I have to say that I think this group, my army family, is what got me through. We called and emailed daily. There were times when no one wanted to be at home, but we didn’t know what to do, so we would end up at Wal-Mart, kids in tow, and do our shopping together. Susie and I developed the habit of grocery shopping together as it was a task neither of us wanted to tackle, but when the kids pointed out we were two days without milk, bread (insert staple) it had to be done.
Through the next year we went to the park, swimming, movies, out-of-town trips, emergency rooms, school programs, BMX, baseball and soccer games, and any activity you can think of as a group. If Susie’s son had a BMX race, we were there. When K was in the school play, they came to watch. No one wanted to be alone, or at home, so there was always the call, “Meet me at the park.” “Meet me at the mall food court.” “These kids are driving me crazy, come over for supper.”
We planned group trick-or-treating, celebrated birthdays, did our Christmas shopping en masse, had 4th of July cookouts, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s parties. We had an enormous Easter egg hunt (12 of our kids present).
Our FRG took a trip to Denver for an FRG Academy in July 2006. Talk about an amazing trip! I don’t remember when we had laughed and had so much fun. Six women, no children, out of town. It was a blessing. Our group was presented with an award for service. Susie won the volunteer of the year award. It was incredible! It was as if leaving town gave us the freedom to relax and enjoy ourselves. Of course, two of the babies at home got sick while we were gone, so there were long distance phone calls from grandmas, to doctors, and pharmacies.
We also ran the FRG fundraisers, planned and hosted the picnic, Christmas party, and various other activities for family members. We made monthly calls to check in with family members. We sent care packages to the soldiers each month. The post office ladies were awesome when we came in laden with boxes. The customers were not as excited when they saw our piles, especially when we shipped 118 small Christmas trees, stockings, and other goodies in 30 + boxes.
My husband still marvels at the depth of our relationships. “How do you know so much about the Commander’s wife?” Well, I spent a year with her day-to-day. Basically, she was my “you” while you were gone.
He laughs when the phone calls come in, “Can you pick up my child at day care? I have to work late.” “If you’re going to the post office, can you stop and send something for me? The kids are sick.” “As long as you’re going to the dry cleaners, can you pick up my husband’s uniform, too?” We are used to doing this for each other, it seems strange NOT to do these things for each other.
There are fewer of us now that the soldiers are home. Many people go back to their previous lives and move on. But for those of us who still get together regularly, there is a part of our families that have been changed permanently. I went to my family gatherings this past year, and I missed my army family with whom I’d spent them the year before.