A once in a lifetime love

It’s a love story for the ages. It was 1941 when George Bush met Barbara Pierce at a Christmas dance. The teenagers got engaged, and George shipped off to war – – at the time, he was the youngest Navy pilot to get his wings of gold.

It was World War II – long before FaceTime or emails – and the loving couple faithfully wrote letters, anxiously awaiting George’s return. In September 1944, his plane was shot down over the Pacific. The other eight “flyboys” were captured and brutally killed, but George evaded the enemy and survived. His once in a lifetime love welcomed him home shortly after, and he and Barbara were married January 6, 1945.

Seventy three years of marriage, six children (including Robin who tragically passed away as a toddler from leukemia), immeasurable heartaches, unbelievable triumphs, and countless laughs and memories later, Barbara passed away earlier today. According to granddaughter Jenna, George would say, ‘I love you, Barbie’ every night, even at 93 years old.

Rest In Peace, Barbara Bush. Thank you for showing us military spouses strength, grace, and what it means to wait for your once in a lifetime love.

I joined the Army to win the war in Vietnam

“I grew up on a farm in the little town of 800 people called Neola, Iowa. I was raised doing typical Iowa farm stuff. My dad was a farmer and my grandfather was a farmer. I graduated high school in 1969. I found myself unable to wrap my head around all that was high school – prom, pep rallies, football, girlfriends. At the time of the Tet Offensive and afterwards, I think we were tagging and bagging guys in Vietnam at a rate of around 500 a week. I was appalled at that. High school didn’t do a whole lot for me, and I made up my mind that as soon as I graduated I’d join the military.

As naïve as only someone from a town of 800 people in Iowa could be, I joined the Army in order to win the war in Vietnam. I joined in the delayed entry program, meaning I signed up in May and was supposed to report in September.

I showed up in Fort Polk, Louisiana, with a shorter haircut than they were giving – I was that gung-ho. I thought I was John Wayne. I went to Basic and then on to Advanced Individual Training (AIT). My attitude changed considerably after 16 weeks in the military. I hadn’t quite figured it out yet. Frankly, I was tired of being screwed with. They were used to people not wanting to be there and everybody got painted with the same brush. But I did want to be there.

I made this friend in AIT from California – Steve McCauley. I’d been in the Army five days longer than him. After we finished AIT we got a short amount of leave before we headed to Vietnam. Steve flew home to California to marry his girlfriend, Joan, and after I went home to see my family, I jumped on a plane to go see some friends in Santa Monica, and see Steve and meet his new wife. We were supposed to fly out of the Oakland Terminal. I called Steve and said I wasn’t ready to get on the plane the next day, and he wasn’t ready to leave Joan, so we decided not to go. We took about a three week hiatus.

We were AWOL.

After three weeks, I called Steve and said, ‘We probably ought to go.’ We met up at the terminal in Oakland and flew back to check in. We didn’t really care that we were late – we had adopted this attitude of ‘What are they going to do, send us to Vietnam?’

We checked in and the guy looked at our orders and said, ‘You were supposed to be here three weeks ago. Where have you been?’ And we were honest. We told him we just didn’t feel like coming.

We got sent to this room and there must have been 20 guys in there shooting the breeze. Steve and I walk in, thinking we’re in really deep kimchi, and then we start talking to these guys who were two YEARS late. So Steve and I are looking at each other thinking, ‘We’re probably going to be alright.’ We got busted back to E-1s, but we didn’t care. A few days later we boarded a flight to Vietnam.

Vietnam was divided into Corps at the time. We flew into III Corps, and immediately got sorted and sent to where we’d be going. It seemed like everyone was being sent to 1st Cavalry division. I was sent to Alpha Company, 3rd Platoon. Steve was 2nd Platoon. Our MOS was the same: 1120 – infantryman.

I got assigned to my unit, to a forward fire base in Song Be. I remember having a meeting with the 2nd LT, Jack Signor, and he told us, ‘The goal here is to stay alive.’ That started processing my thinking that nobody was there to win the war. We were just there to do our job. The war was lost from a political standpoint – Walter Cronkite had already been on the news and said we’d lost the hearts and minds of America and the war.

It was spring of 1970, when I started patrolling. I was carrying something like 75 high explosives in my pack. I was a walking bomb. Plus we were carrying claymores, plus shovels, plus meals and 15 quarts of water, plus poncho, plus personal gear … literally you couldn’t get up with your own packs, that’s how heavy they were. This guy, Michael Brown, first helped me figure out how to put my pack on. He was just one of those helpful guys.

There were about 110 of us in a company. Contrary to what you see in the movies, the dummies didn’t walk point. The experienced guys walked point. As we walked through the jungle, we’d walk in two columns; the columns about 10 meters apart, with about 5 meters between you and the guy in front of you, and the guy behind you. You can picture this: 100 guys walking five meters apart, two columns deep. You can imagine how long that strings out. At night you’d dig in; you’d circle the wagons, putting out claymore mines and trip wires in front of that, and that’s how you’d set up every night. That was our night defensive position.

A little over a week after I got there, we were on patrol one morning. The first platoon started out, and I was in third, so it was about 30 minutes before we were ready to start. It was just about our turn – we’re putting our packs on – and 1st Platoon starts getting shot at. Somebody called in the artillery, and they got the coordinates mixed up and started dropping on us. Luckily for me, I was still in my night defensive position, and as soon as the shooting started I made a beeline for the foxhole I’d slept in. Artillery rounds started falling all around us, and fillings literally fell out of my teeth. When they finally called it off, we got out of the foxholes and the medics started scrambling. Our squad leader was the first guy I saw. He was on his back and the medic was over him. He took a direct hit. The medic had tied shoelaces around his thighs. The sergeant’s legs were totally gone.

Michael Brown had taken some shrapnel, about the size of a fist that went through his back and came out through his front. The medic, who was a really good friend of his, was giving him CPR. I’ll never forget the sound. It sounded like when a kid is blowing up a balloon with a hole in it. His lungs had been shredded, and he was already gone.

That was April 27, 1970. It was my 19th birthday.

It was a fairly short firefight but we had all these wounded people. We were in the jungle and we found a few clearings. We had to get medevacs in there, and I was told that we needed to make a clearing. I grabbed a machete and there were people helping me and we cleared a spot for the helos to land. I got put in for an Army Commendation Medal for that. I thought it was ridiculous. What’s heroic about clearing bamboo? It wouldn’t even register for me that you wouldn’t do that.

It’s said sometimes – and correctly so – that being an infantryman is mostly boredom. I’d agree. It’s sheer boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

On April 30th, three days later, much to my mother’s horror back in Iowa, Nixon informed the United States that he was sending the 1st Calvary Division to Cambodia. This insurgence into Cambodia was only supposed to last 60 days. A helicopter came and dropped maps and we packed up. That’s when it really got fun. It was pretty crazy. When I first got to my platoon, I was the newest guy there. Three months later, I was the third oldest. That gives you an idea of what was going on. We found the largest cache of weapons ever recovered. We hauled stuff out of there for two weeks. It was just crazy.

In the course of this, the Army had a new problem. It was mostly big city kids from Chicago and North Philly who had said, ‘I’m not going to Cambodia. I said I’d do Vietnam, but not Cambodia.’ So the Army’s response was to send anybody not willing to go to Cambodia to jail.

This went on for a while and they meant it. I was too naïve (maybe too afraid) so I didn’t push back. I didn’t join the Army to go to jail for not obeying orders. But it became a huge problem, so the Army said to everyone, ‘Okay, you don’t want to be in the field anymore? We’ll tear up your existing contracts and we’ll write you a new contract for any job you can be trained for in Vietnam for three years.’ As long as you had been in the Army for eight months, you were eligible. It was a good deal. Special services needed somebody, which was stuff like escorting USO tours, showing movies to troops, handing out baseball bats and balls — and that was definitely the job for me.

Remember my friend Steve I told you about? He took the deal too. But I’d been in five days longer, so he had to stay five extra days in the field. And it sounds like a movie … but in those five days he got killed. They were out, they got ambushed, he went running and hit a tripwire for a B-40 rocket that was booby trapped in a tree. He was sprayed with shrapnel, and it perforated his lungs.

It was a very survivable injury, but it just so happened to be one of those monsoon afternoons, and they couldn’t medevac him. He died at two in the morning. I wrote his wife, Joan, and the Army gave me 30 days of leave to fly back to see her. I stopped in Iowa to see my family on my return, and then I flew back to Vietnam for another two years.

I made a deal when I got back to Vietnam that I would extend an extra six months if they’d put me on duty as a lifeguard at one of the pools. They did, and I stayed until my time was up.

When I got home, I found and married this wonderful girl, Lindy – a social worker – from South Dakota.

For our honeymoon we rode a motorcycle from Omaha, Nebraska to just south of Mexico City. This spring we will have been married for 42 years. That’s the girl I married – a girl who would get on the back of a motorcycle. She’s always been a partner. We moved to Alaska and raised our kids there. We lived there for almost 30 years. We eventually got tired of the cold and moved to Mexico, to a spot we found on our honeymoon.

People make this quintessential caricature of Vietnam Veterans as someone who is a drain on society and we should pity him. By and large, that’s not us. The typical Vietnam Vet is me. A kid from a family whose attitude was, ‘Get up every day and if you do nothing else, don’t be a part of the problem.’ We aren’t poor loss souls. We are successful businessmen, we are dads, and we are proud of our service.”

Pictured: Steve McCauley

I was hoping you’d forgive me

“My phone rang last night at 0130 which was very confusing. Then it was a call from my husband (who is out on the boat with no cell service), so that was extra confusing. I answered and he said, ‘Hi Sweetie can you open the front door for me?’

So I did. He said, ‘I know coming home early and surprising you is strictly forbidden but I was hoping you’d forgive me since it’s our anniversary. I also decided to call you instead of breaking in and risking getting shot!’

We’ve made a million little memories but I think 15 is my favorite Anniversary story yet!”

He was my little spit and vinegar boy

“Cody is my favorite thing to talk about.

He was my first baby. We had quite a time getting pregnant. We went to the University of Iowa and had some help there. Cody was wanted before he was even born; both of my boys were. Cody was very outgoing and was not scared of anything. He was my little spit and vinegar boy. He did not like school

and didn’t really like authority, which is very odd given that he went into the military. He liked to do the opposite just to see what would happen. He really was a spark of energy.

My boys are four years apart. Cody would go to church and pray for a baby brother. He loved to hold him and take care of him. Even as they got older, Cody was very protective of Colton.

He told us when he was 18 that he was going to go into the military. He was a senior in high school and he came home and announced that he was ready to go. I wasn’t surprised; I knew deep down all along that he would do that. My dad was in the Marines and he had such a big influence on Cody. My husband and I were both very supportive, but I told him it was a big decision and that he really needed to think about it – he could die. He responded, ‘Mom, Grandpa was in Vietnam and got killed on a motorcycle going back and forth to work. If it’s my time, it’s my time.’

Thinking about that talk has helped me so much. Cody had been deployed on an MEU and I know they went to Djibouti, Kuwait, Dubai and some other places. He enjoyed seeing different parts of the world and made a lot of close friends. They got back in May and I went out there to surprise Cody when he got home from deployment. I didn’t tell him I was coming. Something was broken on the ship when they arrived back, so they were sitting just off the shore of Camp Pendleton. He texted me and said, ‘It’s a good thing you aren’t here… you’d be sitting around doing nothing.’ I texted him back that I was there and couldn’t wait to see him. And then I sent him a picture of the sign I had – it was a hot pink billboard and it said, ‘Cody Haley come hug your

mom!’ And he texted me back and said, ‘Mom, please don’t carry that, please don’t… why don’t you go wait by the car.’ Ha! So I said okay, but absolutely not! I was there hoopin’ and hollerin’ with everyone else. We had the best time. It was so nice – it was just him and me. I stayed for three days … we had so

much fun together.

Cody had 10 days of leave post-deployment. He came home to our little town of Eldora, Iowa, at the end of June and went back to California on the 4th of July. We dropped him off at the airport in Des Moines, and that was the last time we saw him.

I’d rented a cabin in September at Big Bear Lake in California and we were all looking forward to that, but the accident happened on August 4th .

It was like any other day. I always thought I would know if my whole world shattered. But I went the whole day without knowing. Colton had a football practice – and not just any practice. It was a family day. My husband was working nights, so I said, ‘Why don’t you and I ride up together and then I’ll find a

ride home or just walk.’ It’s only about a mile.

I was football mom. I was trying to get people lined up for fundraisers and food and this and that. And I was sitting there eating when our neighbor lady said, ‘Kim,’ Katie (her daughter) says there’s a van at your house and there’s some people there in uniform … brown uniforms.’ And I said, ‘Oh God…oh God… oh God… are they there for me?’

She said she didn’t know, and I told her to tell Katie to go find out! Go see if they’re there for me. Katie was scared to go talk to them, and I said, ‘Oh for Pete’s sake, stay on the phone and go find out!’ So she did and they said yes, yes, they were looking for Kim Haley. That’s me.

And I knew.

I knew.

I needed a ride home. My phone was almost dead, but I texted Cody and said, ‘Are you okay?’ but I never got a response.

We pulled up and there was a van with government plates. I got out and ran up, and said, ‘I’m Kim Haley. Are you looking for me? Tell me what’s wrong.’

And then they told me. Cody had been killed in an accident during training.

Everything is just a blur after that. My husband, Jeff, didn’t have phone reception because of where he worked. Everybody at the football game knew that there were men in uniform looking for me, so everybody at the game knew what was going on. They were trying to be helpful… but there were people that knew before Jeff. Jeff drove home, and the Casualty Officer and the Chaplain and somebody else were at the house. Colton was still at football and we didn’t know if Colton knew at that point or not.

One of the dads brought him home and we told him – he hadn’t heard yet, thank goodness. And then it was just a whirlwind from there.

We were told that there was a bunch of Marines that wanted to come out for the funeral and they were trying to do a Go Fund Me page, but it got shut down because apparently it’s against the law for an active duty Marine to solicit money. So I went down to the bank and got an account right away and they

made it really easy for people to donate. Marine Parents shared it, and we raised $37,000 in two days, so that all of those boys could fly back and stay in hotels and charter a bus to the services. I felt like if those boys wanted to come here, then let’s get them here. They have been so sweet to us. I’ve adopted

them all. The town of Eldora went all out for us. You don’t know how many people wanted to put those boys up in their homes. They got fed supper and people donated food.

We had his visitation on a Friday, and it happened to be Colton’s first football game. So we had the visitation and then supper and then we all went to Colton’s football game. Colton wore his brother’s number, #10. Eldora is a town of 3000 people and we had almost 50 Marines in the stands. It was a sight. I called it Cody’s homecoming game. It was the only game they won all year. And then we came back to our house and had a big bonfire.

I hate the circumstances. I hate them. But the support we have had makes it so much better. Making the funeral arrangements helped keep me busy. I didn’t want it sad. I wanted it to be a celebration. Three of the boys got up and told stories, and it was just perfect. One of the guys talked about how Cody was such a picky eater. They called him Main Meal because they had to practically make him eat his MREs… all he wanted to do was eat skittles and M&Ms. We laughed, and we needed to. And so did they. After the funeral, we drove him to Rockford, where he wanted to be, and buried him.

Rockford is about 60 miles from Eldora, and all the way to Rockford people came out in the towns to honor Cody. It was overwhelmingly beautiful … Tragically beautiful. It was like a parade route; people with flags. They called Cody Eldora’s fallen son. It was incredible to see our community pull together.

There were so many people. It’s like you get this fog. I can’t tell you what they said to me when they handed the flag… I just bawled and bawled and bawled.

It’s been six months. I was doing little random acts of kindness and it just made me feel better. I decided that was what I was going to do. I go up about once every other week to where Cody is buried. My emotional shield comes down there. I go by myself. I don’t want anybody else around me. I want to cry and scream

and curse and beat the steering wheel and I want to go alone. And then I’ll pick back up.

I read this one thing through TAPS that stuck with me… it was ‘You’re not the woman that raised me.’ It was about how I have a choice. I can keep being the person I want to be and keep honoring Cody and his memory, and make him proud, or I can curl up in a ball and not be the mom that I was for Cody and that I need to be for Colton.

I’m choosing joy.

I had always thought about what I would do if I lost one of my kids. I thought I’d die, too. But I have to go on. We all do. And Cody would want us to.

He was my little spit and vinegar boy. And I miss him terribly.”

Rest in Peace, Lance Corporal Cody Haley. Never forgotten.

He took my breath away

“Our mothers have been best friends since elementary school. Nicholas and I grew up hearing about one another, talking every now and then, and occasionally getting together when the other’s family visited. The last time I saw Nicholas prior to the start of our relationship in summer 2015 was when we were teenagers, but we had kept in touch over the years off and on.

“Nicholas was a Navy Submariner stationed at Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii. My family vacationed on Maui regularly and Nicholas asked if I would like to fly over to see him. I said yes, of course! I was waiting for my checked luggage in the Honolulu Airport baggage claim when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, and Nicholas was standing there in uniform with a bouquet of flowers. He looked so handsome and the unexpected, thoughtful gesture took my breath away! We immediately hit it off. Nicholas was good-humored, humble, and easy-going. I knew right away in the years we spent apart we had become a good match.

“After Nicholas came home from deployment the following year he asked me to be his wife. We were married on a farm in Colorado in October 2016.

“I am so thankful for Nick’s service to our country and family. He has filled all my days with love and laughter. Around him I feel cherished, confident, and respected. I am so blessed to have him as my husband! On shore or at sea you will always be mine! Happy Valentine’s Day, love!”

I need your help

When I started Humans on the Homefront in May 2016, I did it with one goal in mind: To share the stories of our men and women in uniform, and the people who love them.

In the last year and a half, we have told and shared hundreds of stories. We’ve seen through the eyes of a child what it’s like to lose a dad, through the eyes of wives what it’s like to lose a spouse, and through the eyes of parents what it’s like to lose a son.

We’ve talked to veterans who fought their battles decades ago, and a military spouse fighting for her life at home.

We’ve interviewed helicopter pilots who have survived crashes, we’ve highlighted military spouses who have conquered deployments and job searches and instability and moves, and so many truly remarkable things. And let’s not forget the milspouse who dressed up like a t-rex to pick her husband up from homecoming…

The stories, while all unique, have a common thread: They have been nothing shy of incredible – because that’s what our military families are.

Together, we’ve been able to help raise over $100,000 for military families in need. We were able to showcase over 100 veteran and military spouse owned businesses in our holiday gift giving guide. We’ve shared stories, laughs, and plenty of tears. I am so, so proud of what our little community has done, together.

And now I need your help.

I’ve been nominated for Military Spouse of the Year, and the incredible MSOY platform would allow your – our – stories to be heard by so many more people. If you enjoy HotH, please click the link below to vote.

Thank you sweet readers. It’s an honor telling your stories.

❤️❤️❤️

Love,

T. T.

click here to vote: https://msoy.militaryspouse.com/contestants/t-t-robinson/

I thought being a Military Spouse would help my career…

After being asked, “What brought you to Guam,” I had no problem telling the interviewer it was because my husband was in the Navy. I was proud of his service. I thought if anything, being a military spouse would give me a leg up on the competition — after all, it showed my loyalty, flexibility, resilience — right?

Wrong.

He couldn’t get off the phone fast enough. “We’ll let you know,” he told me.  And I didn’t hear from him again.  This happens ALL.THE.TIME. in the military spouse community.

It’s why I was so honored yesterday to stand up with Senator Tim Kaine and speak about my experience as a military spouse as he introduced the Military Spouse Employment Act.  Hiring our heroes – and the ones who stand beside them, often at the cost of their own career – should be a no-brainer, and it’s a something, as a bi-partisan issue we can all get behind. This act is an important step in helping military spouses throughout the world find, and keep, meaningful employment. Contact your congressional leadership today and urge them to support Senator Kaine’s Military Spouse Employment Act when he introduces it this week.

 

This is not a drill

What would you do if you thought you only had moments to live?

One military family in Hawaii shares what they did yesterday, when an emergency alert was mistakenly sent stating ballistic missiles were en route to the island, and to take cover immediately.

“What a beautiful morning – bright sun, nice crisp air, and big blue skies all around. 80 degress in early January. Certain to be another #blessed day filled with thousands of new “Lucky We Live HI!!” hashtags designed to make our snow-bound friends envious. Such is life stationed in Hawaii.

My wife and I were finishing our breakfast, enjoying the simple bliss of not having woken up to an alarm, and mapping out what we wanted our day to look like while the girls goofed around on the gymnastics pad and balance beam that Santa brought them.

‘There’s supposed to be historic waves on the North Shore starting this afternoon,’ says I.

‘Sounds fun, but we’ve also been promising the girls we’d take them to the book store; we could do that on the way,’ says she.

‘Beep Beeeeep!!!’ say our phones, simultaneously.

‘… whatever we end up doing, the cat litter needs to be cleaned before we leave…’ she drops, as we both casually reach for our phones, thinking it’s probably the beginning of another fun GIF battle with our neighbor family or a hangout proposal from our best friends across the island. Ever the worrier about our domestic responsibilities: my lovely wife. I smile. Of course the day will start with the cat litter. It’ll be a fun day, spent with my family.

‘EMERGENCY ALERT – BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.’

Huh?

Missile threat?

This is not a drill.

Ballistic?

This is not a drill.

Seek Immediate shelter?

THIS. IS. NOT. A. DRILL.

We look up at each other dumbfounded as my brain launches into reaction mode and the logic centers try to make sense of the nonsensical words we just read.

Two thoughts – lessons learned the news put out from a recent island-wide test – immediately jump to the front of my consciousness; First: 20 minutes, max. That’s the maximum amount of time we might have before impact. Second: there are no adequate blast structures anywhere on the island, certainly none reachable within 20 minutes.

‘Where do we go?’ she asks.

I have no idea. One might think that a military base would have adequate shelters in the event of an attack, especially a base with as infamous a history as Pearl Harbor / Hickam. But, the Cold War is over. Such structures are not aesthetically pleasing and certainly don’t have a place here in paradise, where we are all, in fact, #blessed and #luckyweliveHI.

If shelters exist, they’re not advertised.

If they exist, they’re likely not maintained.

IF they exist, we won’t find one inside of 20 minutes.

This is not a drill.

On the long list of inadequate options, we agree on the laundry room. It’s downstairs and shares a wall with our neighbors, so is therefore as insulated as we’re going to get.

It’s not enough, but it’s something.

We round up our two girls and run into the laundry room, the dog following as we go, thinking we’re going on an adventure. We huddle up on the floor and grab a couple of jackets to use as padding and blankets, and we wait.

Will we hear it?

Will we feel the heat?

Will I have time, when it starts, to lie on top of my children and shield them, or will doing so only prolong their suffering?

So this is how it all ends for us; on the floor in the laundry room, with the cat litter.

The cat litter… the cat.

“Daddy!” my daughter hisses as I hurry out of the room we’re sheltered in, so scared and confused she doesn’t know whether raising her voice will bring down the unknown calamity that we are hiding from. Maybe it’s a monster. All she knows is mommy and daddy’s phones made a sound and 30 seconds later we’re all hiding in the laundry room, trying to act as if this is totally normal.

Luckily I know exactly where the little fatty will be. I scoop him up and hustle back into our sanctuary.

We kiss the girls, we hug as a family, and we wait.

“What’s going on?” my oldest asks.

I don’t know how to answer.

How do you explain to a 6 and 10 year old that they might be about to die? You don’t. But then why are we all hiding on the floor in the laundry room? We start to try to explain about rockets and missiles and global politics, but it all gets too big and too surreal. ‘It’s going to be fine sweetheart. We’re just trying to be extra safe.’ Please believe me. Please believe yourself.

Imagine your brain functioning in a time compression, where seconds feel like minutes, and you have 20 minutes to wait, and wonder.

The texts start coming in. One of my favorite things about living on base is the fantastic relationship we have with our neighbors. We all hang out together, celebrate birthdays and holidays together, have impromptu BBQs together; the kids play in the street mostly unsupervised. Life is just like we imagine it was back in the 60’s… during the Cuban Missile Crisis. One of the families is hosting an exchange student – man, it’s going to suck for his parents tonight.

We wait, we hug, we kiss the girls, and we text.

Some of them were already out and about, enjoying life in Hawaii. Military life begins early, and there are supposed to be killer waves on the North Shore today, after all.

Man, they’re lucky. One of the worst things about living on base is that this is ground zero. We’re screwed. Air Force One parks 100 yards from my house, there is no way we’re not right in the crosshairs.

But the Navy has defenses for exactly this situation, surely they’ll work. Is it North Korea? Why isn’t there more commotion? Why aren’t the alert jets taking off? Where are the sirens?

Just as we start to convince ourselves that maybe it was a false alarm, the sirens start going off throughout base and the ‘Big Voice’ is garbling something that you need to be outside to hear. But outside is decidedly NOT where we’re supposed to be when it’s not a drill, and we’re at minute 19. I saw Terminator 2; I know what happens next. So we sit, and wait, and hug.

If they can send a text telling us, ‘This is not a drill,’ they should be able to send a text that tells us when the drill is over, right? So I think we’ll wait for either that or… y’know; BOOM WHOOSH HOT Black.

One neighbor sends a note: “Love you guys if this is our last time together.”

You too, all of you. I should probably text my mom and dad. But we’re at 22 minutes now, and doubt is creeping in. I don’t want to freak them out. I hope they know. I think they know.

As we crept into the mid 20s on the clock, more and more snippets of info came in alleging that it was all some kind of monumental screwup. As the late 20s passed, the fact that the world hadn’t turned to ash seemed to further confirm. But it wasn’t until minute 38 that the phone beeped again, finally allaying our fears and allowing us to breathe easily.

Our little neighborhood ohana came out and we all hugged, cried, sighed, and laughed with relief while the kids started playing in the street. Unsupervised… mostly. Husbands who were out on training started sending GIFs and memes.

In the post laundry room hours friends and articles would comment about how North Korea doesn’t possess the ability to hit us from yet. Tsk tsk, silly islanders. You should’ve known that. To that I say; Ok, fine. But there are other threats out there besides North Korea. Perhaps not as likely to launch a preemptive strike but really, the question is this: When your phone beeps at you and tells you ‘this is not a drill’, is that a gamble you want to take with the lives of your wife and children?

A close friend commented to me that as a military pilot, I’m used to dealing with high-pressure situations. That’s probably true, I’ve been in at least a couple. But this is different. The only things my daughters have volunteered for are to help lead stretches are soccer practice and to help clean the cat litter. I think all of us who sign up for life in the military accept at some point that the career we’ve chosen has the potential to put ourselves in someone else’s crosshairs. It’s just the way it is, some like it more than others and all do it for their own reasons. But one thing I had not seriously considered was that it might put my family so squarely in the crosshairs, especially in such a helpless way.

I don’t want to overdramatize this, I know in the end nothing at all actually happened. But for the better part of 30 minutes we all thought we – our children – had minutes left to live, and that’s what I think will linger. I look forward to learning from this experience, as we military families always do. I am hopeful that the media can lead an educated and calm discussion about how to improve and prepare. But in the meantime; it’s a beautiful Sunday, still at the beginning of a long weekend. I am happy to be able to hug my family and let the girls go outside and play while the cat litter gets cleaned (I will be tactfully nonspecific about who actually cleans it). This afternoon we’ll take them to the bookstore and then go check out some historic waves up on the North Shore. A fun day, spent with family. #blessed.”

The breakdown that didn’t break us

There’s a phenomenon in military spouse circles that anyone who has been through a deployment understands…

It’s something we fear and yet something at which we all have to laugh; something others refuse to speak of, as if the quiet deference will leave them unscathed. Whatever the approach, “Murphy’s Law of Deployment” somehow always finds a way to strike.

This time, it was in the way of a flat tire, one hour into a four hour road trip, with two kids in the backseat, and of course, in the rain.

Roadside assistance made their way and replaced the flat with a spare, with instructions not to risk the rest of the drive and to head home instead. I called the Director of the Board whose meeting I’m supposed to be attending tomorrow, and I could feel the tears coming. As I apologized profusely for not being able to make it, I could hear my voice crack. The car breakdown was quickly escalating to a Mommy breakdown.

I hung up the phone, still parked at a gas station when I realized both of my kiddos had started to cry. “We’re not going on our epic adventure,” our 7 year old said quietly. “Is that TRUE?!” sobbed the 5 year old. They’ve been – we’ve all been – looking forward to this for weeks.

I put my head in my hands, ready to give into the last few weeks that’s handed us a snowstorm, frozen pipes, walking pneumonia and now a flat tire – Murphy at his finest. But these are the moments military spouses are made for.

We find adventure in the face of adversity.

We change plans with a minute’s notice and (almost) make it look seamless.

We turn lemons into lemonade and we know how to “embrace the suck.”

When everything around us is falling apart – during deployments, moves, missed birthdays, holidays, big days and little days, we find a way to build something beautiful.

I had a quick pity party – literally a 10 second cry – and then put plans in motion. I took the babysitting money I had planned for tomorrow and found a hotel not too far away, and together, we plotted our new epic trip.

This is what I hope our kids will remember about life on the Homefront while their dad was away. How we managed to find joy in the rain. The “midnight” swim (at 9:00). Falling asleep to the Olympic snowboarding trials. The snuggles in the bed with a million pillows.

The car breakdown that didn’t break us.