Friday, June 3, 2011

Resource Thursday: LINKS classes

Yesterday I went to my first LINKS class. I had heard of these for years, but thought they were for "new" military spouses. Considering myself somewhat seasoned at his point, I figured I already know how to handle deployments, find my way around base, etc. But there was a group of spouses from my husband's company taking it together, and they provided childcare on base, so I thought, "why not?" I am so glad I did!!!

LINKS stands for Lifestyles, Insight, Networking, Knowledge, and Skills. The class I took was for spouses and lasted most of the day, but they have shorter workshops for parents of Marines, children, fiances, etc. The program started 20 years ago during the 1st Gulf War, when spouses who had become used to the "peacetime" cycle of the military suddenly had to handle deployments to the Middle East and learn to navigate military life without their husbands. Each military base offers its own version, and you would get maximum impact if you attended a class when you were new to a base, but even after being here almost 3 years I still learned a lot of valuable info!

The class covers 6 main topics: The Corps (structure and explanation of ranks), Local Services on and off base, Understanding Pay and financial opportunities, Deployment, Military Moves, and Community involvement. I had some experience with most of these topics, but learned a ton of new things in each presentation. Plus, participating with other Marine wives helped me see that my experiences were not unusual or weird, especially when it comes to deployment. There was a sense that "we are all in this together, so let's make the most of it and help each other." So it was a really fun and positive day!

Some of the highlights of what I learned:
-- the infantry at Lejeune is all part of 2nd Marine division, and I now see exactly how my husband's job fits into the hierarchy
-- what to do during Colors on base each morning or evening
-- lots of acronyms and jargon!
-- phone numbers for all kinds of services on base
-- apparently I need to renew my ID card since my husband was promoted last year!
-- details about the base movie theater which I have never used
-- Disney World has a military resort with special military rates!
-- how to get price matching discounts from the Commissary and PX
-- MyPay has a "limited access" option so I don't have to use my husband's login info
-- the RUC code you need for a Red Cross Emergency message is located on the LES
-- how to read and interpret the LES
-- how to use Split Pay
-- the Savings Deposit Program gives you 10% interest during deployments!!!!!
-- there are 6 stages of the deployment cycle, each with its own distinct challenges and emotions
-- you can request a military Sponsor when you move to a new duty station!
-- a dislocation allowance is free money you get for moving: you just have to check the box!
-- how to contact a chaplain besides the one in husband's unit
-- career advancement and education opportunities available to the Marine

Plus I even got a certificate and a goodie bag afterwards! The class was free, the on-site childcare was free... I would say it was a great day! I highly recommend the LINKS class to anyone who hasn't taken it, regardless of how long you have been in the military!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Danny's recent firsts

First time playing with the sprinkler

First time in his big boy bed

First drawing

First time at the bar stool instead of his high chair

First beach trip this summer

Sunday, May 29, 2011

To all new/young Military Wives (and their husbands)...

OK, my husband has only been away at training for 1 week, and we have actually had a great time here! Sure, the kids frustrate me at times, but for the most part we had a really relaxing week, got to spend some time with friends, and I even read THREE books during my free time! I'm realizing how much LESS work I have to do when husband is gone-- I don't have to cook fresh dinners each night or make his lunch, there was 1 less load of laundry, I didn't have to run any errands for him, and I didn't have to watch any hockey! :-)
But already, some of the younger/newer wives in the battalion are starting to bug me. Sure, communication has been limited this week, but my husband has made a few brief phone calls, and we each know the other is doing fine, we say our I love you's, and that's that. But through Facebook and direct conversations, some wives have made it clear that they are already struggling--emotionally, financially, or for some other reason. I was shocked by the situations some wives are in. I want to be compassionate and helpful, but I also think there is a list of reasonable things a wife should have when her husband leaves for any length of time:
1. She should have a phone and a way to consistently pay the bill
2. She should have a drivers' license
3. She should have access to a vehicle to get herself to the grocery store and doctor's appointments.
4. She should be able to pay the household bills and track the family budget
5. She should have at least one person, (friend or family member), who is in the local area and can be reached in case of emergency.

It amazes me that there are wives who somehow get by without some of these things, especially when they are responsible for 1 or more small children! But it amazes me more when husbands leave their wives without working out solutions to some of the above problems. Because then it suddenly falls into the lap of the FRO or the nearest spouse in the battalion when these women aren't able to function without their husband around. Does this list sound reasonable to you? Or are these luxuries that I have come to take for granted?