FORCE PROTECTION, BOO REJECTION

I live on a military installation. Have I mentioned that before? I believe I have.

For years, I have witnessed the delightful Halloween tradition of booing in military housing. My kids love it and harass me from the first day of October on as to when I think we might get booed ourselves. 

Booing consists of placing (under the cloak of darkness) a fun treat on a neighbor’s porch. There is always a note with instructions on how to pay the fun forward. In turn, neighbors post on the neighborhood Facebook page their surprises as well as a thank-you or two. Newly PCS’d families get to know the current residents and a natural neighborhood bond begins to form.

While exciting and fun, booing has its downside. One year it may be my children, frozen with fear, refusing to get out of the car as we approach our targeted house. Because it is late, I’m in pajamas (my Mother says that is pedestrian) and I’m forced to run onto a neighbor’s porch so as not to ruin the moment. The next year, it’s me driving away too quickly thinking I have all the children but in fact I do not. Before you judge, imagine seven children jumping into a car screaming GO! GO! GO! It all gets very confusing. I quickly glance in my rearview mirror and see child #5 frantically running after the car. In an instant she is gone having flipped over a hedge hidden in the October darkness. 

Childhood memories my children.  You are welcome.

Where are the MPs when all this is going on? I ask myself that very same question every single year.

With each boo after-action and a newly presented game plan, I convince myself and the children it will be different, but it never is. I’m a glutton for punishment and the shattered dreams that only a made up Hallmark holiday can bring.  

There was however, one year that still remains our most memorable for the most unlikely of reasons.

The month of September was coming to a close and the boo harassment package, compliments of my children had begun. We chose our families, mapped out our game plan and went shopping. Some years we choose new families whose children might appreciate feeling welcomed after yet another military move; but this particular year, we chose the best friends of two of my children. Because of this, I went a little overboard. I purchased above and beyond what I should have and was happy to do it. Candy, toys, a small piece of clothing…all shoved into the boo buckets.

Proud was an understatement. Dressed in black, I piled six ninja children into my  15 passenger van and began the slow creep through housing. My kids were phenomenal. No crying, no falling, no freezing in fear, no forgetting part of the team. 

Mission accomplished.

The next morning I went over to one of the homes and let the mom know it was our family that had booed them. We were (and still are) good friends and in a prideful moment I wanted to hear how truly awesome her family thought our boo bucket was.

“Oh, it was you?” she asked with eyes downcast.

“Yes! What did you think?”

“Well,” She began sheepishly. “My husband refused to allow the children to have it and he threw it all away.”

“What? Why?”

“Anthrax.”

Wait. What? Wait.

“Anthrax?”

I live on a military installation. Have I mentioned that before? I think I have.

Level intensity. High. All day, every day.

I walked away and while disappointed, understood the mindset of her husband. What I know to be true is that every man and woman that wears the uniform in this great country of ours is a shepherd at heart. They are always watching, always observing, always ready to protect.  In that moment, I realized that our military professionals cannot separate who they are moment to moment. A protection mentality is at the very core of their being.

Having never donned the uniform, I cannot fully appreciate nor understand why anthrax contaminated candy immediately came to my neighbor’s mind. I will say with confidence though, as an American citizen with Marines as neighbors, I will sleep soundly this Halloween night.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

“The wind began to switch – the house to pitch and suddenly the hinges started to unhitch.

Just then the Witch – to satisfy an itch went flying on her broomstick, thumbing for a hitch.

And oh, what happened then was rich.

The house began to pitch. The kitchen took a slitch.

It landed on the Wicked Witch in the middle of a ditch,

Which was not a healthy situation for the Wicked Witch.”

-The Wizard of Oz

As I sit on my porch sipping coffee and pondering my military life I hear it.

 

You know what it is. That hauntingly familiar sound of gears grinding, sticks shifting and plumes of exhaust pluming. It slowly rounds the corner wanting nothing more than to engulf everything I hold dear in life and once, having satisfied its bloodlust, simply drives away.

It is the dreaded moving van.

 

If only for a moment my skin becomes clammy and a slow dizziness overtakes me.

Then, I suddenly remember we are not due to move this summer.

Well that was an uncomfortable moment. More coffee?

Our turn will be here before we know it so I’m always mentally preparing myself.

Part of my mental preparedness comes in the form of motivational sayings from my active duty husband. Lucky for all of us, many of the quotes come from his highly respected and motivating Marine boot camp Drill Instructor. The man had a way with words. Such a wordsmith was he that were I to post them, women would blush, gentleman would yell, “here, here now!”  and my blog would be removed from the interwebs all-together. I give you a palatable family favorite…

“If you ain’t cheatin,’ then you ain’t tryin’.”

He was right you know. With verbal judo as his weapon of choice, the DI impressed upon my then 18 year-old husband a powerful life lesson. While in no way implying nor suggesting unethical behavior, he was simply teaching think outside of the box and get creative with the task at hand. Though a situation may appear difficult or even unsurpassable, you must make it work for you. You mold the situation into a desirable option often, not always, with a positive outcome.

It was just last year that we moved and the year before and two years before that. So, the tale I tell is still so very fresh in my mind.

A cross-country move for many is a life goal on the very top of one’s bucket list. But, for military families, it can be an annual necessity of life whether by planes, trains or automobiles. When we hear the words cross-country, thoughts of car sick children vomiting, less than savory motel rooms, wrong turns taken (even with a GPS) and radiators exploding in the desert all come to mind.

Not for me. I embrace the words of wisdom delivered so many years ago by that warrior god walking the grounds of Perris Island.

I made a decision then and there to make our 7th cross-country the experience of a lifetime.

The house was packed out, the moving van had pulled away and the kids were ready to go. We hopped in our two vehicles and set a goal of 8 hours without stopping. Oceanside, California to wherever 8 hours with too many kids and animals to count would take us that day. Slow and easy was the mantra for our upcoming adventure.

Around hour 4 we reached Yuma, Arizona and small dark clouds began to swirl in the distance. A few lightening strikes, nothing I hadn’t seen before.  Fascinating and frightening all at the same time.  I love a good desert lightening show, I thought.  This trip is going to be epic.

Suddenly the clouds became dark and ominous. Dust Devils began to form with jack rabbits darting to and fro. Something was afoot! In an instant a wall of sand, rain and cloud came barreling down upon us.  I immediately lost sight of my husband and our 6 other children. (Side note – I am capable of riding with only one child at a time.  Apparently, that is my limit. I chose child #5 thinking I had chosen well only to learn later that I had not). As the storm surrounded us, we lost complete visibility.

Blackout.

Tumbleweed, small rocks and debris were all striking the windshield with bands of rain, then sand then rain again. In this kind of situation, one must make the decision to either maintain speed and risk hitting someone who has stopped ahead of you or slow down and risk being hit from behind. I was tailing my husband closely and watched as my 5-year old’s chubby little hand thrust the dog dish out the window and in a gust of wind he lost his grip. The metal dish bounced on the interstate creating sparks then shot up and hit my windshield. I hit my brakes just in time to see a desert antelope springboard off my car hood, then to my left there was a desert tortoise laying on his back laughing at me. To my right stood a frontier Army ghost brigade at Parade Rest and just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse, my sweet Auntie was directly above my car riding a bicycle waving at me. With the mercy of sudden distraction, I frantically waved back. It was at that moment Auntie slowly morphed into my husband’s former DI. He was riding atop a tank and called out to me, “If you aint  cheaten,’ then you ain’t tryin!”

“Jesus take the wheel!,” I screamed as I slammed on the brakes throwing my right arm across Rebecca  to brace her for impact.  It was at that point I noticed she was laughing hysterically while filming me with her Iphone.

I repeat, I chose the wrong driving companion.

“Stop filming me and call Daddy right now,” I yelled.   She quickly dialed his number and my combat hardened husband dryly answered, “Hello, this is Dad, how may I help you?” In my unglued state I screamed, “I cannot drive in this!” He calmly replied, “Just follow the white line on the right until we get through the storm.” So that’s what I did. I followed that white line all the way off an exit down a service road into a zero-visibility gully not knowing if I had level ground or a 30-foot drop on either side of me. I looked up the embankment just in time to see the red tail lights of the family roadster slowly fade into the storm.

So, this is how it ends? Very disappointing I thought to myself.

I turned to my daughter (who was posting her film) and inquired, “any ideas? I’m tapped out.”

She calmly replied, “get back on the road Mom.”

And so, I did.

As if being shaken from a deep sleep, in an instant we pulled out of the bands of dust, rain and wind into a clear, starlit night.

We pulled over at a rest stop and engaged in lively discussion with another motorist only to find out we had driven through a Desert Monsoon. Raise your hand if you have ever heard of that.

Exactly, me neither.

I became a different person that evening. I am now a white-knuckled driver who pulls over at the slightest change in cloud formation. I cannot watch The Mummy and I’m still mad at my daughter. I have yet to watch the Scorsese-esque film she created that night but maybe someday.

We never did find out why sweet baby CJ threw the metal dog dish out the window, perhaps he was aiming for the desert antelope.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Semper Fido

A guide to traveling with pets during your PCS

Every summer, all across this great nation, thousands of military families receive Permanent Change of Station orders or what we refer to as PCS-ing. While many  hop a jet plane to locations far and wide, some of us engage in the great American past time of the cross-country road trip.

Orders have been cut, it’s time to move and thoughts of what to do slowly flood the mind.

Will we live on base, rent out in town or perhaps buy a new home? Are the schools desirable and will they offer the classes my child needs? What about clothes? Are we moving from flip flop central to a place that requires sub-z gear? To say there is a lot to think about is truly an understatement.

As you’re on the computer conducting searches of every kind, you feel a furry friend slowly glide by your leg. The cat! What am I going to do with the cat? Or perhaps you have a dog, or two dogs or a cat and a dog and 3 goldfish.

Your move just went next level.

Our pets are family members and for some, our fur babies. As you begin your plans for the upcoming move, do not leave pet accommodations to chance.

So, the mini van is packed, everyone has claimed their seat and the dog is perched on suitcases in the very back, ears touching the car roof. You take one last pic of your old house and jump into the running car when that familiar smell of dog-kid-sweat-feet hits you. My husband calls it stank soup. I call it my life.

It’s going to be a long ride.

Of our 15 moves thus far, 8 of them involved a pet in tow. While planning a few of those many moves, I just did not have time to think about our pet. I have always considered them part of the kid count and it was simply a matter of coercing Fido into the car. One of our dogs personally completed 5 cross country moves. The very definition of a salty dog!

In the beginning for us, most motels would allow pets in “pet only” rooms which often were pretty disgusting. There was a time where many base lodging facilities had pet accommodating rooms but I haven’t seen them lately. I sure hope that some still exist.

During one of our cross-country moves, we were chugging along and were quite fortunate to find motels and hotels that allowed our dog. On night 4 of our journey, we were in Texas and reserved a room at the base lodge. As we received our keys around midnight, the desk clerk asked, “Oh, you don’t have an animal, do you? We have a no pet policy.”

Everyone…back in the car.

Something I never stopped to consider was where do the animals go when we stop to eat? Everyone looks forward to that hour where we get out of the car, stretch our legs and catch a

breath of fresh air. What do you do with a pet?

Answer: You take turns walking him while the rest of the family stares at you through the restaurant window.

The struggle is real.

The few times we decided to leave the dog in the car, she did not react well. We made sure she was safe and comfy but like many animals, she would let us know when she was irritated. Occasionally, she has engaged in some very unsavory behavior while in the minivan alone. Occurrences that could never be discussed in polite company. She was definitely angry and she let us know it from both ends.  It was quite impressive for the short amount of time we left her. (I always try to pull the positive from a negative situation).

It is imperative that you do your homework before the moving van pulls away! While many military moves revolve around a family reunion or a famous American landmark, a pet owner’s route is often dictated by how many four-legged friends they keep company with.

Sigh. My life is not my own.

I was so excited when a friend in the unit told me that Holiday Inn Express hotels are pet friendly. (This is not an ad- just advice).  They charge a small fee per animal and it is simply added on to your total bill. Sure enough we made reservations from Southern California to Washington, D.C. and had no trouble. It really was quite remarkable to be able to simply walk the dog into the room with us.  We were shocked to see however, that our dog has mad attitude. While visiting New Mexico we worked our pet friendly hotel in with a sightseeing expedition to the Carlsbad Caverns (For many years I actually thought they were in Carlsbad, California…). We toured the caverns for several hours only to return with concerned staff politely letting us know that man’s best friend had continuously barked the entire day. I was mortified. BUT, thank goodness we were at a hotel with likeminded people!

A few tips prior to embark:

1.  Complete all of your vet visits to include vaccinations PRIOR to leaving your current base.

2. Purchase a 6 month supply of flea/tick and heartworm meds from the base vet PRIOR to leaving your current duty station. Pet meds are lost in the sauce during a pack out so it’s best to keep them close at hand.

3. Get your pet micro-chipped as soon as possible (it is a base regulation if you plan on taking military quarters) and always hand carry your pet’s records. It makes pet registration so much easier when you are attempting to move into military housing or register at pet lodging. Pet registration is one of many required steps when moving onto base. Also check into breed restrictions for the base you are relocating to. Military housing may not even be a consideration for you.

3. Pack your pet their own suitcase. To include food, extra leashes, collars, toys, food and water dishes. Don’t forget the snacks and perhaps a fancy outfit. You never know.

4. If you plan on living in temporary lodging while waiting for a rental or base house, consider kenneling your dog in a “pack” kennel. The dogs run in a pack on parcels of land. We have used them on both coasts. Very cool! There are amazing pet hotels, for cats, dogs and other species with AC, outdoor play time and swimming pools as well! They ALL require documentation of up-to-date vaccinations and medications. No exceptions!

5.  Keep in mind your pet is NOT a dependent. You cannot submit receipts for any pet costs that I am aware of to include travel, lodging and kenneling.

6. Never sneak your animal into a hotel or base lodge knowing it is against the rules. Some people have severe allergies and will possibly react to your pet long after you have checked out. The staff often recognize military families and you embarrass us all when your behavior is less than stellar! (I’m older than you, I can say that!)

If you simply cannot move both family and pet together consider looking into a pet relocation service. They will gladly guide you on how to meet up with your pet on the other side of your PCS. You can also find installation guidelines both at the base veterinary office and online.

While moving with pets can be difficult, I encourage you to work it into your PCS plans and enjoy the ensuing adventure.

Semper Fido!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

FREE VITA TAX PREP ON BASE

Yep, you heard that right!

At this very moment there are uniformed warrior-gods not only ready to engage the enemy, but prepare your taxes (which can be quite the battle too).

Many U.S. military installations across our great nation and around the world are collaborating with the IRS to offer free, in-person tax preparation services for active duty members, retirees and dependents. Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA, our active duty and their families have one less thing to worry about in a lifestyle that can often times be filled with uncertainty.

According to Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, the Executive Director of the Armed Forces Tax Council, “Taxes for military members are complicated, noting frequent moves, deployments and the fact that tax laws change every year. The VITA preparers receive extensive training through the Defense Department and the IRS on the situations faced in the military community, such as combat zone tax benefits, extensions to file and pay, and special rules for the earned income tax credit.”

Have I had my taxes prepared by VITA? You bet your sweet return I have! (Full disclosure: a few years back I went to the dark side and had my taxes prepared by a national chain. In fact, I paid the fees to have 4 years of VITA returns checked. Not a single mistake was found. Very impressive to say the least.)

Gather your tax information for the past year (and an up-to-date power of attorney if your spouse is deployed) and head on over to your local VITA offices. Make sure to bring along your bank information that include routing numbers, as well as original social security cards of all dependent family members.

You will find professional, uniformed personnel under the guidance of an expert overseer that are able to file both federal and state returns. The entire process is free, all you have to do is make that appointment!

The deadline to file this year is April 17 with military members serving outside the United States receiving an automatic two-month extension.

VITA is a wonderful way our country gives back to our service members and their families who sacrifice so much.

So get going!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Welcome Home Commitment

The year: 2005

The place: El Centro, California

The temperature: a balmy 115 degrees

If you have never heard of El Centro, think the desert scene in Star Wars, Return of the Jedi (it was filmed there) – and we’re talking surface-of-the-sun hot. We were on the tail end of our 5th cross-country Permanent Change of Station (PCS) from Virginia to California with our (then) 5 children and one dog. A proper Saharan caravan on its last leg.

It was then that our minivan tires began to give. I remember looking behind from the front-seat of our car with concern, and seeing five red-faced children staring nervously back. They were dripping with sweat in our vehicle-turned-sauna. Our panting dog sat atop a stack of suitcases, like some busted-up driveway lion, guarding nothing in particular. We had turned off the air conditioner, as it was serving no purpose other than raising our engine temperature. Outside, it was simply too hot, and the system could not keep up.

But suddenly, on the horizon – an oasis! Wait a minute…is it a mirage? No! A Walmart Super Center!

To us wayward travelers, it was as if we had stumbled upon the Fountain of Youth. We limped into the auto bay, handed over the keys and apologized to the mechanic for the yet-to-be identified smell of the interior. I considered pulling the food off the dash board and then thought hmmm – warm lunch for later. I walked away not caring if I ever got back into the van again.

As I watched my children frolicking in the freezer section, I pondered our current situation. We had prepared for the move and traveled so far only to be caught off guard. Again. We were stuck in the moment, with a most unlikely sanctuary suddenly appearing.

For many Veterans, transition may be like a desert experience. After years of forward progress, professional success and reliable constants, they come to a sudden stop where there appears to be no help in sight.  An abrupt halt they thought they were prepared for but perhaps were not.

Our military and their families acknowledge there are certain constants in this lifestyle of choice. We know a deployment is always in our near future, as well as moves, multiple school changes for our children, and an ‘interesting’ housing choice at each station. Let’s not forget the most important constant of all: separation and retirement. You might be Captain America right now, but at some point, the military is going to break up with you. It is a reality.

While meeting sudden, emergency needs like ours in 2005, Walmart also recognizes the long-lasting constants. They recognize that life can get hard, and they recognize the connection between their company and Veteran hiring needs.

In 2013 the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment was started in an effort to identify and hire Veterans. Leaving the military can be one of the most difficult transitions a Veteran will face, and Walmart guarantees a job for all eligible, honorably discharged U.S. Veterans separated from active duty since Memorial Day of 2013. The company has a goal of hiring 250,000 Veterans by the end of 2020 and have already reached over 75% of that goal.

According to the Department of Defense, more than 1,300 new Veterans and their family members return to civilian life every day. 1,300! The transition from active duty to civilian life can be difficult at times, and for some, debilitating. Walmart is attempting to bridge the gap understanding the elite nature and capabilities of our Veterans and their spouses. They recognize the honorably discharged Veteran is a highly-trained, expertly skilled leader with a desire to achieve, long after separation from the military.  The company has recognized the need and recently announced that it has hired more than 194,000 Veterans and promoted more than 28,000 to positions of greater responsibility nationwide since 2013.

But wait…there’s more…Walmart is not done yet.

In a first-of-its-kind event, Walmart co-sponsored Veteran EDGE, a three-day conference and training summit dedicated to Veteran-owned businesses.  The corporation is passionate in their desire to assist Veterans and their spouses in search of meaningful careers not just through their hiring programs but also through entrepreneurial efforts. An all-in for Veterans not simply to find them a job but to assist them throughout their entire career journey.

Through a partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, Veteran EDGE was held February 16-18 in Austin, Texas.  The conference targeted Veteran and military spouse small business owners from across the country by providing opportunities for networking and the sharing of business ideas.

More than 5 million Americans are employed by the more than 2.5 million Veteran owned businesses in the U.S. generating more than 1.1 trillion in sales annually. Needless to say, Veteran owned businesses play a vital role in our nation’s economy.

And I should point out that fewer than 1% of our country’s citizens currently serve in the armed forces.

For Veterans and their families, transition can be a very unstable and constantly shifting environment. But, Walmart recognizes the value in supporting and hiring this superior group as employees and potential leaders of their corporation. And just as they worked to get us back on the road to our new duty station, so Walmart works to get our Veterans on their way to a bright future.

Consider the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment an anchor and a new constant in your time of transition.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

To learn more about Walmart’s Veterans Welcome Home Commitment and overall support to veterans, service members and their families, visit www.walmartcareerwithamission.com

To learn more about the first-of-its-kind Veteran EDGE event, visit https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/veteranedge/

MARINE ARROGANCE 

In honor of our Corps’ 242nd birthday I attempted to write a heartfelt tribute only to stumble upon this outstanding explanation of “Marine arrogance.” 

In December 2013, a Marine Sergeant wrote this in response to a comment posted on the Marine Corps’ website complaining of “Marine arrogance”.
The Sergeant responds,
“I think that’s what makes Marines special, if only in our own minds, is that elusive Quality of Esprit D’Corps. It’s the fact that we, as individual Marines, don’t feel that we are individual Marines. When we wear our uniform, when we hear our Hymn, when we go into battle, we are going with every other Marine who ever wore the uniform.
Standing behind us are the Marines who fought during the birth of our nation. We’re standing with the Marines who fought in WWI and gave birth to the legend of the “Tueful Hunden”, or “Devil Dogs”. We are standing with the Marines who took Iwo and Tarawa and countless other blood soaked islands throughout the Pacific.
We are standing with the “Frozen Chosin” and our beloved Chesty Puller. We are standing with the Marines who battled at Hue City and Khe Sanh and the muddy rice paddies of South East Asia. We are standing with the Marines who fought in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom and now, are fighting in Afghanistan.
Like real brothers, their blood courses through our veins, and when we go into battle, we would rather lay down our lives than be a disappointment to them. We carry on our backs, their legacy, their deaths and their honor. We carry that for the rest of our lives.
The Marines Corps uniform doesn’t come off when our active duty is over. We wear it daily in our attitude, and our love of Corps and country. We wear it on our tattoos and our bumper stickers. We wear it in our hearts.
It’s why, no matter where we are in the world, on November 10th, every Marine celebrates the Marine Corps birthday. It’s why we’ll never be an army of 1. It’s why we never stop being Marines. It’s why, for most of us, being a Marine isn’t something we were. It’s something we are.
It’s the most important part of who and what we are. Some say we’re arrogant. We say we’re proud. We have a right to be proud. We are the United States Marines the most feared and ferocious group of warriors to walk the face of this earth.
When Americas’ enemies formulate their battle plans, they plan on going around Marine units, because they know Damn well that they can’t go through them. We are what other branches wish they were.
We are the modern day Spartans. This isn’t bragging. It’s written in the battle history of our country. When there’s a parade and the Marines march by, everyone pays a little more attention. Some say “arrogance”. We call it “pride”. It’s why, in a crowd of service men, you can always spot the Marine. Why are Marines special? I don’t know. We just are.”
If that doesn’t make you want a giant slice of birthday cake, nothing will! Happy Birthday Marines!
Entertainingly Yours,
Cassie

Show and Tell

As a young boy, my husband often found himself in places he should not have been. This includes (but is not limited to): His older brother’s bedroom, the living room that his mother kept so perfectly and, of course, his step-father’s study.

Occasionally, he will recount for our children the day he snuck into the study and simply started looking around.  His step-dad, a Vietnam era fighter pilot and Colonel in the Air Force, was an old school, American fighting man. His office, like so many others, was visual proof of a long and illustrious career of honorable service to his beloved nation. Certificates, trophies, citations and mementos from worldwide travel hung on walls and sat on shelves.

In his search for nothing in particular, my husband came across a pen. But, this was no ordinary pen and my future husband knew it. He quietly slipped the pen into his front pocket and tip-toed out of dear old dad’s office.

 Next stop… Show and Tell.

Raise your hand if you remember Show and Tell. What a great opportunity to share the doll you received for your birthday or new baseball bat you received for Christmas. My husband was and has never been that predictable. He was an over-achieving Kindergartner, not to be outdone.

As he was called up front to present, one can envision the class patiently waiting for the next classmate’s turn (perhaps even a little bored, depending on what their fellow students had brought to share). Like a magician playing to a full house, with drama and flair, Joe removed the pen from his front pocket and thrust his arm high in the air. On the front of the pen was a woman dressed in a black one piece bathing suit.  When turned upside down, the suit slowly dropped to reveal a nude woman. He turned it right side up and voila, she was dressed again! Point up, naked lady. Point down dressed lady, and so it went. For a five-year-old, it was mesmerizing to say the least.

As an educator myself, I imagine his teacher sitting at her back desk possibly grading papers and probably paying little attention to the items brought from home that day. I also imagine her, upon looking up and seeing the unpalatable pen, pulling together her 1970’s poly-rayon dress and scaling not only her desk but subsequent desks much like an Olympic hurdler going for gold.

A day that will go down in infamy at The Kiddie College of Orlando, Florida.

The military culture also has a form of Show and Tell, though nowhere near as scandalous. As far back as I can remember, there have been ceremonies and socials, recognition and recitations all in an effort to send the message “well done” to an active duty service member and often times their spouse. But what happens when the party dies down and the parade is over? You find yourself with a collection of really amazing, one-of-a-kind awards, photos, trophies and certificates. Fast forward a few decades into a career and you have what the military sarcastically refers to as an “I love me” wall. Some may even think it hearkens, “look at me, look at me, I’m awesome, aren’t I?”

Not really.

 A properly hung wall inspires the next generation to create their own accomplishments. Everything on the wall is a story to be shared. A memory to be pondered and a piece of history for all who observe. It is a celebration of camaraderie and the relationships forged during adversity and challenge. A display of gratitude to all the people who served along with you. It also gives our younger service members a sense of enthusiasm and offers a glimpse of what he or she may experience while serving. The wall acknowledges combat experience, multiple deployments, personal achievements, promotions and displays an overall dedication and love for country.

In the simplest of moments, the awards wall is a fabulous conversation starter and point of interest during a unit gathering in your home. I have actually seen people tear up when recognizing a comrade in arms or recalling a fond memory with a unit.  Honestly, how many people do you know who have earned the title of Shell Back for their first crossing of the Equator or own aerial shots of themselves in an F-18? It is always fabulous and always interesting from your first plaque to your certificate of retirement.

Unfortunately, it is not all guts and glory. If you are a cut-up, your farewell gift may reflect that. I recently heard a friend describe a gift her husband received from the unit as a farewell. A toilet seat that when opened revealed a picture of himself. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that? Would that go on my wall? Absolutely.  I’m sure they hang well but it would have to be the right color of course.

If you are just starting out, I encourage you to hang with pride. My husband’s “I love me” wall is my job (by choice) to create every time we move. I find a place of honor in our home for the branch he serves in, pride in my country and to reminisce about our amazing experiences together.

Sadly, there still is no room for the naughty pen on our wall.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

I’m with the Band

Whether it is a change of command, retirement ceremony, post and relief or military ball, there is nothing more engaging than live entertainment. Unfortunately, there is nothing more expensive either. Not to worry! With a little thought and some prior planning, your fete will be memorable with the addition of musicians, vocalist or dancers.

The military ensembles that we see playing at almost all ceremonies are steeped in tradition and the customs of our respective branches. Who doesn’t love entering an event hearing the sound of a brass band playing an American tune? Music can be patriotic, moving, motivating and exciting. To sit and enjoy a band of active duty military in uniform can be quite an emotional experience for our civilian guests – just ask them.

If your spouse is in command, he or she may “rate the band” for a command function, meaning they can submit a formal request for music at the official command event. You, as the spouse, have nothing to do with this process. As my husband has been known to say to me, “Don’t make requests of the active duty – they don’t work for you.”

*Record scratch*

Your birthday, baby shower, anniversary and going away are absolutely not events that rate a band request. Surprised? Don’t be.

The installation musicians support many different commands, and your spouse must make the request months in advance. String ensembles, brass quartets, full marching bands and vocalists are some of the possibilities offered.

The beauty of these active duty warrior-musicians is that they show up, ready to perform. No dressing rooms, no glass of green M&Ms – no absurd special requests. They are always excellent and after the ceremony *poof* they are gone! Keep in mind, most (if not all) active duty musicians are not only trained professional military, but also hold undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in their respective fields of music. They should be treated as the consummate professionals they are. Always offer the band members a full brunch, lunch, or dinner (add them to your RSVP count) as well as water bottles (especially if the event is held outdoors).

Always remember that located just outside the walls of every duty station is the culture that surrounds it. For example, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton sits on what was once a thriving Ranchero. The Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores (the original ranch house) is a stunning venue for ceremonies of all types. Why not invite the local Ballet Folklorico to preform? There is nothing more beautiful than the men, women and children of the troop, in full regalia dancing with the Ranchero as their backdrop. You offer them a private monetary donation for their school of dance, agreed upon prior to your event and invite them to stay for lunch or dinner (add them to your RSVP count). You should also give them a professional introduction to your guests. This is an absolute win-win for all involved. As military families, we must be continuously reaching out to our surrounding cities in what is essentially good public relations. Our civilian families in turn, have the opportunity to get to know their local military which they love!

I have seen everything from Miss USO singing the National Anthem at a birthday ball to hearing the haunting sounds of bagpipes magnified in the spaces of a Marine F-18 hangar.

Remember, anything you and your spouse choose to do, is financially your responsibility. If in doubt, always consult the command legal team.

Upon arriving to your new duty station, dig deeply into the surrounding areas. What is it famous for? And what are its specialties? Keep your ear to the ground for any spouses who have musical talents. We have concert pianist, vocalists and professional harpists living right in housing. By hiring “in house” you are supporting fellow military families.

Remember, if we all had unlimited funds, my post would be unnecessary. This is about being financially creative yet still hosting the event of your dreams! Now go get your band!
Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie