This past May I had the awesome experience of attending the Military Blogging Conference in Arlington. It was amazing and I met so many wonderful people. One of the absolutely wonderful people I met was the absolutely darling Cameron from Military Town Advisor. Seriously, she is sweet and darling and has come up with an amazing and cool website. Something I wish I had known about before we started looking to move. I’m thankful we were lucky and ended up in a wonderful neighborhood, but seriously, how do you know for sure when you are going anywhere? Areas vary from street to street, and you never can tell whats up until you are there, or you send someone to wander the streets of the area you move into. Real Estate people can’t really ever tell you the down and dirty and unless you are moving on base, the area around the base might be a crap shoot. Thankfully now there is Military Town Advisor, your one stop shop for all the information you need in your neighborhood. I recently just submitted my own review of the last neighborhood we moved out of and it was super easy. I will continue to submit reviews concerning neighborhoods that I’ve lived in. So, without further adieu, let me introduce you to Cameron, a fellow Mil-Spouse.
How I came up with the idea of MilitaryTownAdvisor.com:
As newlyweds, my husband and I were stationed in Kingsville, Texas. I was new to military life and the only information I knew was that we were either going to a base on the East or the West Coast. I immediately began researching both coasts and attempting to gather as much information as possible. I quickly learned that the majority of information that can be found on the internet about towns and areas are tourist guides and statistics about the demographics of the area. Or I would go on Facebook and ask other military families and they always suggested areas that were good for their lifestyle not areas that fit my family’s needs. I ended up discouraged and resigned to the fact that I could not go any further in my research until we received our orders.
When we got our orders and were headed to Virginia Beach we spent seven days looking for a place to live. We contacted a realtor and she started showing us homes. She took us all over Hampton Roads and didn’t really listen to our needs. This took up a lot of time and we wanted to buy a house all in a week’s time frame. Needless to say, we were extremely nervous about picking a house in the right area. Luckily we found a house in a great area, close to the base, with good school districts; however, this was not the outcome for many of our fellow military families. Some of our new friends chose homes far from base where it may have been more cost effective, but they ended up regretting being so far from the activities that are centered around the base. Also, others chose neighborhoods that were close to the base but did not end up feeling safe in those areas, especially during deployments. As each new family told me their story, the concept of MilitaryTownAdvisor.com was born. I knew that military families were the best resource for other military families. I understand the uncertainty and fear that can come with a quick move to a new part of the country, the lack of readily available information, and the need for each of us to be able to learn from each others’ missteps and successes.
How this site is unique: First, all of MilitaryTownAdvisor’s content is written by other military families in the form of reviews. It’s like TripAdvisor for military towns! The reviews focus on neighborhoods, areas of towns, and schools. Military families are different than other home buyers because they aren’t looking to purchase their ‘dream’ home. They want their families in safe, family friendly, social neighborhoods that are in good school districts and within a decent commute to base. Military families are willing to give up ‘dream home’ extras for a good neighborhood. The site is a way for other military families to share their knowledge about where to live.
How to use the site: When you get your new orders, go to MilitaryTownAdvisor.com and search for reviews near your base. Read the reviews and make note of neighborhoods that fit your family’s lifestyle and needs. Then contact a realtor or go to sites like MilitaryByOwner.com and start looking for homes in those neighborhoods.
How we met: My husband and I met at Texas A&M our senior year. We shared the same major and started dating. After school was out, we both moved to Houston and my husband began working for his family and I worked at a bank. After experiencing the ‘real’ world and being unsatisfied, my husband decided to fly for the Navy. We married and moved to Kingsville, Texas for his advanced training in jet aviation. We both are Texans and have enjoyed moving around with the Navy, but hope to move back to Texas one day where we can have grandparents close by to help raise our kids.
About me: I graduated from Texas A&M University with a BA in Finance. I played Division 1 Soccer for Texas A&M all 4 years, in addition to being in the Pi Beta Phi sorority. I worked for a Comerica Bank in Houston for 3 years, then was a 5th Grade Math Teacher in South Texas (while hubby was in flight training), then once we were stationed in VA Bch, I have worked as a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep for GlaxoSmithKline for the past 6 years. I launched MilitaryTownAdvisor.com 6 months ago in Jan 2012 while having and infant and a 3 year old.
Upcoming: I am the ‘Resource of the Week” on Amy Wife Network Talk Radio http://www.armywifenetwork.com/ Listen to the show at 8pm (i go on about 9pm) Monday July 16th, 2012!!
Current Promotion: For the month of July, we are donating $1 for every review left on the website to Operation Homefront!
Happy Monday Everyone! Its been a crazy last couple days here in the District, which is why things have been a little quiet here on Cammo Style Love. We had a massive storm, leaving millions without power here in the area. It was absolutely terrifying!! The wind was hurricane force and it literally littered our house, cars and yards with tree limbs and branches of all shapes and sizes. After waking up the next morning and learning about all the devastation and destruction I was so grateful that the giant tree in our yard didn’t get uprooted, like so many other huge trees in our very neighborhood. But anyway, so happy that we are here and safe and we are one of the lucky ones with power. What better way to celebrate then another installment of my military life series.
This post is from new blogging buddy discovery of mine. I happened upon her blog only a couple months ago and was hooked! Absolutely lovin’ it and she has inspired a few blogging ideas of my own (with full credit of course!). She’s amazingly fit women, and wonderful mama to their darling daughter and a super wifey to her super hubby!!! She’s a fellow mil-spouse and has some awesome tips for you fellow spouses out there!!
Hi everyone! I am SUPER excited to be guest posting for Rheanna today. My name is Madeline and I blog at Food, Fitness, and Family. I mainly write about good food, sweaty workouts, and life as a family of three but at the center of it all I am an Army wife raising an Army family. As any military spouse knows marrying into the military thrusts a never-ending cycle of changes upon as, and we, as women, adapt and move on. One of the biggest changes a military family can face is a PCS (permanent change of station). Having done this three times in the last three years I am no stranger to packing up our lives and starting fresh. Our most recent PCS was 2 months ago to Fort Stewart, GA. One of the hardest things about moving is leaving an established social network and heading into the unknown. I jump in feet first when I get to a new duty station and establish a new social network as soon as possible. These are some tips that have worked for me when trying to meet friends at a new duty station.
1.Check out your FRG. Before you gasp and say “not the FRG!” hear my out. An FRG is a family readiness group designed to support the families. While not every FRG is a good one there are many many out there that are. Before you make a judgment on your new FRG try it out. Then before you write it off because you don’t like it, try to get involved. Seek THEM out. They might not have your contact info yet or know you’re there to welcome you. Send them an email and ask for the information.
2.See if your installation has a spouses’ club. Most duty stations still have some sort of volunteer spouses’ club. Some still have them as officer or enlisted spouses’ clubs but more and more they are being combined into one. There is typically a monthly luncheon that you can attend. Again, don’t knock it until you try it 😉
3.Check out MeetUp.com. It’s a free service for forming groups. If you have kids this is a great way to see if there is an established playgroup at your installation. I have found 3 here at Fort Stewart already. If you don’t have kids but have some sort of passion, like running, see if there’s a running group nearby.
4.Host a BBQ. Your spouse has it much easier when it comes to making new friends because they are thrust into a new unit where they see people every day and can pick and choose who they want to hang out with. Mooch off them. I always invite my husband’s friends, WITH their families, over for a BBQ. I have made some of my best friends this way. The added bonus is that since our spouses already got along it opened the door to a lot of “couples” functions.
5.Go in with an open mind. True friendship often comes in the unlikeliest places. Remember that every other military spouse at your installation has been thru what you’re going thru. I would like to think we are pretty welcoming bunch.
6.Pay It Forward. Once you’ve been at your installation for a while and you have grown your network of friends, reach out to the new wives. Remember what it felt like to not know anyone and be the person welcoming them to the area. Invite them out to coffee. Pay it forward.
Any-who … thanks Rheanna for letting me hang out in your corner of the blogosphere for the day. J
What tips do you have for spouses moving to a new duty station? How do you go about meeting new people?
Happy Sunday everyone. I hope this new post finds you all in good spirit this wonderful weekend. Happily I have a new guest post in my Military Lifestyle Series. I actually had the extreme pleasure of meeting Kris last month at the mil-blogging conference. So, not only is she a bloggy friend, but she’s now a real-life mil-spouse friend; and I am happy to count her as such. Hopefully we’ll get to meet up again soon! I am so excited to bring you the guest post of another National Guard Spouse. Kris is a wonderful blogger and you can find her over at The New Normal, which was also a finialist in this years Mil-Bloggie awards! Go Kris!! She brings a great perspective that I know so many others out there experience. They are a traditional National Guard family, and also joined up after marriage, which I think is a whole different ball game. She didn’t marry into this, this was a post-marriage decision and I think that’s pretty amazing. Anyway, I could go on and on……but I’ll let Kris. Enjoy!
That’s me and Kris rockin’ the white shirts, and another mil-blogging pal!
Hello!! I’m Kris from The New “Normal.” Thank you, Rheanna, for allowing me to guest blog today about our crazy military life! We are an Army National Guard family living in the lovely Midwest. My husband and I have been married 11 years and we have been an Army family for just about 5 years now. It’s definitely been 5 years full of ups and downs with the military, but it is a part of our life that I wouldn’t change for anything and despite all of the obstacles, it has been one of the best decisions that we made as a family.
When I met my husband, he had mentioned the fact that joining the military was something that he has always dreamed of doing. Having no one in my family or circle of friends with any military experience, I thought he was crazy. Why would anyone want to do that? That was back in 1997. Fast forward to September 11, 2001. We had been married a couple of months and after that tragic day, talks of my husband’s wish to join the military resumed. Sadly, as a selfish new wife, I did not want to think of my husband in that role and put him off a little longer, saying I wanted kids first. 6 years and 2 kids later, my husband finally told me, “If I never join the Army, it will be something that I regret for the rest of my life.” I knew then how much it meant to him and I fully supported his decision, so at 27 he headed off as the “old man” (as the drill sergeants called him!) to Basic Training for the Army National Guard. They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, and in this case I couldn’t more agree because knowing what I know now, I wish I had been more supportive of my husband’s military dreams when we first met. When it comes to the Army, he excels and it is his passion. And in turn, it is something that I love for our family as well.
My husband decided to join the National Guard rather than Active Army because of family ties. He is an integral part of his family’s small business and did not feel like he could completely walk away from the civilian side. We had also established a home in our current city and he did not want to disrupt our family life. He saw joining the Guard as the best of both worlds; he could fulfill his duty with the military while remaining in the civilian world at the same time. This has been a decision that we waver on constantly and at many times wish that we had chosen to go Active Duty when he first joined. There are many benefits to being a Guard family – we do not have to move every few years, we choose where we want to live, my career can thrive – and I am grateful for those opportunities.
Life with the National Guard also brings about difficulties that at times are very frustrating. My husband’s current unit is located two hours from our home. Due to this, I do not participate as I would like to in the FRG and other unit events. I am one who loves to get involved and get to know people. Since many of the Soldiers in the unit are spread all over the state, the families rarely have the opportunity to get together, which made the deployment difficult for me. I wanted to reach out to the other wives. We all needed support but with there being such great distances between many of us (and a non-functioning FRG at the time) we found that extremely difficult. This made the time during our recent deployment very lonely and isolating at first. I felt like I was the only on going through this situation and that no one, try as they might, really understood what our family was going through. Thank heavens for all of the wonderful milspouse bloggers who became my support network during this time! Without this amazing community, I know I would not have survived our deployment as well as I did!
We find that being in the National Guard is a strange occurrence to many people around us on the civilian side. Many do not know just what they Guard is and we are asked lots of questions. We have found that most think that with the Guard, you do not deploy often, or at all, and that it really is just one weekend a month and two weeks a year. It always makes me laugh when people ask about that, as in the 5 years that my husband has been with the Guard he has been away for training for close to 3 years of that time! After the deployment, most people assumed that since he was not active Army that his returning home meant he has fulfilled his service obligation and now he was done. They were shocked when we would tell them that he wants to make it a career path and that he will definitely deploy again. At first I found the questions very frustrating, but then I began to realize that people asked their questions mostly out of genuine curiosity and that I was just like them once. Now I answer honestly and attempt to give them a better picture as to what the National Guard is and does.
Life with the Army National Guard brings its challenges, but “the grass is always greener on the other side” and I know that Active Duty Army has its many difficulties as well. Despite not being located near my husband’s unit, a base, or other military families, I do enjoy that we do not have to move every few years and our kids can remain in the school and house that they have always known. At times I do wish we could move around the country or overseas, but then again I have never had to deal with a PCS so I really have no idea how difficult that is! I love the fact that we are a military family but can still remain with our feet in the civilian world as well. I am proud of my husband and the choices that he has made to serve this country. It’s been a crazy 5 years, but years that I look back on with fond memories and cannot wait to see what the future years will bring!
Its been going around today so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon, since apparently that’s what I’m doing these days *wink wink*. Two other wonderful articles I read concerned the National Guard spouse who got the media involved in her lack of an R&R were on Spouse Buzz and Army Wife 101, and mine isn’t as good as theirs. But, what’s a blog for if it isn’t for expressing ones own feelings and venting out some annoyance. I have been a National Guard gf/fiance/Spouse (of various standing – Active Duty for almost the whole time) for 10 years. I have never lived on or near a base until about six months ago. I’ve never been to an FRG meeting, or had a pre-deployment briefing or meeting, or post deployment anything. I learned right away that the military is in charge when my wedding occurred four months later than I wanted (Yup I moved around a good ‘ole fashioned white wedding for the military). My husband was basically my only guide and example for about four years before I really became close with any fellow mil-spouses, and they weren’t close to me anyway (distance wise). He set the example for me. He explained things to me, and helped me through when I was frustrated with the change. I quickly learned that was the plan in the military. The plane WAS change. It became a joke in our house, humor to deal with the insanity. I’m not a betting woman, but I would lay a whole lot of money down on the fact that many military families cope with life in this same way. The military is the mistress, the other woman, and so on and so on. Taking this military life became really important to me and I experienced a lot of things most younger and new spouses did not experience and quickly became a senior spouse because of experience.
Another thing I came to realize is that though my husband is not alone, a lot of husbands don’t convey the importance of things properly to their wives. There are a lot of amazing husband and wives, and girl friends and fiance’s out there that do. I know I’m not alone, and I know there would be another girl/guy out there that would totally understand what I’m saying when I say, “I may not get to wear his rank, nor do I deserve it, but its just as important to me as if it was mine.” His career is important to me, and being insanely involved with my husband and understanding the in’s and out’s has been one of my ways of coping.
Now that I’ve blathered on and on, let me get to the point. The point of this is the National Guard spouse in question. If you haven’t already seen or read the article you can go here and check it out yourself. Personally I’m wondering more about her husband than I am her, although I am definitely questioning her actions 100%. Something wasn’t talked about. Something wasn’t explained. I wonder also about this feeling of entitlement that I feel like may or may not be occurring in this situation. The military won’t even guarantee your husband home for your child’s birth, so I’m pretty sure an R&R doesn’t rank up there in the Things To Do category. But I also question her need to rush to the media? Did she do this on her own? I mean, did she just get so incensed, and without checking on things that figuring out what’s what, she just immediately went there with it? Did she not consider what may happen to her husband when its seen that she’s talking like she is and demanding apologies not just from the Army, but from the Pentagon? Really? I get that she may be uneducated and far away from support, but so are lots of people that go through crud that don’t do this. Common sense has to come into play at some point. I feel bad for her, I feel bad for her kid. It’s sad. My kids have been through a lot of disappointment, but I explain to them in an adult way and I talk about what an honor it is to sacrifice for their country. Sure I’m real and we say it totally sucks that daddy isn’t here. I don’t live life looking through rose colored glasses, but I try to make life as rosy as I can for the kids.
I guess that’s my point really, in these last few words that I say. I get it, and you’re not alone, but I feel like excuses only get you so far.
There have been few times in my life as a Military Spouse that I have felt truly appreciated. Appreciated by someone other than my husband and in a way more profound than simply just a “thanks for your service” or a discount from a store. Not that those things aren’t truly appreciated and I am grateful for those things. Strangers acknowledging your service, along with your husband’s is amazing and always brings a smile to my face. I’m talking about true appreciation. The kind you can see in the eyes, deep in the soul of the person talking to you. The kind that makes your eyes water and your breath cut away. This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Milblogging conference. I was surrounded by Milbloggers of all types – veterans, active, spouses, supporters. It was a great experience and I learned a lot. There were many highlights of the event, meeting a Tuskegee Airmen, meeting women whose blogs I have spent countless hours reading, and meeting Scott, the Producer/Director of Act of Valor. The poster alone could make me just burst into tears, watching the trailers definitely does.
I was given the opportunity to sit down with Scott, thanks to Taylor at Our Military Home. Thank you, thank you Taylor for giving me the opportunity to talk with him. There have been so many interviews with Scott, and so much talked about when it comes to the movie. I mean, from the moment it hit the news that it was coming out people were just freaking out, myself included! First, I was suspicious of several things – Were they really Active Duty Navy Seals, were they really even REAL soldiers? What kind of potential OPSEC violations are we talking about (those that know me know I’m kinda crazy about that kind of stuff), are we relaying too much easily attainable info to our enemy? And lastly, and probably most importantly – how are we portraying these men and our Country. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a movie out there that Hollywood has just trashed our Country, the Military, the war and just have been an all around downer for morale. Movies like Stop-Loss, Platoon and Full-Metal Jacket. Skeptics of the movie ended up being people who hadn’t seen the movie. The easiest part was not to compromise TTPs. Navy Seals wouldn’t compromise their own work? And sure, its propaganda……”lets just show that if you join the Navy SEALS you’ll pretty much die right,” Scott told with a very flippant tone. But he’s right! Sure the trailer shows some pretty freaking awesome, stunt man, rock star moments, but there are plenty of real, raw and nitty-gritty aspects of the movie that they lay out for every one to see. Its not just rock-star moments. Its real, simple, sad moments, that you add to those rock-star moments, that make this movie what it is.
This is something that Scott talked about in his interview with us and publicly later, during a Q & A at the conference. People had been skeptical that a Pro-America, Pro-Military movie could make money! He made the point to say that it wasn’t necessarily that his movie was Pro Anything, it was simply Telling The Truth! What a novel idea. Just simply laying out the truth about this life would be enough to make it look like it was Pro-something. Wow, that thought just absolutely floored me. What does that mean about all those movies out there that are negative? They may be telling the truth, but they magnify it and take far too many liberties with it that they appear to be the norm. When in reality, many of our lives are simply just normal? Sure it might be abnormal to a civilian, but to us this is a military life. I thought it very poignant when Scott talked about the families – the wives and children of SEALS in the movie – that this was just a normal life for them. And as a spouse this is my first focus, during this interview with Scott. What about these families – these, men, these wives, girlfriends, children?
Scott said, “You know the saying, behind every strong man is an even stronger woman?” That is so true.” They really wanted to show that in this movie. And when he said that I gave it some thought. There aren’t too many movies that show that part of it. The mini-series The Pacific, is the last thing that I’ve really seen that focused any length of time talking about the families, wives and girlfriends. Many times they talk the girls that leave their men (Jarhead) and just the sad and negative. Again, not the norm. Scott wanted to focus on little subtle things to really emphasize the amazing “Normal” things, that somehow seem way more than just normal. Things like the pregnant wife putting together her crib. I know about this all too well. Recently I built a twin bunk bed, a chest of drawers, coffee table and put together a couch. So I know that part, as do many of my fellow spouses.
One of more emotional scenes for him to do was the Tarmac scene, showing the goodbye with the wives and children. It was so real for them. The kids became so invested and it was difficult for them to separate reality from the movie. As traumatic as this may sound I believe this is one of the more amazing aspects of a movie like this. You can’t get any more real, can you? Something interesting that he brought up that I didn’t even think about is the reality of a wife, holding it together for her husband, “but as soon as that door closes she’s a basketcase, and that’s what I wanted to show,” he said. Its true. How many of us, myself included, have done just that. We keep it together for them, for our kids, or whoever so that they don’t worry. He’s got so much to worry about when he’s gone. The last thing he needs to do is be wondering if I can hack it. I’m not the one in the middle of the freaking battlefield with my life down the line. I’m not the one riding down some road in the middle of nowhere in a freaking tank of a vehicle because “driving down the road” is a dangerous sport. This isn’t to say that I have to be some cold as ice b-word, but you get the point. Showing this aspect of military life in a real, raw and truthful way was very important to Scott and I appreciated that. “Sure that might not be the way we say goodbye, but that’s the way they say goodbye and that’s something any military wife can relate to,” he said. And yes, that is so true. We each have our own way, things we do.
And now that I’ve yammered on for way too long, stay tuned for more from Scott and Act of Valor on Cammo Style Love, as well as from the conference.