Proudly Supporting all Military Families with a Special Needs Dependent
Military Spouse Appreciation Day is Friday, May 9, 2014. Military Special Needs Network will be running a variety of blogs, graphics, statuses, and facts all about the crazy, incredible, never boring lifestyle that we live.
Today we are recognizing Rheanna, a military spouse who knows what it’s like to feel left out of the Military Spouse community. And she’s doing her part to make sure other spouses of Guardsmen and Reservists know that they, too, are part of our community. Please take a minute and read about her incredible efforts – and then read on to hear what it’s like to be on the receiving end of those efforts. Rheanna, you are doing an amazing thing. You are living by example and showing what it means to be a military spouse.
MSNN: Rheanna, I’ve heard about this amazing idea you had to show support to military spouses who might otherwise not be included or feel supported. I want to share that project with our MSNN family, but, first, can you tell us about yourself?
Rheanna: Well my name is Rheanna and I am an Active Air National Guard Spouse, turned traditional National Guard Spouse, whose husband drills in a different state. Which is one of the reasons why this idea came into my head. He’s been in almost 12 years now, and we have three children 7,5 and 2. I’m a stay at home, but I volunteer and try to remain active in the military community. I am also a blogger (www.cammostylelove.blogspot.com) and freelance writer. Like I mentioned earlier this idea came into my head because of several unique experiences that make up my military life. For the majority of my husband’s career we were in Reno, Nevada with small unit. Reno is home to Air and Army National Guard, but we have no commissary, no base housing and very little in the way of support programs. My support mainly came from friends and my church family. It was such a struggle and I hadn’t quite tapped into the online world that I have now. Back then it wasn’t quite as big as it is now. Then we moved into the DC area two years ago. I suddenly became aware of all these supports and programs that were available to the people in the military. However, I ran into another road block. If my husband wasn’t deployed or activated for a certain period of time I couldn’t access any of those supports. So even if a NG/Reserve spouse is located near a base that doesn’t guarantee them support. And that support isn’t only needed when the uniform is on, or something terrible or stressful is happening. What really tipped me over the edge, and close to the direction of doing something about this was a phrase I heard over and over again. “well, when you’re husband deploys, come back and we’ll help you.” The problem lies in that simple statement. If you don’t know about me when my husband is not deployed, I don’t know that I feel comfortable in your ability to help me when he is.
MSNN: Wow. I completely see your point, and understand your frustration. We’ve seen a bit of that in the special needs world, as well. We know that access to EFM and ECHO take on a whole new level of frustration and difficulty for our families who are “inactive.” So, you recognized that there was a problem, and how did you even start to address it?
Rheanna: The idea came to me last year to try to find some of these spouses that I knew about, get some packets put together and send them little “care packages” of sorts. I hadn’t networked very much yet and didn’t know a lot of people to ask, but I got the help of Blue Star Families and one Military Romance Writer for Harlequin, Geri Krotow. I made eight little packages and sent them to blogger friends of mine who were NG or Reserves, and several wives from my husband’s old unit. I got messages and texts immediately. They were so touched and thrilled that someone took the time to acknowledge them for what they were, “a military spouse”. No matter how much time your spouse spends in the uniform, you are still a military spouse all of the time.
MSNN: I can only imagine how amazing that must have been to get that package in the mail. And we’re going to let one of those recipients tell us what that felt like in just a minute. But before we get to that, this program that you’ve started is just so positive and giving. What’s happening with it this year, and where do you want to take it in the future?
Rheanna: This year, I am more connected, blessed rather. I’ve met some amazing spouses who work for non-profits; as well as companies who support the military. So I just asked and the support kept pouring in. I’m a firm believer in standing up and shouting something you believe in the from the rooftops. You have to be your own best advocate! I heard over and over again that people had no idea that spouses were so isolated or alone, or didn’t have access to help. I also got spouses who remembered living like that and knew how hard it was. They were all willing to help. So this year’s sponsors are USAA, MOAA, NMFA, several work at home military spouses who make jewelry or sell items, my sister (not a military spouse) donated Mary Kay. But my biggest supporter and resources has been the group of Military Veteran Romance Writers or ROMVETS as they call themselves – Lindsey McKenna spear-headed this for more and got the group involved. Geri Krotow, the author who helped last year and the writer of the first Military Romance Novel I ever read, stepped up as well.
I would love to see this program get bigger with each year. I would love to have some more high end items for these ladies. This year MOAA generously donated jewelry pieces from one of their amazing sponsors Stella and Dot. I would love more items like this. But what is so amazing about these spouses is that they are thrilled to receive even the smallest of items. I want to blow them away. Resources is also a big goal of mine. I want to expand their knowledge in what resources they can access no matter what their locations. By doing this hopefully I can make as many groups and people aware that they exist. I want to reach active duty remote locations spouses more as well – like Recruiting families, which is a very difficult position to have sometimes. Another goal of mine would be to reach National Guard and Reserve Wounded who face very unique challenges by also not fitting into a singular category as they go through recovery.
MSNN: You are definitely leading by example, and inspiring women to advocate and “shout from rooftops!” Thank you for sharing your story with us. As I mentioned, we have one of the spouses who received your package last year:
MSNN: Jane, tell us a bit about yourself, please.
Jane: Well, I’m Jane, my husband is in the USMC Reserves and has been for 12 or 13 years now. He has seen multiple combat deployments and deployed just after we got married. I began blogging (http://aboyagirlandthemarinecorps.com) during that time as a means of coping. We reserve families don’t live near each other or even near where our spouses are stationed usually, so I needed to find somewhere to process it all. I “met” Rhea through that community a few years ago and we’ve been in touch ever since. Last year, when she took on the projected she included me as one of the recipients.
MSNN: When you heard about the project, what was your reaction? What did you think?
Jane: I thought it was amazing. Reserve spouses are actually excluded from a lot of stuff. We don’t qualify for things that active duty spouses do and that can make it hard. We don’t get the same support, there isn’t a real community for us to participate in and, as a general rule, many programs and things actually specifically exclude Reserve families. She did something for a group of people who are normally made to feel that they don’t matter. It was such an amazing package to open and see all these wonderful items that were sent to me thanking me, when the things happening on bases around the country for Military Spouse Appreciation Day generally excluded us.
MSNN: Unfortunately, that seems to be a running theme.
Jane: It’s pretty common actually. Unless our spouses are activated, we don’t qualify for most things.
Many people don’t realize that though. My AD friends often say, “why don’t you just do XYZ” and I have to tell them it’s because we don’t rate that, or don’t qualify.
MSNN: You’ve already done a great job of relating some of the difficulties of being a Reservist’s wife. Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers? With the ten+ year War on Terror, we know that your family – and those of countless other Reservist and Guard servicemembers – has been called on again and again. Your families have made great sacrifices for our country. I want to thank you and yours for all you do and have done.
Jane: I guess I’d like to say that what Rhea is doing again this year, that she did last year, is amazing. I don’t necessarily think anything I do deserves a day of recognition, but for a group of people who are so often excluded, it really touches my heart that she is working so hard to make us feel apart of it all and not forgotten.
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