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.

Free, but not easy

Freedom of expression requires listening, discerning, and sometimes ignoring what is offensive

In military families we speak often of freedom, and we know what it costs. We’ve seen the price of liberty paid by those we know and love, but I wonder whether we can truly appreciate our freedom unless we’ve felt its absence. For those who have always had it, freedom is easy to overlook, as is the cost.

As Americans, we’re allowed to worship, speak, live and act as we choose. The Declaration of Independence says our creator endowed us with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We hold these truths to be self-evident, but when Thomas Jefferson wrote about them, “these truths” were radical. The signers of the Declaration were revolutionary in every sense of the word. More than 200 years later, these truths have become commonplace — perhaps until the recent terrorist attack in Paris. Our freedoms, particularly free expression granted by the First Amendment to the Constitution, have fresh meaning.

Year in review

Looking back at the stories of 2014 and preparing for a new year of military life

The old year has gone. A new year has begun. Before I begin filling a clean calendar with new events and stories, here’s a look at some Spouse Calls columns from last year’s pages.

In January, I covered the rise of the grassroots movement, Keep Your Promise. The group is a voice for the military community, one that reminds legislators their actions have electoral consequences, said spokesman and military spouse Jeremy Hilton.

Do you hear what I hear?

Telling stories is important, and so is listening to them.

The temperature was below freezing as my husband and I arrived at the downtown St. Louis library where I’d been invited to speak about military life. A manager met us at the door. His greeting was warm, but the facts were cold.

“I hope we’ll have some people for you to speak to,” he said. “We had a National Book Award winner last month, and four people showed up.”

Come to the stable

A joint effort by my military parents created a Christmas heirloom we've carried all over the world

Kneeling on the living room rug, I open the large cardboard box and plunge my hands into a pearly froth of Styrofoam packing. I am searching for treasure, heirlooms handed down to me from my parents.

My hand closes on something solid and cool to the touch. I pull it from the protective billows and remove a layer of bubble wrap to reveal a ceramic shepherd. Placing him gently on the sofa, I reach in to find more: a kneeling camel, a wise man holding a golden box in his outstretched hands, Mary, Joseph, the manger, two standing camels, some sheep, more wise men and shepherds, the angel, her fragile wings wrapped in an extra layer of padding. Soon the cast is complete.