Wingmanship

The military has a principle or a way of behaving that may not make sense to everyone. The Wingman code of conduct means that no military member is left behind. No matter how long time has passed, every effort is made to bring the military member home alive or if that is not the case, to bring them home to American soil with dignity and honor. That same concept is utilized day to day in that military and civilian employees are supposed to be looking out for each other making sure that people do not go down a path of no return or behave in inappropriate manners. Sadly, looking at certain statistics such as the number one homeless population being veterans and the 22 veteran lives lost every day is a wake up call that we as a nation should all heed because it shows how we are failing as Wingmen.
In life, we all get good at knowing how to answer the question, “How are you?” Fine. Just fine, thank you. Five days after my husband was buried, I returned to work. I knew that people expected a certain answer and weren’t comfortable with the shattered true response. I parroted the expected. Therein lies the problem. In military families, we lose our 911 friends. 911 friends are the friends that know a person almost as well as the person knows themselves. They are the friends that call a person on changed behaviors or bad decisions. While it isn’t intentional, the longer a person is a military member or family member of a military person, the more those 911 friendships erode and go away.
In the military world, we are all quite good at connecting with people right away. Throw me into a busy room, and before the hour is over, I will have a new friendly acquaintance. We are too good at hellos and goodbyes, however, thus those friends only get in so far. Consider for a minute that I am on the 15th move since I was 20. I have friends from all over the world and if I ran into any of them, I would immediately connect at the same level as when one of us left to move. Yet, few understand me knowing that I write when I have dealt with something versus writing when something is bothering me. The person that knows me well, knows to ask about what I am not writing about. The less I write, the more conflicted I am. When I start losing weight, that is another sign that stress is catching me, but unless a person had known me for a long time, they would not know to look for those behaviors.
In the military world, the higher in rank and the longer a person is in the military, the more the warrior ethos kicks in. In other words, the longer a person serves or is a family member of one that serves, the less likely they are to seek help. There is the thought of having to set the example and to be strong for those lower in rank or there is the fear of job repercussions especially in certain job positions. In a world where a military member is stacked and racked against one’s peers for promotion, who is more likely to get the endorsement? The person who is taking time for mental health appointments or one who looks like they have it all together whether they do or do not?
Today I broke. I cried realizing how much I am going to miss this place. I have never cried over leaving a base, but this one is different. I know it is time for me to find a place to call home and to find 911 friends. It is time for me plan for a retirement that is coming faster than I want it to come. It is difficult to leave Hanscom, but if I do not do it now, I do not know how I will bear it at 60. If I don’t do it now, I will retire and have to leave the base, the job, and MA (too expensive and not my longterm home). I was offered many jobs in the past two years, but only one of them felt right on every level even when the reason I initially applied went away. I cried because I am leaving the place I learned to be happy, a place I fit, and I place I found my voice. I am leaving so many people, but most of these people are nomads like me.
If it is this hard for me, consider this. It is this hard for every career military family. The active duty military member knows exactly who they are and where they fit when they walk in the door. The day they retire everything changes. They may walk in the same doors a day later, but the customs, courtesies, and practices are different for a civilian. The military member may or may not be able to get a job that corresponds with their military service. They may decide to go back to a home state that they hadn’t lived in for 20 years not realizing that the 911 friends that they had 20 years previously have routines and lives that no longer include them. Marriages often implode under the pressures and health often starts to unravel at this age. All of a sudden behaviors that were never an option become an option. it is for this exact reason that I am willing to risk it all for this move to a place I have never lived, visited, and to a place where I only know my brother and his family who will not be there forever. I am in the words of Rudyard Kipling, risking it all on one turn of pitch and toss. I am all in, but if I lose, I will quietly gather myself and start over again.
The Wingman concept? This is where my voice might make a difference. Being a wingman is about more than words. It is showing up, establishing connections that are real, growing, and vulnerable. Being a wingman takes time…time that I will have in MO. I am going to be staying, thus it is time to work on establishing that mutual wingman friendship. It is in that knowledge that I know action and faith in myself is required. Why is it all so difficult and scary? Is it too late? I am lucky that I get the opportunity to figure it out while I am still working and while I am active, but make no mistake, I am going to need a wingman or two or three.

Being a Wingman

The military has a principle  or a way of behaving that may not make sense to everyone. The Wingman code of conduct means that no military member is left behind. No matter how long time has passed, …

Source: Being a Wingman

Being a Wingman

The military has a principle or a way of behaving that may not make sense to everyone. The Wingman code of conduct means that no military member is left behind. No matter how long time has passed, every effort is made to bring the military member home alive or if that is not the case, to bring them home to American soil with dignity and honor. That same concept is utilized day to day in that military and civilian employees are supposed to be looking out for each other making sure that people do not go down a path of no return or behave in inappropriate manners. Sadly, looking at certain statistics such as the number one homeless population being veterans and the 22 veteran lives lost every day is a wake up call that we as a nation should all heed because it shows how we are failing as Wingmen.

In life, we all get good at knowing how to answer the question, “How are you?” Fine. Just fine, thank you. Five days after my husband was buried, I returned to work. I knew that people expected a certain answer and weren’t comfortable with the shattered true response. I parroted the expected. Therein lies the problem. In military families, we lose our 911 friends. 911 friends are the friends that know a person almost as well as the person knows themselves. They are the friends that call a person on changed behaviors or bad decisions. While it isn’t intentional, the longer a person is a military member or family member of a military person, the more those 911 friendships erode and go away.

In the military world, we are all quite good at connecting with people right away. Throw me into a busy room, and before the hour is over, I will have a new friendly acquaintance. We are too good at hellos and goodbyes, however, thus those friends only get in so far. Consider for a minute that I am on the 15th move since I was 20. I have friends from all over the world and if I ran into any of them, I would immediately connect at the same level as when one of us left to move. Yet, few understand me knowing that I write when I have dealt with something versus writing when something is bothering me. The person that knows me well, knows to ask about what I am not writing about. The less I write, the more conflicted I am. When I start losing weight, that is another sign that stress is catching me, but unless a person had known me for a long time, they would not know to look for those behaviors.

In the military world, the higher in rank and the longer a person is in the military, the more the warrior ethos kicks in. In other words, the longer a person serves or is a family member of one that serves, the less likely they are to seek help. There is the thought of having to set the example and to be strong for those lower in rank or there is the fear of job repercussions especially in certain job positions. In a world where a military member is stacked and racked against one’s peers for promotion, who is more likely to get the endorsement? The person who is taking time for mental health appointments or one who looks like they have it all together whether they do or do not?

Today I broke. I cried realizing how much I am going to miss this place. I have never cried over leaving a base, but this one is different. I know it is time for me to find a place to call home and to find 911 friends. It is time for me plan for a retirement that is coming faster than I want it to come. It is difficult to leave Hanscom, but if I do not do it now, I do not know how I will bear it at 60. If I don’t do it now, I will retire and have to leave the base, the job, and MA (too expensive and not my longterm home). I was offered many jobs in the past two years, but only one of them felt right on every level even when the reason I initially applied went away. I cried because I am leaving the place I learned to be happy, a place I fit, and I place I found my voice. I am leaving so many people, but most of these people are nomads like me.

If it is this hard for me, consider this. It is this hard for every career military family. The active duty military member knows exactly who they are and where they fit when they walk in the door. The day they retire everything changes. They may walk in the same doors a day later, but the customs, courtesies, and practices are different for a civilian. The military member may or may not be able to get a job that corresponds with their military service. They may decide to go back to a home state that they hadn’t lived in for 20 years not realizing that the 911 friends that they had 20 years previously have routines and lives that no longer include them. Marriages often implode under the pressures and health often starts to unravel at this age. All of a sudden behaviors that were never an option become an option. it is for this exact reason that I am willing to risk it all for this move to a place I have never lived, visited, and to a place where I only know my brother and his family who will not be there forever. I am in the words of Rudyard Kipling, risking it all on one turn of pitch and toss. I am all in, but if I lose, I will quietly gather myself and start over again.

The Wingman concept? This is where my voice might make a difference. Being a wingman is about more than words. It is showing up, establishing connections that are real, growing, and vulnerable. Being a wingman takes time…time that I will have in MO. I am going to be staying, thus it is time to work on establishing that mutual wingman friendship. It is in that knowledge that I know action and faith in myself is required. Why is it all so difficult and scary? Is it too late? I am lucky that I get the opportunity to figure it out while I am still working and while I am active, but make no mistake, I am going to need a wingman or two or three.

A Special Kind of Beauty at the End

There is a special kind of beauty that comes at the end of life. Like the explosion of color that fills the fall, I believe that many people shine their very brightest in their final days and hours…

Source: A Special Kind of Beauty at the End

A Special Kind of Beauty at the End

There is a special kind of beauty that comes at the end of life. Like the explosion of color that fills the fall, I believe that many people shine their very brightest in their final days and hours. While some withered leaves cling to the barren branches well into the winter, most explode and command attention in their final days. That explosion of reds and oranges occur as the leaves go through the slow parade of dying and falling summon people who gasp at the beauty. Perhaps life is a lot like that when people die before their time.

I think of Phil. He had turned 44 days before he was assassinated. He had finished his PhD five days prior to the deployment, had his research published, garnered numerous awards, and watched all five of our children graduate from high school LIf

ool (three from college) and move on to full college scholarships. More than that, he had accomplished everything he ever dreamed of at 21 when I met him. He had the long term marriage, the big family, career success, education, and travel. Phil lived a successful well lived adult life–better than many could imagine. He shone like that brilliant red leaf that every eye looks at.

Did he think he was going to die on that deployment? No, but he certainly did things he had never previously done in other deployments. It was if he knew at some level that the end was near and he wanted to ensure that his life was in order. To say that he made a super human effort as a father that last two years and that he organized and discussed the way ahead should something happen (and he truly thought that as an Air Force Academy professor he was safe) showed the absolute brilliance as his star shone in every area.

Sure, he was one of the first leaves to fall. Was it fair? Depends on how a person looks at it. He was give so much in such a short time. Some people live many more days and do not know love or success at that level. Looking at it from the survivor perspective, instead of living in what I do not have, I chose to switch my paradigms about two years into the loss. I am thankful that I had those 23.5 years with a man who was not only my best friend, but someone who taught me to love well because he loved me well until his last breath. His beauty (his life) made my brown leaf look beautiful next to him. We all can’t be that brilliant red or orange, but next to him, my beauty has blossomed.

I do not know the hours or days of my life. Perhaps I will be the odd leaf that clings to the branch well beyond what most leaves have. Perhaps I will fall sooner, but in any case, there is a beauty in the living and an even bigger brilliance in the life that was well lived.

Facing My Fears For Life

Fear….I have never been the bravest person. I know that people look at my life, the things I do, and the place I travel and assume that I am brave. That is not the case. I am afraid of relati…

Source: Facing My Fears For Life

Facing My Fears For Life

Fear….I have never been the bravest person. I know that people look at my life, the things I do, and the place I travel and assume that I am brave. That is not the case. I am afraid of relationships, driving, hurting another person, and of getting it wrong–misstepping. While I can speak to hundreds, I still have a hard time with new groups unless I am in some type of leadership position. it takes me a lot to take a risk, but once I do, I am all in.

Lately, I have been slaying some pretty mighty dragons. I have been offered jobs all over the world, but only one clicked. It is hard to explain to someone why I am moving to a state I have run one marathon in, driven through, and visited one city. I have never seen the house I bought or met the many of the people I will be working for, but in the conversation with my soon to be supervisor came the quiet knowing that there is a shared vision there. You see, I only have 4.5 years of working left. I want them to count.

I am taking a position that I have never held, but one in which my story and the focus of my training–I cannot change the cards I have been dealt, but I can choose how to play them–might impact the struggling military member or family member. Up until this point, my focus has been on building the positive protective factors, but my journey keeps resonating with those who are struggling, those who have lost a lot, or those who stand on the brink of self-destruction. While I recognize that I cannot save everyone and while I recognize that many will never understand the fire that consumes me to keep repeating my training of the choices during devastating loss, I have been blessed with knowing that I made a difference for a few. For those few starfish, I continue to face my fears. I continue to look for the right fit.

MO? Heck, I have always referred to it as Misery. At this point, I only have my brother and his family that I fit with, but I recognize that will change. It took me a few years here. It won’t take that long there because I have changed and I do not want to hide in my house any more, but moving from my friends and what I know is gouging my heart. I know my job and I know my tribe here. As I have researched and as I train, though, positive trauma growth comes from these well thought choices.

MO fits. It is the Midwest and my brother picked the house that has always been a part of my dreams. This house has the deck, the porch, and the lake. This house has room for a hanging porch swing and a small children’s play house. This house is filled with light and promise–I run to that. While I always thought that my future held CO or WA, MO offered me that chance to be more than my story and more than my volunteer activism. Yes, those areas are my heart, but I am looking forward to what next. When I retire, I want to fit somewhere and to have the home that welcomes me. I want a place that beckons me even if my days are lived alone.

While on the surface this leap may seem like a hasty choice, indeed it was not. I run to the job where I sense that I may continue to impact my military family and policy. I run to a state and a house where I see that I can fit and where I am comfortable. I relax into the knowing that the Midwest values, climate, and cost of living fit me.

Driving is another area that while I avoid it, I can do it. Today, I had to drive far enough and in busy enough traffic that I literally had my stomach in knots. Fear is like that sometimes. I took a deep breath and made myself do it. While city driving is never going to be something I am comfortable with due to the shifting vision from adrenal issues, I can take a train, bus, Uber, or shuttle. There is more than one way to face one’s fears.

Relationships are harder. I do well one on one and once I get to know people. I am great in a group if I am the boss, leader, teacher, speaker, or with kids. Other than that, yes, I know I still stand back initially, but that isn’t the whole story. The rest of the story is that I look for ways to connect one on one separate from a group. I am loyal to the core and my heart is huge. Once I connect, I am connected for life. Fear is faced in a unique manner, but ultimately the success is lasting.

Fear is not something I enjoy facing, but I simply cannot cower in any corners. I choose to face my fears even when I do not want to because I cannot let fear own me. I know how short life can be. I do not want to waste my minutes running from the life I dream of, chase, and want with all that I am. In that awareness, I can take a giant breath, scrunch my eyes shut, and leap towards the unseen and unknown. Cowabunga….I believe in me.