It's the Year of the Air Force Family! I thought that was pretty cool to see - new initiatives, new light being shone on the things families need to stay healthy and strong (maybe not Army Strong, but we have our own version. It involves hair spray). I can't tell you how absolutely wonderful I think it is when the command of any branch of the service takes a good look at the needs of those supporting the service and decides that extra attention needs to be focused in that area - and then decides to dedicate an entire year to doing so!
It is even more exciting to me when I get to be a part of it, and Air Force Family (mine, that is, not the generic. Although I'm sure we're not the only ones.) is happy to get involved.
One thing I can tell you right off the bat is that when Air Force Guy left the Army to join the Air Force long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I thought I was headed for an era of peaches and cream and mint juleps on a sun shaded porch. No more long duties! No more field exercises that seem to get extended every single time!
In our case, that's not exactly what happened.
Even prior to 9/11 AFG's chosen career field had him gone for at least 6 months out of most years. Not everyone is familiar with those parts of the Air Force that don't fly planes, but there are quite a few out there! Between TDY's, deployments, and the sudden appearance of duties that were somehow never mentioned in time for me to actually plan my way around them - life in the Air Force ended up being a lot more hectic than I ever thought it would be.
On the other hand, even though it was certainly not my first experience with the military - life in the Air Force introduced me to some of the best people I have ever met. People, both active duty and civilian, who have gone above and beyond to welcome our family, support our family, and be a family to us. It's allowed us the chance to serve with members of all the services and have the most fun playing duty station trivia. We've learned an entirely new language, and now even my six year old speaks it fluently. We have horrible lows, things that you can't even describe to someone without the experience. But since we have our Air Force and military family, we don't have to describe it. They just know.
And we've had the best of times as well - if you don't mind my stealing from Charles Dickens. Spur of the moment barbecues and parties to help bring down the adrenaline after something critical, sessions where everyone gets together and nitpicks all the things wrong in a military themed movie (one of my favorite group activities, especially if there are chips and salsa involved), and potluck parties where all the families bring their specialty foods.
Those pot-lucks usually run the gamut from bruschetta and brownies to fresh tortillas, mouth-watering pico de gallo, and at one duty station the best chicken tikka masala you could dream of. That spouse was one of my favorites. Chicken Tikka Masala has become a life-long obsession with me, now.
I'm not going to lie and say that everything about being an Air Force Family has been peachy-keen and apple pie wonderful. I miss my husband when he's gone, and sometimes it seems like he's ALWAYS gone. Many holidays have gone by with a sense of sadness underneath the celebration because he's not here. I've learned things I never wanted to learn, like how to replace a toilet, what a dying transmission feels like, and how to lay laminate flooring, because AFG wasn't home to do them for me and there was no choice but to get them done. Sometimes it feels like I'm raising my children by myself. And can I just add here that I'm really tired of being the only one that picks up the dog poop in the yard?
I've also gained some things that are not generally available to people who don't live this life. I've gained amazing friends that know what I'm going through without me having to say and who have the background to know when they can ask certain questions and when things are going to have to stay in the "hint" category. I've learned how to find the ridiculous and laugh in life, even when everything seems to be conspiring against me, because by choosing to laugh I win. I've seen things I never imagined existed when I was growing up, and things I never thought would be a part of my life. I've lived places, both great and - well, not so great, that other people only read about in books or see on TV. I have a greater appreciation for what it is to be married - because I spend an awful lot of my time without my husband. Entire TV series are based on aspects of marriage that confuse the heck out of me - because they really don't seem that important in the grand scheme of things.
I have a totally different perspective than I did when I first started this journey. And it's a journey I'm glad we made the choice to take. When I look back on my life, I know I will be able to do so with pride. I have been a part of something bigger than me, something important.
And it is very special.
More links on The Year of the Air Force Family can be found here: