2015 Military Spouse of the Year: Round One Update

Well, I can’t begin to thank everyone enough for their support! I am so humbled to announce that I was honored by 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Program as the Oregon National Guard Base Winner!

National Guard Winner5

Here is a little background, that was provided to me via a press release: In 2013, Military Spouse magazine expanded the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® program by introducing an installation echelon. Nominations are now aggregated at the base (Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy), district (Coast Guard), and state level (National Guard). This year, more than 1,600 nominations were submitted from 197 installations across the country. Voters then elected a base level winner at each of these installations. The Base Level Spouses of the Year represent the best of the base, and are a key component in the grass roots level of communication in the military community.

MSOY15“America’s military and their families have been at the ready over the past 13 years we have been at war. The military spouses who have maintained the home front during deployments and training missions have accomplished remarkable feats. They have supported not only our military but added to the strength of the nation,” said Kate Dolack, Editor-in-Chief of Military Spouse magazine. “Now, perhaps more than ever, it is important to recognize those stand out spouses from all branches and at every installation and honor them for their achievements.”

The overall winner and 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®, will be revealed at a VIP ceremony in Washington, D.C. on May 8th. Base level winners, military officials, and key leaders in the spouse community are invited to the luncheon, as well as at the third annual Military Spouse magazine Town Hall, which will be held on May 7th. For additional information on the Military Spouse of the Year Program ® visit http://msoy.militaryspouse.com.

About Military Spouse

Military Spouse magazine and http://militaryspouse.com, published by Victory Media, is the leading national magazine and online destination for the nation’s 1.1 million military spouses. You can follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/militaryspousemagazine and on Twitter at @MilpouseMag.

The company also publishes G.I. Jobs magazine (gijobs.com) and Vetrepreneur magazine (navoba.com), and has created the Buy Veteran movement (buyveteran.com) powered by NaVOBA.

About Armed Forces InsuranceAFI

AFI was founded in 1887 by military leaders with a single mission: to protect the property of those who protect our nation. The company provides premium quality, competitively-priced property and casualty insurance to military professionals throughout the United States and overseas. AFI understands that military members have unique circumstances and insurance needs, enabling the company to offer a level of personalized service that’s unequaled in the industry. For more information, visit the website at www.afi.org or call 1-800-495-8234.

So, What’s Next?

The top 18 candidates will be announced on January 30th, with those candidates participating in a branch vote which will take place on ONE DAY – February 4th. You can follow the timeline of events here: http://msoy.militaryspouse.com/timeline/.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on any updates – but regardless of the outcome, I will be accepting my invitation to Washington, D.C.! I look forward to the opportunity to continue to be an advocate and representative for the Oregon National Guard! Again, thank you for your support – it means more to me than I can express!

Military Spouse of the Year: Round One

ADB%20Photographix-6286-X3Hello everyone! I know you might have seen me posting about this on Facebook and Twitter, but I wanted to go into a little more detail on the blog as well. I recently had the honor of being nominated as Armed Forces Insurances’ Military Spouse of the Year. It would be such a privelege to represent the National Guard as the 2015 MSOY (Military Spouse of the Year), but I need your help!

Today and TODAY ONLY is Round One of voting. Voting is currently taking place, and ends at 11:59pm EST on January 21st (yes, today)! Here is a direct link to my profile where you can vote. If for some reason you cannot find my profile, please enter “Ashley Ella” in the search box.

http://msoy.militaryspouse.com/vote/#view/19957/2599246

Here is a summary of the questions they asked me, in addition to my answers:

Tell us a little about you: I’m a business owner here in Oregon (I appraise commercial agricultural properties with a focus on vineyards and wineries). However, my family always comes first, and I’m the proud spouse of a National Guard soldier. When my husband is not serving the National Guard, he is a full-time state trooper – making me a Mil Spouse by weekend (and trainings and deployments) and an LEO Wife the rest of the time. Needless to say, bullet proof vests / life-style are a part of our every day life. I’m also a mom to a beautiful three year old daughter and am currently working on writing my first book about the unique challenges of being a spouse of a National Guard soldier.

Hobbies: I love traveling (a lot) – if I’m not flying or traveling at least three to four times a year I go stir crazy! I’m also an entrepreneur (which is kind of a hobby, right?) – I’ve started two companies, own a rental property, I’ve been involved with three direct marketing companies, and am currently writing my first book. Hobbies also include volunteering where my passions lie at that time in my life. In regard to the military, I’m recently started a blog to reach out to fellow “part-time” military spouses. I am also pursuing my love for writing by starting my first book. The purpose of the book is to speak to the emotional challenges that come with being a part time military spouse, and how to survive both deployment AND the civilian world.

Share something funny/random/interesting about you: The last time my husband deployed, I dropped him off at the airport, went into work, and got laid off. I was staring down a scary, lonely journey and I had no idea what I was going to do. So, I decided to pursue one of my hobbies at that time (weddings), and started my own wedding coordination company. Within a short time, it became an award winning company numerous years. I was blessed to meet amazing couples, but most importantly I proved to myself that no matter what life could throw at me – I would over come it.

What is something you’ve learned from being a military spouse? I’ve learned so much – that I’ve decided to put it all in a book. I want others in similar situations to know that they are not alone, that their struggles matter, that they are loved, and that they are a crucial part of supporting the US Armed Forces. In very short summary, I have learned that I am strong, committed, brave, compassionate, sensitive, emotional, and driven. And, I have a mission: to help my fellow part-time military spouses survive their deployments AND life in the civilian world.

In your opinion, what is one of the most important issues facing military families? I continually see, read, and talk with fellow military families, and they feel that their sacrifices aren’t taken seriously. There was a sense of unity directly after 9/11, however some of that has started to fall to the way side as the war(s) continue on. I think it is important to bring to the attention of all Americans, that no matter the war, no matter the circumstances, no matter political preferences, soldiers of the US Armed Forces make the decision to fight for what they believe in – and their families sacrifice along side them.

In your opinion, what is one of the best aspects of being in a military family? One of the best aspects of being in a military family is the sense of unity and strength that few people will ever understand. To having someone you love knowingly and voluntarily stand up, raise their hand, and say “me, send me.” I didn’t understand this call to action that my husband has always had until we went to Ground Zero together just two weeks before his first deployment. There was no monument. There was no calm. It was chaos, it was destruction, it was pain. But the man holding my hand was willing to fight for those people, fight for their families, fight for their memories. And now? So was I. Through his first deployment (and now going through our second), I don’t look at being a military family as a burden – I look at it as being a blessing. After the first deployment, each hug meant more. Each kiss meant more. Every second with the one I love meant more – this was a lesson I feel that people spend a lifetime trying to figure out. We were blessed to learn it in our first year of marriage.

What is one thing you would want to accomplish with the MSOY title? I want to bring more recognition and understanding to the unique challenges of being a National Guard (army, air, or reserve) military spouse. These spouses are typically in communities that do not understand the military way of life nor the sacrifices that come along with it. Even amongst the military community, I want all of the branches to work in unity – they serve the same nation. They serve the same people. They serve you. They serve me. Army National Guard families, and other part-time military families, are often the “forgotten” ones. We’re looked at just as the “weekend warriors.” However, we’re just as much a part of serving this nation as any other branch. The Army cannot do it on their own. The Marines cannot do it on their own. The Air Force cannot do it on their own. The Navy cannot do it on their own. The Coast Guard cannot do it on their own. They must work in unity, in oneness. They are equal. Every day they serve, we serve. Even if only serving on “the weekends,” they are always ready for the call. The motto of the National Guard is even “Always Ready, Always There.” Well, as spouses we have to also be “always ready, always there” when duty calls. I want fellow Part-Time military families and spouses to know that they are heard, they are not alone, and that their sacrifices matter.

Thank you for taking the time to read about this great honor. In order to advance to the national round (18 total candidates – three from each branch of the military) – I need your help! I truly appreciate you taking a moment out of your day to support me in this process. Please forward this link to friends and family. Thank you very much!

thankyou_Arizona

Heavy Rains, Heavy Heart

Final Rain

Heavy rains, heavy heart.
It’s no secret I hate it when we’re apart.

The pressure is building in the air,
It feels, at time, more than I can bare.

At my weakest, lightening will strike.
The rivers will flood and breach the dike.

The rain pours on, and so do my tears.
Too much uncertainty, too many fears.

The wind is strong, the gusts won’t stop.
I feel like I’m drowning, reaching for the top.

The night is now silent, but the weather is loud.
Another storm looms in the cloud.

The flooding might end, but we’re just at the start,
Of the storm of deployment that consumes my heart.

Unpublished work © 2014 Ashley Ella

Military Equality Update – Confirmation, Validation, and a New Friend

I want to start off by thanking everyone that read, liked, shared, and tweeted about my military equality post. If you haven’t read it yet, please check it out! If you have read it, here is an update:

After a few days of trying to reach someone at Military Spouse magazine, I decided to call Armed Forces Insurance (who sponsors the Military Spouse of the Year Award). They forwarded my contact information to Kate at Military Spouse Magazine – who called me right away! Literally, right away as in within the hour. She read my military equality blog post, and clarified that I DO in fact qualify to accept my nomination. How so? Because my husband is currently on Title 10 orders.

Although I was happy to accept my nomination, I’m still saddened that other military spouses wouldn’t be able to due to the rule of requiring activation 180 days or more before the application deadline. Although I could accept my nomination, I still want all other PT military spouses current and future to be able to accept too.

So, I asked Kate: “What about the other National Guard spouses whose husband’s are not currently deployed? The Reserve families that are not deployed?” Kate said, “good question!” She was happy that I brought it to their attention, that I cared so deeply about fellow PT military spouses. We had a very long, fun, and overall fantastic conversation, and this is what I learned:

1) The award is still young, in that it was only founded in 2008.

2) They just added National Guard to the list of potential categories just two years ago, and the verbiage for their qualifications came from DOD (Department of Defense).

3) The award is growing both in size (more branches) as well as national recognition.

4) Kate herself is from a Reserve family, so she understands where I’m coming from. (can I get an Amen I met someone who gets the PT military life?!!?)

5) Although they most likely cannot change the rules for this year, they will look into including all National Guard (Army/Air) and Reserve spouses, regardless of deployment status. Kate did give me the disclaimer that she can’t promise anything will change, but she did tell me that she would bring it to the attention of the “powers that be.”

That last bullet point makes my heart skip a beat. I’m elated. Just the thought, the hope that I might have made a difference – I’m humbled. During my husband’s first deployment I wanted to reach out and try to help other spouses in the PT military life, but I didn’t know how. Life kept getting in the way.

This deployment? I felt that I had been silent long enough. I thought to myself, what if you meet one person – just one person through this process? What if you can help just one person get through their deployment? What if you can be that one person for somebody else? That one person that you so desperately searched for during your own first deployment?

So, I jumped into the world of online blogging and twitter. I literally just started my blog, twitter, and Facebook page less than a week ago. I’m only four chapters into my book with no publisher, hardly any Twitter followers, and very few Facebook likes. However, I had to hope that somehow, someone, somewhere would hear me. And you know what? Today I was heard. I was validated. I was understood.

You can read about why I decided to become a MilSpouse Blogger, and you’ll see that for me, even if no one reads my blog, it helps me to process the struggles of my own life. It helps to know that maybe, just maybe, my experiences can help someone going through what I’m going through.

Even if no changes come from what I’m trying to accomplish, and that Guard/Reservist spouses still have to be married to an activated soldier to qualify – I feel that at a minimum I gained a new friend, Kate. Our conversation was easy, the laughs were many, and the tears were sincere.

She cared, really cared – not only about me, but what she does. What she stands for. Who she serves. So, it’s not at a “minimum” that I met a new friend – it’s more like “at a maximum.” Why? Because as a military spouse, there is nothing more rewarding, comforting, and calming than knowing you have a friend. A true friend – one that understands your struggles, your fears, your uncertainties, and most importantly – understands the love that you feel for your spouse.

Then it hit me – I was going out into the world to try to “be that person” for someone else, but I was blessed with someone who could “be that person” for me instead. Again, I am humbled. Kate – I look forward to all the conversations to come!

Military Equality

All BranchesNo, this post isn’t about race, religion, or relationship equality in the military (although all of those are important topics and most of the following could apply). This is about military equality. Equality within the military. Let’s start with some basic definitions from dictionary.com:

Military is defined as: the military establishment of a nation; the armed forces.

Armed Forces is defined as: military, naval, and air forces, especially of a nation.

Nation is defined as: a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own.

Unity is defined as: the state of being one; oneness.

Equality is defined as: the state or quality of being equal.

Equal is defined as: as great as; the same as.

Please note that the definition above for the armed forces is military, naval, AND air forces. Not “or,” but “and.” Furthermore, we are the United States of America. We are a large body of people associated with a particular territory, and our armed forces serve and protect this country in unity to seek and possess a government that is our own. To protect your freedom. To protect my freedom.

Here’s the big shocker: The Army cannot do it on their own. The Marines cannot do it on their own. The Air Force cannot do it on their own. The Navy cannot do it on their own. The Coast Guard cannot do it on their own.

They must work in unity, in oneness. Here is a summary of the armed forces in the United States Military (in no particular order):

United States Army

  • United States Army Reserve
  • Army National Guard

United States Marine Corps

  • United States Marine Corps Reserve

United States Navy

  • United States Navy Reserve

United States Air Force

  • Air Force Reserve Command
  • Air National Guard

United States Coast Guard

  • United States Coast Guard Reserve
  • United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

To me, they are all equal. What does equal mean again? That means that one branch is just as great as another. They are the same.

Now yes, I understand each plays a different role, and each has a different set of ranks, military specialties, etc. That’s not my point. My point is, they serve the same nation. They serve the same people. They serve you. They serve me.

However, so many times I see them not being treated equal. Even amongst themselves, each branch pits against each other. Sometimes this is all in good fun and leads to a healthy level of competition. But, speaking as a spouse of National Guard soldier – I can tell you firsthand that the inequality can be hurtful, even when unintentional.

See, us Army National Guard families, and other part-time military families, are often the “forgotten” ones. We’re looked at just as the “weekend warriors.” Did you see that list above? The one of the armed forces of the United States? The one where National Guard is listed? We’re just as much a part of serving this nation as any other branch.

Let me reiterate: The Army cannot do it on their own. The Marines cannot do it on their own. The Air Force cannot do it on their own. The Navy cannot do it on their own. The Coast Guard cannot do it on their own. They must work in unity, in oneness. They are equal.

My husband has been in the Army National Guard for about eight years. He’s currently serving his second tour in an active war area. He left behind a career, a wife, a daughter. He left behind his whole life to serve and sacrifice for this country, again. And I sacrifice along with him, again. I live in the civilian world and in a community that is far, far removed from the realities of war. That’s for another post, another day.

Right now I want to address how we are treated even within our own military community. How we are compared to the other branches in the military. *Disclaimer – I don’t feel there should be any comparing. We are all on the same team.

A dear friend, a fellow military spouse that “served” with me on my husband’s first deployment, recently nominated me for the Military Spouse of the Year Award (MSOY). Huge honor. I am humbled. What is this award? According to nomination email that I received:

Military Spouse magazine founded the Military Spouse of the Year Award in 2008 to honor the important contributions and unwavering commitment of the 1.1 million military spouses from all branches of service as they support and maintain our home front.”

Wow, that sounds amazing. What’s amazing?

  1. The recognition that military spouses provide important contributions and unwavering commitment. 
  2. That there are an estimated 1.1 million military spouses (that’s a LOT of support for our troops). 
  3. That it’s for ALL branches of services as they support and maintain our home front.

Again, I am so humbled. Yes, it was just a nomination, but to know that someone who has been where I’ve been thinks so highly of me made me speechless. Well, I was speechless, until I read the list of qualifications to accept the nomination:

“In order to be considered for the 2015 Military Spouse of the Year Award, a nominee must meet the following criteria:

  • Be an ID card carrying spouse of a current member of the U.S. Armed Forces (U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, or U.S. National Guard)
  • National Guard spouses are eligible if their service member has been activated for at least 180 days on or before the MSOY nominations deadline.
  • Reserve military spouses are eligible if their service member has been activated for at least 180 days on or before the MSOY nominations deadline.”

Wait, what? Why wasn’t the first bullet point enough? National Guard IS part of the U.S. National Guard – so why the extra requirement of having to be activated for at least 180 days on or before the MSOY nominations deadline? Do the National Guard and Reserve families and spouses only count when they are activated (for a certain length, by a certain date)?

Well, my husband is currently deployed for up to a year. But, not for “at least 180 days on or before” the required date. My husband has deployed before. For a year. And I served along with him. And so did my friend who nominated me

You see, this fellow military spouse has a husband too. My husband was blessed to come home physically unharmed. Her husband was not so fortunate. Through a serious of IED blasts, he had to be removed from the deployment. He worked through the pain for months. Stayed on deployment much longer than he should have, but he would not leave his fellow soldiers. It got to the point where he could hardly walk. They couldn’t find answers. This was over four years ago. They still do not have answers, and they are still sacrificing. Them not finding answers and the lack of good care for our veterans is another topic I look forward to writing about (or have her write about as a guest blogger). 

Back to my point: just because a National Guard or Reservists deployment is over, or they haven’t been gone “long enough,” they are still serving. And their families are serving with them.  Every day they serve, we serve. Even if only serving on “the weekends,” they are always ready for the call. The motto of the National Guard is even “Always Ready, Always There.”

Military Spouse magazine also says: “During that time (nomination period), Military Spouse magazine encourages both the military community as well as all Americans to consider nominating their military spouse friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues for this prestigious honor.”

I have served alongside my husband for eight years, including two deployments (one currently on-going). I’m a military spouse and serve the role as a friend, relative, neighbor, and colleague. My role as a military spouse affects each and every role, differently, each and every day. However, I do not qualify to accept my nomination. I am baffled.

I am now thinking to myself: how many other spouses have not qualified due to this additional requirement? How many were elated, humbled, and honored to be nominated, but then felt to be shamed and discounted because their service “wasn’t enough.” Please know that your sacrifices ARE enough and that you are not alone.

So, Military Spouse magazine: while I cannot accept my nomination due to your additional requirements for National Guard spouses, I want to publicly take this moment to nominate every National Guard and Reservist spouse to be the winner of the 2015 Military Spouse of the Year Award for their “branch”- regardless of your rules.

In fact, I nominate every single military spouse, of every single branch, for every single year (past, current, and future). If you need clarification as to what the United States Military is, please see above. Why do I nominate every single military spouse?

Because the sacrifice does not end with deployment. Sacrifice in the military is not defined by a deployment. We do not quit being a military spouse, even when our spouses are no longer in the service. And, National Guard members are just as much a part of serving this nation as any other branch. We sacrifice too.

We are all on the same team – the United States Armed Forces.

Please know that I think that the purpose and mission of Military Spouse magazine is an amazing one. I want to personally thank your entire organization. Thank you for supporting and loving my fellow military spouses. Each and every one of us can benefit from your resources. Thank you for recognizing those spouses that go above and beyond to serve here on the home front. They deserve recognition for their contributions to the armed forces community. I do not discount your award in any way, shape, or form.

However, I call on Military Spouse magazine to re-evaluate their nominations requirements and remove the additional stipulation for Guard and Reservist families. And no, this has nothing with me accepting my nomination. This has everything to do with Military Equality.http://www.pagecovers.com/user_cover/128224/always_a_military_spouse.html

Please read the update in this post. I have heard back from Military Spouse magazine, and some pretty amazing things are happening!

My Right to Write – Why I’m a MilSpouse Blogger

right to writeI was recently asked why I started blogging. More specifically, why I chose to blog about being a milspouse and all the “fun stuff” that comes along with it. Then I was told “that has been done to death” and “aren’t there enough blogs out there like that?” Well, here’s my answers/opinions to those questions:

If every single milspouse had a blog, that would be amazing. Why? Because each and every single milspouse has their own story to tell. Each story is unique. And each milspouse has the right to write (keeping in mind OPSEC of course).

I’m new to the milspouse blogging community, but what I’ve seen so far is that they lift each other up. They struggle together. Cry together. Laugh together. Grieve together. Give each other strength. I’m excited to write and share in this unique and endearing community.

And why did I decide to start blogging? I too, have a story to tell. We’re a PT (part-time) military family with a three year old daughter. I’ve spent the past two hours attempting to get her to sleep because she misses her Daddy. I miss her Daddy.

My husband is in the Army National Guard, and typically juggles his full time job (law enforcement, lots of overtime) in addition to his commitments in the guard (drill station is a few hours away). However, as soon as those Title 10 orders are signed, we’re thrown into the full-time military world without the feeling of the full-time support.

PT MilSpouses have very few (if any) local resources, as we’re usually stuck in a civilian world that doesn’t understand us. In communities that don’t even know that they have MilSpouses. We don’t have the protection of a base, or the convenience of having a fellow MilSpouse close by. I don’t even know a single wife of any of the soldiers currently deployed with my husband, who is serving his second tour. Well, I know one – but her husband isn’t “with” my husband.

Please know that in no way, shape, or form am I discounting the full-time MilSpouses. I love you. I respect you. But, that’s not my life. That’s not the life of thousands of military spouses who live in the civilian world, and are thrown into the military world when a deployment comes crashing into their life.

The day those title 10 papers come in, we’re thrown into full-time military life. The day they’re back, we’re thrown into part-time military life with the additional pressures of full-time civilian world.

I reached out to a fellow PT MilFam, and told them of my new found calling to write to and for the PT Military community. This was the husband’s response (serves in Air National Guard):

“I couldn’t think of a single example I’ve seen or heard recommended for Guard/Reserve specific families. That is astonishing considering how unique the experience is for part-timers.”

Yes, our experiences are different. Our struggles are different. Our transitions are different. But our love and sacrifice during deployments is the same. I want to write and talk about the unique set of challenges that present us in this PT Military lifestyle, and make sure that you know you are not alone.

Even if no one reads my blog, it helps me to process the struggles of my own life. It helps to know that maybe, just maybe, my experiences can help someone going through what I’m going through.

I don’t know about you, but my husband is the person that I talk to the most. Well, he’s gone and communications with him are sporadic, unclear, and never guaranteed. I still need someone to listen. I still need someone to understand. I need to know I’m not alone. As August McLaughlin puts so perfectly, “I hope you’ll also take time to celebrate the freedom we have to put words on the page. Through our thoughts and stories, we can entertain, inspire, educate and change the world.”

So, I’m exercising my right to write by being a (PT) MilSpouse Blogger.

https://augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/the-freedom-to-write/

Identity

who-are-youWhat is your identity? Who are you? These are some of the questions I was asked today. So few words, yet such deep, perplexing answers. Usually my response would be well, I’m a 30’s something female, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, I do xyz for a living, and I live in Little Town, USA. I enjoy traveling, being crafty, and I love a good deal.

But, think about it. What IS your identity? Who ARE you? What defines you? What drives you every day? Being the spouse of a deployed soldier – I often feel labeled as “M’s wife.” Not Ashley, but “M’s wife.” Yes, I’m a spouse, and yes, I’m his spouse. But – I’m still Ashley.

Who is Ashley? I thought I knew, but when my husband told me of this second deployment, I really started to question what I knew in my life – and realized there was a whole lot about myself that I didn’t know.

When M and I first started dating over 10 years ago, I was into horses (used to have one), I loved to write, and I loved to try new recipes. I loved to surprise him with really romantic gestures, like driving an hour in the wrong direction just to drop off cookies before a ten hour drive in the opposite direction to see family.

I loved to “work” on cars. I put “” around that because I THOUGHT I liked to work on cars – that reality is that I just love classic cars and don’t really have the patience to try and figure out what’s wrong!

Anyway, we started dating and I had just sold my horse. I had been riding since I was three, but I’ve never had a horse since. Heck, I haven’t even been riding in over 10 years.

I stopped writing. Not because I wanted to stop, but because life just got too darn busy. Driving around I’d have all of these thoughts I wanted to write down, poems would start to develop as I was getting ready for the day, but I never wrote them down. Those thoughts were lost.

When we first got married I tried to put on my best show of trying new recipes – but again, life got busy so I stuck with what I knew (which wasn’t a whole lot). I sold my classic car so we could buy our first house. I gave up all those things I love up freely to start this new life with the man that I loved. I never even thought twice about it, it just happened that way.

He never asked me to give up those things, but it just happened.

Well, now we’re here. Years into our marriage, on a second deployment, and I’m left wondering: “Ashley, what is your identity? Who ARE you?”

I’ve learned that I’m strong. Stronger than I ever realized. I am not a push-over. I come from a long-line of strong women, and I’m proud of that. I’ve been “beat down” by a lot of people. I have been so blessed that my husband came into my life – he gave me a sense of security, peace, protection, and love that I had never known before.

I was raised to stand up for what I believe in, yet always try my best to be respectful. I do not judge people. I’m an over-committer. I’m a perfectionist.

I love travel – LOVE it. If I’m not on a plane or traveling at least 3-4 times in a year, I feel closed in and that life is passing me by. I love photography, although I’m totally a novice (I still feel cool with my fancy camera though).

I love a good deal – shopping at garage sales, goodwill, random sale sites on Facebook. I love being in control of my own schedule (note, this one is a HUGE challenge due to our life circumstances – blog to come later about this one).

I love popcorn with so much butter its almost soggy (I can thank my sister for that one).

I have a soft spot in my heart for children – all children. It pains me and angers me to see any injustice for a child. My heart longs to be a foster parent, to give some child a place of refuge and love in a time of fear and unknown.

I still love classic cars. I see them drive by, and my mouth drops open. I will have another by our 20th wedding anniversary. My husband and I are still negotiating the fine details over that one.

I do not have a lot of patience. I’m sporadic, yet a planner. I’m probably the most chaotic organized person you’ll ever meet. Yet, see above – I’m a perfectionist. This causes an endless cycle of self-inflicted stress.

I’m sentimental. I kept the little baby rattle that my sister gave me when she first told me she was pregnant. I kept it for years, like 10 years, just so I could give it back to her and announce I was pregnant. She didn’t even remember what it was from! Then I told her the whole story and we had some GOOD laughs.

I could go on an on – I’m so many things. We all are. I want to be so many more things. Each of us has such a unique set of life experiences. Yet, I find myself searching for answers and resources for me in my current life situation: the PART-TIME military spouse.

What do I mean by this? Yes, I’m a full-time wife alright, but most resources are for full-time military spouses. Those that live on base, who’s spouses career is in the military. I am not disregarding those spouses in any way. My world is just different.

In my world, I’m always pulled between the civilian world and the military world. I don’t live near a base, all the other spouses of my husband’s unit live far away, there’s only really one chance a year to even meet the other families, and I’m surrounded by a bunch of civilians that have NO clue what I’m going through.

I looked for books, for blogs, for anything that could help. Someone who was going through what I was going through. Maybe I didn’t search long enough, but every book, blog, and/or resource seemed geared for the full-time military family.

But hey, I’m part of the military family too. I love my spouse just as much as you do. My heart breaks just like yours when my child cries out for him. I can’t sleep, as I worry for his safety just like you. I eat alone for a year, just like you.

We have so many similarities, yet I feel that we’re this forgotten group of spouses. I’ve even been told, “at least this isn’t your life full-time.” Does that make our deployment any less meaningful? Are our spouses not fighting side by side?

I’ve done two deployments in less than five years. I know there are spouses that have gone through way more than me – I want to get away from the “my level of suck is worse than your level of suck.” I just want people to know that we’re military spouses too. We need support too.

And we live in the civilian word that doesn’t understand an ACU from a BDU or an LES from a MOS. Heck, most of us didn’t even know what these were until the deployment was thrown in our face. We have to constantly explain ourselves to the civilians around us, drain ourselves emotionally.

I hope that you stay with me over the next few months (and maybe years), as I navigate through my second deployment. I’m far from having all the answers, but tonight as I think about when I was asked “What is your identity? Who are you” I have an answer. I AM a mother. I AM the wife of a deployed National Guard soldier. I DO live in Little Town, USA.

But, I am also strong, committed, brave, compassionate, sensitive, emotional, and driven. And, I have a mission: to help my fellow part-time military spouses survive their deployments AND life in the civilian world, and know that they are not alone.

Unpublished work © 2014 Ashley Ella

The Wait

It’s 1:00 am. The house is silent – if only my head could be silent too,
The long days, the long nights, get tiring from waiting for you.

I know it will be worth it, that we’ll look back and see,
This journey was for us, that you did it for me.

This call that you answered, is one that very few do,
So we answered the call, and now sacrifice too.

Your mind never stops, always thinking of us,
Waiting to see us again, as you get off that bus.

You fight for your family, for our right to be free,
It presents us with challenges, that we couldn’t foresee.

The sacrifice to be so far away, in a world unknown,
Would make it easy to hide, and to feel so alone.

But you’re not alone, and neither am I,
All we have to do, is look up at the sky.

It’s full of the same stars, the same moon and same sun,
And they’ll keep spinning around until this deployment is done.

You’re not alone, we’ll always be here,
Waiting for you, for you to be near.

You know I’m a dreamer, you tell me this is our fate,
But all I can do is miss you, and think of the wait.

Unpublished work © 2014 Ashley Ella