Update on Tony

Many of you have been asking about Tony, so I figured I would give an update on him.  He has been gone now for over 3 months doing training.  Most of that time, he has been stationed and training in North Carolina.  Near the end of May, he went California to continue training, where he will be for about another week.  He’ll then be back at his “home” base in North Carolina until he deploys.  Tony will be home on leave in July, so that is very exciting news!

I am sure Tony would love to hear from loved ones back home.  So, after he is overseas, let me know if you want his email address or mailing address.  I won’t post that information publicly, but I can definitely email it to you!  Thank you for all your support everyone!

Tank

Last August, we adopted a dog from an elderly lady who was terminally ill.  We do not have much information about him, only knowing that he is a 6 or 7 year old Maltese.  Now, full disclosure here, I have always not liked dogs.  Hate is probably too strong of a word, but I disliked dogs greatly.  I detested their barking, their drooling, their slobbering, and their shedding.  I was VERY VERY hesitant to agree to adopt this dog, but somehow was convinced to do it (I think Tony should have been a lawyer in a another life).  We agreed to as least consider taking the dog, and told our contact to keep us posted and that we might be interested in taking him down the road.  Somehow that turned into a phone call a few days later, with the contact saying the dog was here, ready to live with us (he lived in the Poconos before coming here).  Tony was at drill that weekend, so I went to pick up this strange dog that I wasn’t really sure I wanted.

Low and behold, in an example of divine intervention, Tank is the sweetest dog I’ve ever met.  He is very laid back.  He does not shed, and does not drool or slobber.  He DOES love licking though, which I still think is kinda gross, but am dealing with it.  He is content to just sleep on the sofa, then sleep on the bed.  Yes, he requires effort;  I have to plan who is going to let him out when I work my long days.  But, coming home to his excited tail wagging truly warms my heart. He always wants to be near me and he LOVES snuggling.  He is my little buddy, and I know that having him is going to make this deployment much easier to deal with.

I say I am still not a dog lover.  I am a Tank lover.  Isn’t he so cute!?!

Tricare Prime=Success

After looking into what insurance I was able to be covered by now that Tony was activated, I learned that a military ID enrolls me in Tricare, but due to where I live (not near any bases), I had to apply for Tricare Prime.  I had to do the application by the 20th of April for it to be active on May 1.  I called at least 3 times to make sure they received my fax, and to make sure they didn’t need anything else…and 2 weeks went by that I heard nothing.  Finally, my card arrived in the mail earlier this week!  Wahoo!  I have already called to set up my first time appointment with my “primary care manager”, so things are progressing along nicely.  It does stink that I have to switch doctors (my family doctor and my gyno), but having Tricare Prime will be saving us a lot of money now.

For your viewing pleasure…my card!

14 years ago

I have a few Facebook friends who are high school students, whom I have gotten to know through volunteering with the youth group at my church, The Worship Center.  It’s Prom Season, and many of them are posting pictures online of their prom.  This made me think about my prom, and believe it or not, prom was my first “date” with Tony.  It was 1997…..

Tony and I went to Donegal H.S. together, and had some classes together.  He was a Senior, I was a Junior.  My sister was friends with both him and his sister.  Tony asked my sister to prom as “friends”.  She was a Freshman, and she said no, because she didn’t  really know many Juniors and Seniors.  Then, he turned around and asked me.  I decided that we may as well go as “friends” instead of me going alone.

Tony asked if he could dance with other girls at prom, since we agreed to just go as friends.  This was fine by me, and we decided that the only song we would dance to together would be Keith Sweat, “Nobody”.  As it turns out, it was the VERY first slow song that came on, and we then spent the rest of the night by each other’s side.  It all started with that song.

Long story short, through the process of going to the mall to pick out his tuxedo, and the entire prom experience, Tony and I started dating.  Here are some of OUR prom pictures….from 1997 and then 1998.  It is hilarious to look back at now and think this is when it all began.

At our wedding, our first dance as husband and wife was to Keith Sweat, “Nobody”.  Not exactly traditional, but very meaningful to us both.

1997…..our first date (Tony’s Senior Prom)

1998 (My Senior Prom)

SURPRISE!

Tony had been in the field, somewhere near Fort Bragg, NC, for over a week.  Because of poor cell service, I hadn’t heard much from him lately.  I got a phone call from him midnight Wednesday night, telling me that because of the crazy weather (flooding, tornadoes, etc), they were pulled out of the field 2 days early.  He had off til Monday, and he was coming home for the weekend!  Wahoo!

Tony arrived by 7pm Thursday, and we had the chance to spend the weekend together.  What a wonderful surprise!  He will be heading back to NC in a few hours.  Safe travels!

What are you doing for Easter?

Tony has been out in the field somewhere around Fort Bragg, NC almost all this past week.  Because of this, his cell service has been quite minimal.  He was finally able to call yesterday and we talked twice, for 5 minutes each time.  Today, he was able to call for almost 15 minutes.  I was so grateful to be able to speak with him.

I had a wonderful weekend, filled with friends and family, as I hope you did.  I know it’s easy to forget about what others are doing, especially because they are “out of sight, out of mind”.  I can understand, because I, too, do it.  I become more patriotic when Tony or my brother-in-law Mike is deployed, because it hits closer to home.  That is a hopeful by-product of this blog….to bring their experiences, our experiences, more to the forefront of your mind and awareness.

In that light….This is what Tony’s Easter looked like (as he posted on Facebook earlier today).  And, if I can add, he said it’s about 80 degrees there, with rain for the past 3 days.  He is sleeping in a tent, on the ground, and is only sleeping about 5 hours per night:

“5 days w no shower, 6 more to go, 0430 wakeup, tactical M4 shot then mounted machine gun & 203 range while on the move. Then tonight my Marines and I are going to sit around the dirt floor table, and talk tactics while eating a hot Easter dinner fresh out of the MRE bag. We’re getting ready to win hearts and minds. What are you doing for Easter?”

Road trip!

This past weekend, I drove down to NC to visit Tony at Camp LeJeune.  My work schedule is such that I don’t work Fridays, so I was able to leave bright and early!  I was on the road by 6am, looking forward to a day full of driving, and singing along to the car radio.  It was definitely a beautiful day for driving, and I got there by early afternoon, got a 2 hour nap in, and was up by the time Tony was finished on base.  We stayed at a hotel off base, and mostly planned our days by where we were eating :)

On Friday night, we went out for dinner with some of his new friends.  We went to a little hole-in-the-wall sushi place called Sake and it was amazing!  Saturday we enjoyed Cookout for lunch and then met up with a friend he deployed with in 2005 on Emerald Isle.  Emerald Isle is an adorable place that I definitely want to check out more.  It reminded me of the Outer Banks, and my trips there with my friend Sarah and her family.  On Saturday, we also drove around on base.  Tony showed me his barracks, which look like a cross between my college dorm room and what I would imagine a jail cell would look like.  Not very homey!  We went to the PX, where I was able to buy some “Oooo-rah” gear.  I stocked up on a few USMC shirts, pants, and a coffee travel mug.  There were some horrible storms that came through NC Saturday night, resulting in many tornados.  Luckily, we were ok, but there was damage on base and in towns nearby (I drove home through one of those towns that was hit by a tornado, and was speechless at the damage).  Sunday we went to another seafood place for lunch, and hung out walking around the mall.

I left to drive back up here Sunday afternoon, and got home late last night.  It was a wonderful weekend trip!  It made me realize the little things I miss, like walking around the mall holding hands, or reading magazines at Barnes & Noble while sharing a Starbucks.  I enjoyed seeing Tony, meeting his friends, and eating lots of great food (mostly seafood, which I LOVE!)

I saw this quote recently, and I think it’s very fitting:

“Pleasant experiences make life delightful.  Painful experiences lead to growth.”

My blog name

Always

Faithful

Journey

The USMC motto is “Semper Fidelis”, which if you have not studied Latin, means “Always Faithful”.  As I thought about a name for my blog, I incorporated this Marine slogan, steeped in tradition, with my own thoughts of my life.

I believe that life is a journey, enjoyed for the twisting trails as much for the heartbreaking pain.  My life, my journey so far, has more of these than you can imagine.  I have tried to hold on to my belief that everything happens for a reason, and that God is in charge of me and my life.  I believe that God has a plan for me, so much so that I got my first tattoo to celebrate my 30th birthday last summer.  It is the Greek word (the New Testament, of which I base my Christian beliefs, was written in Greek) “FAITH”, which literally translates to “I believe”.

This is my journey.

Gov’t Shutdown

(The below post is written by my younger sister, Alicia, whose husband is active duty in the Air Force.  I asked her if she were interested in guest blogging occasionally from her perspective.  Thanks Lee!)

Hello!  I am Alicia. Amanda is my older sister, and she asked me to share some things on this blog as well.  See, my husband is in the Air Force, we have been in for almost 12 years.  His name is Mike and he is EOD, Explosive Ordnance Disposal…better know as the Bomb Squad!  Currently he is serving in Afghanistan and will return in Sept.   This is our 5th deployment, so it is like second nature to us.  It is never easy when your other half is gone, don’t get me wrong, but you learn to adapt and adjust and overcome!  I have become very self reliant and realized a lot about myself.  Things I never thought I would or could do!  To add to our crazy lives, we also have 3 children in the mix.  Camryn is 6, Toby is 5, and Addisyn is 3.  With all that has been in the news lately about the Government Shutdown, I thought now was a good time to inject me into the blog!  :D

Like I said, Mike is in Afghanistan at the moment.  He actually got his first day off 2 days ago.  First day off in 14 days.  So that should just tell you how much fun he is having over there.  As news about this Shut Down began, I would ask him if he heard anything.  There are no TVs, he never gets on the internet and he has no clue what is going on.  He figured I was caught up in a rumor mill and told me to just forget it, we will be paid.  The more and more it was coming out I told him he should really read about it and figure things out.  Yesterday I had a few friends already check their LES (paycheck) for the 15th of April, and it was only 1/2, paying from the 1st-8th.  This is a scary thing for any family to deal with, and I know that it happens all over the world, people get fired, laid off.  Wonder how they will pay their bills…..but I NEVER thought it would happen to us.  I mean, we are in the MILITARY….JOB SECURITY….oh, I get it now…you will always have your job….just might not get paid to do it!  Mike doesn’t have the option, to come home, to not go to work….to “Strike”.  He is in harm’s way every single day…for what….an IOU?  I just don’t get it.  The last thing he needs to worry about is his family in FL: are we ok, can we pay bills, will we have money for food.

Yesterday he actually asked me to send him some money cause he only had $5.  It cost $3 for laundry, and $2 for a haircut.  So after that, his money was gone.  Here he is, in Afghanistan, with $5 to his name….and I can’t even send him $100 to get through cause I might need it for groceries, or gas.  What is going on????  Luckily, as you all probably hear, they came to an agreement, looks like we will get paid…..FOR NOW….but what happens when this happens again?  I am sick the all the BS.  I am lucky that my family would have been ok.  We have money in savings that I could transfer over and pay our mortgage, or car payments.  But there are many families that do not have that luxury.  The stress of late payments, or fees, or borrowing money from people to get by.  It has to be a terrifying thought.  I am also lucky to have such amazing parents.  My mom called to make sure we are ok, or that we would be Ok, and that if we needed anything, money or ANYTHING, I could ask them.  I feel blessed for such giving, supportive parents!

Well, stayed tuned….I look forward to journaling this experience with my sister!

Alicia

Technology

Ever changing technology is amazing.  I am able to talk with, text, and even Facetime with Tony since he’s been gone.  Now, granted, he is still in the States, but it makes it so much more bearable to be able to have that contact with him.  It makes the distance shrink.

His first deployment was in 2003, right at the beginning of the war.  He left the States at the beginning of January, and I did not hear anything from him until Valentine’s Day.  6 WEEKS!  That was the longest 6 weeks I’ve ever been through.  There was no internet connection over there then, so he would call every so often, maybe every 2 weeks.  We got into a rough pattern, and that was ok for me.

2005/2006 brought his second deployment.  This time around “they” (those amazing technology people) created something called MotoMail.  I logged in to a website, and typed an email.  ”They” printed this email out overseas, and sent it to Tony like regular mail, and he would receive it the very next day.  I know how important mail is to those deployed, so this combined convenience and functionality.  I sent him regular letters about once a week, but I would send him a MotoMail almost every day.  He did have access to internet occasionally, and he called once a week.

This time around we bought iPads so we can Facetime each other while he is away.  Last night, while laying in bed, we were able to look at each other and have a conversation as if he was right next to me.

So, thank you “technology people”, for making things like this a bit easier….