Here's to the heroes

My husband and I traveled to Ohio this month for a friend’s retirement ceremony at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It was a journey through military family history, both individual and collective.

The retirement celebration was a toast to our friend’s history and his future. Funny stories were told. Colleagues spoke of his leadership and kindness. His family’s military life flashed before our eyes in a slide show of memories: Changing duty stations around the globe, new babies, growing children, graduations, vacations, dinners with friends.

Looking for letters

Andrew Carroll began collecting American wartime letters in 1998. Soon they filled his Washington, D.C., apartment, then a storage unit.

Now the letters — about 100,000 of them — have a new home address at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. The university created the Center for American War Letters especially to house the collection Carroll donated.

Small town, small world

Worlds and stories collided recently at a little coffee shop in Altus, Okla., where family and friends joined me to celebrate publication of a book, a collection of columns that have appeared in this space since the first installment of Spouse Calls appeared April 1, 2007.

Most of the stories I’ve written over the past seven years had their origins in or around Altus Air Force Base. Altus is the town where my father retired after 20 years in the military. It’s also where I met the man who would take me on the next part of my military journey as a spouse. We’re still traveling that road, but most of my extended family lives in Oklahoma.

"Wives" are off duty

As the “Army Wives” television show concludes its seven-season run, the end is also near for the last of the real-life wars the program portrayed. When the show began airing on the Lifetime network in 2007, the U.S. was at war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The show portrayed the friendships, romances and struggles of Army spouses at a fictional Army base, through wars and other more personal conflicts.

“There’s irony there, that the show ended as [the war] is winding down in Afghanistan,” said Tanya Biank, author of “Army Wives: The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage,” the nonfiction book on which the show and its fictional characters were based.

Spouses speak out

Concerns over shrinking military benefits are about much more than the commissary. After I wrote about my willingness to give up the commissary if it would prevent other benefit reductions, I asked some respected military spouses to weigh in on the impending spending cuts that will affect our community.

Tara Crooks, Army wife and co-founder of Army Wife Network: There is no winning side to this commissary argument. All arguing over who saves and who doesn't is doing is fueling the fire and distracting from more serious budget issues.

Hamantaschen for Lent

Compromise and understanding are essential to any marriage. These elements take on new meaning in military marriages, when deployment and other absences complicate the division of parenting and marital roles. Other events in military life, like frequent house-hunting, require another level of accommodation.

Randi Cairns, a New Jersey National Guard spouse, and the founder of Home Front Hearts, wrote to me about compromise in her interfaith marriage. That compromise takes on a new dimension during the season of Lent. Randi is Jewish and her husband, Ian, is Christian.

Yes, I said it

It’s not that I don’t love the commissary. I do. I’m a faithful, lifelong shopper. When I was little, my mom put me in the basket on her commissary trips, with my chubby little legs dangling from out front. I put each of my children, at various times, in the same spot for my weekly commissary runs.

Drop me in a commissary anywhere in the world and I’m at home. For me, the commissary is comfortable and economical. I’m even a little sentimental about this part of my military neighborhood.

Taking care of business

Jason and Adrianna Anderson and their two young children will be leaving military life pretty soon, but they aren’t looking for jobs. In preparation for Jason Anderson’s retirement from the Air Force this year, they created their own. The couple wants to settle in Jason’s hometown of Jackson Hole, Wyo., where government contract and defense-related jobs are scarce.

“That type work is simply not there,” Jason Anderson said. So they decided to start their own business in Wyoming — while still stationed in Virginia.

From Afghanistan with love

An airman serving in Afghanistan sent in this column to commemorate his 20th wedding anniversary. He invites readers to take a look at what military life did to his marriage. He writes:

Arriving at our first operational duty assignment, I worked closely with a captain who insisted that the Air Force cost him his marriage. In the 19 years since, I continued to hear about marital problems caused by military life. As my wife, Terri, and I approach our “Big 2-0,” I have been reflecting on our marriage and our lives. Like it or not, the military has been the catalyst to our relationship development, though it has not been without painful and difficult times. What we have is a true love story. I am spending my life with my best friend.

Love in bloom

The sign said “One dozen Roses — Only $6 for Valentine’s Day delivery.” What was an 11-year-old to think?

He figured he had more than enough.