Responding to the Unpredictable: It’s What We Were Trained For

The COVID-19 Pandemic has touched all of our lives in some way, but has being raised in a military environment prepared us for this situation?  Military Brats Lora Beldon, Diane Harper, and Misty Corrales sat down, socially distanced of course, to talk about how the military has influenced their art and how the pandemic is currently impacting their lives.

Lora Beldon is an artist, art teacher and curator.  She is the founder of Military Kid Art Project.  Her art is autoethnographic, conceptual mixed media drawings which are story-oriented. Her art documents Military Brat life.  Lora’s father is a retired career Marine.

 

 

Diane Harper is an art instructor and studio artist. Her primary medium is collage and mixed media.  She works with the memories of growing up in a military childhood, and because those thoughts are not linear, feels that collage lends itself well to expressing how memories come.   Diane’s father was a US Army forensic photographer.

 

 

Misty Corrales is a mortgage underwriter and novelist.  She has published the young adult novel, Spell Me the Truth.  Her father is a retired Air Force master sergeant.

 

 

 

After a brief introduction, a more directed conversation followed:

QUESTION:   How does military family subject matter appear in your work? Why do you use it in your work?  What are some of the recurring themes?

MISTY:  I’ll start.  My novel doesn’t focus specifically on the military, but it does focus on things that military families go through all the time.   That’s the loss of a parent, and also moving and starting your life over from scratch and trying to fit in.  That’s who my main character is–the new kid in town.    Every single military brat has been that at least once in their life, and there’s always that one person at their new place who picks up strays.

The book is about those kind of relationships that you build and how fast friendships can grow.

I also show the strength of the family.   One of the things you see a lot in young adult novels is that the kids are obviously so much smarter than the adults, and my characters are not doing that.  They rely on their parents.  They know there is a situation, and they’re the ones kind of handling it, but they’re not saying  “oh, let’s not let Dad know.”    The novel really highlights the different kinds of family relationships – the ones that are really tight knit, the latchkey, the ambivalent.   When I was growing up, it seemed that there was always that one family that always had dinner together, picked up the strays and anyone in the neighborhood whose family didn’t really care one way or the other, or the latchkey kid.

My novel is also a frame story, because life doesn’t just happen, as Diane mentioned before, linearly.

LORA: Something that I read about your book, and correct me if I’m wrong, was that you thought of the idea a long time ago.

MISTY:  I did.  When I was at London Central High School, which was a DODDS school, I got the inspiration for the story.  It took me 30 years to actually figure out how to write it.  I wrote the outline for it in a notebook.  This notebook was so important to me that I always knew where it was.  I moved many times after I graduated high school, even after I turned in my ID.  But, I always knew where that notebook was.  When I finally decided that it was time to write the story,  I found it in five minutes.  Of course, I have no idea where it is, now, because I’ve written the story.

I kind of hate that I’ve lost that notebook because I knew where it was for so long.  It seems that it was always waiting for me to use it, but now it’s gone. It’s  kind of like, as a military kid growing up, you knew where your shot record was, even if you couldn’t find anything else.

LORA: So, would you say that the theme of moving, which is probably the biggest theme running through military family lives, is a reoccurring theme for you?

MISTY:   I don’t know if it is going to be.  I’ve only published one novel, and I am trying to come up with the sequel for it.  I’ve always had this fascination with the frame story where your life is one story on the outside,  and there are all these other stories that make it up.  It’s a very challenging format in which to write!

LORA:  Diane, how about you ?  How do you use military family subject matter in your work?

DIANE: Well, when my father was told in the hospital that he needed to go on hospice care for mantle cell lymphoma. My dad had a moment of clarity in this kind of chemo fog that he had for so long. We were alone and he said, “I need you to do me a huge favor and I hate to put this on you. I need you to keep all of my photographs as well as the family photographs and archive for the family.” He said, “I know it’s a big job.”

He had probably tens of thousands of negatives. I had to take all the family photographs once my mother died four years later and catalog them, and it took me probably five years more after my mother’s death to start that process.

I also found documents and transport papers from the Soviet Union that made it possible for us to ride the duty train from Berlin to the West. There was just this vast amount of  information that came from our life as a military family that needed to be worked with. I was grieving and I couldn’t put all the pieces together; about what my life meant,  what it meant to be part of a military family, what my father was all about, and how he saw us because his photographs of us were so different than what he did at his job with crime photos.

You mentioned different lenses, Misty. It’s almost been my life’s work to find out how he saw us through his own lens, and it’s been pretty profound for me.

LORA: Do you think that this is the underlying thing that we as military brats and artists bring to our work from the military family experience? Is there something that we’re trying to define or explore?

I think what we’re doing–correct me if I’m wrong–is attempting to write/paint history about military brats. In the past the only thing that everyone could go out and purchase about brat history was Mary Edwards Wertsch’s book with the 80 interviews. And then Donna Musil’s documentary. That was the beginning of documentation of our cultural history. The connection to big topics and patterns. Military brats as a study is a fairly new topic. We’re still making sense of the sub-culture.

DIANE: That’s what it seems like, and the thing that layers into mine is that I had a French mother. My grandparents went through World War II. My mother was a child in occupied France on the border of Germany and France. My uncle still lives in Luxembourg. I have family scattered all over the world, but we don’t really have much contact with each other.  So, part of what I’m unraveling is my very close relationship with my French grandparents, and how their wartime experience was passed onto my mother and then passed on to me.  There are all these layers, and I think that’s why collage really speaks to me, because it’s a layering process. I think what we all are looking for is identity, when our entire community is gone basically.

You know, it’s funny.   Brats who spent time overseas pinpoint it as the best part of their lives.

The trouble with that is that we can’t go back to our communities because they don’t exist anymore. They’ve been torn down or they’re occupied now by civilian families. They look different. There’s not a gate. There’s nothing military left over there for us to pinpoint that that’s where we grew up. Going home for us is a little bit more difficult than for an American family who never left the US.  How are we different from other kids? And how are we the same? Being a brat really is a different life.

It seems to be more important as you get older because you get that sense of wanting to go home, but you can’t figure out where that is.

LORA: So, I don’t know about you two, but I lost my job, everything in my life changed recently because of Coronavirus. Going on unemployment, waiting things out. I literally had just finished my fundraiser for scholarships for Military Kid Art Project workshops. I was getting ready to launch the permanent art space. Before that I had been doing all this traveling. I really wanted to make an effort to see if I could get something started locally in Richmond, VA that would be a base camp. A place military families/brats could come back to year after year. What if there was a place to go back to for the rest of your life? Classes have been put on hold.

MISTY: If you decide to make plans, Uncle Sam will find a way to change them for you! I really enjoyed what you’ve done on line recently.

LORA: The quarantine has been good for my art practice. I’ve been making something every day with my hands. I’m pushing myself to try things I’ve never tried before. Like small things, and very quick things. I decided to do an experiment and make myself make things that only took 30 minutes. It was really hard. It was like I wanted the work to be more problematic, harder. I had to cut things off. Practically slap my own hand and say NO! you’re not doing that! That adds 15 more minutes. The work has turned out lighter and I think more fun.

That sort of leads me to the next question, which is: has the coronavirus entered your daily life? And, influenced your artwork?

MISTY: I’m actually still  employed full-time. I work my day job as a mortgage underwriter, so, while I’m not at the office anymore, I’m working from home, which I adore as a general practice. I’ve not been impacted that much. I still work the same number of hours. The big difference is that I don’t have the evening commitments that I had or the feeling like I need to go outside to just go “do something.”

I live in Alabama. I went to the grocery store today.  It was a regular Saturday, just like any other and you wouldn’t know that there was something going on if the shelves were fully stocked and people weren’t wearing masks. There were so people in the stores!

I kind of feel like I’m being left out of this massive thing that everyone in the world is going through because of where I live and what I do. When I do venture out to get my groceries every two weeks as opposed to every week like normal, I don’t feel like I see it. Because I’m working all the time, I don’t have that same shared experience that everyone else is having.  So, in many ways, I almost feel like I’m on the outside looking in on this pandemic situation and I don’t feel a part of it.

I’m not sure how that’s going to impact my creative work. I do mostly writing. I also do things like tarot reading. I’m trying not to do those right now because there are so many people who are impacted financially that I don’t want to take a commission from somebody if someone is willing to pay for that service. I would rather some other artist who makes a living doing this, take that commission.

LORA: How do you deal with shopping? Are you going out to shop, or  ordering things and having them delivered? If you go out do you wear a mask?

MISTY: I don’t do the gloves because I don’t feel they really help. Basically. When I come home, the first thing I do is I wash my hands and when we get to the car, we actually put on Purell to sanitize our hands. Then as soon as we put finished groceries away, we sanitize our hands, you know, basically whenever you think about it, sanitize. My hands are getting chapped from all this extra washing. I do wear a face mask. I would say about 50% of the people here in Alabama are wearing them, but I don’t really like what we’re doing.

Some of the groups that I would normally meet with face-to-face at my job, they do the zoom meetings or Discord chat. So, we’re still having encounters socially, but before you went into an office and now you’re just online.

LORA: I’ve been trying to think about what’s going to happen, you know with Military Kid Art Project, when everything gets lifted. I just don’t see people sending their children to buildings where groups of kids would sit around together, when they probably have things in place now because of the coronavirus;  I can’t imagine things normalizing any time soon. I see the teaching side of business as a wash this summer and perhaps starting up again in the fall. We’ll definitely have to change some policies, how far apart people work and not sharing materials among other things.

DIANE: From my standpoint with COVID, it really has impacted me in a big way as far as making art. Before the distancing happened, I was employed at a hospital. I still am employed there. But now I’m on furlough and my problem is that even though I’m scared to death of this virus, and even though I have my own issues with being a kid in military hospitals growing up and all that entailed, I really have this kind of need to be of service that I think came from the military values.  My whole family feels that way. They all want to be helpful, and I see that in even what you were saying, Misty.

That’s kind of a military value to me, where the team and the group and the Squadron or the entire service, we are all one and we have to act as a team. What’s good for one member is good for all members. It’s kind of that all-in-the-same-boat thing that we grew up with even though we weren’t close to our immediate families. We had our military families and we were very close to those military families in those tight communities.

Now I’m not working and I have an older husband who at 68 has diabetes and some other comorbidities and I have moderate asthma, so I’m glad I’m not in the front line, but I feel bad about not being on the Frontline.  And so, in some ways, I just have a hard time getting going because I feel like I should be out there, and what I’m doing is protecting my husband and myself, but that doesn’t feel the same as being out there on the front line.  I’m doing the only thing can do, which is delivering food for shut-ins, and bringing goodies over to the hospital and meeting somebody at the curb. But I just feel like, all of a sudden, the art took kind of a second place, plus I’m a process artist, which means I show up to the work and then it begins, I don’t have plans in place. It’s hard to be in that creative mode when I’m in survival mode.

So that’s kind of a problem that I’ve been having and I think my friends who are artistic are split down the middle on that one. Some of them are just not making any art at all and then others are just being super productive. I don’t know where that’s all going to land for me, but it’s been a bit of a struggle to keep my morale up. You know, it’s just feeling cut off from that fight. When I was talking about COVID in the very beginning, I used terms that a friend of mine who’s very astute said, “You sound like a soldier, you know going into battle or something.” I said, “Well that is kind of what it is.”

LORA: The reason I wanted us to get together and talk is because I thought a lot of what I hear on TV these days sounds very similar to the average military family experience.  I think the average military kid experiences these feelings every two to three years. I would move in middle of the school year, or it could be at the end of the school year, either way it would take four months before I would meet anyone. If we moved at the beginning of summer then forget it. I would often spend the entire summer alone. Mom would put me in different activities like art, swimming, and tennis, but they were all isolated. Team sports were always harder to enter in the middle of the school year. Almost impossible. Plus, I’m an introvert. So, to me, coronavirus sequestering feels normal.

MISTY:  You may remember back in late 1985, 86 when Reagan decided to send bombers from Lakenheath to Libya. I lived in England during that time, and it was one of the few times where I felt like  I lived in a hostile country.  And these are one of our closest allies!  But all of the sudden, the people of that country were livid. I mean, it was to the point where behind the scenes– and I didn’t find this out until many years later–the military was thinking about shipping dependents home because that’s how hostile the situation was in England. Now, I went to a 5-day boarding school. So, basically Monday morning, the bus would bring us to school and then Friday evening, we would get back on the bus and go back home to Greenham Common. For five days of the week I lived at London Central, which was at High Wycombe, and on the weekends, I lived at Greenham Common. Well there was a period because of that for about four to six weeks, we didn’t go home. We were confined to quarters (the base) for the entire time and we respected why we should do it.

Well, of course, on the first day they said we could go downtown, we obviously did. It was scary. We got followed from the moment we entered town.  Normally we would walk back to the base, but this time we took a cab.

We didn’t argue with the commander. He said stay on base, and we all said “yes, sir.”  No one tried to sneak off base to see what might happen. We all understood that this was for our safety. It was because the only way they could protect us was if we stayed on base. That meant we weren’t allowed to go home because going home meant driving those buses off base and truly subjecting ourselves to anything that happened between the school and were our family lived.  We respected his authority and obeyed the order. I don’t think that some civilians really get that. Sometimes you have to do things for the greater good even if they inconvenience you.

So, I kind of feel guilty whenever I go to a store, but at the same time, I’m going to a grocery store and buying the essential things that I need to have, rather than making somebody else do it. But I’m not trying to break down the doors at Michael’s. You know that people do that? They’re literally rushing the doors of places that are offering curbside delivery out of, you know, convenience for people.

I do feel that places like Michaels are essential right now. People need something to do. Right now, if somebody is sitting at home painting some piece of whatever that’s never going to see the light of day, and  it’s keeping them calm for 20 minutes,  that’s important. I think  having access to Michael’s is essential.

People just want to go places and they are feeling stir crazy. I get it. But I mean, like I said, the moment they told us we could go downtown, we flew out that gate– we didn’t even stop to think. “Okay, maybe just because they said it’s okay, we should wait a few days.”

Sometimes you must make a sacrifice for the greater good and take a little bit of an inconvenient hitch, and it’s okay. You have to understand that it’s not always about you, and it’s important to respect that you work things together as a team and keepeverybody safer.

LORA: Diane, how has the military lifestyle prepared you for the coronavirus?

DIANE: I do actually remember us going to Berlin before we left Europe from our station.  My dad was in his uniform when we went to the border and we stood on an observation deck. We were followed, by the way, to make sure we got off before the East side. This was in 1976. We got off at Checkpoint Charlie, at the wall area and climbed up to the observation deck to take pictures from the West side where we could see over the wall. Well, my brother took pictures, but his camera lens paper cleaner floated up, caught wind, then floated over the wall. My dad grabbed us and said, “We have to leave right now. Now, now, now!”  We had to go find a way out of there heading anywhere West because they were still patrolling the length of the Wall at that point with armed soldiers everywhere. I was thinking, oh my God just a little piece of lens paper the size of a three by five card could spark an international incident with my father who could have been a special agent in their minds.

The other thing I was thinking about was we were in Germany during the Baader-Meinhof gang, aka the “Red Army Faction” as they were otherwise known, when they were bombing American and civilian sites.

They bombed the IG Farben building near my brother’s high school and my dad was called to the scene to investigate. I knew this bombing was a really big deal with horrible consequences.

We got to the point where the commanders were saying that all the military kids had to be home by a certain time with mandatory curfews.   We endured quite a bit of that kind of shelter-in-place mentality at the time with curfews and lots of new orders until it was safe and I don’t remember questioning them.

I do remember from my childhood having a lot of anxiety and nail-biting. I know my entire family bit their nails. I’ve read pieces about military kids and nail biting from anxiety. I think we grow up with a lot of anxiety, even though we don’t identify it as much as that because we’re just following orders, but I think that, as a kid, you don’t really know why you’re following orders other than you have to and that’s what’s expected.

LORA: With my over 20 years of working with military kids, and this is something many people don’t like to hear… and I’m going to preface this with, there are absolutely wonderful things about military brat life. There are good and bad things. This Corona experience reminds me a lot of military family life. You know, military parents are deployed so many times, into dangerous situations. Me working with military brats, I’m fully aware whose parents are deployed into a war zone at any given time. These kids are holding it together really well.  They’re especially holding it together really well for their parents.

But when they’re with us, they’re using verbiage and talking about things that they will not talk about within their family because they don’t want to cause any more tension than already exists, within their family, within their home. So when they’re around peers that have grown up similarly, they feel free to talk about their normal, you know, the military brat normal, which is “Dad’s been deployed for almost a year now, it’s his 4th time”, and “Yes, he’s in this area and they are seeing and hearing explosions while talking on Skype.” Kids are fully aware of the danger that the parent is in, and they feel that stuff.

I also know as we’re going out during COVID time and  shopping, we’re wearing masks and we’re putting ourselves in those situations. There’s this needed aspect of suspended belief or denial. You’re thinking: “Okay. I need to feed myself and my family. I have to believe I’m not going to get the Corona Virus. I’m going to come home. I’m gonna wash my hands.”  But you also have to think, “I’m sure that people that got it probably thought the same thing, doing the same thing.”   So, there seems to be a disbelief or suspended belief. I think that’s what military families also have to do in essence, during war time, when a loved one is deployed. Which, by the way is still going on. So current brats and military families that have a deployed parent are double hit at the moment. They’re wondering, how do I kiss them, say goodbye, wave to the ship as it’s pulling out of port? You hope for the best and you try hard not to think about the worst. What I am also saying, is I believe civilians can learn a lot from military families in these trying times.

DIANE: Clenching teeth. There’s only so much pushing that down you can do, and it does come to the surface in your dreams. I think military children, at least in my experience, have been taught how to see a situation, to analyze it and figure out what they’re supposed to do. The best coping skill I ever got was being new to a situation, sussing it out and then deciding. ‘Okay. This is where I fit in or I need to be with these people or I need to get to know this person.’ We learned what was expected of us, and  then quickly adapted to that model.  So, you knew on one hand that it wasn’t alright, but you had your main adults telling you it was all right, and it was going to be alright. We didn’t have the Internet. All we had was the evening news and maybe those shorts before Tarzan. Plus, we got our news filtered through Stars and Stripes to our Armed Forces Network. Everything our parents were telling us, we heard it, but it might not have felt true, but we couldn’t say anything about that. I think for me, it manifested in anxiety and that’s the biting of the nails and knowing that there’s this undercurrent of tension going on. The adults in the room were not telling you what was going on.  At the same time, I don’t know that I’d want to know everything that was going on. I think military kids are really good at watching and observing and figuring things out. We just don’t know what to do with it because nobody’s going to corroborate it except our friends. That’s why the friendships were so important. I think military kids are pretty good at figuring things out for themselves. Military kids are amazing.

LORA: I agree.

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The conversation reflected a great deal on how the military environment trains military brats to listen to what is being said, and watch what is being done for guidance on how to respond.   It is not just our artwork which is influenced by the environment, it is how we respond to unfamiliar circumstances. This is something that stays with us our entire lives.

Lora Beldon is on Instagram and Facebook. Look for Military Kid Art Project as well as Lora Beldon, Art. Lora’s web site is http://www.LoraBeldon.com

Misty Corrales can be found on Facebook as Spell Me by Cat Francis.  Her novel, Spell Me the Truth, is available on Amazon.com.

Diane Harper is Diane Harper Art on Instagram.   You can find her on Facebook under Diane Harper Fine Art.

 

 

 


Lemons or Pie?

By Circe Olson Woessner

It is day three of teleworking from home, and day bazillion in the pre-or apocalyptic reality we find ourselves in. “Social distancing” is a new word that everyone knows and practices – – unless you’ve taken a devil-may-care attitude about this whole “hoax disease.” As we stay at home, we shake our heads at the images of young people frolicking on the beaches or having parties. Nero plays the violin as Rome burns. Look at Italy! Look at Italy!

A lot of people are scared and acting out – – I have heard of fights right here in our local supermarket—Really? Come on, for Pete’s sake! People are hording supplies and stocking up on ammo in “case of wide-spread panic.”

False information and far-fetched conspiracy theory opinions are being shared on social media as the gospel truth. People are sending along chain messages, and offering advice on really weird ways to prevent getting sick.  Forwarded emails from unknown “experts” are adding to the chaos. Memes and weird jokes are byproducts of how some people react to stress—and some of them are really, really funny – – unless you have someone who is elderly in your family, or who is sick, or someone who has, God forbid, recently died from COVID-19.

What messages are we sending to our children, who look for us to be calm in a time of crisis? What are we telling the elderly or immune compromised? Are we modeling desired behavior?

If someone coughs, or sneezes, we glare at them – – why are you doing that– are you sick? At the supermarket, we scan other people, looking for signs of disease on them. Why are you coming up my aisle? Wait till I’m done here! Shoppers are furtive, dashing through the aisles grabbing things as if it’s the end of the world.

Maybe it is.

Life as we know it has changed over  the past few weeks. Our dog has taken to sleeping with us, something forbidden up until a few weeks ago when he decided he preferred our bed to his. We laughed nervously saying, “well if something happens to us, at least he can eat us from the comfort of the bed.” Not very funny, but humor has taken an extremely dark turn these days…

Our society is self-isolated (another new word that everyone knows) and our workdays are very different than they were even a week ago. My extended family is keeping running shopping lists, knowing that it will be very hard to find the items we want, and while we will not succumb to hoarding, we understand that food shopping has become a scavenger hunt.

I feel I’m living in one of those science fiction movies or a really bad dream I can’t wake up from. This is no way to live. However; think of the alternative! Several months ago, this was a rhetorical question, but now, the alternative is hitting closer to home. And it’s not so hypothetical.

Wait!

… Just stop….breathe…Live in this particular moment. Take stock in your blessings right now.

In New Mexico the sun is shining, the trees are beginning to bud, and if you can slow your racing heartbeat, you can hear the birds sing. if you’re like me, and live near I-40, you can hear the hum of the interstate, of trucks bringing needed supplies to communities all across this country. The National Guard is setting up hospital tents; Airmen are stocking shelves at the Kirtland Air Force Base Commissary. Babies are being born; people are getting married. Life is still going on.

Over and over, I am drawn to the quote attributed to Mr. Rogers after 911.  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

And it’s very true. The military is calling up retired healthcare workers to join the fight against Covid-19. Federal employees are teleworking, ensuring that the nation doesn’t grind to a halt. Emergency responders and military  are rotating personnel to ensure there are enough healthy team members to respond to a national emergency or health crisis.

Stores are trying to accommodate the massive amount of shoppers panic buying, and setting up designated shopping times for people who are vulnerable. Utility companies are suspending disconnections and overdue accounts. Workers are pulling longer shifts to accommodate the requirements needed to get us through this crisis.

Impromptu support groups are starting on Facebook. Younger people are offering to run errands for older people. People are passing along local resources and information on store inventories and discounted places.

Neighbors are checking in on their neighbors; recently unemployed people are offering childcare services so that frontline staff who have to work, can get to their jobs at hospitals, supermarkets, emergency response centers, etc.

Even while under lockdown, the human spirit is strong.  Individuals – – common, everyday people – – are lifting the spirits of their fellow human being by leading them exercise sessions as they watch from balconies.  A military spouse in Germany serenaded her fellow base dwellers with her own funny versions of Andrew Lloyd Webber hits. A friend is reading poetry selections on Skype. Symphonies and theater companies are performing concerts or plays and streaming them free to the public. Companies are offering free educational products to parents who suddenly find themselves homeschooling their kids. (I tried to homeschool my son when he was nine and it didn’t end well for either of us– so hats off to every homeschool parent out there now trying to figure it out!) I’ve joined an online writer’s group with complete strangers from all over the world, and we are enjoying the creative company.

Last night, I watched a short YouTube video called “Isolated St. Patrick’s Day Parade” where people around the world, through the miracle of technology, were able to play one song from their homes—in Spain , the US, Ireland,  the UK  and Australia– in harmony and in sync. It was lovely and appropriately wonderful for a very unusual St. Patrick’s Day.

When this is all said and done, I’m hoping we have learned lessons as a society and can make our world safer, friendlier and better.

I never signed up to be dealing with COVID-19, but since I must, I have choices: I can panic and be mean and small, or I can take this lemon that I was given and make a big, beautiful meringue pie.

I choose the pie.


Caregivers Deserve to be Remembered

by Sue Pearson

As a caregiver and wife, I take care of a 100% disabled veteran husband (Tom) who proudly served our country for 24 years in the Air Force including serving in the Vietnam War who needs assistance with daily tasks, such as showering, administering medication, transportation to medical appointments and planning his day.  I am always thinking, what I need to do for the two of us?  He is a left leg amputee above the knee, caused from many health issues serving in the military. He is now retired.

As a caregiver, I fulfill many different roles: wife, friend, nurse, case manager, chauffeur, etc. so, I pray for God to give me wisdom to know which role to step into for the best care for every situation.

The demands of caring for a spouse can be overwhelming and builds stress with no end in sight.  There are times I have limited time and energy.  There are times my spouse becomes very irritable due to the pain or illnesses he suffers, which causes stress emotionally and physically on his body.

Caregivers need encouragement, inspiration, and faith to care for a loved one. When I feel overwhelmed, I turn to God and read Matthew 11: 28-30.

My spouse requires a lot of medical care.  He has gone through many surgeries, 3rd degree burns, speech, occupational and physical therapy, and even having cancer twice.

I always have to go and engage/fight for him, usually in a physician’s office or hospital, and help him through so many surgeries—and– even dying in December 2009, which God performed a miracle and brought him from being dead to living again.

It is difficult at times to try to keep up with the household chores, medical bills, plumbing issues, appliances breaking down, yardwork, food shopping, being a chauffeur, and sometimes, even burning the meals.

There are days I have no time for myself to relax or dedicate time to read God’s word or prayer time which causes bad or fearful thoughts.  I need to focus on prayers and think  about God’s gifts and promises, instead of our problems, which can be very difficult at times.   I have had to give up fun activities and time with friends and family to take care of my spouse.

As a caregiver for Tom, I find that it does affect me physically and emotionally. Also, as a caregiver, I sacrifice many social relationships and traveling with my spouse. That comes at a cost emotionally and I feel alone at times.

Furthermore, as a caregiver and wife, I feel guilty that I’m not doing enough for my spouse.  Still, I never think of myself as a caregiver.  I must trust in God above all else.  I couldn’t do this without God who calls us to care. Sometimes the medical conditions my spouse suffers from breaks my heart.

I must ask God to give me strength daily to care for Tom and rely on God’s power working through me instead of my own efforts.  We must trust God in every situation, which can be difficult at times while caring for one’s spouse.  I must aim to protect his dignity.  I must try to keep him active and engaged in activities which is very difficult due to his poor health.

I believe Tom paid a huge price in service of his country, but he has no regrets about serving his country.  It is an honor to take care of him, since we have been married for 41 years.  Caregivers are forgotten at times and need to be remembered.


Telling Albuquerque is Looking for Participants


Boy Scouts-Trying to Make the World Better

In 1952, I left, to attend a Boy Scout jamboree with other scouts to spend two weeks in Blair Atholl, Scotland We were the sons of American military personnel who were stationed in a southern Germany as part of the allied occupation force. It had only been a recent practice to participate in any form of group activity with local people, due to the disparity of living conditions and the after shock of the war years. We traveled on an olive drab military bus as far as the coast of the English channel at Ostend, Belgium.

All along our route we saw the terrible evidence of the war that had just been fought. Our presence, for some was their first contact with American youth. As I look back I remember how hard we worked to leave a good impression:

When we rode on the ship to England, we found a group of touring middle age women who had been visiting loved ones buried in the military cemeteries. Some of us, with guitars (Tony Phillips and David Murphy, I believe) led them in songs.

At the train station we drew the attention of the BBC, who noticed that we were going down the aisles passing out small packages of marshmallows. We learned that few of them had not seen or tasted a marshmallow before. At the beginning of our trip. each of us packed a can of Hormel ham to share with our host families. We realized that the British were still under a strict food rationing system. At the Tower of London, we were told that the only ones in England who were given a daily ration of meat were the ravens who populated the large courtyard.

We were awakened from our tents, in Scotland by the thrilling sound of bagpipes. I even accomplished a ‘l rounder’ in a Cricket game. I think, for all of us, that we so wanted to make the battle scarred world whole again.

 

By Hudson Phillips.


In 1946, VA Voluntary Service was established as part of General Omar Bradley’s modernization of the Veterans Administration.

In June 1945, less than two months after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death and Harry S. Truman assumed the presidency, he selected fellow Missourian General Omar Bradley to head the Veterans Administration. Bradley was confirmed and took his place at VA in August of that year. Bradley was charged with modernizing VA and he wasted no time in doing so.  He established a national chaplain service in November and after getting congressional approval to create a professional Department of Medicine and Surgery in January 1946, set out establish other vital services to improve care for veterans.  The Army had a long and successful record of working with volunteers and social organizations, and he knew that VA could benefit from coordinating volunteers at a national level, too.

The roots of large-scale volunteerism began during the Civil War.  Men, women, and children in both the Confederate and Union territories who could not fight in the war, volunteered to do anything needed to help soldiers and the war effort. In June 1861 President Lincoln authorized the U.S. Sanitary Commission, an entirely volunteer group from New York, to help the Union Army medical department and legions of short-term “volunteer” soldiers that were enlisting to fight in the war.  Local branches were established in many cities and “sanitary fairs” were held to raise money that bought ambulances, hospital ships, medical supplies, and personal items for wounded and convalescing soldiers. These volunteers documented burial locations for soldiers who died from their wounds, wrote letters to families, read to soldiers, and much more to comfort them or their families.image001

The U.S. Sanitary Commission was the largest national volunteer organization in American history at the time, igniting passions for those fighting the war and attracting thousands of volunteers like poet Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, and Frederick Law Olmsted to help them.  Service with the U.S. Sanitary Commission inspired many of its volunteers to continue the work after the war, resulting in numerous new social and veterans fraternal organizations.  The Grand Army of the Republic and American Red Cross are examples of Sanitary Commission spin-offs that were established after the war to provide services not only to veterans, but to their widows, families, and orphans, as well as immigrants and the poor. The U.S. Sanitary Commission played an essential role in proving the need for “soldiers homes” after the war that resulted in the establishment of the first federal institution in the world solely for disabled veterans of the “volunteer” forces in 1865.  That institution, initially known as the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, was the origins of what today is known as VA’s Veterans Health Administration.

1919_06_17_Red Cross to help find beneficiaries_TheSpokesman-Reviewp4 The passion for disabled soldiers and veterans, which sprang to life on a massive and national scale during the Civil War, became a new part of the American ethos, after the war, and VA and its predecessors were beneficiaries of that good will.  During World War I, the Treasury Department was tasked with providing medical care to World War I disabled veterans, through its Bureau of War  Risk Insurance(BWRI) and Public Health Service (PHS).  Surgeon General Rupert Blue asked the American Red Cross for help and their volunteers supplied a significant auxiliary workforce that ranged from filing clerks to nurses and social workers. The Red Cross provided the first organized coordination of volunteer services in federal veterans programs, but as the Veterans Bureau, and later the Veterans Administration, took over roles once done by the Red Cross, much of that was lost.

As the U.S. geared up to fight yet another war in 1941, volunteer organizations once again came to the aid of service men and women and VA. General Bradley knew very well the important role that volunteers played in maintaining morale and hope in his troops during the war and that they could do the same for them as veterans.  Bradley established a Special Services Division in 1946, just like Army had, which included a chaplain service, voluntary service coordination (VAVS), recreation service, and canteen service.  Establishing a national office with experienced staff to meet with leaders of volunteer and veterans organizations was a common-sense move that has seen VA’s volunteer program grow, professionally, over the past 70 years into one of the largest, most experienced, and respected corps of volunteers in the federal government.

While VAVS celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, it continues the work with veterans that began 155 years ago, and has found its own place in American history.  I dare say that the men and women of the U.S. Sanitary Commission would be most proud of their modern brothers and sisters caring for this generation of veterans.

VA Historian

 

 

 


The Separated Widow

JOYCE CARPENTER
Today we laid my 2nd husband to rest. It was a emotional time for me. So many things felt. It’s no secret that he had hurt us. Before the hurt there was friendship and love though. Who ever said there is a fine line between love and hate truly knew what they were talking about in this instance. I cried today for the man I once knew, that friend who once cared, the soldier who who served us all.Once again I received a flag with the thanks of our President and Nation for service. Once again I jumped at the first shots fired as the salute was led, just like I did when I said good bye to my Dad. The tears ran down my face wile my hand covered my heart as the bugler sounded taps . The young Soldier could feel my hands tremble as he placed our flag in my hands and knelt giving sympathy with his words and eyes as I sat alone.

In this moment I couldn’t tell you that the thoughts going through my head are totally clear. I can say I said my good byes and cried the tears I needed too. Not only did I say good bye but I also let go of pent up pains and hurt.

I forgave a long time ago , but held on to the hurt. Not something I recommend any one do.

Today I say a prayer for the other separated widows like me. May they find peace as they move forward with their lives. May God wrap them in his love and guide them and me to be more like him. Amen.