My Calling

In April, I worked my last day of my career in national security/government contracting to fulfill my dream of focusing on my husband and my kids.  Long before we were married, Ryan and I discussed our joint desire to be able to reach a point of financial security to allow me to stay home with our future children.  Being a military family comes with many challenges and I wanted to be as present as possible in our children’s lives.  While I commend dual military families and those with multiple careers (seriously, that’s tough work to balance it all!), I always knew it wasn’t for me.

Often, reality can feel different from our dreams.  Since that time i’ve struggled to find my identity beyond being a wife and a mother.  We often find our self-worth within our career or chosen profession, and all of my dreams have or are coming true.  But was this enough?  Society often pushes us to “want more” for ourselves and that we should strive to have it all: the husband, the kids, the top of a corporation…and the white picket fence.  Was it okay to “just” be a wife and a mom?  Could I REALLY be the driving force behind my family?

What if it’s OKAY that my role IS to be a military spouse and a mom?  What if that is my calling and my “mission field”?  I know that God is using me to encourage and lift up/support my husband as he serves our Country.  I know that God is using me to be engaged in our children’s lives and to set the example.  And I know that He is going to use me to pour back into the lives of other military spouses and families.  How will my mindset change and what more can I do if I transform my thoughts into THIS being my calling?  God has called my heart since I was a young girl and wanted to marry a soldier and to stay in the only life I ever knew.

What if it’s OKAY that my role IS to be a military spouse and a mom?

I’ve recently joined a book discussion group with a friend that started it in her home and we are diving into the book “Wife of a Soldier, a Journey of Faith” and today I had the great pleasure of meeting the author.  It’s been speaking to my heart and I highly recommend reading it, no matter your situation as a military spouse.  Diana Jeurgens describes how God has called each of us to this role for a reason.  It’s no mistake that I grew up wanting this life, that I married Ryan, that these kids were given to us to raise.

This military life can be exciting and stressful, lonely and friendly…it’s all in how we view it.  I know that i’ll still be human and have my moments that I hate the separations, deployments, and LATE duty nights…but oh, what a wonderful life this can be as well!

I’m not sure what the distant future holds for our family, but i’m so excited to serve God where He’s placed me for this season.  My husband has a very difficult role to play and I know that God has called me to be his supporter and to take care of our life on the home front.   I’m anxious to arrive at our next duty station in New York and I already feel led to a few areas of opportunity!

Melissa G.

PCS Organization

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I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with organization and it’s never come easy for me.  However, there are two times where my life is dress right dress: tax season and PCS time!

Moving at any point, much less with the military, can be chaotic and stressful; every little thing you can do to combat that is important!

I’ve kept a PCS binder on hand since our first move from Ft. Bragg to HAAF which has made it easier for other PCS’s.  All I have to do is purge the unnecessary info (which gets scanned and stored on the server, because i’m slightly a nerd) and update information that’s changed.  I also pull out the important docs that stay filed in locked fireproof boxes.  Now that we’ve added two kids and a dog since that first move, the included items have shifted a bit.

Below i’ve included a list of items that we’ve found to be beneficial for our family.  Bear in mind, my husband keeps his own storage clipboard with his necessary documents for in-processing so I haven’t listed those here.

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  1. Important documents: Socials, Passports, etc.  I also keep a clear pocket for receipts/loose documents.
  2. Local Info: Details about the installation and local area that we’ve found.
  3. Birth/Marriage Certificates
  4. Insurance Information
  5. Government PCS Rate/Compensation Info.
  6. Drum Housing Info & Paperwork.
  7. Outgoing Housing CHecklists, etc.
  8. Kids’ Vaccinations & Records (You could also carry hard copies of any necessary prescriptions until you get established).
  9. Pet Shot Records
  10. Notes (Loose leaf paper)

img_9172For this move i’ve also included a Do It Yourself or “DITY” checklist.  (The Army calls this a PPM now or Personally Procured Move).  There’s nothing worse than getting to a new house and realizing you have nothing to cook with!  Hopefully this will help to keep ourselves straight.

Finally, I take pictures of our furniture and electronics with serial numbers and keep the thumb drive in the binder with us for future claims.

On packing day, the kids and I mostly hang out in the “Don’t Touch Room” where we keep everything that we will be hand carrying with us.  This way we don’t have to worry about anything accidentally getting packed by the movers.

I hope this helps for your future PCS moves!  Do you have any additions that I have forgotten?

~Melissa G.

Adventures in NOLA

When we first received our orders for Ft. Rucker and Ryan was picked up for flight school we added New Orleans to our “Duty Station Bucket List”. Our time here is running out quicker than we expected and time has definitely gotten away from us, so we had to fit in a quick weekend trip over Columbus Day weekend.

Our latest camping adventure in “Roo” we checked off Mississippi and Louisiana. We stopped in MS to check out a giant oak tree across from the beach that has survived many hurricanes (including Cat 5s!) and has been there for 500 years! Friendship Oak was pretty and the kids appreciated the break up from the drive and the ability to get some of those never-ending toddler wiggles out.

I was thrilled to finally stay right on the water (which I’ve been determined to do since we bought our camper back in March) and we were very impressed with the campground. Convenience store on-site, house boats and its own restaurant (they served delicious smoked meat and jambalaya. (Pontchartrain Landing)

Downtown NOLA was a city in its very own league with so much character. Dogs are everywhere and even welcomed in the restaurants and bars, and the people were eclectic but fun. It’s a tough and resilient crowd and a blend of so many cultures. We took the kids on a carriage ride with a mule and toured the oldest above ground graveyard in America.

Finally, we were able to spend a few hours at the National WW2 Museum, which did not even do it justice. I highly recommend allowing yourself a few days to spend there if you’re a history nerd like Ryan and I are.

We’d definitely love to go back someday and possibly see Ryan’s mama’s Saints play in the Super Dome!

Check out some of our pics below:

Flight School ~ PCS ORDERS ~

The other big, important day while in flight school is the day you receive your orders for your follow-on duty station!  The aviators are allowed to maintain a list of the Top 3 places that they would like to go, and the Army (most of the time) attempts to grant it to you and your family.  As with anything in the Army, nothing is guaranteed, and it’s both exciting and nerve-wracking waiting for these to come through!

“They say” can often get you into trouble and for us it did.  We were told an average of 4-6 weeks from selection he’d receive the draft of his orders telling him where we’d be sent next.  4-6 weeks turned into 7, then 8….then the rest of his class (all but Ryan and 1 other) received their orders.  I’ll admit, I didn’t handle this frustration in the most graceful way!  I’ve moved around my entire life as an Army Brat turned federal contractor, turned Army wife.  Literally my first passport had my hospital birth picture.  However, we’ve been trying to get back up North for 7 years.  Ryan’s first duty station was supposed to be Alaska…then those were pulled for Ft. Bragg.  Ugh!  Our family is in Maine and New England will always be HOME, so we were so anxious to find out if our hopes would come true!

FINALLY, 9 weeks from selection and halfway through his advanced airframe training his orders came through!!

And our next duty station is….

FT DRUM, NEW YORK!!!!!!!!

Ft. Drum was our #1 choice and we were praying so hard that Ryan would get selected to go!!!!!  We are beyond excited for the next chapter of our story and to FINALLY be back closer to home.  It’s about 7 hours back to our home town in Maine which is the closest we can get.  We are so thankful for snow…and 4 seasons!

FLY TO GLORY!!!!!

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Flight School ~ SELECTION ~

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Life in an active duty Army family comes with many tear-jerking and monumental moments for your soldier and your family.  Some are sad and oh so difficult…while others can be some of the most memorable moments of your life.

Ryan (and TeamGrim) has had many of those!  Flight School on the Warrant Officer side (there are Commissioned Officers as well) goes through several phases which are best broken down as follows:

  1. WOCS: Warrant Officer Candidate School.  About 5 weeks of training that is worse than basic (according to Ryan haha) that breaks down the enlisted soldier to turn them into an officer.  At the end is a very special graduation where your loved one(s) can pin your new rank on you.  Logan & Emma (and I) had the privilege 🙂
  2. WOBC (A) Follow-on Training for their rank that lasts for about 3 weeks.
  3. SERE/Dunker: Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.  POW training that is called the best worst school you can attend in the army.  Ryan already had this training so he able to bypass it.  Dunker/HOST teaches them how to survive a water landing and techniques for water survival.
  4. Finally, FLIGHT SCHOOL BEGINS: This is being revamped by the Army, but Ryan’s was broken into a few different sections of training where he had “check rides” showing his proficiency in each before he was able to proceed.

At the end of this first portion of training a very special and much anticipated day arrives that determines the course for the rest of their careers: ADVANCED AIR FRAME SELECTION DAY!!!!!!!

Up until Selection Day the active duty flight school students have no idea what air frames will be available when they walk into that room!  The board will be revealed (dramatically!) and each student is able to pick their bird from the ones that are available based on the OML (Order of Merit List: ranking by their grades in school, check ride grades, PT Test, etc.).  The OML is so competitive that the top people are usually only separated by .001 of a point!!!  These people are truly the best of the best in the army!

Since Ryan spent the first 7+ years of his career as a Chinook maintainer his heart belongs to the big girl.  We prayed so much over the course of our time here that he’d be able to have his number 1 pick.  Of course, he would have loved any rotary wing, but to get your #1 is incredibly special.  To add to the intensity, there are well under 200 slots a year so it’s the hardest airframe to choose!  Most classes have 1-2, if any, and Ryan’s class had 8 slots available for Warrant Officers!!!!

“You guys, God is an on-time God and His timing is ALWAYS perfect.”

This was totally a God thing!  When Ryan’s packet took a while to get a waiver and a few pieces of the puzzle to come together I told him it was all God’s timing.  I said “I’m claiming it and God’s trying to put you in a class flooded with Chinooks!!!  You guys, God is an on time God and His timing is ALWAYS perfect.  He’s taught us over and over again to lean on Him and one of these days maybe it will stop blowing me away.

From here Ryan will move on to his Chinook training that will last approximately 16 weeks.  After that he’ll got another short training to pick up his CW2 rank and he’ll be able to pin on those wings at his graduation!!

Flight School Family Day!

~ Family Day at the Flight Line! ~

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On the 16th of March, Ryan’s flight school class had their long-awaited family day.  Ryan’s Mom came up from Florida for the weekend and we all got to take a ride out to go watch Daddy fly “wop wops” (helicopters)!  It was his 7th week of flight school (5th actually flying) and we’ve been so anxious to see him in action in person… Talk about surreal!!

Once we followed the caravan out to airfield, we kept looking all around for his tail number that he gave us since he was one of the last helicopters to make it over to the stage field, and Grams and I both started crying once we finally spotted him coming in for his landing!  We got to see them hover, complete a few different landings, as well as completing their traffic patterns.  We are so proud of our pilot-in-training and all that is to come on this adventure!  All of the long nights, studies, check rides and tests will be worth it when he gets to have the coolest job in the military when he graduates!

SLIDESHOW:  Here are a few of our pictures/videos from the day.  We hope you enjoy!

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When you are the village.

A good friend of mine posted on Facebook last week and reminded me that sometimes things aren’t your fault.  Sometimes, people are so wrapped up in their own problems/joys/lives that they simply don’t think about you.  And that’s okay, but it’s still hard to keep it from hurting sometimes.  I tend to internalize everything.  If people don’t call, text or visit…I feel like they must not care, and that’s not always the case.

Things have been really rough since Ryan went back to work.  He burned through all of the vacation that he’d been saving since we’d started trying to conceive just so he could spend 6 weeks with us after the babies were born.  And Thank GOD he did!  Since then he’s worked until a minimum of 6:30 pm every night…often later and missed out on so much with me and the kids.  (No, there’s no particular reason…just new requirements for his platoon).  I’m alone, as a new mom, with twins, for 14 hours a day (minimum).  He leaves by 5-530 every morning and isn’t back until at least 7pm due to work and the INSANE Savannah traffic.  Plus, I also work from home 20 hours a week.  I love these sweet babies more than life itself, but it can be so hard to feel so lonely.  I feel like i’m not enough for them by myself because neither get me all to themselves…ever.  That’s a lot for a newborn to handle!  By the time Ryan gets home, I have to have dinner made so that we have time to eat it and get the kids sleeping at a decent time.  I’m trying very hard to establish a schedule. 🙂  To make matters worse, thanks to the Army life, he’s leaving for training for several months very soon after Christmas.  YAY!  We’re still trying to find a way for us to be with him…if possible.

Yes, I know that our children are our responsibility.  But everyone always says: “It takes a village”.  Apparently i’m a village of 1 1/2 when Ryan is able!  Haha It’s hard when we don’t have any friends or family to help.  My sister, who also has twins, gave me the advice to ask visitors to come once Ryan went back to work.  She said she had scattered help and it made a world of a difference because the first few months are so hard.  That didn’t work. 😦  It’s so hard to not feel so lonely and forgotten.  I had visions of people being so excited and visiting lots once the babies were born, but I think people get so wrapped up in their own lives that it’s not exciting once the babies aren’t “new” anymore.

This isn’t meant to be a bashing of anyone, just getting my feelings out.  It’s okay that people have their own joys, their own families, and their own struggles.  Heck, we all get wrapped up in our own lives.  I know that as much as I always try to be there for everyone else, it hasn’t been as easy now that I have two newborns.  Sometimes you just hope that when it’s your turn and you really need people to care that they’ll return the favor.  I hate it for our babies.  They’re the most amazing and precious gifts EVER and i’m sad that it seems that more people don’t want to be a part of their lives.

Thankfully when Ryan does get home or is around on the weekends, he’s the most amazing husband and Daddy.  He tries so hard to give me breaks and let me take baths or helps with Yawkey and the cooking/cleaning (or takes the babies so I can do all of that).  I seriously don’t know what i’d do without that man!  I just oh so wish he could be with us more.  I know it wears on him to be away from us so much and stuck in such a time consuming job.

As my friend said, I have to remind myself that it’s not always because of us or that people don’t seem to care…often times they do…it’s just that they have so much in their own lives that they forget to notice.  I’m going to keep on trucking and praying that God will carry my little family through to easier days.  I’m going to do my best with what we’ve been given and snuggle my quickly growing babies a little tighter today and show them as much love as I can possibly show them.  I have my perfect little family and we have each other…and that’s enough!  And i’m going to lean on my Heavenly Daddy for the strength that I need to carry us through.  I’m going to try to be “Army Strong” even when I don’t feel it.

~Melissa G.