Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Real Military Housewives of Blogland

Mal Smiles

Cheers to linking up with The Real Military Wives of Blogland hosted by Mal and Samantha today!   I'm so pumped to support them in their mission to dispel the stereotype of what a military spouse is by enlightening people with our actuality with an introduction, a blurb of our military journey, and one thing we'd like people to know about military life.

Raised in the Chicago area, below the poverty line by a divorced mother of 3 (she was 18 at my birth), I am the first person in my family to graduate from college (Bradley University, Go Braves!).  (My grandparents only attended school until 8th grade, but my parents finished high school.)  I was the only girl in my neighborhood not to become a teen mom, and was looked down upon by the other teenagers for not having my own baby, smoking, or skipping school!  

My mom always believed in me and told everyone I'd grow up to be a stock broker!  She and I always knew I was focused on obtaining a great education, helping disadvantaged kids, and moving far away.  At age 21, with a B.A. in my pocket, California recruited me to teach there.  I had a long, successful career teaching at-risk kids for 13 years.  I bought my own home at age 24, made a killing selling it, then waited until the market became more affordable to buy an "average, not fancy" home in my dream neighborhood.  Which, of course, is when I met my marine and, a year later, chose to rent my house out and join him on his military adventure.
Yes, I went into the bedrooms of convicted felons (yes, murders, too) to check for contraband.  Yes, I carried a firearm, handcuffs, and taser, among other tactical items.  Yes, I wore body armor.  Yes, I served warrants at 2AM and arrested people.  

Something I recommend for every military spouse/sig other:  In Georgia, I chose not to teach.  I have another degree, in Sociology, that I chose to use to become a Georgia State Parole Officer.  Yes, it was a 2 month hiring process of a criminal justice test, background checks, and a polygraph, but the part I recommend is that I went away for 9 WEEKS to the GA State Public Safety Training Center and my Marine had to MISS me, hold down the fort without me, etc., and worry about me (ie. during firearms training).  Our relationship has never been better!  I've felt a new sense of appreciation from him ever since, even 2 years later!      P.S. I knew it was wearing on him when the Sergeant Major texted me and asked when I was coming back, lol!  Guess he was a bit grumpy.

Click here for more general stuff about me.

(click here for FAQs)
After a year of dating during which we lived over an hour's drive apart (squeezing in dating around his training NATO troops in Europe), I did a trial move (I was not accustomed to living with boyfriends) with my grunt (affectionate term for infantry) to the East Coast while he was at Command & Staff College at Marine Corps University.  He had been under the impression he would be stationed in California for 2 more years, so he was nervous to tell me about unexpectedly being chosen for school across the country.  My stoic, positive, and sometimes excited reaction to his relocation bombshells is one of the things he says "sealed the deal" for him.  He had much more dramatic women in the past to the point where he dreaded sharing his news.

Since 29 Palms (Southern California desert) and Quantico (we lived in the historic and coveted "Old Town" Alexandria, VA), we have been living in Atlanta for the notoriously stressful aka "36 one-month deployments" aka "2/3 of marriages don't make it through these 3 years" that is Marine Corps recruiting duty.  This summer will be our 4th move in 6 years, to Camp Pendleton (San Diego, Southern California coast).

One thing people may not know is that some military jobs come with ACTUAL roles and responsibilities FOR the Marine's significant other!!  BELIEVE ME, I didn't realize it until we came to independent duty in Atlanta.  It was trial by FIRE!
The handbook I was given when reporting in as the CO's  "spouse".  Link below.

My significant other is the Commander of Recruiting Station Atlanta (15 stations and 105 marines that recruit the area covering a large part of the state).  The buck stops with him.  His boss, The Colonel, is in another state.  There is no Marine Base in Georgia.  He is the one who represents the Marine Corps by giving LOTS of speeches and attending many events.  He works 70+ hours a week and for those of you who are military you will understand what I mean when I say there are days that he is literally buried under a mountain of fit reps he must defeat.

Upon our arrival, there was a change-of-command ceremony in a giant park in front of City Hall where 105 Marines were standing in formation and the previous commander handed the flag (guidon) to my Marine, the new commander. The Colonel had flown in to give a speech, during which he welcomed me by name, and the outgoing CO's wife and I were given flowers for our service.  My Marine and I made a list of what our goals were for helping and supporting the military families of the 15 recruiting substations spread out all over.  
The Sergeant Major (a female!), Master Gunnery Sergeant, and their spouses and I became close.  The Sergeant Major asked me to go with her to do a home visit for a struggling recruiter's spouse.  I became part of the bimonthly PAR training and welcome committee for incoming spouses.  A few weeks later, the district FRO flew in and handed me this book, Parade Rest:  Protocol and Social Customs for Marine Officers and Spouses.  He gave a training to the FRAs and there was an entire PAGE in his slideshow presentation about ME.  The senior enlisted spouse also has a page.  There were several bullet points listing my responsibilities in areas such as fostering community and advocating.

 From creating a private facebook group to donating a mattress/furniture to giving a speech at the annual picnic, there are many tasks I have completed in an attempt to fulfill my role.  It would take a couple pages to list them all.  I was further shocked when we attended an event for the Montford Point Marines and The Commandant of the Marine Corps was present (with his wife, who also has many roles as illustrated on her fb page).  I worked full time and arranged my hours to attend events to support the command.  There is even a part of the station evaluation with a box to check as to whether the CO's spouse has undergone specific trainings.

I'm just me.  Being in a 5 year relationship without being truly "married" is a shock to some people in the military community and otherwise.  However, times are progressing and I've met Generals in the same position of enjoying a committed relationship without marriage, while their significant others are respected as such.  Some people cannot help themselves from implying that we should tie the knot, which I do consider rude, however.  Don't even get me started on the children thing.  We are happy DINKS!  Just like the Real Housewives on tv, not all military 'housewives' are married, have kids, have jobs, etc.  Diversity is something to be celebrated!

I'm still not used to it when people seem nervous to speak to me because I'm attached to their husband or wife's boss.  It's startles me when I realize that I'm 'under the microscope', such as when I stand up and turn to face the back of the room (because I've memorized the order of the annual USMC Birthday Ball Ceremony) for the arrival of the cake, and A BALLROOM FULL OF GUESTS take it as a cue to all turn around right after I do.  Once, some young wives/girlfriends scurried over to me at a ball and complimented me on my shoes.  I said, "You can't see my shoes."  They replied, "Oh, we saw when you crossed your legs at the head table."  And then there was the time where a wife was miffed at me that she and her hubs weren't seated with us at the head table.  And I was like, do people think I do the seating, or any of the planning for this ball every year?  I don't.  I do, however, answer to Mrs.  It's just easier.

So, while I'm sure many spouses out there have gone above and beyond what I'm doing, I just wanted to share my experience.  In some ways, we look forward to blending in and not being the Commander at his next duty as an XO.  But as an eternal optimist, I must reflect on this unique experience and admit the upsides.  It has been fun meeting the military husbands and wives, it's been awe-inspiring meeting so many retired and active Generals and their girlfriends/wives (the female General I met is unattached), it's been an honor to attend funerals of the fallen, it's been exciting to see young people sign up for their dream careers and come back from boot camp a new person, it's been meaningful to see my love give rousing speeches, and it's been humbling to see the sacrifice of time and unyielding effort given by these Marine families (many of whom did not choose to partake in 3 years of recruiting duty, especially when this 'sales' job has nothing to do with the Marines' real careers that often involve tanks or helicopters, for example) to make the mission and help these high school young adults achieve the title of United States Marine.

*there is an enlisted wives handbook called Roses and Thorns
*No, we did not choose nor want recruiting duty 


  1. Wow!!! Recruiting is a whole other beast that most people don't know about! While my husband was on recruiting in Scottsdale it was insane. That is when he decided to go officer, and now I see him much much less! HA! How do you like Atlanta? We were in Columbus when we lived there, but I always drove to Atlanta to shop :)

  2. That's so interesting! The prior enlisted officers are so awesome and admired by us all. We think the spring and fall are very lovely here. We love being on the edge of the city- just jump in the car and 20 min. to airport, Turner Field, etc. Georgia is a little 'retro' for me with some high schools just having their first racially integrated proms last year. We are a bit modern and Southerners don't know what to make of us at times.
    The first year of recruiting was H.E. double hockeysticks. You know the insanity! It's gotten better, and now we realize there are things we might actually miss. But my grunt cannot wait to go back to the fleet and deploy on a MEU. He misses wearing CAMMIES!

  3. Such a great post and so nice to "get to know you"! I'm in Atlanta from time to time. I hope our paths will cross.:)

  4. Its fun to hear the perspective of a CO's wife.
    As an enlisted wife, I have to admit that if the CO's wife is young and cool, then I tend to stare. I just find them to be some of the most beautiful, strong and selfless women.

    1. Thanks for reading. I've met so many interesting military families here on recruiting duty. We have wives who are so accomplished in their own right, such as one who is a surgeon and another who is a state champion college athlete.

  5. Great post! I had no idea about all that came with being a CO's wife, so its interesting to hear. I hope y'all enjoy Camp Pendleton!

    1. Thanks a bunch. I was glad to have the link up opportunity to give a snapshot of a perspective not often blogged about.


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