Transitioning Back Into Civilian Life Then Diagnosed With Cancer: I’ll Share My Story, You Share Yours

WHAT’S YOUR MILLIFE?

WE WANT AND NEED TO HEAR YOUR VOICE AND YOUR MILITARY LIFE STORIES! TELL US THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN!

It may not look like it so far, but this site isn’t just about ME. It is about YOU, family, children, friends & loved ones that have stories about a service member(s) in your life and how their time while Active Duty or as a Veteran impacted you.

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MY MILLIFE JOURNEY

If you missed it, you can read some random facts about me here and read the 3 goals that inspired me to start this blog and project here.

Well, we got married just the two of us in Savannah’s Forsyth Park on August 21, 2012; it definitely ruffled lots of feathers because we didn’t tell anyone in our family… we still wouldn’t change it for the world. It was for us and when it felt right and without a lot of the modern wedding hoopla that we just didn’t want. Trust me, people have doubted us and we’ve learned lots of life lessons early on, but looking back, we actually prefer we got those out of the way and we’ll be 8 years strong August 2020. Deployments, new jobs, transitioning, losing all of my TRICARE benefits as soon as he got out, OH and 2 months later getting diagnosed with bladder cancer at the age of 27; so far 4 surgeries and 5 tumors removed but it could be WAY worse so it’s fine! I was definitely salty to not have that coverage from TRICARE that I took for granted all those years haha), leaving desk jobs to working remotely, supporting my husband while he was busting his butt to get his degree and then a VERY short notice move from North Carolina to Philadelphia…yall, I just can’t even explain how different it is and how much I miss the south…oy…but we did get good news: WE’RE MOVING BACK TO SAVANNAH THIS SUMMER 2020!.

We were part of an Army Special Operations Unit stationed in Savannah, Georgia: 1st Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment. Each of the 3 Battalions would be on various deployment rotation schedules and they would deploy on a moments notice (and yes, they practiced those in the middle of the night with no heads up…scare the hell out of ya then a couple of hours later he would come waltzing back in the door…yeesh) and no one, not even the spouses, knew where they were going or when we’d hear from them; we didn’t even really know which Battalion was “up” to deploy. US Army Special Operations Command OPSEC can be a very love/hate relationship; we know they are deploying for some of the most dangerous missions so of course, we don’t want details getting out and compromising the mission or their safety, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t annoying as hell to be left in the dark, even as a spouse. Family, friends, etc. DEFINITELY did not get any information.

On deployments, they typically were in their own “compound” somewhere on one of the large bases overseas where our calls would be sporadic and very cryptic (unfortunately even when one of their own was killed in action–there was a decent delay until we, the wives, would find out), when he tells you he “has to go to work tonight” you knew that meant some night raid, kicking down doors & whatever else necessary…I knew he was great at his job, was trained and physically fit for whatever may come, so I just became “okay” with it. Yea, it was scary and frustrating sometimes but what good would it do for me to be all anxious, whiney, or whatever every time I talked to him or emailed him? That would put him in a mindset completely opposite of where it should have been. So instead, I just prayed, saved every photo he sent and screenshot I could take when he was able to Skype and tried to stay positive. He was with people he loved, got to be in a routine he enjoyed…and he loved him some care packages haha— we joke and say that deployment was a vacation for him because he got presents, got to work out, hang with his buddies…eh, but yes, it was mixed with that “I’m going to work tonight” FYI that pumped him up and left me slightly breathless. We were “lucky” that his deployments were roughly 4 months +/- BUT they immediately came back and had to train again or go to specialty courses, then about 6 months later he’d be gone again.

I don’t know how I could or would have been a military spouse like many of you that are constantly moving and such long deployments–you are troopers! I will say one thing I do envy about your deployments, yall usually get to do a big welcome home celebration– we never got to do that (at least not when I was there)– they usually came back in the middle of the night with just some sleepy-eyed kids and wives who secretly envied not getting to celebrate their safe return; something not everyone experienced. There have been so many Rangers lost from all the Battalions since I’ve been around (2012)–the most impactful for myself and definitely for my husband was the loss of his team leader and mentor, SGT Tanner Stone Higgins (please read his story here); his two younger brothers have followed in his footsteps; one serving in the same Battalion shortly after his death and his youngest brother that just enlisted this Summer 2019. If you do not know about what a Gold Star Family is and if you’ve never met one or read their stories…please promise me you will… you’ll be sad but nowhere near the pain these families feel every day, but it will change your life in a positive way and hopefully give you a new perspective.

Every branch and unit has their own unique experiences with this but in my opinion, transitioning from Active Duty to Civilian life is one of the most challenging experiences a servicemember and their support “unit” will experience. It is often “brushed off” and “no big deal, I’ve got this” until one day, BAM you’re out on your own and not being handheld every day. Yea the servicemember has to adjust to not being ordered around all day every day while on duty (and some other things of course), but I feel people don’t realize how the change impacts the family at home– what they are doing to prepare for (probably) another move, losing their TRICARE benefits (some exceptions apply of course), getting your kids prepared, finding where you’ll go next, what you will both do, where the money will come from, how to make friends without the safety net of company FRG groups… that’s a lot for anyone in any situation…I couldn’t imagine being overseas and having to go through transitioning out–thank you 1st Ranger Battalion for never making us PCS from Savannah.

Not to “toot our own horn” but we were thankful enough that I had my Biological Sciences degree from NC State University, obtained my Clinical Dental Assisting Certification online while he was Active Duty and had various work experience (including remote positions); not to mention my husband is very Type A (not uncommon for most Rangers, ha) but that he has always been a planner/big-picture kind of guy. He absolutely loved his job, his unit, and his assignments but he and I knew it wasn’t something we wanted to do until retirement. About the time his reenlistment period was coming up, he had a horrible knee injury that put him in a different job assignment that was not suited for his personality or that satisfied the rush and danger that he was used to the last 4 deployments…that alone was enough for us to make the decision to leave and he go back and finish his Bachelor’s degree (which he did in under 3 years AND got a great job literally the day before he technically graduated,–yay yay!).

We’re lucky we were each personally prepared, I guess from the get-go, and I cannot even put into words the immense support we’ve received from our friends and families from his active duty years up to this day. Things aren’t perfect and we’re “behind” some of our friends (which is a struggle I deal with when I “compare myself and where we are” to friends that I see on stupid social media) but we’re doing it together and taking time to enjoy life as it plays out. I’ve had the honor to work with a military NPO dedicated to helping these men and their families for over 4 years– I can’t imagine not being involved in the Ranger community nor the MilLife community in general.

Thank you for riding along and giving me a chance…hopefully ?

WHAT’S YOUR MILLIFE?

WE WANT AND NEED TO HEAR YOUR VOICE AND YOUR MILITARY LIFE STORIES! TELL US THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN!

I can 100% assure you that any of your good, bad, ugly, funny, weird (etc) stories you may be hesitant to share, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Connect with me, with each other; be a support system & just remember you can come back here and know I AM and WE ARE always here…military life related or not, just reach out— contact me via the website or connect on the plethora of social media platforms available.

Your military family and civilians who do (or who want to) understand the service and sacrifices we’ve made, even though we’re not the one in uniform, want to be here for you. The “unit” standing behind supporting your loved one in uniform is undeniably the primary necessity to ensure a successful military career, no matter how long they serve or what stage of service they may be in.

It may not look like it so far, but this site isn’t just about ME. It is about YOU, family, children, friends & loved ones that have stories about a service member(s) in your life and how their time while Active Duty or as a Veteran impacted you.

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