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    Should I Stay or Should I Go?

    Missouri Air National Guard mom with her two children marching behind

    Photo By 2nd Lt. Traci Howells | Missouri Air National Guardsman, TSgt Elise Rich, walks across the parade field with...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Elise Rich 

    131st Bomb Wing

    Four years active-duty military. Just one enlistment. That was my plan.
    It was a good plan, especially for someone who didn’t at the time have the discipline to withstand the mayhem of college.

    Throughout my active-duty service, I stuck to the plan, though I had a strong desire to settle back home in Missouri when the plan was completed. My husband, whom I was dating at the time, wanted to get out after his first enlistment as well.

    We enjoyed our active-duty service, but four years was enough time to season ourselves in the structure of the military. So as soon as our service agreements were up, we were back home, living it up as college students, free of our military commitments – and never to go back.

    Six-months later, however, we were on the phone with the Missouri Air National Guard recruiter.

    I’m not even sure exactly what prompted us to make the call. When I initially joined the military, at age 18, I hardly expected I’d become so connected to it. Our desire to go back in wasn’t benefits-based, because we were enjoying our Post-9-11 G.I. Bill, which includes a living stipend. We just missed it. Maybe it was the dash of organized chaos that military life serves up. Or perhaps the adventure, or even the culture.

    When we decided to re-enlist in the Guard, we were acting as autonomous adults. We were naive to the difficulties that family life, paired with military life, would bring. We didn't understand how much a child -- or soon enough, children -- would complicate our military roles.

    It didn’t take long for us to get that naivety slapped out of us.

    Hardly a year into our first Guard enlistment, we found out that we were expecting our first child. All of the sudden, everything I thought I knew that I wanted in life was flipped on to its head. All of a sudden, all that mattered was my baby, and it was hard for me to see anything outside of my role as a mom. I believe that these feelings are normal, and are also biologically ingrained (I’ve learned to not make any big decisions during a pregnancy and for three months after; way too many hormones happening there!).

    During my first pregnancy I contemplated getting out of the Guard -- constantly. I went so far as to email my supervisor, explaining how I just wasn't going to be able to fulfill my military requirements. However, she wasn't having the same surges of motherly hormones as I was, and despite my “white-flag waving,” she was able to reassure me that I’d be able to fulfill both of my roles: as mother, and as Guardsman. My supervisor’s one email of positive reassurance pushed me to see past the hormones and take a more introspective look at my future.

    So I stayed in.

    By no stretch of the imagination was the decision to stay in the military the easy choice. My stomach turns thinking about the stress of my first few drills with an infant. Driving four hours across the state with a screaming 4-month-old to get to drill was torture. And as an added anxiety “bonus,” she wouldn't take a bottle from the babysitter.

    It was a huge growth period for us, and it hurt. My husband and I being in the same wing complicated matters even more. However, after our second child, our leadership was able to work with us so that one of us would be able to drill at the closer unit location. This action helped alleviate some unnecessary hardships; I say unnecessary, because it’s the military -- there’s going to be hardship.

    It’s impossible to grow without pushing yourself. It’s not just the physical aspect of the human body that must be exercised to exertion, but every resiliency pillar: physical, as well as mental, spiritual and social. That being said, you need to do the building in a healthy manner. The military provides many “spotters" through its large pool of helping resources, and you shouldn’t fear approaching your supervisor when you need assistance with the challenges of balancing family and military life.

    I’ve learned that the financial benefits of military service are great incentives, but they don’t cut it for very long, and they can’t compare to long-term, ingrained motivation. Your reason for serving must be more profound than just a paycheck, because when your drill check goes to cover the costs of babysitting, it doesn't matter.

    Sticking it out in the military isn’t for everyone, but certainly don’t make a knee-jerk decision to get out like I almost did. Find your reason and let it motivate you to push through the hardships.

    Today, my husband and I continue to push through different family complexities in order to keep serving in the Air National Guard. We now have three children, and we have each exceeded 10 years of service.

    I thought that staying in the Guard would take away from our kids and family. I was wrong. Our girls beam with admiration when we wear our Air Force uniforms; they couldn’t be more proud of their mom and dad at those times.

    As an added bonus, the stress of balancing didn’t multiply with each additional child; Instead, my husband and I have become a more efficient team. We have established a steady rhythm, and we’re able to more soundly navigate through life’s choppy seas.

    We don’t know what the future will bring or where our military service will lead us. However, I do know that I remain honored to serve my state and country as both a mom and as an Air National Guard member.
    In my opinion, there are no greater warriors than moms and dads protecting their homeland, for all of our families.



    Date Taken: 10.13.2018
    Date Posted: 10.13.2018 14:02
    Story ID: 296301
    Location: MO, US

    Web Views: 724
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