A Sheepdog Wife Update (Because I’ve Been Quiet For A While…)

So, I’ve taken the last few months to kind of re-work what I thought this blog was supposed to be, and turn into. The ‘game plan’ and objective has changed approximately 900 times. Instead of dragging you (and my brain) along on every single change of direction, and u-turn I’ve taken on this journey, I thought I would give a post that kind of outlines why I started this in the first place, and where I hope to go in the near-ish future.

Four years ago (ish) my now husband and I had known each other for about six months. We were ‘talking,’ or dating, or whatever it is kids call it today when two people are trying to decide if they want to be together long-term. I knew he was in the National Guard, which meant weekend drills that truthfully didn’t affect me much. I had always said that, as the daughter of two soldiers, I would NOT marry someone in the military – but I figured I could handle the ‘one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer’ style of military life.

One night, right before he headed out of the country for two weeks, he dropped the bomb on me that he was going to try to take his military career to the ‘next level’. It would mean a three year long school, ten hours away from where I was living. It meant not only leaving his long-term (and higher paying) business consulting job, but taking a roughly fifty percent pay cut, and a much more dangerous job. He had his mind dead set on this, and I would need to either be supportive, or back off and let him ‘go it alone’. It took all of 30 seconds for me to know I wanted to be part of this adventure if it meant that we could do it together.

That night is probably the exact moment that the idea for this blog started to take place. I’m a researcher by nature, so I went home and immediately started reading. Blogs, websites, books, forums – you name it. I needed to know how best to help J and encourage him through this. The next three years would be physically (for him) and emotionally demanding (for both of us). I wanted J’s career and our marriage to make it through – stronger on the other side. On top of that, I wanted to really understand J. What makes someone leave a comfortable office job, and want to go get shot at? (For less pay!)

If I’m being honest, I couldn’t really find much. There were some great resources for people just learning about the military, or who were absolutely new to this community and wanted to learn things like rank, pay, or all of the thousands of acronyms. I’d grown up military – both parents were in – so I knew the basics and had a solid background of knowledge to work with. Since I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, I settled for looking up as much info as possible on the job and the training, and kind of drawing my own conclusions. This blog got started then – mainly as a place for me to be able to process, and handle some of my snarkier opinions.

Fast forward two years. We got married and I moved down for the last year and a half of training. I met other wives married to these wonderful guys – as well as the ‘guys’ themselves. The more I got to know them, and the more I struggled through learning how to be married (which is challenging enough!) and how to be married into this crazy lifestyle, the more I realized the reason a lot of problems were arising in the marriages in this community was because we were all incredibly unprepared. Sure, the handful of us who were military ‘brats’ had a leg up – but as we moved forward with our husbands’ careers, the more we realized that we didn’t know.

I started really thinking about writing the book sometime about six months before we were going to move. I’d read that the divorce rate in the community J and I were about to join was hovering right around 75 percent. That blew my mind, and broke my heart. Right around then, J and I decided he was going to fight to go on a deployment with his unit, leaving two weeks after we would be moving back to our hometown.

I was going to have to readjust and learn a whole new set of rules. And, I wanted to be able to pass this knowledge on to wives, girlfriends, and fiancees who might not have the time or desire to spend weeks researching or reading about their husband’s job – or those women who don’t live near a base, and can’t create a ‘tribe’ of anyone who really understands. The more I thought about it – and the more I really talked to my girlfriends who were walking through this, and learning by lots of trial and error – the more I realized that I HAD to write a book. I had to pass on any knowledge I could, to help people get through this life even a little easier than I had.

I’m still (slowly) churning out the book, but it’s becoming more of a corner-piece to a much more elaborate plan, and something far larger than I anticipated. The goal of the book is going to be to tell the military wives story, (the real one, not the one that’s on Lifetime… I love that show, but that is not what my life looks like) and to give all of the military marriages a better chance at killing that 75 percent statistic. The over-all goal is to actually be a part of lowering the statistic, by giving the ‘sheepdogs’ and their wives a chance and the tools to really thrive in this life – not just get by on survival mode. How? In the spirit of authenticity, I’m still working that part out. I’ve gone back and forth between expanding the blog into a forum where we can reach out to one another and give and receive advice, or even a non profit to create a ‘curriculum’ for people in this community to follow.

For now, it looks a lot like this – writing for the people who take the time to read it, and sharing even when it’s ramble-y and snarky. And, for making myself available for questions and vents and suggestions. (Seriously – I’m on Instagram as TheSheepdogWife! And I can always be reached via email or comments here!)


A Sheepdog Wife Safety Brief

Less than a month, guys… less than a MONTH! If I weren’t laying down, covered in blankets, I could seriously jump up and down with joy (and maybe a little anxiety…)

I can’t believe I’ve been here for two months! Or that the wedding is so close… It’s like all the waiting that we did together is finally coming to an end. And I could not be happier, honestly. I’ve loved the wedding planning… Kinda… Actually, no it’s been really stressful and I’m just happy that the planning part is almost over.

But, I don’t want to talk about that… I barely even want to talk about how Bravo is working so good on being potty trained, and knows ‘sit’ ‘stay’ ‘fetch’ and comes when he’s called (most of the time). We still have a little bit that we need to work on.

What I really want to talk about right now is OPSEC/PERSEC. I know… Not exactly the most exciting topic in the world – but one that really needs to be discussed right now. The current threat of ISIS against military members and their families is very real. And truthfully, after more than a decade of war coming to a close, people have gotten relaxed in their vigilance… This has unfortunately lead to many people being unnecessarily put into danger, and has even caused people to lose their lives. This is desperately important, people. So, to make this a teeny bit less boring, I bring to you; The Rules Of OPSEC/PERSEC With Borderline Creepy, Slightly Politically Incorrect WWII Propaganda Posters.

So; to start. What the heck is OPSEC/PERSEC? OPSEC stands for Operational Security – the things you do/don’t do to keep operations (big and small, over seas and stateside) confidential, safe, and functional. Secure. 

PERSEC stands for Personal Security. As with OPSEC, this is pretty self explanatory when you think about it – what you do/don’t do in order to keep your soldier and your family (and yourself!) safe. 

The unfortunate thing with the military’s need for efficiency, is that the use of acronyms makes it feel like this is only something the military should have to deal with. However, it really is something that EVERYONE should be thinking about. 

Don’t discuss troop movements. 

I’m sure you just thought “well, duh.” If that’s true, good for you. For a lot of people, the first level of this is easy. Don’t go around telling people the exact spot your soldier’s unit is going. 

That’s a good start. But it goes SO much deeper than that. 

No dates. No times. No locations. If in one post you say “my soldier leaves tomorrow. #sobummed” and then a day later “he made it to Texas. Next stop, Kandahar!” You’ve just given anyone with an internet connection the ability to find and locate not only your soldier but other people’s loved ones as well. 

The same goes for home comings. A soldier gets news he’s coming home in 2 weeks. He tells his wife. His wife tells Facebook. The soldiers bosses get wind of the security leak – and push the homecoming back another month. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard of this happening. Just because they are coming home doesn’t mean you get to relax.

The same goes for your own personal security. Don’t tell people travel dates, times, locations, whatever. A good rule to follow is that you can say where you were, but you can’t say where you’re going. Because as morbid and creepy as this picture of this sailor is – is also very true.  Just don’t talk about troop movements or personal travel, guys.

Don’t post personal information.

I showed you how easy it really is to put together the puzzle of information that people lay out on the internet.

This goes for personal information as well. And nowhere is the puzzle laid out more clearly than on social media. 

Pictures, location services, your first and last name, the pages you ‘like,’ statuses, current unit patches. These are glaringly easy to put together. And from that, a simple internet search can bring up your home address!

With the current global climate being slightly… er, unstable? It’s really just a smart idea to remove those pictures and things and make sure that your profile is private. 

Don’t disclose people’s units and names (last names especially) . 

There are only so many people in the military. When you narrow it down to a single unit, you make the job for someone hunting information that much easier. 

The tricky thing about this is that there are units you aren’t even supposed to say your SO is attached to, due to security concerns, or the sizes of the units – smaller units mean an even more narrow-ed down target. If you have a SO or loved who is in a covert/secret ops unit (Special Forces, SEAL, ParaRescue etc), you shouldn’t even tell people they are part of it. It puts them, and their family (which includes you!) in danger – especially with so many special operations teams sent to deal with an increasingly dangerous list of enemies.

This is very important when it comes to social media. No last names – which means no pictures with nametape. No unit patches. Deployment patches can be allowed, but are still advised against. A good rule of thumb is that you can post where you’ve been but not where you are or where you’re going. 

Guard What You Say To People

While I wish this was not true, sometimes the safest, most secure thing is to say nothing.

I’m terribly proud of my family. And I love to make sure people know that. But I love knowing they are safe, more.

If you aren’t sure whether something you’re going to say – to a cashier, or person in a restaurant, or a fellow spouse, or post, is going to help someone who is looking to harm soldiers, it’s best not to say anything.

It can be very tempting to tell everyone exactly what your loved ones are doing – especially when it’s something ‘cool’ – the military is kind of full of awesome jobs! But with that comes the fact that once you have said something – it cannot ever be unsaid. And you have no way of controlling who they tell, or what they are saying.

As unfortunate as it is, the price of security is suspicion – but the price of not being mindful is much higher.

Helpful Links:

Surprise OPSEC Rules

OPSEC and PERSEC Guidelines

Operation Military Family

That Thing I Said I Wouldn’t Ever Do? Yeah – I’m Doing It…

It’s official – I’m starting my transition from military kid to military wife. I’m excited, and thrilled and anxious… And, terrified.

There are so many what-if’s that come with this plan. What if he gets injured in training? What if he and I can’t get married until later than we are planning? What if it has to happen months before? (Both are very real possibilities – the joys of planning around a military schedule!) What if he and I start fighting the minute he has to start getting ready for shook? What if he gets deployed? (Although that’s really a “when will” question, not what if.)

Im going to say it – I’m a lot scared. And it doesn’t necessarily help that the answer to almost all of those questions is something along the lines of “soldier on” – keep pushing forward and adapt to your circumstances.

This is where we have to face the reality that it won’t always be the movie style romance – the jumping into his arms in the airport, wearing his dog tags, heart all a flutter every time he calls. It’s the time where we have to realize that it’s going to be a lot of nights spent apart. Dates over FaceTime. Departures, where we don’t know when the next time we wil talk is. Birthdays, anniversaries, and eventual bed and bath times with kids on my own. We have to face the fact that it’s not nearly as romantic as it sounds. And that it’s going to be harder than we think it wil be.

Through out all of this, the process of planning, I’m already learning some life lessons that are going to be completely invaluable for the next few years. Flexibility, determination, and trusting that J knows what he’s doing when it comes to leading us, and handling the tasks that I need him to. It’s been a challenge.

Honestly though, we’ve gotten to have the most amazing conversations and are already seeing the difference in our relationship since this whole thing has gotten started.

I’m going to say that my goal is to continue to write about these things, and process through here. But, it’s going to be sporadic. And sometimes completely composd of “wow I am so frustrated with the military” during the times he can’t be reached. But it’s absolutely my plan to be very intentional with this – because let’s be real, if I don’t have some way to unload, I will go insane 😉   

A Letter To Me, Five Years From Now

Twenty – Seven, Almost Twenty -Eight Year Old Me;

Hopefully you’re married to J. If the plans we’re talking about now have actually come together, you’ve been married a couple years, with a little one either being tried and prayed for, or already on the way.You’ve moved at least twice, and you’ve probably got at least one deployment under your belt. He might even be gone right now.

I can’t know all of those things. Or where you’re living, or what state your marriage is in right now. What hurdles you’ve overcome, and what direction your life has taken together.

What I do know, is that five years into a relationship with a man in the military, especially this man – this strong, caring, protective, wonderful, difficult man – you’ve “busted draws” with each other – and probably because of each other (metaphorical ones – not real ones… If you do the orienteering thing with him, go you). Probably ones that people said you’re never going to make it past. That you yourself probably said you couldn’t make it past… And that you probably didn’t realize you were battling until you were already in it. And, because there’s never been so much determination (stubbornness) in one couple, you’ve proven them all wrong. In some cases, it was probably just for the sake of showing everyone that you could.

Maybe you’ve come up in some issue that seems bigger than the two of you. Bigger than the relationship, bigger than all the hard work. Maybe right now, you’re feeling like the Army has (once again) come before, or between, J and you, your family, and your marriage. And, probably, your sanity.

Even if life is perfect – and I really and truly hope it is – take time to remember what things are like for me, 22 year old me, right now. How huge ten hours seemed at the time. How incredibly insurmountable that distance felt. And how even though you’ve finally started to fight, you, at 22, and J at 26, have powered, talked, shouted, cried, and prayed through to so much together.

Take time to think about how, right now, at 22, it feels like the end of the world to get off the phone with him. What it’s like to constantly want to know more about him, and learn what makes that complex brain of his tick. In the moments that he’s around, and you aren’t appreciative, and you’re trying to wrestle control away from him after building up a life with out him, think back on how much I’m wanting to just be near him. Appreciate each other when you’re together, because of how well you made it through this rough patch… Remember the whole month of August? The first meet in the middle visit that was followed by three weeks of trying to learn to be gracious with one another? Hopefully when this chunk of time comes to mind – the tears and late night FaceTime calls, and arguments that you never wanted to have, you think back to yourself; “that… That’s when I knew J and I were going to make it through anything life threw at us.”

He probably still makes decisions with out checking with you first. And, hopefully, in 5 years, you can see the benefit to having someone so strong and decisive to lead your family. Hopefully, you’ve gotten rid of the phrase “I’ve got this.” If not – try to remember how much it grates at him. (Really though – do I ever get rid of it?)

Remember all the times that he gently pushed you to pray out loud when you didn’t want to – especially those nights where you were angry at each other and the last thing you wanted to do was pray for him. Wow, I hope you still pray together when you can. Phones, email, text. That you are both still invested enough that you carve that time out, wherever he is, and wherever you are, to actively bring your relationship to God. And that its only made both your relationships with Him stronger – it can only do good things for you.

I hope you lean into your community as much as you do now. That you still use his sister and brother, and M&M as your mentor couples – that you realize you will always have ways to grow in your marriage, and your friendships, and in your walk with God. That you still go toThursday cookouts, and that you still open up your lives to them.

5 years can hold so much. Growth, pain, happiness, sadness. 17 year old me knew absolutely nothing – and I’m pretty sure 22 year old me won’t either. But I really hope you haven’t lost that reckless feeling – that feeling that when everyone said “don’t do this… It’ll be hard… He’ll be gone all the time, and you’ll have to be alone,” made you say “and?” and dive head first into this… Whatever you are handling – I hope that you can still look at the man beside you, and know that with all certainty, with out any doubts, you can look back on the last 5 years, and together, face anything – you got this.