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Commentary by Susan Lovelace

Commentary by Susan Lovelace

Fighter Country Partnership’s (FCP) mission statement is to “support the men, women, families, and mission of Luke AFB”. As the Office Manager at Fighter Country Partnership, I would like to offer some insight from a spouse’s perspective on the “family” portion of that statement.

I’m qualified to shed some insight on this topic as the wife of a retired Lieutenant Colonel, who spent his entire career in the Air Force flying the F-16. It goes without saying the active duty member works long hours (usually 10-12 hour days), but that means someone needs to be at home minding the store. Ultimately, the civilian spouse assumes the responsibilities of being the chief operating officer of the household. Their job description requires long hours as well and often requires them to be on call 24/7.

Our move to Luke AFB in 2001 was our eighth move in 13 years. Needless to say, we were pretty good at it. But with every move, the spouse is left with the responsibility of organizing the home, researching housing options and schools, while still taking care of everyone, including the family pet. These duties aren’t for the faint of heart. Just going through the process of packing out, and accepting the household goods at your next destination – praying that there is minimal damage to your furniture – is enough to send you running for the Tylenol bottle.

Deployments are another subject entirely. When the active duty member receives orders for their deployment to “who knows where”, the slow torturous process of anticipating the day they leave begins. This is not fun. Again, the spouse is left with emotionally preparing the children for the separation anxiety they are certain to face. Of course, the military member is involved in this process, but to be fair, they have enough on their plate getting mentally and physically prepared for the job at hand. Usually, there are required training events that warrant TDYs (temporary duty assignments) in preparation for the deployment.

When my husband deployed to the Middle East for a year in 2005, he spent five weeks in Florida training for the job he was going to do when he got there. You can typically throw another month of separation in there on top of the year they are going to be gone. When the military member finally leaves, it’s almost a relief. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about that statement, but it’s entirely true. The dread of the approaching day is gone, and those left behind can finally get into their routine, which is something absolutely necessary in every military family. Routine lends itself to stability for your children and offers sanity for the spouse.

The spouse becomes the sole parent at that point, the CEO of the house if you will. Every joy, like an overflowing toilet in the middle of the night, a child who is throwing up or running a 104-degree fever, a car that won’t start, a flooded basement, or shoveling the snow off your driveway so you can get out in the morning to take the kids to school, becomes yours to embrace! You get the added joy of celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays alone. On top of it all, there isn’t a day that goes by where you don’t pray for your husband or wife’s safe return. This is stressful, folks. As bad as it is, I can’t imagine what it was like before email, Skype, or even telephones. I know our WWII Veterans sometimes went years without actually speaking to their families.

I don’t want to take anything away from the dangerous job of the military member. Let’s not kid ourselves. We aren’t in harm’s way while sitting in our living room watching American Idol. My point is there is so much focus on the military member and their needs, but that individual wouldn’t be able to succeed in their career if it weren’t for the love and support of their family at home.

As a species, the military family is strong, loving, and extremely supportive. That also is true about our extended families, our brothers and sisters in the squadrons we are attached to. There truly are no words to describe how powerful those relationships are during deployments. Luke AFB has several hundred Airmen deployed at any given time, so next time you run across a wife or husband that has a deployed spouse, be sure to tell them “thank you”, and wish them well. What they do at home is vitally important, and allows that Airman to do his or her job, and to do it well. They are the people we go to church with, see at Cardinals and Coyotes games, and meet at school events. They are steadfast members of our wonderful community, and we should never forget that. They deserve our appreciation and deep gratitude.

At Fighter Country Partnership, we appreciate your incredibly generous support because it enables us to keep these amazing families vibrant and strong. We are so blessed to live in communities that recognize the sacrifice and importance of military families. Fighter Country Partnership supports programs available for the deployed spouses and families such as the “Deployed Families Dinner” that is hosted by the base chapel. We also fund projects such as Operation Thunderbox, which sends comfort items to our deployed troops all over the world. I assure you, at Fighter Country Partnership, we will never forget the reason we have any impact. FCP has an impact because of you. God bless our troops and God bless you!!

OpEd by Susan Lovelace, former Program Director of Fighter Country Partnership

Post updated on 6 Feb 2020

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