseas. The time does matter to us, and we are affected.

Constant battering of the military expenses. I have held my tongue to this point about all the sequestering business, even as I watched vital offices/services around base get closed during regular weekly business hours to help cut costs. But as I went home to MO this past weekend and saw billboards about the fast food strike and the “right to work”. As I have been seeing comments all over the place about how our military is ready to go, I was pondering our jobs and what effort we put into our work as a country. I thought about the respect that is given to those who choose to work in this [military] field without much regard except on big holidays. The military is ready to go at any time. That is what is so great about our Armed Forces. Tom is ready to go wherever America needs him to go (a little to eagerly in my opinion, but I am a little greedy about my hubster time.) This commitment to the oath they took to serve their country hasn’t come with full support of our nation. Constantly over the past year there have been talks about cutting benefits, bases, and military personnel. Here at Ft. Campbell they are going to be eliminating one of the most famous brigades (Band of Brothers) in the next year to hit the mark on the new budget. The scope of what that means, just boggles my mind. But regardless of the comments or the payback, they are ready to serve and willingly go every time. They do it with pride and honor. They do it without constant(or even regularly scheduled) pay raises. I think that is something that people should take note of before considering taking a swipe at the defense budget. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome benefits, and I am grateful for what we do get, but on the grand scale of things I am not sure that everyone has their facts straight when trying to say the military gets too much. P.S. There is no sitting out in the military. Have you heard the term AWOL and did you know  that you can get arrested for it? Also, war doesn’t stop when you are asleep, eating, going to the bathroom, so a full-time job has a whole other meaning for service members.

I work in a field were we constantly talk about injustice and under-represented groups, which is one thing I love about my job. I love getting out there and connecting people to their passions no matter their past or situations. We all have a voice and story to be told, and I love that I am in an environment that allows me to interact with a variety of people.  I think the military should be one of those under-represented communities that comes to the forefront of people’s minds because they are so misunderstood and disregarded too often. They also encompass many of the most common groups that folks think of when you say the word “diversity” or “social justice.” You cannot always tell if someone is military, and many don’t feel it necessary to boast about those achievements. But, just because they don’t want to talk about it, doesn’t mean we don’t need to take care of them in this country. Yes they are independent and have had experiences that are worse than most of our nightmares. That, I think, puts most people in this mindset that veteran’s and military folks can just take care of themselves because of all that they experienced. They can handle anything right? Well, maybe so, but that doesn’t mean we don’t owe them a little gratitude and a hand. We need to be more empathetic to this population and how our politics can affect them.

Because, quite frankly, they will fight to their death to save our county.

They would rather make sure they are ready and trained for their war life. They cannot control the whens/whys/hows of  where they go; they can control how prepared they are once given orders. Why can’t we as a country be ready to support them in this endeavor?

Ask yourself are you ready to go to war? I know I am not. So I am thankful that service members are willing to put it all on the line so I don’t have to.

(I have a similar contempt for America’s treatment of teachers, but that is a soap box for another day.)

As I said, this was not intended to be a debate on whether we should go to Syria or not, but I hope it inspires you to think a little harder about what you say about the folks that do go and the support you provide them. Seriously, we should think about any group we talk about and seek to know the facts. We need to hear the stories of that group before we turn a blind eye. Obviously, I am biased, and I will own that. But I see what these men [in Tom’s unit] do every day and I think it is about time someone takes notice instead of throwing stones at what they don’t know or understand.

So here I am just trying to tell a little bit of our story to hopefully remove some barriers.