Tag Archive | Mark

A Recap of the Deployment Thus Far

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For this week’s Blue Star Families‘ deployment post, they wanted us to address where we are in the deployment cycle and how writing about it has changed things.

We are almost two months into the deployment, which is almost the same point that Julie’s family is at currently.  Two of those weeks were spent on emergency leave, so Mark has been in-country for a little over a month.  In the grand scheme of things, it has NOT been very long AT ALL.

That is okay though.  I knew going into this deployment that it would be longer than the first one.  I also knew the circumstances would be different than the first one, and the circumstances are definitely easier on me, as the one waiting at home.  But I think, in a way, things are harder for Mark this time around.  Nothing is more thrilling (our warriors tell us) than being in the heat of battle.  There are moments when it is absolutely terrifying, but there are other times when the exhilaration is more than anything we could ever imagine….and they CRAVE that adrenaline rush.  It may be hard for us civilians to understand, but Mark sometimes misses that, as do many other soldiers.

For me personally, writing is something that I just do.  I would write even if no one read it.  I write in my private journal.  I write here publicly.  My writing here used to not be so public, and it IS very exciting that it’s reaching more readers.  It is wonderful to receive comments that say, “I’m glad I’m not the only one” or “You are such a good writer!”  My love language is Words of Affirmation, and nothing makes me feel better than verbal (or written) praise.

But has writing about the deployment affected it?  It is hard to tell, actually.  Writing helps me focus and organize my thoughts, and therefore “see the woods through the trees” when things get rough.  But writing is also an integral part of who I am.  I MUST write.  I can’t imagine not doing it.  I am COMPELLED to write in order to thrive.  And I do believe in not just surviving deployments, but thriving through them.

It is my hope also that my writing about deployment can touch many other lives.  If you are having a “stabby” day (coined by my dear Army Wife Network family), I hope that something I’ve written can be of comfort to you.  I get you, fellow military wives.  We are in this together.

~Malori~

Mark and his identical twin brother Matt, celebrating their birthday together for the first time in 4 years...in Afghanistan, no less! :)

Mark and his identical twin brother Matt, celebrating their birthday together for the first time in 4 years…in Afghanistan, no less! :)

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Military Mondays: The Harsh Realities of War

I’m one of those spouses who WANTS to know exactly what happens in war.  I don’t know how common that is, because I have heard both sides: needing to know and not wanting to know.  It all depends on personality and your coping style, but my coping style definitely hates being left in the dark.

I’m the Army wife who is attracted like a magnet to the TV when the word “Afghanistan” or “terrorism” is mentioned; I’m the Army wife who watches documentaries like Battleground Afghanistan and Restrepo; I’m the Army wife who would prefer to read a raw, honest saga of a journalist embedded with fighting soldiers, rather than the latest issue of “Military Spouse Magazine.” (Disclaimer: That is not a rip against the magazine, it IS a great resource and I enjoy their articles!)

Furthermore, I don’t just want to know what happens in war generally.  I want to know specifically what is happening to my own soldier.  I know to not pepper him with TOO many questions, but when he opens up about combat (whether it’s about his previous tour or his current one) I listen attentively and soak up every word.  I want a visual picture painted in my head.  I want to know when things get really bad.  But most of all, I want to understand what he is going through.

But that is where I get tripped up and frustrated.  The cold fact is that I will NEVER understand.  No matter how many times he repeats his stories, no matter how deep he may let me look into his soul, I will NEVER GET IT.  Only another veteran can completely understand him.  Only another veteran can look at his eyes and know the pain he’s suffered.  Only another veteran can say, “I get it. I know.”

I DON’T know, and during Mark’s first deployment that especially caused me great anguish because it was a very rough tour.  He was violently engaged with the enemy.  He was knocked out in a rollover accident.  He had to shoot a puppy to death because it might have been rabid.  He looked death in the face numerous times.  Those are things I cannot fathom, even though I wish I could.  There have been times I’ve truly wished I could go to Afghanistan, just so I could understand him better.  In all honesty, if I had the opportunity to travel there as an embedded journalist, I would.  And at one point, I was trying to get a contractor job over there so I could quickly pay off my student loans…but also so I could see a TINY bit of reality.

However, one of the puzzle pieces to being a good military wife is to understand what my role is.  My role is to be his support, his rock, his love.  My role entails being patient, unshakeable, and a good listener.  He may be a warrior in the traditional sense of the word (his name even means “God’s Warrior”), but in my own way, I am a warrior too.  We each have unique warrior qualities that complement each other and give strength where the other is weak.  Even after our military life is over, we will fearlessly face life head-on….together.

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Deployment: A Family Affair

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As I wrote in my previous post for Blue Star Families, my father-in-law Nick suffered a massive heart attack and subsequently underwent a successful triple bypass surgery.  The initial grim prognosis triggered emergency leave, coordinated and paid for by the Red Cross, for Mark and his twin Matt.  For two weeks, the three of us were the “crisis management team” for the Mayor family: establishing the Nick Mayor Benefit Fund and online donation website, creating and updating our Facebook page, meeting with Nick’s employer and family lawyer, engaging the community and donors, and interfacing with the media to better advertise the fundraiser for the mounting medical bills.  We even organized a benefit event that was a success, considering it was planned in less than a week!  My mother-in-law, Jeanine, held the primary caregiver role, visiting and assisting Nick in the hospital every day.  She is now acting as his in-home nurse and is doing a fabulous job!  We each found our unique roles during this crisis and we couldn’t have gotten through it without working as a team.

Even with a “normal” deployment, it is healthiest for all involved if each party knows their roles.  I feel if the deployed servicemember is in a relationship but is unmarried, roles can be a little more complicated and feelings might get hurt easier.  During Mark’s first deployment (November 2011-April 2012), we were engaged and I understood that I didn’t have a “right” to information or being connected to anything “official.”  Matt was first point-of-contact (POC) for news, and their parents would’ve had the “right to know” before me.  (The military doesn’t care about unmarried significant others!)  But before the deployment began, I had already established open communication with both Jeanine and Matt.  When Mark was in the rollover accident in February 2012, for example, Matt contacted me and told me everything he knew.  Jeanine and I also talked and texted frequently.

Since Mark and I got married at the courthouse before this deployment, I am a military dependent and the first POC now.  However, the lines of communication are still open between his parents and myself, and I understand my responsibility of informing them of vital information.  At the same time, it is important to have boundaries and not be TOO communicative.  Whether the soldier is married or unmarried, feelings of jealousy could arise if one party (the soldier’s partner or parent) is under the impression they are not being properly informed.  As the married spouse, it is also important to know what is okay and not okay to share with your in-laws.  He may not want his parents to know when he is having a rough time, because that could cause them to worry more than is necessary.  However, each family will be different with these boundaries and that is only one example.

In the e-book Everyone Serves (downloadable for free HERE!), there are tips specifically for parents on pages 46 and 53 about handling their relationship and communication with their deployed child.  In many ways, deployment might be harder for the parents than for the spouse because 1) they aren’t as connected to official information, and 2) that tough soldier used to be their baby.  They remember holding him in their arms for the first time, helping him learn how to walk, seeing him off to school….and now that child is grown and holds a perilous job.  As spouses, we need to be a support to our in-laws and to make sure that they feel included in the deployment cycle as proud military parents.

~Malori~

Mark (near) and Matt working in the "Command and Operations Center (aka their parents' living room)

Mark (near) and Matt working in the “Command and Operations Center (aka their parents’ living room)

Army strong, Cav tough!

Army strong, Cav tough!

Nick with his sons and daughter-in-law :)

Nick with his sons and daughter-in-law :)

Saying goodbye at the airport...can't believe they are back in the 'Stan!

Saying goodbye at the airport…sometimes it was surreal being with them during what was supposed to be deployment time!

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to view my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.

Deployment and Emergency Leave

Life doesn’t care if you are in the middle of a deployment.  Life doesn’t ask you, “Hey, you think you can handle another HUGE stressor?”  No, life just throws stuff at you and never thinks of asking permission.

I already knew that fact, but nothing could have prepared me for the call I received from my mother-in-law, Jeanine, on Friday, July 12th: “Nick just had a serious heart attack,” she told me frantically.  “He was running at the YMCA and collapsed and passed out.  He’s on the way to the hospital right now.  I need you to call the boys in Afghanistan, I can’t call right now.”

I was then faced with the hardest phone call of my life.  It is the type of call that you hope you NEVER have to make to a loved one deployed to a war zone.  At that point, I didn’t know if Nick was going to survive.  I was sitting in my air-conditioned car, in the parking lot of a wedding reception venue I had just toured, and it was about 2:00 PM.  I signed onto Skype via my iPhone and saw that Mark was online.  I tried calling him but he didn’t pick up.  Thankfully I had Skype credit, so I called his Roshan phone number.  My hands were shaking and my stomach was tight, but I knew I had to keep it together for him.

“Hello?” I heard Mark’s groggy voice on the other end.

“Hey, it’s me, Malori.  Did I wake you up?”  I didn’t want to launch directly into the bad news.

“Yeah, it’s pretty late here, I was sleeping.  What’s up?”  I dreaded this moment, but I had to drop the bombshell.

“Um yeah.”  I struggled to keep my voice steady.  “Your mom just called me, and your dad had a bad heart attack.  He collapsed while running at the YMCA and he’s been taken to the hospital.”

“Oh….oh wow.”  A few moments of silence.  It was awful.  We had a short conversation, and said he would notify Matt.

Halfway across the world, Mark and Matt began dealing with the family crisis.  After talking with Mark, Matt headed over to his TOC (Tactical Operations Center) in the hopes of obtaining more information.  He figured that his dad was at one of the two hospitals in their hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and called St. Catherine’s first.  He was able to talk with an ICU nurse, who confirmed that their father, Nick, was there and had indeed suffered a massive heart attack and was not breathing on his own.

When there is a family emergency at home during a deployment (meaning, serious illness or death of a dependent or parent), the hospital notifies the Red Cross, who then notifies the deployed soldier’s chain of command.  Emergency leave is coordinated, and the typical length of leave is 14 days.  This is what happened for Mark and Matt, because their dad’s prognosis was poor.  Turn-around for their departure was quick, and within a day they were on their way to the United States.

Since Mark and I were legally married at the courthouse before he deployed and his family is considered mine now, I was able to take FMLA (Family Medical Leave of Absence) and vacation time on short notice.  American Airlines is absolutely AMAZING and was very accommodating with flights, and I was able to take advantage of their military rate as well.  I met up with Mark and Matt at the Milwaukee airport on Monday morning, July 15th….and while I wished it was under better circumstances, I will never forget that temporary homecoming hug with Mark.

It has been a VERY long and stressful week and a half, but their dad has been recuperating quite well.  He had triple bypass surgery on Monday, July 22nd, so his heart is healthier than it was before.  The twins and I have been hard at work this entire time, launching a fundraising campaign to avert a financial crisis, as the medical bills are mounting. (https://www.facebook.com/HelpForNickAndJeanine)

As stressful as this entire situation has been, I feel that it has also drawn Mark and me closer together and strengthened our relationship.  We just have a few more days together, and then the deployment will resume once again.  But we have much to be thankful for.

Mark and Matt with their dad Nick in the hospital.  Army Strong!

Mark and Matt with their dad Nick in the hospital. Army Strong!

Mark and me at Lake Michigan, catching a moment of relaxation.

Mark and me at Lake Michigan, catching a moment of relaxation.

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to read my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.

Military Mondays: Helping a Military Family in Need

Yesterday, Mark and Matt did an interview for Fox 6 News (Milwaukee affiliate), along with Kelly Hetzel, who literally saved their dad’s life at the YMCA. Please see link below to view the video!

Twin Army Captains Rushed Home from Afghanistan After Father Suffers Heart Attack

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(Almost) Wordless Wednesdays: Independence Day in Afghanistan

Ind. Day Collage 2013

Since it’s July 4th in Afghanistan as I write this (11:16PM Central on July 3rd), I wanted to tell Mark and Matt THANK YOU for serving our country on this Independence Day!  I am so proud of you guys.  Stay safe – I know you’ve got each other’s 6.

~Malori~

Blue Star Families: Everyone Serves Blog Series Premiere

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Welcome to the Blue Star Families deployment series!  Every week for the next five months, I and four other military spouse bloggers will be writing about our experiences with the deployment process in conjunction with the e-book Everyone Serves.  I’d first like to give a huge thank you to BSF for accepting me as a blogger and to my Army Wife Network colleagues for letting me know about this opportunity!  I’d also like to give a shout-out to the other military wives participating in this series: Jennifer, Jacey, Julie, and Reda.  Please check out their bios HERE!

Until a few years ago, I never thought I’d be an Army wife.  The military just wasn’t something familiar to me.  I was born and raised near Dallas, was homeschooled until college, and had a serious relationship with my violin, which I’ve played since three years of age.  The violin was my childhood passion, so I made the decision to pursue a degree in violin performance.  I graduated from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in 2009, returning to Texas because I got a desk job.  I got into a normal routine: working at the office, exercising (sometimes), paying my student loans on time, spending time with family and friends, reading, being a news junkie.  I was comfortable and settled….

…until I was introduced to the military.  Mark and I met online in March 2010, and a few weeks later, we met in person for a date.  He drove three hours to meet me, and that in itself was impressive!  However, I also was impressed by his intellect, his passion for our common beliefs, and his dedication to his job as an Army officer.  (Oh yes, small detail – his looks were quite striking as well!)  That first date led to many more, and a few months later, we knew that we had met “the one.”  We were engaged in December 2010, and this month (June 2013) we tied the knot at the courthouse.  Upon his return from deployment, we will have our church wedding and then ride happily into the sunset.

But, as we all know, military life is never that easy.  Deployment inevitably returns.  Lives are in danger.  Stress is a daily visitor.  The word “Afghanistan” pops out in the news like a neon sign.  But yet, we continue to live this life – not just in survival mode, but in thriving mode.  From the beginning of my military journey with Mark, I looked upon it as the biggest adventure of my life, as a unique opportunity to rise to its challenges.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced moments of feeling completely overwhelmed – but at some point, there is a chance to coast down the other side of the mountain.

This, our second deployment, has just begun – and I have to say that saying goodbye the second time around is much harder than the first.  But what is exciting to me is this: I also have the chance to share my experiences so that others won’t feel alone in the tough times.  I have an opportunity to serve my country and fellow military spouses by opening up my heart through the passion I have for writing.  For that, I am truly honored and grateful.

~Malori~

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to read my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.