Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Military Resources... Do Your Homework

You are in for a treat tonight.  My wonderful husband D is currently on break from school and has graciously accepted my invitation to guest post on my blog.  So without further ado, here's D.
I thought it would be fun to take this opportunity to share an experience Allison and I had while I was at boot camp. We married in the early Spring, and honeymooned for about two weeks, and then flew home, at which point the whirlwind of moving into a new apartment and preparing for basic training swept us up. We had five days in-between our honeymoon and boot camp to make all of the appropriate arrangements, which seems like plenty of time (ha!). For those of you who have very much experience in the military, you know that five days are generally never enough to adequately prepare for an extended separation. However, with a lot of work and a few miracles, Allison and I stood at the door of the hotel next to MEPS on the eve of my ship date, ready to go (or so we thought- after my arrival at reception, I realized that we were still missing paper work).

Leaving Allison was much harder than I thought it would be. We talked on the phone the next day for hours while I waited for my flight; when we ran out of things to say, we sat in silence, afraid to let go of our only means of connection. We talked on the phone whenever we could during reception, too. However, once boot camp started, our Drill Sergeants took our phones away.

Rumors led me to believe that we would be able to communicate by mail once I arrived at basic training, which was not completely untrue. However, because the soldiers cycle through boot camp in ten week periods, it always takes the postal system a few weeks to catch up when a new batch of soldiers arrive. Allison did not receive any of my letters for three weeks after boot camp started. She was completely alone in a new place, with no friends or family to support her. 

The trouble for us was that we entered the whole Army experience basically blind, not knowing what to expect. It wasn’t until about nine weeks in that Allison discovered my basic training unit had a Facebook page that included frequent updates and that provided answers to questions. It even provided contact information for family members wishing to talk with a unit representative. We had no idea this resource existed!

I know this isn’t the most exciting story, but the moral is this- the military offers many resources for families, many of which are not well advertised. Allison and I learned that you always have to do your homework to take advantage of the various programs the military offers. Once Allison discovered my unit Facebook page, she was off and running. When I came home from AIT, she knew more about the military than I did! I wish that I had used my time more wisely before I left to better prepare ourselves for my absence.

On a final note, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of the military families who offer invaluable support to us servicemen and women. Families typically bear the brunt of the negative consequences of military service, and often go unappreciated. I hope that you know that when your soldier is away, we miss you and think of you often. Stay strong!