Stuck on you

Inventory labels bring to mind a lifetime of moving memories

Unpacking my suitcase after returning from a visit last week with my mom, I almost overlooked one of the gifts I brought home. Mom gave me quite a few things she knew I’d like to have: embroidered tea towels that belonged to my grandmother, a handful of old photos, an antique sewing box. Among these treasures was one item that might not seem like much of a gift — a little blue inventory sticker. I had to smile when I saw that she had saved it. I remember when she told me she found it, more than 40 years after her last military move.

It was after I had a similar experience while cleaning the floor one day. I moved the kitchen trash bin to vacuum in the corner, and there it was: a little blue sticker. It was imprinted only with a number, “120,” but I recognized it immediately, because I’ve seen thousands like it in a variety of colors. An inventory sticker.

'Like any other family'

Same-sex spouses say there's still work to be done for LGBT troops

“I was wondering if this column included any letters or support information for the gay and lesbian spouses of military (members),” a reader wrote to me in 2009. “It would be nice to know that one is not alone learning the ropes of military life. Being involved with a member of the military has many challenges ... and the stress of imposed invisibility ... There are so few people who would risk talking about this.”

He signed himself, “Another Silent Spouse.”

Operation 300

Camp creates adventure and encourages healing for children whose fathers were killed in combat

Before the Battle of Thermopylae between thousands of Persian soldiers and three hundred warriors of the Greek city-state of Sparta, so the story goes, Xerxes, the Persian king, attempted to convince Sparta’s king, Leonides, that the vastly outnumbered Spartan force should lay down their weapons.

“Come and get them,” Leonides responded. The Spartans were defeated in that battle, but their bravery became legendary as did their king’s words of defiance.

A 'lonesome disease'

Caregiver talks about life with ALS, a disease that disproportionately affects military veterans

Mary Ward said she sometimes feels invisible. In reality, she is indispensable, the sole caregiver for her veteran husband, Tom, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

ALS is “a lonesome disease,” Mary said. “You feel grief all the time at different levels. You want to be able to say that you feel sad, but people don’t like that. They don’t want to address this with you.”

Be careful out there

Spouses refuse to be terrorized by social media hackers, advise caution and common sense, not fear

If the hackers who threatened military spouses on Twitter hoped to inspire fear, they were disappointed. Instead, the women who received the threats have appeared in multiple media interviews, spreading a message of vigilance without fear in print, television, radio and online.

Earlier this month, hackers claiming connections to the Islamic State terrorist organization breached the social media accounts of a military spouse organization called Military Spouses of Strength and used that access to send threatening messages to several military spouses, calling them by name.

Mile marker

Clay Hunt Act passage shows how far we've come, how far we have to go to address military suicides

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act passed both houses of Congress unanimously and was signed by President Barack Obama, all in four weeks. This uncharacteristic alacrity provides hope that veterans’ needs remain on the minds of those who make our laws. It’s been on the minds of military members and their families for a long time.

My friend Diana, a Marine spouse, has been to the edge of suicide and back. She says several factors — her husband, good therapy, a tenacious friend and the knowledge that her children needed a healthy mother — helped pull her back from the precipice. In Diana’s experience, as with others facing depression, effective medical treatment and a strong support system are key.

Why do I love thee?

Let me count the assignments, the moving trucks, the sacrifices, and the adventures

Dear Valentine:

The reasons I love you are perhaps not quite Hallmark-worthy. It’s true they are not the trite stuff of greeting card sentiments and romance novels — and thank heaven for that. The chapters of our love story are punctuated by moving trucks and cardboard boxes, trips to the airport and powers of attorney, long distance phone calls and temporary housing. Maybe that’s why the reasons I love you are less about roses and more about well-worn uniforms, less about gourmet meals in exclusive restaurants and more about understocked commissaries in remote locations. Our love has always been less about expensive gifts and more about priceless memories made by accident, rather than by design.

Promises aren't made to be broken

Concerns over pension, military pay reform

This post has been updated.

“It’s been said that our military has basically become a pension, benefit, health-care company that occasionally fights a war,” Jason Grumet commented this week on C-SPAN, discussing the newly released report from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.

'Johnnie' comes marching

Flavor of military life makes its way into Air Force spouse's latest novel

When Kathleen Rodgers wrote “Johnnie Come Lately,” pieces of her military background found their way into the story. In fact, a lot of her life found its way into the story of Johnnie Kitchen and her family in the book, which hits bookstore shelves Sunday. The action takes place in Texas, for instance; Kathleen and her husband, now retired from the Air Force, also live in Texas.

However, the book is not a purely military story. It’s a story about a family with military elements woven throughout. The protagonist, Johnnie, is not a military wife, but her husband, Dale, is from a military family. The book is set in 2007 during both the Afghan and Iraq wars. A family friend is injured in combat. Johnnie and Dale are at odds when their 18-year-old son wants to join the Army. Johnnie’s shadowy memories of the young soldier who was her father are a recurring element of the narrative.

Make the days count

Calendar holds many significant days for military families

Servicemembers compare the passage of days during a deployment to the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which actor Bill Murray is doomed to repeat the same day over and over again. At home, the absence of a pivotal member of the family can make the days feel shapeless, lacking the structure that makes a family schedule tick along. Days come and go, uneventful, stressful and significant alike. We might wish we could bypass a birthday or an anniversary or save it until deployment is done, but we can’t. Those days go by, celebrated or not.

The war has come to a formal end, but plenty of military families spent this past holiday season with a deployed parent or spouse. Perhaps they enjoyed togetherness with extended family or with military friends. Possibly they plowed through the celebrations with a determined smile.