Home is where the heart is?

Let me start by saying that I am so thankful for the way that I grew up and for all of the many experiences that I’ve been afforded and above all else, I am an American. I am from Maine. My family is from Maine on both of my parents sides. However, when your entire life has centered around the military people sometimes don’t understand. In the first 30 years of my life I lived in 8 states and 2 countries. My husband’s family is from all over: California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida and a few relatives in Mass. However, on his first trip home with me he fell in love with New England! If home is where the heart is then he’s definitely from Maine. 🙂 The only reason that we do not live in New England now is because of his (our) service to the military.

There will always be a part of me that wishes that I could have grown up in Maine. It’s arguably the most beautiful state in the union, it’s where my family is, it’s the birthplace of a Nation, and above all: it’s home. Part of me will always be sad that I didn’t get to grow up near the rest of my family and that always hits me when we go home. It was all the more apparent when we said goodbye to my Grammy and Grampy Walsh. When someone passes, everyone shares fun memories that they had with that person, and it broke my heart to not have more of my own to share. I felt left out of a lot growing up when I didn’t have more memories with my family back home. It is still difficult to see my cousins’ wedding pictures with our grandparents and wish that we could have some.

There are many advantages to life as a military. I was afforded many opportunities that some never get: we were in Germany when the Berlin wall came down and I’ve visited almost every country in Europe, I’ve climbed to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa, I’ve lived in more states than some people travel to and visited 3 times as many, I feel much more resilient than I would have been and have an appreciation for other people and cultures. I also have a unique stance in that I know what it’s like to send my Dad and my Husband off to war. I wouldn’t trade the way I was raised and I am excited that our kids will grow up with their own adventures as Army BRATs. 🙂

However, it can also be difficult to always be the “outsider”. Yes, we have MANY southern friends and there are plenty who love us and don’t act negatively toward us, but there are still FAR too many fighting the Civil War. I’ve been discriminated against since moving to our current state as many (most certainly not all) people from the south still hate “Yankees”. We’ve been kicked out of restaurants since moving to our current duty station because they “don’t serve” our “kind” in there. We walked out thinking we were in some sort of backwards movie from the 60’s (which is even funnier because Ryan isn’t technically from the North).  I’ve had a few people tell me to “Go back where I come from”. There is a shrine erected in a park downtown always facing the “enemy to the North” and we were told that no part of this monument was allowed to even TOUCH Northern soil on its way down from Canada. Umm, what??!! I’ve never been exposed to such hatred in all my life. Even at a civilian doctor in Tennessee a nurse said, “Oh you must be so glad to be away from all of those a$$holes up North and down here where people are nice”…which is a judgmental and rude statement to make in and of itself. Now, it’s become even worse with the church shooting of 9 black people in Charleston (1.5 hours from where we live) and the North/South battle is heating up again. Funny thing is…you don’t see it up North. I was always taught that it was a dark part of our Nation’s history, that Jesus has called us to love all people as ourselves, and my family fought to keep the USA together after the slave (southern) states seceded.

On the flip side, some people feel as though i’m not “from Maine” because I didn’t get to grow up in one place. So, let me get this straight…no Army BRAT is from their home state since they didn’t grow up there? I’m a New Englander through and through and I will never turn my back on it. Our kids will probably be born in a few different states, but they will still be New Englanders since that is where we’re retiring one day.

Remember that not everyone grows up traditionally and some of us still sacrifice every day in giving up where we would like to be living for service to our Nation and ensuring our freedom and the freedom of others.  But we wouldn’t have it any other way and we appreciate experiencing other cultures.  We don’t want sympathy, but love and acceptance (or at least kindness) would be perfect.  Besides, aren’t we all Americans?

~Melissa, Army Wife and American

4th of July/Post-deployment Vacation

My amazing husband knows how much the 4th of July means to me (and to him) so he tried very hard to get me home to celebrate with my side of my family. Being from Maine, 4th of July is big in my family and we always have a huge cookout at my parents’ camp complete with lobstah, brisket and sometimes clams. When we were engaged he was deployed and last year we were PCS-ing to GA and never got the opportunity. It was very hard for us to not be home with everyone and he definitely made up for it this year! With his current unit they deploy pretty frequently so he volunteered for an early deployment in order to get home in time for celebrating America’s birthday with me. How special it was for us this year to celebrate America’s independence with him freshly home safe from war!

Within 24 hours of Ryan coming home from deployment, we were packing up the car and driving straight to Maine (22-24 hour drive). (Did I mention how much he loves me?) We couldn’t fly because it is the Army and the second you try to book something, plans will change. However, he was blessed with good leadership that allowed him to leave so quick after a deployment. As always, even a long and traffic filled road trip is a blast and filled with so many memories!

We got to see most of our family members while we were in Maine and definitely hit up some sightseeing. My parents have a camp on Loon Pond in Maine and I always wanted to move back home after my Dad retired from the Army. Sadly I never got the chance, but Ryan has fallen in love with New England as well and even claims it as his home (who wouldn’t??) Since his Dad’s side of the family is from Conn, it counts, right?

Couples at the 4th of July BBQ at my parents' camp.
Couples at the 4th of July BBQ at my parents’ camp.

4th of July fireworks with my love and my parents.  Ogunquit, ME
4th of July fireworks with my love and my parents. Ogunquit, ME

Wells Beach, ME with my beautiful momma
Wells Beach, ME with my beautiful momma

Now THIS is a barbeque...New England style! <3
Now THIS is a barbeque…New England style! ❤

While at home we also got to tour Fenway Park and catch a Red Sox game…and a little bit of a thunderstorm/tornado watch. Hey, we always keep it interesting! Touring Fenway has always been a dream of mine and it was so cool seeing the stadium from every view possible and from behind the scenes. 🙂 Also, Cask 'n Flagon has the BEST Fish 'n Chips this side of Ireland! 😉

RED SOX!!!!

Bunker Hill...but first, a selfie
Bunker Hill…but first, a selfie

Best of all we got a lot of history lessons/sightseeing in as well. We visited Concord, MA and the Minute Man monument and even caught sight of the actual lantern used in the Old North Church during Paul Revere’s ride. We climbed Bunker Hill in Boston since he’s never gotten to do that part of the Freedom Trail. Unfortunately the USS Constitution was closed (yet, again!) so we still haven’t been able to see that! Lastly we visited a few of my favorite lighthouses in Maine! I may be biased, but I have lived and visited many places in the US and the world…Maine is the most beautiful: hands down! I will say from the pictures, Michigan may run a close second 😉

Pemaquid Lighthouse, Brisol, ME
Pemaquid Lighthouse, Brisol, ME

Sleep Hollow Cemetery...so many brilliant minds are buried there
Sleep Hollow Cemetery…so many brilliant minds are buried there

Old North Bridge in Concord, MA
Old North Bridge in Concord, MA

With everything that Ryan ends up missing out on with his job, I am so thankful that we got this much needed time with family. It was so great having my hero home to celebrate Independence Day and New England is most beautiful in the Summer. 🙂

~A very happy, Melissa Grim