Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sarah Smiley March 23, 2009
The Obama Administration's tentative (and now thankfully withdrawn) idea to bill third-party insurers for veterans' injuries sustained during combat heralds the perfect opportunity to discuss, once again, the subject of military health care and what many civilians don't understand about it.
When I was in high school and a military dependent of my active-duty Navy dad, I broke my leg while jumping off my piano teacher's front porch. I was taken to Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va., (the old Portsmouth hospital, where tales of hospitalization, and especially labor and deliveries, are legendary). On this particular day, there was a shortage of the lightweight fiberglass material used in modern medicine to stabilize broken bones. In its place, the Navy doctors wrapped my leg in plaster of Paris, which is the same material used to make some walls. Unlike its sleek fiberglass counterpart, plaster of paris casts are thick, bumpy and somewhat chalky. I left the hospital with what felt (and looked) like a 10-pound chunk of wall on my leg.
"But hey, it was free," I said laughing when I explained the situation to my high school government class.
"Your cast wasn't free," a boy in the back of the class said. "All of our tax dollars paid for it." I was at the time a knobby-kneed teenager who still cared about what her peers thought. I didn't come up with a good comeback until the class bell had rung and I was hobbling on crutches to my locker.
Free? My health care isn't "free," I thought. What does that punk know about "free" anyway?
The next day in class, I told my classmate how "expensive" my health care really is. My dad had paid for it when he was halfway across the world, in the middle of the Mediterranean Ocean, when his first daughter was born. He paid for it when he didn't meet me until I was seven months old. He paid for it with every missed piano recital, Christmases spent apart, and when he accumulated 11 years of sea duty by the time I was 22 years old. Oh, we had paid for it, alright. And we had paid in ways that most people would consider unacceptable and too "costly." (Imagine: Instead of billing you a premium each month, your insurance company will require you to be at their service, at any time, in any place, even if it means that you will literally miss half of your child's childhood. Oh, and you may have to die for them, too.)
True, my classmate and his parents had also paid in part for my health care, but then, they never had to deal with deployments either.
By now, everyone knows (or should know, at least) that the sacrifices inherent with serving in the military far outweigh the benefits (medical care included). Still, it amazes me how some people declare their support for the troops and then get bent out of shape about how much of their tax dollars go to actually supporting the troops and their families.
The Obama administration claims that by not holding private insurance companies accountable, the government is giving them a free ride. A free ride for what? It was the government, not the insurance companies, who called our servicemembers into action. Men and women of the armed services sacrifice far more than money to serve the country, and part of the deal is that the government will always take care of them in return, much like a private corporation takes care of its employees with health insurance. Billing a third-party insurance company for war-related injuries would be giving the government a free ride. (Which is to say nothing of the large premiums and resulting insurance hardships placed of military families that would ultimately result from such a plan.)
The Obama administration has wisely backed down from this idea after hearing the enormous, unified outcry from veterans' groups, a force to be reckoned with. Veterans take their benefits and entitlements seriously. And well they should. The country has asked much of them. All they ask is for the country to hold up their end of the deal. Because nothing -- not freedom or health care -- is ever truly free.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
In Kansas City, there is a snow sledding hill called Suicide Hill. To find out why, check out the video on March 29 at the link below!
Listen to the laughing at the very end...
In full battle gear with a heavily packed ruck.
You never know when you'll need to pack a ruck (military backpack), so FYI ...... :)
"To pack a ruck:
Be sure the heaviest items are packed closest to your back and weight is
distributed evenly left-to-right. Pack your spare socks and t-shirts in ziplock
bags at the top so they are easily accessible during wellness checks and place
your poncho in the space at the bottom of the ruckframe so its easily accessible
while moving or without removing your pack. When on long movements keep food
consisting of simply carbohydrates (apple sauce, graham crackers, etc) in your
bellows pockets of your BDU's so you can eat while you walk. "
Friday, March 27, 2009
I heard it as I was giving Amelia a bath and putting her to bed, and she asked me, "What that noise, mommy?" I was afraid the noise would scare her, so I sort of fudged on my answer (since any Marine who has been through it will probably disagree with me).
"It's just Marines playing and having fun, Mia".
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!! In rapid succession, we hear cannon fires on the range. Mission accomplished - Amelia laughs in her bed and says, " 'RINES PLAYING, MOMMA!"
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I'm very nauseated and have massive, wildly swinging cravings. Rafe is so missing out!! He was lucky with Amelia as my cravings were mild and so was the nausea. Right now I'm jonesing for some stuffed grape leaves and a good hot gyros. And tomato juice. :)
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
If I hear, "MOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYY! be a dragon!" one. more. time. I am going to hide in the stuffed animals.
She's got this weird dragon and gloves thing going on. She wants me to wear her daddy's desert combat gloves OR Pampa's biker gloves, growl at her and pretend to be a dragon. I'm supposed to catch her, squeeze her, she yells "let me go!" and we do it all over again. Over and over and over and over. Day after day.
This afternoon I go in to wake her up from her nap, and she's still groggy and sleepy. Without opening her eyes, she mumbles, "Someone be a dragon" and then falls back asleep.
When will it ennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd?????
The Cats Know How I Feel
Monday, March 23, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
"In the current incarnation of THE TENSION, I decided to move
away from discussions about the ephemeral attention of the media and post primarily about substantial military topics. When journalists feel comfortable dropping even the appearance of fairness, their agenda-driven story template suffocates any chance of rational balance when it comes to reporting about the military. The military's job involves solving real crises, unlike the media, who are hell-bent on creating illusions of crisis where none exist. I decided my blog would be a good vehicle to get out the uncovered side of the news. "
Thanks to a friend, I found this incredible news blog. Incredible because I began reading it before I knew anything about the purpose of it, and my first thought was, "How refreshing! No editorials in the presentation of facts! JUST THE FACTS!"
Kind of the way journalism is supposed to be in an ideal world.
OIF Summary, March 20, 2009: Troops Uncover Weapons Stockpiles in Baghdad, Southern Iraq
Interested parties may want to check out this post dated March 20, 2009. It's rather significant information.
wink wink, nudge nudge
Earlier today, she suddenly got a stricken look on her face as I was reading her a story and clutched her bottom.
Out of nowhere tonight she began running in big circles around the island (my brother Todd calls it the "circle pattern" that all kids do), yelling at the top of her lungs for me to run with her.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
She told me today, "I 'mart, Mommy". And I couldn't disagree with her. It was right after she told me she could have chocolate covered raisins because, "I ask nicewee and good aaatuuude!" (I asked nicely and had a good attitude).
Of course, she got the raisins!
Mia: Can I haf sum? (pointing to the pickled ginger)
Me: No, I don't think so, it's too spicy. You won't like it.
Me: Ok, just a small piece. (at this point, I'm thinking I get the bad mommy award again for thinking it's funny to give her spicy stuff and because I imagine the face she is going to make when she eats it)
Then I give it to her. She eats it. And she giggles. And then she asks to eat the bowl of sushi rice I have, and giggles with pure delight right after she plops a big ball of it in her mouth.
I give up. This is the kid who won't eat meat, but she'll eat smoked salmon, sushi rice, salsas and Indian curry. Mac and Cheese is still the hands down favorite, but tortellini with basil pesto is a close second.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I downloaded my camera today and was looking through the pictures when I came across a set that began with the balloon on the ceiling and ended with the culprit FINALLY getting a good shot of herself. There were about 25 pictures in this series, I kid you not.
Monday, March 9, 2009
What makes her laugh is that one duck is carrying the other duck in his arms (heavy), and on the next page the lazy duck being carried puts a feather on his nose and tries to look at it. For some reason, this feather tickles her no end. She has been trying to put a feather on her nose ever since. We have feather pillows in the house, so I plumped them up and pulled out a little feather for her to play with.
She immediately put it on her nose and then tried to look at it, laughed, and blew it off into the air on accident. The next hour was the easiest hour I've had in a long time. I never knew a feather could be so entertaining. She even convinced me to try it on my nose a few times! Days later, she is still playing with that feather and getting the giggles.
Read the remarkable story here (with a way to donate at the end).
Friday, March 6, 2009
The military culture is so vastly different from civilian life that there are actually classes held for civilians who marry into it that last two days. Every Marine spouse is highly encouraged to take a LINKS class (Lifestyles, Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills). It's so important to take this class that they provide free food and childcare. There is usually a class once a month on most bases, and once every other month on the smaller ones. Each section of the class is taught by a spouse who has already lived through the experience. For example, you can't talk about deployments unless you have already been through at least one or two.
I was so excited to go to my first class, and mind boggled by all the acronyms and completely overwhelmed by trying to remember the rank structure and symbols. They also recommend that every time you move, you attend a class on the new base because there are slight twists and new items at each base. I eventually became a LINKS volunteer and gave talks on different sections at the bases I lived on.
But through the class I made my first new friends on the base we were living on. I learned that although the MC (Marine Corps) is considered "the tip of the spearhead" because they are the first to the fight, and "expeditionary" because they are in convenient locations around the world with the skills to move quickly to get to where they need to go; they are only a department of the Navy and only receive (at least at the time of my class) 6% of the entire defense budget.
I learned that the other services have often promoted folding the MC into the bigger whole and doing away with it specifically as it was argued that the services the MC provides overlapped services longer established military structures provided. We were told that the US (United States) has a MC because the people wanted it. The Marine Corps has an odd badge of pride for being able to do more with less, and until very recently no Commandant of the Marine Corps ever went before a budget committee telling them they were out of money and needed more (which can't be said for the other branches of service). The Marine mentality is to make do.
When we were stationed at Quantico, I remember going to the Air Force base after only seeing the Marine base for months. I was shocked... their commissary was amazing, they had topiary everywhere, the E (enlisted) barracks was better than the O (officer) family housing on the Marine base, and most of all... their guards had air conditioned shacks with shaded porticos. And they were slouching with bad haircuts. I thought I had entered an alternate universe, and only then did I realize how much I had absorbed in the few short months I was married. I drove back home and felt sorry for the people living and working in the quonset huts on Quantico.
I've heard much is changed there now...there have been a lot of housing improvements in the last 3-4 years on the Marine bases, and as we were leaving Camp Lejeune, they had just finished building an air conditioned check point with a portico. We currently live in the nicest Marine Corps housing I have ever seen, unlike any other base I've been to in the past.
L.I.N.K.S. provides information on:
Marine Corps history, tradition and
Benefits and services
separation and deployments
Tips on moving
Thursday, March 5, 2009
YUM. He actually made his a little hotter than I normally make mine, but I craved it. So much so that we went through THREE batches (at 2 quarts each batch) during the time he was home. There was just enough left for me to eat the two weeks after he left in the middle of the night. I was so hungry, I would wake up and eat chips and hot sauce and then go back to bed.
One day, I wanted it for breakfast. So I made myself some tamales a friend had brought over, some cheesy scrambled eggs with scallions in them, diced up avocados and salted them, and then poured hot sauce over most of it and served it with a side of plain yogurt.
OH. MY. GOODNESS. I think I swooned during breakfast, it was so good.
Rafe's Hot Sauce
2 cans of Red Gold Diced Tomatoes
1 can of Red Gold HOT Diced Tomatoes with Chiles (by the way, this is just as good as Rotel and cheaper)
fresh lime or lemon juice (can sub red wine vinegar in a pinch)
garlic pepper (I use McCormick's brand, California style)
(2 parts cumin to 1 part each coriander and oregano)
Rafe added sambal oelek (chili paste) in one batch, green chiles in another batch, and habanero sauce in a batch. You can add whatever hot seasoning that suits your fancy.
Puree in blender till it's the consistency you like. I used to like mine chunky, but Rafe likes it smooth like Tex Mex restaurants, so that's what we make now. Pure deliciousness. I don't have ratios, I just add spices till it tastes good. You will need to add more spices than you think you do. When Rafe lived with us, we went through a jar of cumin every 2 -3 months. You can leave out the cilantro if you don't like it, and you can even leave out the coriander and oregano if you don't have it. It won't taste as nice, but it definitely won't taste right if you leave out the cumin. That's essential. Also, use kosher salt. Please.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Not always, so I'm hoping that this time we break the tradition.
Rafe called me today to tell me that he'd heard from someone CONUS who works in MAG31 (the unit he was stationed with here prior to being pulled for an IA for one year and 4 months prior training elsewhere).... that they were planning on deploying when he got back. To Afghanistan. For ONE FREAKING YEAR.
Ok, first of all, HQ MAG31 never deploys. So that's a good sign, right? Or it could be a bad sign, and it's their turn to take the hit. Then Rafe just will be coming back, so he should get dwell time of one year, right? Only he's their lead Intel guy, and the IA billet was seperate, so he could very well have to go with them.
I should know in a few days. But I swear to you, if he has to leave again for one more year, I am going to personally write to Michelle Obama and see if she will really fight for military families.
Honestly, I just couldn't take it. I've taken a lot these past 5 years from both the military and outside sources and the personal tragedies in our lives; and I am about at the end of my rope and my strength and willingness to do it alone.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Unfortunately, he is never home. Sometimes I'm not even sure what country he is in.
So today I made Braised Chicken with Fresh Fennel, Tomatoes and Olives from a recipe I chanced upon at A Good American Wife.
Amazingly delicious. I think I threw in a few more ingredients then I was supposed to, the pot was overflowing... but still. I'm taking it to the neighbors to enjoy because there is only so much braised chicken I can eat and my 2 year old isn't interested.
Monday, March 2, 2009
I can't quite take it in yet. It's good news AND bad news. It's bad news because he said that my HcG levels were a bit low for one baby, but very low for two. So I am going back next Monday for another ultrasound. He hopes to see heartbeats, as there are none yet. If there aren't any by next week, then I will probably miscarry both of them again.
I'm feeling sort of numb right now to this. I'm very down, yet trying not to think about it and trying to trust God has a plan and to be at peace with whatever happens. I just wish, that if my body wasn't going to be able to keep the babies, that I just wouldn't get pregnant in the first place. It's a very hard emotional roller coaster.
I am so flipping mad about the Army releasing her from her obligations and her deployment. It's not like she has no husband, no parents, no in-laws. She's IRR, and she signed a contract. She absolutely knew what could happen... it doesn't matter that at the time she signed being called back to active duty rarely happened. That's why it's called a contract, and that's why she knew it was a possibility, however distant or unlikely at the time. Part of what makes me so mad is that she says that her husband travels too much to be able to watch the kids and will lose his job. Well... what the heck does she think the military spouses, mostly female, do when their husbands deploy? Does she think we mostly spend our time waiting to get married to a military man so we can then sit around and do nothing and enjoy it? Most women had excellent jobs and careers they have had to give up, either permanently or temporarily, for the deployment cycles. Family finances suffered and careers suffered. It's exhausting being the only parent who is watching the kids and running the household. But apparently she's above all that.
If she was a man, they would have ridiculed her, not released her. She wanted to do that job, she should have done it all the way, instead of taking the chicken s^^^ way out. She had 4 years to figure out a plan for deployment care of her children, WHICH ALL MILITARY MEMBERS ARE REQUIRED TO DO, OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It's not the military's fault that she was too lazy, too selfish or just too stupid to do it.
And as for her husband, if he was any good at his sales job, then they would hire him back. One thing I've learned about sales is that all they care about is production, and if he could produce, he would be able to find another job. He could have hired a nanny to watch the kids when he had to leave town or paid family members to be live in help for the 7-12 month deployement. It really wasn't that long.
I wish I could just claim that I would lose my job if I had to stay home with Amelia, then perhaps they wouldn't send Rafe on deployment. hahahahhhheeehoohoo.... too late, I suppose, as I already gave up my career when I married Rafe because of his travel schedule and I stopped working all together when I had Amelia because of his deployment schedule.
Lisa Pagan, I hope you read this and know how low you are in the eyes of the true servicemembers and their families who do their jobs and keep their word. But, I would probably guess that you could care less, as your choices indicated you lacked integrity and your husband lacked balls.
By the way, if anyone thinks I am being harsh on her for chastising her publicly, think again. She was the one who brought this to the attention of the newspapers so she could get the sympathy vote from the general public who don't understand how the contracts work or HOW MANY TIMES she would have been told of the recall possibility and HOW MANY TIMES she would have been told to have a child care plan and a backup child care plan, and HOW MANY TIMES they would have had briefings for her on how to do that. Once she threw it in public domain, it was fair game.