Web Site: http://www.onearmywifestale.com
Bio: I'm a baseball/football/soccer mom, army wife, blog writer, advice giver, picture taker, and gravity's arch enemy. I'm obsessed with my husband, psycho over my kids, OCD about my writing, and clumsy to a fault. My friends are like family, and my family is awesome. I live and work in a small town in Mid-Michigan, where I am mom to two amazing little boys and step-mom to two more. My husband is a soldier in the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, and is currently stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.
Posts by jcarpenter:
Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow mommas out there! My hope for you all today is that you’re reading this in your pjs from the comfort of your warm, snuggly beds after sleeping in past 9 am and being treated to breakfast in bed. But, because I’m a mom too (and also an Army wife), I know that’s most likely not how things went down. It’s okay. You’re not the only one who made her own bowl of Lucky Charms this morning and has a million things to do today. But we love our jobs anyway, no matter how thankless they may seem at times, right?
In addition to Mother’s Day, we also celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day this month (as well as Intergalactic Star Wars Day and International Tiara Day), so my biggest (and more realistic) hope for you all is that even if you weren’t pampered or lavished with gifts this week, you were at least made to feel loved and appreciated by the family you do so much for.
One of my favorite features of my personal blog, One Army Wife’s Tale, is a segment called Another Army Wife’s Tale, where I interview other military spouses about their lives and relationships with their soldiers and write “their story” for them. I’m always fascinated to learn about other people. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up. I like asking people questions. I’m good at it. What I’m not good at is answering them.
But answer them I shall, because as part of the Army Wife Network’s theme this month of “Celebrating the Military Spouse,” they’ve asked us bloggers to answer some questions about ourselves. So here goes:
Name: Jenn Carpenter
How long have you been with your service member? We’ve been married for just over two years, but have known each other for 19 years.
Your favorite duty station: My favorite duty station is gonna have to be Fort Hood.
Why: Because it was our only duty station.
Your most challenging duty station: See answer above.
Why: See answer above (which will in turn lead you to the answer above that).
What most inspires you: I’m most inspired by people who overcome adversity. As someone who’s faced many (many, many, many) challenges in life, I love a good story about someone who’s overcome insurmountable odds or triumphed in the face of tragedy.
If you could go back and tell your new-to-Army-life self any piece of advice, what would it be? Don’t. Freak. Out. You got this.
Share a favorite blog or website that inspires, helps, or entertains you: I am a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine. So I would have to say that Da** You, Autocorrect is one of my favorite websites. It doesn’t matter what kind of mood I’m in, a few minutes on the site and I am in tears and in danger of peeing myself. (TMI, I know, but it’s totally true.)
And now that you’ve got me sharing like a girl on her first date who’s had one too many strawberry margaritas, let’s add a bonus round. Here are five things you don’t know about me:
I was hospitalized on two separate occasions for broken bones before my second birthday. (I was born clumsy, apparently.)
I can only eat one food at a time- as in, if I have salad, spaghetti, and garlic bread, I have to finish my salad before moving onto the garlic bread, and can’t start on the spaghetti until the garlic bread is gone…it’s a problem.
I have no problem living in a confirmed haunted house or letting paranormal investigators investigate it, but cannot, I repeat, CANNOT watch any of those ghost hunting shows. They terrify me.
My first crush as a little girl was on Davy Jones from The Monkees. (Yes, I’m that old.)
If I don’t eat a bowl of cereal before bed, I don’t sleep well. True story.
And that’s all I’ve got for ya, folks! Now go enjoy the rest of your day whether you’re a momma, a military spouse, a tiara lover, or a Star Wars fanatic. May is a month to celebrate us ALL!
When a woman falls in love with a soldier, she knows she’s taking a chance. She knows that she is giving her heart to a man who has given his life to the military. She knows that she will very likely send him off to war, possibly more than once. She knows that there will be lots of lonely, sleepless nights and lots of tears shed. And she knows that it is his duty, his obligation, to risk his life for his country.
So when young mother Yery Ortiz fell in love with a goofy guy with an infectious smile who just happened to be a soldier and Iraq War veteran, it wasn’t without caution. “I was kinda scared at first, because I didn’t want to get my heart broken and I didn’t want to lose him to war,” Yery remembers. She knew it would be hard. She knew his job was dangerous. But she never imagined the circumstances under which her soldier would wind up fighting for his life. No one could have predicted that.
Yery met and fell in love with Lupe Maldonado just before Valentine’s Day, 2008. She loved the fact that he was mature and had a great deal of life experience. He was drawn to her fiery spirit and zest for life. Together, they loved to go dancing, camping, and hiking. They moved in together and began building a life with Yery’s two-year-old son from a previous relationship, Gael, who was diagnosed with type one diabetes at just nine months old. But then, as he so often does in military life, Uncle Sam came calling. Lupe received orders for a one year deployment to Iraq. He would be overseas for virtually all of 2009.
Just two months before Lupe’s third deployment (Yery’s first), they found out Yery was pregnant with twins. Alone with a special-needs toddler throughout her pregnancy, the man she loved in a war zone, Yery tried not to worry too much when Lupe began confiding in her that he thought there was something wrong with him. He began experiencing blood in his stools, but was simply told by Army medics in Iraq that he had hemorrhoids. With everything else going on, Lupe tried to put the issue out of his mind, even though the problem persisted.
Lupe returned from Iraq in December 2009, when the twins, Josh and Vivian, were six months old. He and Yery were married in February 2010, the same month he went to an on-post medical clinic at Fort Hood to again seek treatment for abdominal pain and blood in his stools. The doctors performed tests and declared Lupe fit for duty, failing to inform him that his stool samples came back abnormal and that blood tests revealed he was anemic. (This information would not be discovered until years later.)
The Maldonados were relocated from Fort Hood, TX to Fort Benning, GA in July 2010. Just two years later, in July 2012, they were transferred back to Fort Hood, where Lupe began training for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. They moved in across the street from another young Army family: Specialist Christopher Marsh, his wife Sammi Jo, and their two little girls. Yery and Sammi Jo became fast friends. Says Sammi Jo, “We began to depend on each other for any and everything. Being Army wives made that easier because we understood each other. Lupe was part of that deal. He put my Christmas lights up when my husband was gone, even though they were hung backwards so I could never light them up, and was always there with Yery to make me laugh. And vice versa.”
Yery got involved with the Family Readiness Group and quickly became a go-to girl for military spouses in need, always more than happy to lend a helping hand. In early 2013, Lupe began experiencing severe abdominal pain. He visited several different on-post clinics as well as the emergency room at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood on more than one occasion, all while continuing to train for his upcoming deployment. He was scheduled for a colonoscopy more than a month out. His pain continued to worsen. On March 29, 2013, Yery took Lupe back to the emergency room at Darnall, where the Lieutenant Colonel who treated him appeared more concerned about Lupe’s upcoming training and deployment schedule than his health, according to Yery. The doctor diagnosed him with a pulled muscle, prescribed him an anti-inflammatory, and sent him home.
At her wit’s end, tired of seeing her husband in such agony, and confident that Lupe was being repeatedly misdiagnosed and receiving substandard care, Yery consulted Lupe’s Chain of Command, who suggested that she take him to a civilian hospital off-post. The following morning, on March 30, 2013, she did exactly that. Doctors at Seton Harker Heights Medical Center were horrified that nothing had been done for Lupe, considering the severity of his symptoms. They admitted him immediately and ordered a CT scan. Convinced that Lupe was suffering from diverticulitis or polyps, Yery was relieved to be on the verge of finally getting some answers. But neither Yery nor Lupe were prepared for what doctors found.
The CT scan revealed a mass on Lupe’s colon. A colonoscopy later that day revealed multiple malignant tumors in Lupe’s descending colon. Cancer. The Maldonados were devastated. Lupe was released from the hospital while his new, non-Army doctors formulated a treatment plan. The decision was made to remove the cancerous portion of Lupe’s colon. His surgery was scheduled for April 12, 2013. It was an outpatient procedure, so Yery expected to be able to take her husband home that same day, possibly the next morning. Yery’s best friend and guardian angel, Sammi Jo, would take care of the children the day of the procedure and overnight that night if necessary. Lupe’s cancer, which went undiagnosed by Army doctors for years, would be removed. And then he would begin the road to recovery.
The night before Lupe’s surgery, the Maldonados were contacted with some startling news. Tricare, the military’s health insurance for service members and their families, denied coverage for Lupe’s surgery because he was diagnosed and scheduled for treatment at a non-military facility by civilian doctors. Their argument was that if he was really that sick, he should have gone to the hospital located on post- the same hospital that had turned him away and misdiagnosed him multiple times.
So, the morning her husband was scheduled to undergo surgery for life-threatening cancer, Yery instead found herself battling it out with the powers-that-be at the insurance company, fighting for the benefits her husband had spent over a decade earning. This hero, who has risked his life fighting for his country many times over, had to plead with his insurance company to shell out a few dollars to try to save his life in return. A veteran of multiple wars, an active duty Staff Sergeant upset about not being able to deploy with his unit, fighting for his life after years of misdiagnosis by military doctors, had to beg his insurance company to give him a chance to live. After hours of hard-fought negotiation, Tricare approved Lupe’s surgery. He and Yery headed straight from the insurance company to the hospital. Their nightmare was almost over. Or so they thought.
During Lupe’s five hour surgery, Yery had nothing but time to worry about her husband and reflect on the nightmarish journey they’d found themselves on. She felt the Army had betrayed her, her husband, and her family. And she had absolutely no recourse. Military doctors are protected under The Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court ruling forbidding active-duty military personnel and their families from suing the federal government for medical malpractice. That means that regardless of the circumstances, military doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, etc. (a.k.a. federal employees) cannot be sued for malpractice. They are not held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof.
Following Lupe’s surgery, doctors had more bad news for the Maldonados. Lupe’s cancer had spread from his colon to his spleen, pancreas, and lymph nodes. It was inoperable. His surgery was deemed exploratory, and he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. He was kept in the hospital for several days following his surgery as doctors tried to manage his excruciating pain. Yery hardly left her husband’s side. Sammi Jo continued to care for the Maldonados’ children, who have been told very little about their father’s condition. Explains Yery, “The kids cry at night because their dad is not home. They know something is up. I told them that daddy has little things in his belly that are making him sick, but doctors are trying to fix it.”
Lupe was released from the hospital on April 16, 2013. Once he has healed from surgery, he will begin chemotherapy. According to Yery, Lupe’s chance of recovery is around 40%. But they refuse to give up. “They are strong, amazing people and I know they can get through this,” says Sammi Jo. “They just need all the support they can get. Be there. Be strong for them when they can’t.” While Yery can count on her Army family to be there for her during these darkest of days, she’s lost faith in the Army itself. “Our soldiers are not taken care of. It seems like the Army just doesn’t care. They use their soldiers, and then when they can’t do the work anymore, they just throw them away.”
*This story was researched and written by Jenn Carpenter based on the first hand account of Yery Maldonado.
For more on the Maldonados, visit the “Fight for Lupe” Facebook page: www.facebook.com/fightforlupe
What a difference a few years makes. Or rather, twelve years. That’s how long it’s been since our nation was last victimized by terrorism on the scale of yesterday’s attack in Boston. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been glued to the news: watching for updates, waiting for new information, wanting answers. As I flipped back and forth between CNN and MSNBC last night, tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that gorgeous fall morning over a decade ago when our entire world changed forever. And while I’m sure many of us are again struggling with a lot of the same feelings and emotions that September 11th brought about, there’s something very different about what happened in Boston yesterday- at least for me.
I don’t know if my world has gotten bigger, or if the world in general has gotten smaller, but this attack hit much closer to home for me, even though, logistically, New York is about 100 miles closer to Michigan than Boston is. In 2001, my entire world existed within about a 50 mile radius of the town in which I lived. My family, my friends, everyone I knew was safely nestled in The Mitten when the country started falling to pieces around us. I watched CNN for probably a month straight. I cried (a lot.) I hurt for the victims and their families. But it all seemed to be happening so far away.
This time, though…this time is different. I’ve never been to Boston, despite my affinity for the east coast. (Someday….) I don’t personally know anyone who lives in Boston. I don’t know anyone who was at the Boston Marathon. But I had no doubt, as I watched the same clips of footage over and over and over, that I knew someone who knew someone who was there. That somehow, someway, people I cared about would be affected by what happened. And I was right.
Thanks to the Army, I now have friends stationed all over the world and friends who are from all different parts of the country, including the Boston area. I have a friend whose friend’s son was at the Boston Marathon on a school field trip; another friend whose neighbor ran in the marathon; several friends who are proud to call Boston their hometown and were frantically trying to get through on jammed phone lines to their parents, siblings, cousins and friends.
I watched with pride and fear as men and women in uniforms much like the one hanging in the back of my husband’s closet rushed toward the smoke and fire while thousands of others were running away. Those weren’t just soldiers doing their jobs. Not to me. They were family. My husband’s battle buddies. His brothers and sisters. Our friends. People we share a bond with that only those who have been part of a military family could ever understand. And I can’t help but wonder what this will all mean for so many people that I care so much about.
As I write this, it is not yet known whether the bombing in Boston was the work of domestic or international terrorists. But as we all know, the last time our country was attacked, the result was two wars that each lasted over a decade, one of which is still ongoing. As 9/11 did, the Boston Marathon Bombing could change everything for our country. It could change everything for our troops. It could change everything for my Army family. And that knowledge changes everything for me.
When it comes to the show Army Wives, actual Army wives have some very strong opinions. Those opinions seem to be split almost 50/50- either we love, love, love it and see ourselves the real-life versions of Roxy, Pamela and company; or we hate it so much, we’re on the verge of burning our ACU-patterned bras (please tell me none of you actually have those) on the front steps of the Lifetime production studio.
Which side of this extremely trivial fence are you on?
Personally, I love the show. But I’ve never watched an episode and thought, “Oh my God, this is so much like my life, someone must be following me around with hidden cameras.” I also love One Tree Hill (yes, I know- it’s canceled…but it’s still on Soapnet, so it’s still relevant), even though I’m not a high school cheerleader in a small coastal town. And The Walking Dead? A total fave in our house, despite the fact that we’ve never survived a zombie apocalypse. So do I love Army Wives? Yes. But not because I consider it an example of art imitating life. I’m just a sucker for a good drama.
As my husband will happily tell you, Army Wives gets A LOT of stuff wrong. I’ve had to relegate him to the bedroom from 9-10pm every Sunday night because he just can’t keep his mouth shut about whose uniforms are out of regs, how “weak” their salutes and marches are, and how unrealistic the live-action war scenes are. And I’m just over here like, “Doesn’t Trevor have the prettiest eyes ever?!”
But the show gets some stuff right, too. Mostly….the fear. The emotional turmoil a military family goes through during a deployment is not something that’s easy to put into words, and I’m sure it’s not easy to portray on-screen either. But they do it- delicately, poignantly, and honestly. I can’t tell you how many times those scenes, which are often relatively small in comparison to a lot of the over-the-top storylines going on, have left me a blubbering mess.
Of all of the criticism I hear about Army Wives, the most common complaint has always been that it’s completely unrealistic- until recently, at least. It seems fans are all up in arms these days for a totally different reason. (Here’s where, if you’re not up-to-date on episodes, you should stop reading.) While she was by no means my favorite character (or even my second or third favorite), Claudia Joy’s death at the beginning of this season hit me HARD. I’m not sure if it was so much that she died as it was the knowledge that those funeral scenes with what’s left of the original cast- Roxy, Pamela, Roland and Denise- were the last we’ll probably ever see. Waiting in the wings as Claudia Joy’s family and friends said their final goodbyes was a whole new posse of wives, waiting to take over the show. And this has die-hard Army Wives fans hot like sauce, let me tell you.
But why? Weren’t you just the same ones ranting and raving about how unrealistic the show is? If you want the show to reflect the “real lives” of military families, you should be happy with the new faces. Because life in the Army is nothing if not a constant sea of new faces, a revolving door of hellos and goodbyes. Right? Completely changing out the cast with blatant disregard for how others might feel about it, separating friends and families by thousands of miles, filling familiar houses with unfamiliar faces- isn’t that about as true to Army life as it gets?
So while the rest of the Army Wives fan base is cursing the new cast and threatening to stop watching, I’ve decided to embrace this change as one of the most realistic turns the show has taken in its seven seasons. The new girls are adorable (I’ve got quite the girl crush on Torrey DeVitto), fun, and deserve at least a chance to earn their spots in our TV-loving hearts.
We’re Army wives. We’re used to change. We embrace it. Right? Right. It’s okay to miss the “old” Army Wives. But it’s okay to like the new ones, too. (And it’s really, really okay to start an online petition to bring back Trevor LeBlanc. Because let’s face it- he’s irreplaceable.)
Confession Time: When my husband was deployed, my kids slept in bed with me every night. Wait, yours did the same thing? See, I knew I wasn’t alone.
Okay, okay, okaaaaaay……our co-sleeping arrangement wasn’t exclusive to The Hubs’ deployment. My kids have always slept in bed with me. Judge me all you want, I don’t regret it one bit. Some of my best memories (and best photos) are of our nights fighting over blankets and elbow room, my kids sleeping in a jumbled heap of baby fat and cuteness.
On one such night about six years ago, shortly after my boys and I moved into our new townhouse upon my separation from their father, The Teenager (who was all of eight years old at the time) and I had a very profound discussion; one that I still carry with me today.
It was a sticky summer night, and the boys were getting ready for bed while I finished up the dishes. I had no doubt, as I climbed the stairs to my bedroom, that I would find both of my children in my bed, their pillows, blankies, and favorite stuffed animals in tow. What I didn’t expect to find was my oldest son in “my spot.” He always slept on the side of the bed closest to the wall, his little brother in the middle, me on the side nearest the door.
I turned off the light and sat down on the edge of the bed, thinking he’d hop over to the other side. He didn’t budge. “Move, bud,” I instructed him. He hugged his stuffed tiger tight and shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I can’t.” I looked at him, puzzled.
“Austin, this is my spot. Please move.” I don’t remember the specifics of that day, as it was so long ago, but I remember that I was exhausted and not at all in the mood for his shenanigans. Again, he shook his head no.
“I have to sleep on the outside, Mom,” he told me.
“Dude, you never sleep on the outside.” (Yes, I call my kids “dude.”) “Why tonight?”
“I have to sleep on the outside,” he explained, “in case somebody comes in with a knife and tries to stab you or Ethan. I have to protect you.” I was shocked. Stunned. Flabbergasted. Silent. Say whaaaat?!?!
I had no clue where that came from. I’d been rocking my Super Mom cape hardcore since the day we moved out of the house we’d shared with their father. They never saw me cry because, well, I never cried. My separation was the best thing that had happened to me in years. I felt a thousand times lighter. I was happier and freer than I’d ever been.
Overwhelmed? Sure, a little. But really, I’d been parenting and managing a household on my own for years, so it was nothing new. Sad? For my kids, yes. My parents are still married to this day, so I had no idea how my divorce would affect my boys long term. But helpless, afraid, and in need of protection? That was news to me.
I thought I’d done a good job making my kids feel safe and secure in our new home. I thought I’d more than demonstrated that I could handle things on my own, whatever “things” might come our way. Apparently, my little boy didn’t see it that way. He saw a huge void in the “man of the house” role, and felt the need to fill it. He thought the absence of a husband/father left our family vulnerable, unprotected.
I tried to hide the ugly side of divorce from my kids, but they felt every ounce of the heaviness of the crosses they now bore, especially my oldest. I was so hell bent on making everything okay for them, I totally missed the fact that they could see that things weren’t okay at all.
No matter how hard we try to shield our kids from the real world, it doesn’t stop them from carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.
So I let Austin sleep on the outside of the bed that night, and for the few nights that followed. I let him “protect” his family. The night he woke up on the floor at 2 am after rolling out of bed was the night he decided, on his own, that he wanted “his spot” back.
While he eventually let go of feeling obligated to be the man of the house, I never let go of the lesson he taught me. Kids see more than we think they do. Whether it’s a divorce or a deployment or some other hardship that we’re struggling through, our kids see the struggle, not the fake smiles we plaster on our faces to try to hide it.
It’s important for us, as parents, to make the best out of less than ideal situations, and to try to make our kids feel as safe and secure as possible, no matter what’s going on. But every once in a while, it’s just as important to let them feel like they’re doing the same for us; to pass down the superhero cape and let them protect us from the “bad guys” for a change. Whatever helps them sleep at night, right?