Posts Tagged With: Family

Where is my Husband?

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It is Monday night at about 8:30pm as I decide to sit down and write this, out of lack of both another human outlet and further drive to fold yet another load of laundry. My husband is not home and I have not heard from him since he left home almost 14 hours ago. I quite literally do not know where in the world he is right now.

This is significant only because I make it a point to (as much as possible) always know where my husband is. Being a Marine Corps pilot, he spends much of his time flying thousands of feet above the Earth, and then landing his C-130 on all parts of it. My husband loves his job, and I could not be prouder of him; but I would be lying if I said I don’t worry about him from time to time. Over the past month and a half, there have been three crashes involving military aircraft, two of which hit (figuratively) very close to home for us.

In February, a CH-46 helicopter crashed in Thailand and my husband was in the first plane on the scene. They called in rescue support for the burning helicopter and its crew, Marines who go to work in the hangar next to my husband’s. These men were our neighbors, and while I did not know them personally, I can only imagine the moments in which their wives heard of the accident. None of the crew died that day, but at least one was critically injured, and I continue to follow his recovery on Facebook.

Last week, an EA-6B Prowler went down during a training flight near Whidbey Island, Washington. One of our very good friends from flight school is attached to that squadron, and he knew personally each of the three people that died in the crash. While I was relieved to hear that our friend was not piloting that aircraft, my heart goes out to the families of his squadron in the face of this terrible tragedy. Finally, again this week another military aircraft went down, this one an Army UH-60 Blackhawk in Afghanistan, of all places. Another five lives were taken from their families that day.

These are the events that linger in my mind as I go throughout my day, reading articles and Facebook updates that disparage the military, referring to their “lavish lifestyle” or “wrongful actions” in combat. (I do not plan on going on an angry political tirade tonight, but these ignorant and offensive statements are upsetting to someone in my position).  These are the events that color my world. Tonight I do not like that my husband is not home because I worry about him, despite the four huge engines and good safety record of the C-130.

I usually know where he is, even if I can’t talk to him while he is there. The issue with tonight is that I expected him to be home. I rushed to get home by 6, when I thought he would be home. I prepared dinner, but not having heard from him, I set it aside rather than putting it in the oven. I learned that lesson years ago, when we ate the world’s driest spaghetti because I kept it warm on the stove for almost 4 hours on a Friday night while he was at The Basic School (the Marine Corps’ 6-month officer training school where they learn everything from leading marines into terrorist encampments to dressing sucking flesh wounds with saran wrap and duct tape).

Now, at 9pm I am just sitting down to eat part of our dinner, having depleted our snacks and realizing that he may not be coming home tonight. I trust that wherever he is, he is alright. I write this post tonight because these moments are difficult for me because I hate letting go of the smaller moments I like to have control over in my life. I’ve had to give a lot of the big decisions in our marriage to the Corps, so I struggle with relinquishing control of the little ones. This is a learning process. As they say, Semper Fidelis, Semper Gumby.

Now, back to that laundry!

Always, Amanda

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Categories: Military Life | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Our First Year of Marriage

One year ago today, I married my best friend. He is busy flying planes in a land far away from here right now, but that gives me the opportunity to reminisce when I would otherwise be snuggling with him in front of our wedding video. In the year that we have been married, much has changed. It has been by far the most difficult year of my life, and I am lucky that I can say it has also been the best. This was our year:

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On February 18, 2012, we got married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony near Corpus Christi, Texas. Our wedding went by in a whirlwind, but the important part is that I woke up the next morning beside my husband and we began our adventure together. At the time, we were living in Corpus Christi while Casey went through the multi-engine portion of flight school, and I worked for a local staffing firm.

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Several weeks after our wedding, Casey received the lovely golden wings he had worked so hard for, and then he went off to California for two weeks of survival training. Shortly after that, he moved to New Bern, North Carolina, for the final stage of flight training (this time in a simulated C-130).  I did not accompany Casey to North Carolina because the military would not pay for us to move there, I wanted to continue working at my job, and we had recently learned we would be moving to Okinawa. While the Marine Corps had separated Casey and I before, the pain of saying goodbye to him and remaining behind was something I was somehow unprepared for. I was lucky to have kind and generous co-workers; but being only recently married, I was mostly isolated from the military community. It was a trying time for both of us, and I was forced to learn many new things I would have avoided had I had the choice. I did not enjoy caring for the lawn, repairing my car when it broke down, running Barley and Hops to the emergency vet when they consumed poison or got stung by scorpions, or dealing with our neglectful landlord when our AC and appliances broke. I’d like to think that all of that and the sushi dates I had with myself made me a stronger person; but I would be entirely dishonest if I said that I enjoyed the overall experience.

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I was able to visit Casey once in the lovely little town of New Bern, where they have these adorable bears all over town. In August, Casey and I began our Farewell America tour. We had already said goodbye to my friends and family in Virginia; so this time we met in Vermont, where we spent some wonderful time with my family. Saying goodbye to my father and baby sisters was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

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From there, we flew down to New Bern and packed Casey’s things into Brandy (his precious Mazda Speed 3), and headed home to Corpus Christi. We stopped in Meridian, Mississippi, to visit some of our awesome jet pilot friends before we made it back to Corpus. We spent a week or so there, moved out of our home, and packed our fluffy children into the car. You’ve already heard of our road trip to San Diego to say goodbye to Casey’s family, followed by our trip to Seattle and then epic plane ride to Okinawa. Long story short: we moved across the planet. Nbd.

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Once in Okinawa, we lived in a hotel for a week (separated from Barley and Catbeast), then moved into our concrete palace in a tower on Camp Kinser, in the southern part of Okinawa. It took awhile for our belongings to arrive, (most of which will remain in storage in Texas until we return to the US) but we have done our best to make Okinawa home. I’ve been adjusting to life here and trying to figure out in which direction to take my career. Casey has enjoyed flying the C-130, and has already had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, mainland Japan, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines, and the Marshall Islands. I miss him while he is gone, but I am so proud of all his hard work and am so happy to see him finally reaping its rewards. In between those trips, we’ve tried to take advantage of his free time to explore the wonderful food and beautiful sites Okinawa has to offer. I promise that more on that will come in the next few weeks.

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Spending holidays, birthdays, and an anniversary apart has been difficult, but I never take our time for granted. The little moments that we share cooking dinner together, watching him wrestle with Barley and Hops, exploring this wonderful island together: all of these I have an acute appreciation for, knowing the feeling of a cold bed and an (almost) empty home. Marriage is not easy, and we have much to learn about how to deal with such important issues as cold feet in the bed and where exactly we should place our wet towels. I’m just lucky that I have Casey to share this amazing, at times chaotic, life with. I am sure we will continue to face obstacles in the years ahead, but I know that together (or not), we will make it through this adventure and come out stronger and more prepared for the next one. Happy anniversary, babe.

Always, Amanda

Categories: Marriage, Military Life, Our Story | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Our Subtropical Winter

Alright. It has been over 2 months since I have updated you all on my life. I watched the days turn into weeks and then months, and have now learned my lesson. I have so much to say that it is difficult to say it all without scaring you away. I’ll attempt to summarize the last two months as briefly as I can, and I’ll save some of the better stories for later posts. 😉

In late November, we finally received our shipment of household goods. After 5 moves in less than 3 years, we have become quite efficient at unpacking. (It also helped that we left most of our belongings in storage). Two months later, I am still working on making our apartment feel more like home.
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After unpacking, I launched into Thanksgiving preparation. This was my first Thanksgiving away from family, and I was determined to try and make up for that by cooking my first Thanksgiving feast. With Casey’s help (on the meat portions), I cooked a turkey, mashed potatoes and 2 types of gravy, rolls, cornbread muffins, 2 types of stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and 2 pies.  It felt like a rite of passage into womanhood to pull that off, but I was exhausted and learned a lot about what not to do when cooking for 10+ people. It was wonderful to share the holiday with friends, but it was no substitute for hearing my baby sister say Grace back home.

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At the beginning of December, Barley gave me quite the scare. I came home one Saturday afternoon to find him shaking all over and lethargic. Getting him to a vet was a terrifying experience, as there was no one on base to see him. After multiple phone calls to vets out in town who repeatedly hung up on me because of the language barrier between us, I was able to get him to a vet clinic that could see him, where a fraction of the vet’s explanation was translated to me. Multiple appointments, many steroids,  and over a month later, Barley is fine. With Casey out of town, I could not have gotten through that experience without the support of a few friends out here and the kindness of the employees at the vet clinic who tried their best to communicate with me.

On the note of Casey being out of town, he has had a number of trips to mainland Japan, Hawaii, and Korea. His flights are more and more exciting, and he is truly loving his job. While I enjoy having him home with me, I am tremendously happy to see him finally reaping the rewards of all his (continued) hard work!

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In between Casey’s trips, we have enjoyed his days off for the holidays.  While again this has been our first Christmas away from family, we did our best to bring Christmas to Okinawa. The Okinawans have a fun conception of Christmas, which involves the quintessential bright lights, albeit in pinks, blues, and yellows. While most of the material components to Christmas were present, it did not quite feel like Christmas in the 70-degree weather or in our fairly empty apartment. It was still wonderful to share our first Christmas as a married couple together. We spent the morning opening our gifts and skyping with family, and then dove back into cooking a Christmas feast for a few of our friends out here. (This time we went for an easier menu). 😉

This month, we enjoyed a fun celebration of the New Year with our new found friends, and even had a visit from a good friend from the states, Farrah! I have been taking a Japanese class, and am fully enjoying my little interactions with the Okinawan people as I slowly learn the language. We look forward to all the new adventures 2013 will bring us!

In between those holidays and everything else I have left out, Casey and I have spent as much of our time as possible exploring everything this wonderful little island has to offer. In the coming weeks I will go over everything from delicious local food to underground caves, from aquarium visits to creepy tombs and beautiful castles…

I hope that all of you enjoyed your holiday season, wherever you are in the world.

Love always, Amanda

Categories: Barley, Moving, Okinawa Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Journey to the East

Before I detail what we have been up to here on Okinawa, I thought I would recount the tale of how we arrived.

Some time before our wedding this past February, Casey was notified that we would be relocating to Japan. I had known it was a likely option for us, but nonetheless I was not prepared for the phone call I received from Casey while on my lunch break one day. Before this, I had never traveled outside of the US, except for a cruise to the Bahamas and a short drive to Canada for ice cream. I had always wanted to travel, but the idea of moving to another continent for 3 years was hard to swallow at first. (It did, however, validate our decision to get married when we did!) When Casey told me we would be moving to Japan, I was not sure what to say. I didn’t want to disappoint him or let him know how genuinely scared I was. I wanted to be strong and get through the rest of my day at work without any angry, crying outbursts.

In that endeavor, I was successful. I went back to work and told my boss I would be able to work there for another 6 months; and then I put the impending move out of my mind as much as possible. This was not difficult, as I was a month out from our wedding, and was more than preoccupied with that. We got married on a beautiful, windy day in February; and I found myself overwhelmed by the thought of saying goodbye to all the people we love, as this was the last time we would see many of them for years.

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Over the following weeks, Casey went off to California for SERE (“survival school”), and then he moved to North Carolina for the final stage of his flight training for the C-130, while I stayed back in Corpus Christi. During our 5-month separation, Casey and I split up the laundry list of hoops we would need to jump through to get to Okinawa. This included getting official passports, medical and dental clearances, immunizations, anti-terrorism training, selling some of our belongings, and preparing for essentially 3 separate moves. (We had 2 shipments to send to Japan, and one to put in storage for 3 years). In addition to all of this, the most difficult part of the process was getting our dog and cat, Barley and Hops, eligible for transport to Japan. This involved microchips, multiple rabies vaccinations, blood tests sent to DOD laboratories, health certificates and more paperwork than I would care to list on here. I can tell you that I will never again attempt a vet appointment with a dog and a cat in the passenger seat of a Mazda Miata.

After a long separation, Casey and I were reunited in August, when we continued our goodbye tour on a trip to see my family in Vermont. Saying goodbye to them was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I had already been separated from friends and family for 2 years at this point, but moving to another country felt for just a minute like the end of the world. We flew from there back to New Bern, NC, to move Casey out of his apartment and begin our road trip back to Corpus Christi. We stopped in Meridian, MS, to say goodbye to friends, and then spent 2 weeks together in Corpus preparing for and executing the move.

While we have moved 4 times in the last 2 years, this was by far the most stressful. Armed with my massive spreadsheets of everything we own and donuts to keep the movers productive, I managed to survive 5 days of different movers in and out of our house. Our last night in Corpus Christi was spent in a hotel, eating take-out from our favorite restaurant in town. I had said several tearful goodbyes with my co-workers and friends there and Casey had finished his massive check-out process on base, leaving us with nothing left but to toss the animals into our packed out car and say a bittersweet goodbye to Corpus Christi.

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Of course, we had to see the Gulf one last time (for now). From there, we headed west to San Diego, CA, to say goodbye to family and friends there. We truly enjoyed watching the landscape of America evolve as we drove, and we made a few stops along the way. However, driving with a dog and cat in tow makes road trips considerably more difficult, and we were unable to make extended stops along the way. Most of our sight-seeing was done from inside the car.

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We arrived in beautiful San Diego, and had a wonderful time with family and friends. As was the trend, it was difficult to say goodbye. From there, we headed north to Seattle, WA. The trip along the West Coast was stunning. With the mountains of California on our right and the Pacific on our left, slamming into the coast; it was a gorgeous drive. We stopped to see a few friends and family on the way in San Jose and San Francisco, and then Portland. We arrived in Seattle very late at night, carried all the animals and bags into the hotel, and promptly passed out. In the morning, Barley and Hops had their final vet appointment, and Casey and I tied up all the loose ends in our life. 😉

Unfortunately, up until this point, the military was unable to get Barley on our flight to Okinawa. After researching our options and being unwilling to fork over $3000 for someone else to accompany him there, we decided to fly separately. We purchased a ticket for Barley and I on a civilian airline, and Casey was to take Hops on board the military flight with him. My flight was set to land in Tokyo, where I would need to take Barley through customs and animal quarantine services to have him checked out and his paperwork reviewed. Casey and Hops would fly from base to base, by-passing this process. I was not confident in my ability to get through it, as I’ve been known to get lost and cry in airports. I knew I had no other options at this point, as I was not going to leave Barley behind, so I did my best to prepare myself.

The morning of our flights, I drove Casey and Hops to the airport at 4:30 am. When we approached the counter with our 5 bags + cat, we asked if they happened to have a space available for Barley, assuming they wouldn’t. When the woman told me they had someone cancel their pet’s spot last minute (and that they had not canceled my seat), I almost hugged her. She told us we had 30 minutes to get our bags and dog to the airport and on the flight! Since I had assumed I was not leaving until later that day, all of my luggage and Barley were still back at the hotel! Casey had to run back to the car, rush to the hotel, throw everything together and rush back. I stayed at the airport to guard our belongings and catbeast. We managed to get everything dropped off just in time (Barley was not happy to be left in a crate with these people), and then spent the next hour before our flight departed canceling my flight with United, turning in the rental car, and going through the box of our belongings that we had planned on mailing to ourselves but could not, as the post office is not open at 6 am (we threw away everything that did not fit in our luggage). Oh, and then we had to carry our cat through security! (Note: I do not recommend this).

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Even attempting to explain that morning is exhausting. By the time we boarded our flight, we were toast. The airline employees were wonderful, and we spent the next 12 hours drifting in and out of sleep with Hopsy sleeping in our laps. We arrived first on Yokota air base near Tokyo. We stopped for about 2 hours, during which time we were able to walk and feed a very upset Barley. We then boarded the plane again and flew another 2 hours to Iwakuni, Japan. In Iwakuni, we walked Barley again and got a bit to eat. (Our first meal in Japan was Taco Bell). 😉

Finally, we boarded the plane one last time for Kadena AFB on Okinawa! We were exhausted and ready to get there. Hops decided during this flight that she was no longer happy flying on an airplane and went potty on the floor of the bathroom. (I’ve never seen Casey so angry as when he came back to our seats covered in cat litter after 20 minutes in the bathroom). We finally arrived in Okinawa, gathered all of our huge bags and dog, and met our sponsors, the Ermises. They took care of everything from there. They took us to our hotel, dropped Hops off with a friend, and took Barley home with them. The process of flying took over 24 hours, and I have never been so tired.

In the morning, however, we woke up in paradise.

Categories: Moving, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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