Welcome to Red Friday Feature. Starting today every Friday I am going to feature a military family. Red Friday is about wearing red to show support for the troops and their family. I have decided to now use Red Friday as a day on my blog to share the struggles and joys that military families face. Please show some comment love for them and make sure to visit them and get to know them. They are wonderful ladies.
I could not think of a better way to start this new feature then introducing you to Rachel from A Little Pink in a World of Camo. Rachel is a very strong woman who has had to face our deepest fears. Her strength and determination is an inspiration to me.
Who is the serving member in your family?
My husband was KIA March 24, 2010. He was in the USMC. Both my father and my mother also served (US Army).
How long has your family been apart of the military?
I was born into a military family, my dad was active duty Army when I was born, my mom had already gotten out. So I guess the short answer would be my whole life. My dad retired when I was about…. 5-7 (not exactly sure) and we lived near an Army post so I was still always around a lot of military life. Then I married into the Marine Corps in 2009.
What does it mean to you to be a military family?
I get a great sense of pride being a part of a military family. I know that my family members have fought for the greater good of this nation and ultimately one member of this family that I love more than life itself gave his life for it. It also means a little more demand. I think we’ve got a little more weight put on our shoulders as far as what we handle from day to day as a family so in the end it means strength. In order to be successful as a military family I think you’ve got to find inner strength. And strength doesn’t always present itself the same way in every person, but you’ve got to have it somewhere in there to cut it, it can be a tough life at times.
What do you wish the public knew about military families?
Not to buy into the stereotypes. There are all kinds of ridiculous stereotypes that surround military families but just like all stereotypes they most certainly do not hold for all families.
What is the hardest part of being a military family?
Separation. Even before my husband was killed it was hard when he was away. Not being able to hold your loved one, make decisions together, see the children grow up. Sometimes it can feel like they miss a lot when they’re gone – part of why I started my blog, so I wouldn’t have to remember everything to catch him up!
What is the best part of being a military family?
I think I’ll have to go with the pride again. I am just so proud to say the man I love most served his country. And it’s amazing how military families stick together. Even people I’ve never met in real life have reached out to me, in times of deployment and his death, it’s amazing.
Any tips for other military families out there especially those new to the life?
Hmmm… maybe just be assertive. Don’t be scared. Love with all your heart because love is what will keep you together in the long run.
Now for some questions specific to Rachel. I want to thank her again for offering to answer them for me. Take a moment to heat up your coffee and grab some tissues. Oh and to Rachel, I totally want to see the videos.
What is your favorite memory of your husband?
Ahh you want me to pick just one?! That is sooo hard. We have so many awesome stories that I love to share and that make me smile. The first one that comes to mind is our wedding. I was told after it that my mom asked if he was nervous, he held out his hand steady, no shakes, and said something along the lines of “I’m not nervous, mama, I know exactly what I’m doing” (He always called my mom mama). It was such a joyous day and we had so much fun.
We joked around a little bit during the ceremony (the video camera picks up when we call each other a “butt” something we used to say, “you’re a butt” “no I’m not, you’re a butt” “I love you.” “I love you too baby” I believe is how the camera picked it up (Him, Me, Me, Him… something like that). Then we just had fun with our family and friends. Afterwards we had a little party and Jonathan invited my friends up to our suite. My best friend asked if he was sure and Jonny said he was because he knew how important my friends were to me and he was taking me away from them but had me for the rest of our lives but they only got me a little while longer, it was so sweet and my best friend still tells me that’s the point when he knew he really liked Jonny.
We had so much fun dancing both during the wedding and after. His smile was so big like he really was the happiest man in the world and when I look at photos mine matches because I was the happiest girl in the world. We were the happiest people on the face of the planet that day, I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true. I’ll stop typing now or I’ll end up telling you all my favorite stories and the whole wedding and then probably send you wedding videos because I just love watching them!
What is the one thing above all others that you want your daughter to know?
I want her to know his personality. I also want her to know he was a hero in many people’s eyes but above that I want her to know the kind of man her father was. Such an incredible man. I show my friends our home videos and they comment on how, the ones who didn’t get a chance to meet him, really feel like they know him from the videos and how awesome he seemed. So many people seem to learn about him through my stories and videos and it makes me very optimistic that she will know him and enjoy hearing about him and watching him too. He had such a good heart and loved to make people smile. He was incredibly excited to be a dad, he couldn’t wait to get home to her and I just want her to know that – that he loved her so very very much. And that he was my other half, I want her to know what true love looks like and I really feel she will.
No one knows what it is like to be in your shoes. We don’t even want to imagine it. To still be going strong you are an amazing woman. I don’t even know what to say and I read your blog faithfully. What do you wish others knew about how to support you and others in your shoes?
Just be there. It sounds so simple but seems to be so difficult for some people. Every widow I’ve met has had enormous amounts of people who seem to disappear afterwards. When it first happens, everyone is there but then later, when reality hits and we need people the most, they’re just not there anymore. So maybe just say hi months, years even, out. Because we still hurt. We might look and act ok but the hurt is still there under the healing we’ve done, there’s still that empty spot. I hear it might feel a little smaller, but it remains. So I guess just letting them know they’re thought about and they’re not alone makes a big difference, and I don’t mean everyday and I don’t mean going out of your way just a little “hey, still love ya” type thing. At least for me anyway.
What words of wisdom can you pass on to other families who have lost a loved one overseas?
Get involved. There are a couple of organizations created to help with families who have lost service members. TAPS (www.TAPS.org) American Widow Project (www.AmericanWidowProject.org) are the ones I have checked out. Definitely helps make you feel less alone and a lot less crazy. And do things on your own time. If you feel it’s time to take a break from life and go on vacation, go. If you want to date tomorrow or ten years from now or never, do it for you not for others may say. And don’t let the haters get you down. People who haven’t been there will make assumptions, they’ll think you’re doing things the way they wouldn’t do it or the wrong way and there is no wrong or right way and no one ever knows how they will handle it until they’re put there so live life for you, do what you need to do, take the time you need, and stay afloat, because some days that’s all you can do.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
Oorah and Semper Fidelis.
Laugh with your whole soul, Love with your whole heart, Laughter and Love will get you through (that’s an RJP original baby! haha I’m such a dork)
Thank you again Rachel for taking the time to answer my millions of questions
Please make sure to visit Rachel’s blog A Little Pink in a World of Camo where you can learn more about her and Jonathan and see gorgeous pictures of their daughter.