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

I wanted a job with purpose

“I grew up in the Appalachia area of East Tennessee. I joined the Navy as an Intelligence Officer because I wanted a job with meaning and purpose. I wanted to dedicate myself to helping make the world a better, more secure place for so many global communities faced with instability, while also serving my own country by helping to keep my fellow service members safe. I feel like I have been living out of a suitcase for the past 9 years and, while it is exciting getting to travel so much, it can be really hard. It has taught me to truly savor the precious moments that I have with the people I love.

“Before I moved to Guam, a Navy pilot, Michael, acquired my email address through his squadron and sent me a message asking if I wanted to be his roommate. Truthfully at first, I thought it was so peculiar that a strange guy would email me and ask to be my roommate. However, once I moved to Guam, I realized that it is completely normal for HSC-25 officers to live together due to expensive rent. Michael and I coincidentally happened to be the two single officers in need of roommates at the time, so I acquiesced and moved in with him mostly just so I could afford to live in a nice place in Guam. After a few weeks of being roommates, we became best friends. I don’t think there was a specific moment that I knew he was the one, rather it was a beautiful evolution of getting to discover what an extraordinary person he is and over time realizing that I couldn’t imagine growing old with anyone else or finding anyone else who loves me as fiercely and completely as he does. I am so blessed to be married to my best friend. 

“I am currently working at Goldman Sachs in New York City in Investment Banking. I am going to Harvard Business School full-time starting in August. My long-term career goal sometime post-Harvard is to start a small-business consulting firm to embolden entrepreneurs in underserved, post-conflict communities as a way to empower war-torn areas to overcome extreme poverty and rebuild their lives.

“I tend to measure my success in life by the people in my life, so I have to say that the most rewarding part of my military career has been the relationships that I have formed over the years. I have made some of my greatest friends while serving and I have also had a unique opportunity to forge relationships with so many people from foreign countries. I am a better person today and even more inspired to want to make a positive difference in this world thanks to the incredible people who have touched my life throughout my career.”

Honoring our military “BRATs”

In honor of the month of the military child, we put together the following tribute for our military kiddos. They don’t choose this lifestyle, but they handle it with so much grace and courage. It’s an honor to know so many of these children. Turn up your volume — this sweet little 6 year old narrator is a military kid too. And I’m very proud to say she’s ours. 

My eyes well up just thinking about it

“Ed and I actually met in a bar, one night in San Diego. I learned he was in the military, we exchanged phone numbers, and not too long after that, he invited me to go to a Navy ball. My family is Indian and the culture is such that my parents wanted me to marry an engineer or a doctor. Their perception of the military was it was for people who didn’t succeed academically to advance to earn a 4 year degree. 

“I had no concept of military life. The night of the Navy ball, I decided I didn’t want to go and I told him I wasn’t really feeling well. I stayed home, he left the ball early and came over in his dress whites and brought soup and a movie. I knew in that moment that he was someone I didn’t want to let go. Randomly, my dad asked if I was dating anyone, and when I told him about my military man, he told me that really he just wanted me to be happy. They met him a few weeks later, and my dad told me about when he immigrated to the United States and he wrote letters to my mom, back in India. Her parents wanted her to marry someone more affluent, somebody rich and famous, but they were in love, and my dad saw that in my relationship, too.

“Ed deployed soon after and we had an email relationship. The more I learned about him, the more I liked him. He wanted me to know all about the military life. With all the acronyms and etiquette, he realized it was more of a culture than just a job, so he took me to pre-deployment briefs and gave me the 4-1-1 on life in the Navy. When he returned from deployment, we got engaged. We went to the church to speak with the pastor and got married a week later. It was one year, one month, one day after we had first met. We moved from San Diego to Monterey and then Rhode Island. We were married but I had just started graduate school, so he went to Rhode Island and I stayed in California. It was during that time that I first heard about United Through Reading. They’d given an emotional plea for volunteers and I loved the idea behind it — uniting families during deployment through the service member reading bedtime stories. United Through Reading would record the stories on video and would send the families a copy. It was before Skype, before FaceTime. It was such a special mission and I wanted to be a part of it. Even though we didn’t have children, I could imagine this as the ‘go to’ resource we would need when we had kids of our own.

“Ed deployed again when I was pregnant and came home just in time for the birth. We’d spent more time apart then we had together but we made it work! I finished grad school and I was looking for a new opportunity. I started as a program manager for a grant at a community college and I’ll be honest, I hated it. There was no camaraderie, no flexibility, and I wasn’t happy there. I wanted those things in a job. The Indian culture is such that your work becomes your lifestyle, with how you speak, your traditions, your passions. You see that in the military community, and I wanted to find a piece of it too, in my own career. 

“I contacted United Through Reading, as I saw all of the things I was looking for there, when I volunteered for them. They had an opening in data management and I couldn’t wait to get started. As times have changed, so too has my job, and now I serve as the Director of Campaigns and Initiatives. It’s an incredible place to work. We all work virtually, but definitely as a team. The work and the people have truly become a part of our family. Seeing these brave and courageous men and women reading a children’s book to their loved ones left behind … My eyes are welling up even talking about it! I cry every time I watch a video. To hear these kids react; to know the unbreakable emotional connection between parents and their children … it’s indescribable. Long distance is always hard, but programs like United Through Reading help keep our military families strong. To be a part of it all is both humbling and rewarding.”

To learn more about United Through Reading, visit www.unitedthroughreading.org

We are in this together

“I must say… I am always proud to be a military spouse, but there are some times that put the uniqueness of this group in full view. Right now, my husband, along with a lot of really amazing Naval Aviators, are being reviewed to determine if they will be selected for Command. The boards are meeting now. Results will be out in a matter of days.  

“But what amazes me is the group of spouses supporting these service members. These are women I am proud to call my friends. Some are pregnant and do not know if they will be forced to move with a new born, some are established business owners who may have to close up shop and begin again elsewhere. Some are in the middle of masters programs or their own careers. Some have small children who they will have to tell, yet again, ‘we are moving.’ They all have lives… that they will be forced to adjust, in some way or another, in a matter of days
“They will process the new reality (whether the results are the ones they hoped for or not). They will set plans in place to make quick and seamless changes in their lives, careers, children’s schools. They will prepare to leave a life behind and start anew. They will love their spouse and support them. They will reassure their spouse that they are in this together; good, bad or ugly. 

“They do this all with smiles on their faces and a tear on their cheek. They are strong, resilient, hard working women who plant roots quickly, make friends fast, dive in to new worlds head first and make it look easy. 

“So while we wait the news of our future (side note that I am really thankful that God is ultimately in charge here!) I am saying a prayer of thanks for the military spouses I call my friends. You will always bless and inspire me with your friendship and examples!”

We’ll turn the music up

“My dad had been on my case for months to sign up for a Catholic dating site. I finally gave in when one of my many ‘we met in a bar’ relationships ended. At the same time, a Navy pilot’s group of flight school buddies gave him the idea to sign up for Catholic Match, which ultimately ended up in 3 young helicopter pilots sifting through pages of girls, trying to find him a date. I found him first and quickly sent a super cheesy message saying, ‘Hey! You don’t see a cute Catholic boy every day!’ 

“Luckily for me he wasn’t totally turned off by my cheesy forwardness and just so happened to be driving up to D.C. to hang out with his best friend who lived 2 streets over from me. Eight months later we were married and expecting our first child! He deployed 2 months after our wedding but made it home in time for our son’s birth. Three months after he was born we found out we were expecting twins! I remember him smiling and laughing as the ultrasound tech told us the news. I had my hands over my face trying not to panic because I knew he was deploying again and would miss the birth. Major complications arose which landed me in the hospital for months. He was brought back to walk through a tough journey with me and line up child care for our 7 month old son. 

“As soon as the water settled he headed back out on deployment leaving me with 3 kids under 15 months. We finally reached shore duty and had 2 more babies and now have 5 under 5! My husband is quick to sing my praises to his peers about how well I’m doing at raising our ‘little’ big family, but most of the time I feel like I’m under water with a straw that’s giving me just enough air to survive. I truly believe every mother is maxed out where they are in the moment. I feel just as overwhelmed with 5 as I did with my first baby. I have days where I feel like I’m totally rocking this mom gig, and then my 3 year old decides to throws herself on the floor in Walmart because she wants every blessed piece of battery powered candy device that is conveniently located at child eye level in the checkout line. One kid or 10 kids…as long as you have some kids who are under the age of 3, then you my friends are in the mommy trenches…nice to meet you.

“During the year-long work up schedule and now beginning our 7 month deployment I’ve learned a few things: it’s okay to let the laundry pile PILE up, go to sleep with dishes in the sink, do fast food for lunch and dinner (chicken nuggets and pizza in one day never killed anybody), and to let people help, but to never take advantage. There will be a time when I truly need someone to watch my kids unexpectedly and I don’t want to have used up my offers on things that I could have scheduled a sitter for. My mom always reminds me that I set the tone for the family and that being a solo mom of 5 is going to be hard no doubt, but that there are 5 small people depending on me to set that tone…so, we’ll turn the music up because we have life to live and 7 months of happy memories to make until we can finally become a party of 7 again.”

I got this

  “We met in high school. He was a year ahead of me, and he enlisted in the Navy when he graduated. We wrote letters to keep in touch. He flew home for Thanksgiving and came to our home town parade in uniform. I was marching in the pom squad, and when I saw him, I was smitten. 

“We went on a date that Christmas — skiing. He spent the whole day skiing backwards, trying to teach me. On December 28, 2001, we made it official: we were a couple. We spent the next six and a half years dating long distance. He got orders to Guam right around the time I graduated from high school, and I didn’t even know where Guam was. Shortly after that, he put in an officer package and was accepted to the Naval Academy. He came home the day of my sister’s wedding, when I was in college. He proposed while we were skiing, while the sun was setting. He got down on one knee in his ski boots. It was two years to the day that we first started dating, and even though I was only 19 years old, I knew he was my soul mate. He is the love of my life, my best friend, and he knows me better than anyone else on earth.

“Nine years and two kids later, he left last week for his fourth deployment, our third with kids. The hardest part is watching our kids miss their dad, and making all of the big decisions on my own. It’s so hard to not have your spouse around to tell you that as a mom, you are are doing alright. Not having that affirmation is tough, but you get those glimmers of hope, those moments where you know you are doing just fine. Today is my birthday, and he was able to call, which was everything. It’s true the best gifts in life can’t be bought. My deployment mantra is, ‘I got this.’ I’m keeping a routine for my kids, I’ll keep relying on my faith, and our incredible friends and lots of prayers will get us through.  

“It’s funny, this military life. Your friendships become as dear as family. I never thought I’d be so close to people I’m not related to — you make amazing and heartbreaking friendships. I can’t imagine another situation where, by choice and by force, you’d be put with such remarkable and diverse people. You really feel your support during the hard times. 

“Last summer, there was a mishap in the helicopter my husband was flying. That phone call was the single most terrifying and miraculous news I’ve ever received. He, and the rest of the crew, walked away from it. But in that moment, you realize how precious life is, how special your marriage is, and just how truly incredible your village is. From the friend that watched the kids while her husband drove me to the hospital, to the friends that brought dinner that night, and the generous outpouring of love and prayers, it’s humbling. The hard times bring you so, so close. There is great power in laughing together, but sometimes it’s the grief that brings you closest. When I had my miscarriage, my best friend sat with me on the floor and cried with me when there were no words. She picked off the pieces of toilet paper that were stuck to my face when I ran out of Kleenex. You don’t know while you’re in those tough moments that you’ll get through, but when you come out on the other side, you see just how strong you are. And so I keep repeating, ‘I got this.’ And I know I do.”