Introducing: Child Art Cards

7 Nov

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” ~Unknown

It can sometimes slip away from us during deployment that our children are not simply an extention of ourselves.  The lines of distinction can be blurred when you can’t take so much as a shower alone for a year.  Trying to keep children out of your bed, out of your business, out of the bathroom when you need a moment, can make it seem like they are some sort of premordial attachment with whom we share feelings, emotions, food, and even skin, for heaven’s sake!   We must, however, purpose the distinction; we must remind ourselves that while we are missing a husband, they are missing a father.   They have a completely different experience than we spouses.  Being the child of a deployed service member is unique; distinct, and deserving of an independent expression.  

At our last session, Operation Faithful Support invited  the children of 3/1 IBCT, as well as 19th EN BN spouses who volunteer with OFS to express their deployment experience in the form of an art contest, themed “My Military Family”.   We had approximately 75 unique submissions, each an heartfelt expression of the child’s love for their family, honoring their Solider-Daddy.  It was tough, but the board of directors grueled over the submissions with heart in hand.  We selected 12 designs to be featured in an assorted package of message cards, to be made available for purchase in support of the Operation Faithful Support program.  All profits will go directly to serving spouses and their families.  The winners are:  Jocelynn Collard, 4 year old daughter of Sgt. Christopher Collard; River Horn, 4 year old daughter of Sgt. Joshua Horn; Dakota Harmon, 5 year old daughter of Spc. Milan Harmon; Kendall Edwards, 5 year old son of Spc. Dwayne Edwards; Kalani Whitney, 5 year old son of Sgt. Marlen Whitney;  Haily Ruckman, 9 year old daughter of Ssg. Aaron Ruckman;  Lyndsey Shillito,  7 year old daughter of 1Sgt. Ty Shillito, Raina Frausto, 7 year old daughter of Spc. William Frausto;   Clara Lucas, 8 year old daughter of Cpt. Steve Lucas, Mia Santos, 6 year old daugther of  Ssg. Ulysses Santos;  Mason Sullivan, 5 year old son of Sgt. Shawn Sullivan; Allanah Morgan 6 year old daughter of Spc. Aaron Morgan.     

We congratulate our winners, and invite you to support our organization by purchasing a set, or several sets for yourself or as gifts.  Each card has the unique design expression of a service member’s child, with the child’s name, age, and service member being honored on the back of the card.  Some designs were titled by the child, with sentiments such as, “Missing Daddy is Sad”, “Daddy Comin’ Home for R&R”, and “The Army is in My Heart”.  

Visit our online store at  www.operationfaithfulsupport.com to order yours today. 

Infantry Wives: Of Iron, Jell-o and Call Downs

29 Oct

Jill Bozeman, 17 year veteran Army Spouse, and founder and national director of Operation Faithful Support, Inc.

As an Army wife of 17 years, I will be the first to admit that Infantry wives put me to shame.  They are powerfully independent, extremely cohesive, gut-wrenchingly experienced, and tough to the core.   And I’m pretty sure their core is made of cast iron.  Even the frailest of frame seem to be able to do the physical work of six corn-fed men, twice their size.   I’m pretty sure she could also lift a car above her head and spin it just for fun.

But there is a part of her that is split into pieces multiple times during a deployment and she is brought to her knees in weakness.  It’s the call from command, announcing an emergency meeting.  This is what immediately precedes a casualty notification.  That means there’s been a member of the team seriously injured, or KIA (killed in action).

Conflicting emotions are like a tsunami.  On one hand, she is relieved that there wasn’t a knock at the door.  It was not her Soldier; the father of her children.  But…it was, potentially, the husband of a dear friend, the father of her children’s playmates, or a single Soldier who’d become a member of the family.  She will have to get the kids around, and down to the battalion classroom to find out the identity of the brother whose life was tragically cut short.  And their Soldier’s are on “black out”, which means they will have no communication from him during this time.

If she is a volunteer “key caller” for the company FRG (Family Readiness Group) then  she will return from the somber meeting with her children, send them to play, and do a “call down”.  This means she will call every family member on her list (mothers, fathers, siblings, and out of state spouses of the Soldiers in the unit affected) to inform them of the KIA, or serious incident.   And it just so happens that this spouses own husband may have narrowly survived the same tragedy.

“Tough as nails”, is immediately reduced to jell-o. 

These spouses have babies on their own, parent the children of their unit-sisters; handle the entirety of their family’s issues, all the while watching out the window for the government vehicle to pull in the drive.  And some of them do hear that knock.  Some of them do.

These women above all, need support.  Many times their Soldiers come home having lost multiple brothers, before their very eyes, with a replay button that is in HD.  He’s sensitive to sound, movement, and has a heightened sense of aggression due to his lengthy combat deployment.

Now, we have twelve months to recover, so we can do it all over again.

This is why OFS works hard to strengthen the marriages of these amazing families.  No marriage should be added to the list of casualties.   They’ve seen enough.

Jill Bozeman is a committed, 17 year Army Wife, and the founder and dirctor of Operation Faithful Support, Inc, a grassroots, pro-marriage educational support program for the spouses of deployed service members.  She and her husband, SFC Wade Bozeman, and their two children are stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  For more information about OFS, please visit  www.operationfaithfulsupport.com.

*OFS is the only pro-marriage educational program supporting spouses and strengthening marriages throughout the deployment cycle.  Please contact jillbozeman@att.net, if you’d like to offer financial support to the only program walking the entire deployment and reintegration process with the families of our combat veterans.  Read more by visiting www.operationfaithfulsupport.com

 

Trauma-Strong?

26 Oct

Jill Bozeman, 17 year veteran Army spouse, and Founder/National Director of Operation Faithful Support, Inc.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.  ~Author Unknown

I recently attended a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) conference where I had the privilege of hearing the CG (Commanding General) of Fort Knox, LTG Benjamin Freakley, address family, friends and Soldiers regarding these homecoming issues.  He introduced the entire conference by exposing us to a concept called “Post Traumatic Stress Growth”, which reframes traumatic events as an opportunity for greater strength.  And of course, this got me thinking about marriages, and the inevitable stresses that arise due to deployment and reintegration.

I’ve heard many times, from those who should know, that the obstacles in marriage will make you or break you.  And a marriage that is never tried is never strengthened.  Much like the caterpillar, with hopes of becoming a butterfly, struggles painfully to emerge from the cocoon, it is the struggle itself that strengthens his wings for flight.

No struggle, no flight.

And the man who prematurely cuts the butterfly from his struggle cripples him for life.

There is, of course, no need for us to look for trouble in order to grow, as each day has trouble of its own.   However, rather than seeing challenges as an ending, consider it an opportunity to grow the roots of your marriage so deep, that eventually the strongest storm can’t break you!

Jill Bozeman is a committed, 17 year Army Wife, and the founder and dirctor of Operation Faithful Support, Inc, a grassroots, pro-marriage educational support program for the spouses of deployed service members.  She and her husband, SFC Wade Bozeman, and their two children are stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  For more information about OFS, please visit  www.operationfaithfulsupport.com.

“I HATE Army Wives…”, She Said

24 Oct

We just moved into housing on Fort Knox, when my neighbor crossed the street headed in my direction.  “Welcome to the neighborhood”, she said with a smile.  I graciously received her warm welcome.  Her greeting lost all steam when she added…”I HATE Army Wives, so please tell me you aren’t one of those types.”   I’m not sure what my response was, but I have no doubt my face reflected my shock!  There was more talk…  I seem to recall some negative comments regarding FRGs (Family Readiness Groups) and wives who wear their husband’s rank, but at this point, I must have been looking at her like she had two heads.   

Oddly enough, my neighbor and I became quick friends.  I worked hard to prove her stereotype wrong, and she worked hard to make sure I knew I was nothing more than an exception to the standard-issue “Army Wife”.   

Either way, I enjoyed the two years I lived across the street from her.  She was the kind of spouse that would come and check on you the day after “deployment send off”, and that in itself was a compassionate comfort I don’t remember getting when I lived outside the military community.  She also happened to be the kind of neighbor that would walk right into your house and plop down on the couch without an invite!  Not everyone would consider that an endearing quality, but I did.  It comforted me that someone considered me “familiar”.  

Being a Military Spouse means putting down quick roots.  We don’t necessarily have time to “know” a person before we find ourselves in a situation where we rely on them like family.    But much like our biological family, we don’t choose them, they simply “happen”.  It is up to us to decide whether we will endure their shortcomings in order to embrace the gift God has given to us in them…..or slam the door in their face.     

No one is perfect, and likewise, no one can singly fill the hole our deployed spouse has left.  But, without community, deployment can be like treading water in lead ankle weights.  Be wise in choosing friends; you cannot confide in everyone, nor can one person watch all four of your kiddos at the drop of a hat.  Cut others some slack.  Enjoy them for whom and what they are in this season of your life, making sure to give people permission to blow it now and then.  Hey!  After all, we are all doing our best to just make it through!

The Spouse’s Deployment Motto

12 Oct

Jill Bozeman, 17 year veteran Army Spouse, and founder/national director of Operation Faithful Support, Inc.

If you can grow apart, then you can also grow back together!

The pre-deployment jitters are laden with questions:  “What if he changes? What if I change? What if we fall out of love?”   Well, I’m about to say something that no one else may tell you.  And you may not like it at first, but in the end, you will be so thankful I was honest.

Here is the plain truth:  he will change.  And for that matter, you will change!  And if you fall out of love, which is entirely possible if your love is based upon feelings, then you will just have to work at getting that love back on track!  As a spouse of sixteen years, I can tell you this:  if our being together were based upon feeling the love, we’d have been divorced a hundred times over!

Feelings are NOT reliable.  They are as flaky as Lindsey Lohan.   Making decisons based upon feelings is like asking Ms. Lohan for career counseling.  Eeek!!!

It is possible that his return may not be as dreamily romantic as you had thought it was going to be.  Do not despair!  My husband and I were still banging out the nuts and bolts of reintegration at the 10 month mark.  This, by the way, is FAR past the expiration date of the typical 30-90 day “norm”.  (As far as “normal” goes….anything that is abnormal, is normal.)

After the first couple of days or weeks (which, I admit, can be “dreamily romantic”), the new wears off and the reintegration begins.   Some seem to reintegrate seamlessly, but keep your eye steady and don’t compare.  “Others” are not you.  And things aren’t always what they seem.

Reintegration is “restoration to a unified state”.  Sometimes the restoration process takes time.  And work.  We have to work at “growing back together”.   You and your husband put a lot of time and effort into building the relationship before the deployment.  Rebuilding takes a similar investment, only this time, it is powered by commitment rather than those euphoric hormones that attracted us.

In the end, military marriages are unique.  And just because someone has coined the phrase “the new normal” does not mean our lives are normal at all.  And that is okay.  Be willing to stand strong for your Military Marriage.  It’s worth it.  You are worth it, and your family is also worth it!!!

Jill Bozeman is a committed, 17 year Army Wife, and the founder and dirctor of Operation Faithful Support, Inc, a grassroots, pro-marriage educational support program for the spouses of deployed service members.  She and her husband, SFC Wade Bozeman, and their two children are stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  For more information about OFS, please visit  www.operationfaithfulsupport.com.

Welcome to Operation Faithful Support!

8 Sep
As an all-volunteer military endures the brunt of an nine-year war on two fronts, we are seeing a pattern of brokenness in the family unit that amounts to a nothing less than a war on the home front.  It is not “business as usual” for military families under these strenuous circumstances.
While the Department of Defense has come a long way in providing resources and tools to help families, it lacks the personal relationship that is required to reach into the everyday lives of the hurting spouses to bring help and healing.
Operation Faithful Support is a unique spouses program centered on building relationships.  The dynamics of each group is far-reaching, from the spouse of a Private enduring her first deployment, to the seasoned senior spouse who knows the ins and outs, and then some.  Each individual comes with unique experiences of survival, and accomplishment, ready to give and take from the group, whose focus is on strengthening marriage during what others may say are impossible times.
Ideally, Operation Faithful Support  consists of 15-18 monthly sessions, beginning immediately after the servicemembers deploy, with the topic “Staying Emotionally Connected”, and will continue meeting once a month with a “target topic” and an open discussion facilitated by the group leader.  Topics include such subjects as “What to Expect During R&R”, and “Redeployment 101”.  Each session also employs an  “action assignment” to keep the spouses focused on their goal throughout the month.  These sessions will continue throughout deployment and into reintegration.
Stay tuned for more topics and posts to come!