Just keep going 

“I was 6 when it happened. I was pulled out of school and there were a ton of people in the car and at the house. I didn’t know what was happening and people kept patting me on the back. I didn’t know what was going on. Everyone kept saying ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ My mom and grandparents took me in a room and told me that my dad died in a helicopter crash. 

“I’m 9 now. My memories of my dad are fading, but I remember he loved to play with me. He was the one who wrestled with me and played legos. I don’t like to watch videos where I hear his voice because it just makes me feel bad, but I do like to hear stories from my grandparents and my dad’s friends – especially funny stories. I want people to remember him. I want them to remember his personality.

“I’m telling my story because I want people to know what I’ve been through and what kids who lose a parent go through. I didn’t like everyone telling me I’m sorry for your loss. But some of our friends came over and took me to the beach to play the day after it happened and that was good. I didn’t want to sit at home with everyone crying. I also want other kids to know how much we’ve been through. One day, I wore my dad’s hat to school and a kid took it off of me and was teasing me. I told him that it was my dad’s and to give it back, and he said, ‘I thought you didn’t have a dad.’

“I miss my dad every day. But if he wouldn’t have died, I would just be another face in the crowd. I wouldn’t have done anything special. I got to go on Air Force Two, I’ve been to special camps, and I get to do things with the Travis Manion Foundation. For other kids going through this, I would tell them: It won’t be so bad in the future. You never stop missing him. But just keep going.” 
This Father’s Day, this little guy is asking that you make a donation to the Travis Manion foundation in his dad’s name, Landon Jones. To donate, visit: https://donate.travismanion.org/checkout/donation?eid=134356

At the family’s request, all funds raised through that link will be earmarked for the Character Does Matter program through the Travis Manion Foundation. 

Picture taken by the Berkeley College Veterans and Gold Star Reflections project and used with the family’s permission.

Life is a million small moments 

“I graduated high school in 1968 and I went into the military in 1969. My great grandfather served in Company D of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. My grandfather served on a destroyer in World War I, and my father landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. I was only 19 years old when I decided to enlist, but I wanted to follow in the family tradition. On March 21, 1969 I got a phone call asking me if I could leave that afternoon. I called my mom and she freaked out, but my dad was very proud, and very excited for me.

“I went to Lackland Air Force Base first, and then on to Biloxi, and then deployed to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines for 13 months. 10 of those months I spent TDY. When I got to Clark, they needed radio operators in Vietnam, so I raised my hand. I looked at it this way: It was my first time away from home. It was a chance to make my own life and do something for the country. I knew what war was. I knew you could get killed, but you don’t go thinking that. You go to do your job and to protect your comrades. I did what they told me they wanted me to do.

“I left Vietnam and was sent to South Dakota. It was too cold there, so I went back to Vietnam, with the 20th Tactical Air Support in Danang. In about November of 1971, some of the guys and I visited a Vietnamese orphanage. I asked my mom to send me something that would brighten the kids’ day. She sent me 100 yo-yos. We got mobbed by those kids, so she sent me 100 more. It was a war-torn country, but they were still humans. They still had needs. But I grew up in a home that taught us love. Even in war there is dignity. There is compassion. There is so much pain and despair and misery too, but we wanted to do something small to brighten it.

“I got back from Vietnam and was working in New York at a secure building. One day, there was a woman there and she had no way to get in the building. I asked her if I could escort her. That night, I saw her again across the street. I walked over and said, ‘I’m going to a movie, would you like to go?’ That was back when a picture was only a quarter. She said yes, and now it’s 44 years, 7 kids, 25 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild later.

“I retired in March 1992 from the Air Force and started at the Pennsylvania Police Academy in May. I retired in 2012 as a Law Enforcement Park Ranger. I like to say I arrested bears. I learned so many things from my time in the military and as a police officer. I polished my shoes every day. I learned total quality management and the need for integrity. I learned that trust is everything. But the most important lesson I learned was on March 16, 2007.

“I was driving home from the VA Medical Center to see if I had prostate cancer from Agent Orange. It started to snow and I started to slide. I slowed way down, but it was like a sheet in front of me. I never saw the other car until I hit it. I got out and walked around the vehicle to assess the damage, and saw a young lady on the pavement. I was a police officer at the time. I started CPR right away and I still remember her husband screaming, and seeing the baby in the car. Both of them were uninjured, but the woman was unconscious for 45 minutes until the ambulance could get there. She lived a week. I had 5 broken ribs and a ruptured spleen, but I hadn’t felt a thing.

“In March 2017, her family had a 10 year anniversary of her passing. I went, and they all hugged me. Her mom said to me, ‘You know, it was not your fault. I’m not blaming her for not wearing her seatbelt, and I’m sure not blaming you. Accidents happen everyday.’

“I’ve learned that you make your own choices but you have to own your consequences. I’ve learned that life is made up of a million small moments. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, so we have to do as much as we can today. The military was the greatest thing I ever did. I made lifelong friends in the process. And while I’m not the most important person in the world, I sure can do my part to make a difference in it. We all can.”

Focus on the hello

I was feeling nostalgic today as it was one year ago that my husband returned from his fourth deployment. A few weeks ago, he came home from work, sat down at the kitchen table, and said, ‘I need to tell you something.’ He didn’t have to… I could see it on his face. Another deployment is on the horizon. But instead of focusing on the looming goodbye, I look at this picture and remember the hello.

At the time, I wrote: These are the moments that get you through the sleepless nights, the long days, the lonely holidays. It’s the dress whites, the pomp, the circumstance, the first kiss in almost a year— these are the moments you cherish as a military wife. Welcome home my love!!!

He is my hardest goodbye and my favorite hello. Here’s to the military spouses — may we always focus on the hello. 

💓 – T. T. 

Picture credit: the incredible Dyan Witt Photography

From Air Force brat to Airman’s wife

“I grew up as an Air Force brat. My dad, MSgt Chavez was active duty Air Force for 22 years, finally retiring in New Mexico in 2010. I was in college and working at the base Child Development Center when a coworker introduced me to her husband’s friend, and I instantly fell in love with him.  

“I appreciate the military life and how everyone around you becomes family. It is hard picking up and moving every few years, but having the opportunity to see places and meet people is truly a blessing. I am so proud to be a former Air Force Brat and now an Airman’s wife. It takes a truly great man to protect, honor, love and cherish his wife and children at home and 1,000 miles away. I will forever be grateful and proud of my SSgt Adams, my husband!”

My home is everywhere 

“I have long feared my daughters will be permanently scarred from a lifetime of impermanence. My middle one had to write about her hometown at school. This is what she wrote and I couldn’t be prouder. Military brats are amazing!”

Where I’m from
By S. Stobie

I am from the fort by the creek,
from Old Bay and Carvels.
I am from a tall brick home that faces the woods
Pretty and brand new
It felt like home
I am from the woods and the creek
From the tall trees that hid the ever flowing creek surrounded by frogs
I am from the birthday mornings and cross country road trips
From James and Kelly and Marie
I’m from movie quotes and the best cake in the neighborhood

I’m from Santa is real and Have fun storming the castle
I’m from Church on Sundays and a pink crystal rosary
I’m from New England
I’m from tacos and pizza
I’m from the car ride in a post office jeep that had no seatbelts
From the ambition and courage
I am from brains, brawn, athleticism, courage, extraordinary, and persistence.
I am from my home and my home is everywhere.

I’m proud of being a BRAT

“My dad joined the Army in 2003. I’m 15 years old, so he’s been in as long as I can remember. I’m in my 12th school. Moving isn’t always easy, but I like to look at it as an adventure. There are so many things you can’t control as a military brat, but you can always determine your own attitude.

“When I had to come up with a school project, I decided to make stickers of different Army bases for military kids to show where they’d been. I wanted to turn all of the moves and new schools into something fun, and something kids could get excited about. At first, it was just a project, but the more and more I got asked about them, I decided to turn it into a business. Now, my ‘Brat Stamps’ is an online business and I’m proud to be an entrepreneur. I’m working on featuring more than just Army bases, too. It’s been a lot of work, but my mom has encouraged me so much. I’ve learned a lot about business and patience. Owning a business takes a lot of dedication and persistence.

“When I think about all of the amazing things we have been able to do because my dad is a soldier, I’m really proud. We lived in Germany and traveled all over Europe. We drove from Alaska to Florida. How many kids get to do that? Being able to have these adventures, and then, being able to showcase them with Brat Stamps has been really rewarding. I love seeing what kids and adults do with them. They put them on their water bottles, notebooks, computers and skateboards; it’s awesome!

“Being a military brat isn’t always easy. The deployments and goodbyes and moves are hard, but we are resilient. I like to think that Brat stands for Brave, Resilient, Adventurous, Traveler. Because we really are all of those things. And with Brat Stamps, we can proudly display it.”

Order your Brat Stamps today at http://www.bratstamps.com