Time Flies When You Are Having Fun

Twentieth (35 of 9)

Immediately after I was released from the hospital, we went to celebrate Shane’s 20th reunion at the Air Force Academy.  Twenty years have flown by.  In twenty years, we moved around twelve times (thirteen if you count extended TDYs)– Minnesota to Colorado Springs to Oklahoma to New Mexico (me) and Louisiana (him) to North Dakota (both) to Germany to North Dakota to Virginia to Ohio to Florida to Colorado Springs. We have survived five years of separation, and four deployments (two combat).  And now we are back where it all began.

Garden of the Gods (121 of 137)

Thursday, we went to Antlers, a local hotel, and picked up our tickets.  One thing about the reunion is it’s quite expensive (the tune of $900!).  The registration alone was $100 each.  It included a dinner and free drinks on Thursday night.  There we met up with friends we hadn’t seen in years.  I found out that several people Shane sang with in Catholic Choir were living here locally.  It was so nice to see people I hadn’t seen in 20 years, and being asked to come hang out!

On Friday, we went to the actual Academy and toured it.  We went to Shane’s old squadron.  Talked to the cadets.  We learned interesting statistics about the new class.  The greatest statistic was the cadet class in 1997 was only 10% female, while the cadet class in 2021 is 30% female!  It was so nice to see such a change in environment at the Academy.  Most of the women at the academy are studying STEMM majors.  So it’s not just “fuzzy” majors.  These women are going to be the future leaders in Engineering and Math career fields.

We also found out that Shane’s boss in Florida, General Silvaria is now the Superintendent at the Air Force Academy.  It was nice to see him and his wife again.

At the end of the day we went to the memorial service.  There were several deaths in the four reunion classes (1972, 1992, 1997, and 2007).  They read the names of the deceased this year (including one senior) in each class.  Played Taps, and the Missing Man formation of A-10s.  The clouds have begun to roll in, and the angels began to cry during the formation.  It was beautiful and sad at the same time.  There was one guy in Shane’s class that died this year in combat.  It made this ceremony extra special, as the family was there to lay roses on his name.  There was not a dry eye in the crowd.

Twentieth (38 of 9)

At the end of the ceremony, I caught this nice fellow watching with his friend.  He is a PTSD service dog, who was attending with a 2007 graduate.  It’s a stark reminder of the sacrifices that living veterans are making.  It has changed my attitude about being a veteran.  I am considered a disabled veteran, and for years I was not proud of my service.  I didn’t deploy.  When I left the service I got someone else’s going away gift, and I felt like I didn’t sacrifice.  But recognizing those that did make the ultimate sacrifice, and seeing the PTSD dog made me feel blessed, that even though I have service connected cancer, I did experience what my husband and other vets have experienced.

The weekend ended with the football game.  I don’t have any pictures from this event.  I brought my camera, but decided to put it back in the car.  The game was a close one, but our Falcons could not pull it out in the end.  Anyway, the kids, Shane, and I went to the class tailgate, where we met a friend from both Shane’s squadron AND pilot training, Ryan.  Turns out Ryan is a published author, so I got his card to discuss with him how to get published (I have kind of decided to publish my book as a collection of short stories and novellas).  When we got to our seats, it started raining.  The rain started out lightly, then the wind picked up, and by 9:00 minutes into the game, it was 48-degrees, with driving rain, and 30 mph winds.  We watched the Falcons score first, and then we decided to leave.

As we left, my son, decided to hit every puddle.  We got home, fired up the fireplaces, and turned on the game.  Luckily we left, as the game was on an 80-minute lightening delay.  We flipped from various Big Ten games, drank hot chocolate, and ate chips and dip.  All-in-all we really enjoyed ourselves at the reunion.


Dear Mr/Mrs Future President…


Dear Mrs. Clinton/Mr. Trump/Mr. Johnson/Mrs. Stein,

One of you will have the ultimate honor of being the next commander-in-chief.  All four of you have promised in one way, or another, to take care of veterans and military families during your campaigns.  As a military veteran and military spouse, I have an interesting insight on how you can truly help us.

First of all, throwing money at programs with a fancy name is not going to provide much help.  For the last 14 years of my husband’s 19 years of service, I have been unemployed.  For the most part, I volunteered to be the stay at home mom, but when I was ready to return to work, I discovered much to my dismay that my commission, 40% disability rating, and experience meant next to nothing.  The “real world” is like the honey badger, it doesn’t give a f(#*.  It doesn’t care that you race directed three 5-kilometer races, and raised over $70K for autism charities.  It doesn’t care that you are a published author, that you gave away your artwork that you work extremely hard on, or that you have put the free freelance for years.  The real world doesn’t care.

Secondly, please change the EFMP system for special needs children.  My son is one of those military children that have fallen through cracks.  He has been written off as uneducateable by the local school system.  He was ABUSED in a classroom, and sadly there was NOTHING I could do about it.  I tried hiring a lawyer, but the local school district had all education lawyer on retainer.  I tried writing the newspaper, and I was told by readership that they didn’t want my child bringing down the standards for their children.  I even contacted Dr. Phil, but my husband didn’t want to go to on a daily talk show.  How can you help with this?  Make school districts for ALL special education students (not just military ones) accountable for not following the law!  It is amazing how back asswards some districts are.  The military is a powerful way to affect change in educational standards for special needs kiddos.  Basically, if the military start refusing to send families to school districts that systematically ignore the law– it will hit them where it counts.  The military where I live has a strong positive impact on the local economy.  There are over 10,000 family members in the state I live in now with special needs, and if those families were to move, it would negatively impact an economy.

Finally, the number one employer for veterans is actually the US Government.  One thing the government can do to make it easier for veterans is make the application process less cumbersome.  The complicated application process makes applying for a job a daunting task.  Many veterans quit before the accomplish their application.  The transfer and application process makes it difficult for veterans and spouses apply for jobs.

Dear General…

This is an open letter to beg you to allow us to stay where we are living.  Last week, my husband, a school select for Air War College, found out that he was alternate this year on the school list.  Well, to the non-military reading this, you may ask, well, what the heck does that mean?  It means nothing, and it means everything.  Basically, if someone elects to retire, gets in trouble, or for some other reason not known to anyone, turns down school, my husband may go in their place.  It also means that we have no choice, say, or input on where my husband goes to school.  It means that if he is picked up for school, we will likely be separated for 10-12 months until my husband graduates from school, and gets a follow on assignment.  Since we have also been at this base for a longer than normal period of time (thanks to several doctors and extremely understanding commanders), we are also “hot” for a new assignment.

I understand that I’m just a military wife, and you probably think that I have little to no understanding of how the military works.  Here’s my background, I am a veteran.  I am also a mom to two children with different challenges.  My son has moderate autism, and my daughter is incredibly gifted (and is being evaluated for autism– on the higher end of the spectrum, or ADHD).  The last time we moved everything with my son went tragically wrong.  We essentially “lost” my son– he went from functioning at around a 5-6 year old child (he was 7) to functioning at the level of a 2-year-old.  He was abused at his public school, and wrote to everyone and their mother for help.  Help came a little bit too late, and it has take YEARS for him to return to where he was when we first came here.  He is just NOW catching up.  I know that most generals have children, I ask you to think about what you would do, and how you would feel if your child regressed at that rate.

We have fought and fought to get him where he is today.  If you request my husband to come work for you, thereby deny the reclama that his very understanding commander is about to fill out, and then force my family to move.  If my husband ends up going to school in 2017, it can be very bad for my son.  It takes a REALLY long time to set up services for an autistic child after a military PCS.  It takes equally as long for that child to develop a relationship with his therapists.  By moving us this summer, and with the increased likelihood that my husband will go to school in 2017, you will make him move twice in less than a year, or you will force us into a geo-bachelor situation.

I understand as a military wife, that there are separations.  That’s part of the life that I lead.  I don’t mind them when they become necessary.  I don’t mind the deployments.  I don’t mind the two week TDYs every month, and I have learned how to be a military wife, counselor, taxi cab, teacher, mother, father, and whatever other role I need to do, so that my children have the support that they need.  The separations that bother me, are the ones that are completely and totally preventable by taking a family’s situation into consideration when making decisions regarding one of the family member’s career.  This is one of those situations.  Many of the bases where the senior developmental schools are located are bases that my children and I cannot go to, because of EFMP limitations.

If we stay here, and he was sent to the school that is 3-4 hours away, my husband would be able to participate in my children’s lives.  My son has made amazing strides when by participating in weekend activities with typical children.  These activities are paramount to his continued development.  He will be in Boy Scouts next year (he is Arrow of Light right now), he also plays soccer in the fall for the VIP special education league, and baseball in the spring league for the VIP league.  While I can do soccer and baseball on my own, Boy Scouts will not only difficult, it will be impossible, and it would detrimental to my son’s development.  This is the ONLY activity were he is in contact with typical children– again this is PARAMOUNT to his continued development.  If my husband is far away, and cannot come home on the weekends, my son cannot participate in Boy Scouts.  While I can attend many of the weekend activities with him, women are not allowed on most of the camping trips.  He cannot progress in Boy Scouts, an activity he loves, and needs, without going on those camping trips.  There is no one else who can go with him.  My father passed away this past summer, and even if he was alive, his health is poor.  My father-in-law is unfortunately, untrustworthy, and will not attend camping with my son.  There are not many men in our lives that understands, or tolerates my son’s behavior.

I understand that the needs of the Air Force come before my needs, or my son’s needs, but I ask for compassion and understanding when it comes to making your decisions.  I ask that you please listen to my husband’s boss in this matter, and read this.  With raising rates of autism and ADHD among the military population, I am not the only parent facing this obstacle.  I also am aware that my husband has the option of turning down schooling all together, but I also know that by turning down school, he is putting future progression in the military at risk.  Recently, in SpouseBuzz there was an article that states that military families with special needs children tend to stay in the military as long as possible to take advantage of the premier health care.  We are one of those families.  We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my husband’s ability to stay in the military beyond 20 years.

I know that this letter is a lot of rambling, and I hope you can understand why I am doing this.  Please don’t take it out on my husband, we don’t need a general inquiry, and please don’t have the Chief of Staff spouse call me (the last time I wrote a letter like this, I was told to shut up and color by the AF Chief of Staff’s spouse).  The way I look at it, my primary duty is to my children, and I will say and do what needs to be said and done to advocate for my children.  I see it as my duty to show you how much power you have over the outcome of my children.  I hope you see this as a means of educating you, and not something more.  Thank-you very much for your service to our country.