Topic #7 Interview With a Veteran

I started months ago on a challenge.  Since then, things have come up, I have blogged less frequently and my husband procrastinated to the extreme.  So, finally he has answered my questions, thus allowing me to complete my 7 topic challenge I set for myself! So, readers enjoy.  🙂

This is my last topic in the challenge, and this is one that hits close to home.  I am an Army wife as you all know, and my husband has just returned from his 1st tour in Afghanistan.  Therefore, my husband is a veteran.  I juggled the thought of getting someone not so close to me for this interview, but then I decided against it.  Mostly because I don’t know too many other soldiers up here well enough to interview them personally.  But also, I know my husband will tell me the truth, unexaggerated and unbiased.  So, here it goes.  A few questions I asked my husband, and a few I know everyone else wants to know.

See, for me, the questions about leaving the family behind and such have already been answered because we have lived through it firsthand.  But, I know for people who aren’t personal to the situation, there are a lot of questions surrounding the Armed Forces.  So, I have comprised a list, consisting of a wide variety of questions.  Enjoy :), and feel free to ask away if there’s anything else you want to know.

Here is some basic background information to start.

Name: Christopher Lee Powell

Rank/Grade: Specialist (P)/ E4

Age: 23

Status: Married with 2 children

Branch: Active Duty Army

Joined: December 2008

Tours: Afghanistan, April 2010-February 2011

MOS: Infantry

General Army

  • Why did you ultimately decide to join the Army?    Because I hated the boring, repetitious jobs that I had. 
  • Was your entire family supportive of your decision?     For the most part I’d say yes. A few were a little scared for me being we’re in the middle of two wars so I had a high chance of deploying. 
  • Where did you do your basic training?     Ft. Benning, GA 
  • What was the hardest thing about basic training?       Being away from my family. The physical aspect was tough but was in small intervals compared to the mental challenge of wondering if your family was ok. 

Deployment to Afghanistan

  • Where in Afghanistan did you deploy to?     Konduz – it’s way up north.  
  • What was the main mission of your Unit during the deployment?     Train and partner with Afghan Police and Border Patrol
  • What was the worst part of deployment?     The military food.  


 A German breakfast served
  • Did you see combat?    Yes.
  • Were there any casualties in your unit?            Yes.
  • Was there anything special you did for good luck?      Funny story behind this one, at first no. Then my loving wife sent me 2 cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew which I love. I took one out on a mission with me to eat. We were supposed to be out for a day. I ate one and the weather turned shitty, and we got stuck out helping our Afghan partners for about 10 days. Didn’t think much of it but the next time we had to go out, I took the second can. Our mission got cut short before I could even open it.  That happened a few times and the guys finally told me to never open it because it is lucky and if I do, bad things would happen. So I didn’t. I ended up on the second flight out of the country, weeks before my guys so I left it with them and they gave it to me when they got back. It’s dented, paper torn, looks like hell but it’s our lucky can and I still have it today. 
  • How did people entertain themselves?         Most of my platoon had Blackberries and PSP’s. Actually, before it was over, all but 4 of the 17 had a Blackberry so we surfed the web, watched movies in me and my buddy’s home-made laptop movie theater by our beds, went to the gym, etc. Name it and we tried it to occupy down time.
  • Explain your sleeping conditions.      On base, a tent of bunk beds shared with 14 guys. Originally there were like 30 guys to a tent and it was extremely crowded but once the new tents went up, it was the closest we had to home. Out on a mission, you slept in the seat of your truck while someone pulled security on a sleeping rotation or you slept on a cot if you could with someone on rotation pulling security. And the use of your poncho for a roof tied with string to trees above your cot in a teepee fashion helped. It also blocked some of the sun on really hot days to make laying down a little cooler. 
  • Overall, was deployment better/worse/same as expected?      All the above honestly. The conditions of our base were better than we were told they would. Ideally, you’d like to not have any type of casualty the whole year but that doesn’t happen unfortunately so I’d say worse in that aspect. And as for the same, I expected it to be a mental, physical, emotional test of myself, my fellow soldiers, and our families and we all handled it pretty well. 

After Deployment

  • How long is left in your contract?        Just under 6 years. Just re-enlisted for 6 in Dec. 
  • Do you plan to stay in the Army as a career?     Still haven’t decided on that one. I’m so back and forth. The Army and I have a love/hate relationship. 
  • Do you regret joining the Army now that you’ve gone through a deployment and know you will more than likely be going through another at some point in the future?      Not at all. I believe it has made me a better person in just about every aspect of my life. 
  • Do you believe deployment has changed your view on life?     Absolutely. We hear about poverty-stricken parts of America everyday. But to actually witness a 3rd world country in worse of a shape than you could ever imagine is absolutely mind-boggling.  And to see how nice the people are even though they have so little but will feed any Soldier there to help improve their country’s situation is an amazing thing.  

A normal way of transportation

A child working a road-side store

RIP Spc. Andrew Wade

  •  Open discussion: Tell us about any experience, friend, day, meal, etc. that you want to share.    I think that’s all for now. R.I.P Spc Andrew Wade. I’ll always miss you brother!  

Vacation, tragedy and snow….

So, I woke up this morning and realized I haven’t written a blog in quite some time.  So, I’m going to give a small update, without going into much detail…

April marked a few different things: Block leave, Emma’s 5th birthday, a trip home to PA…. All of which were great.  We traveled home, spent time with family and friends and came back two weeks later.

My Strawberry Shortcake Emma!

Emma’s birthday party was great, cake was gorgeous, and she got everything she wanted!

Emma and her friends with her gorgeous cake!

Now onto the sad news… In the first week of being home, our English Bulldog, Brutus, unexpectedly became kind of lethargic and seemed in pain.  So, we took him into a local vet to be checked out.  Our fear was that he had swallowed something.  At the time we were staying at my Dad’s house and there are 4 kids that live there, plus my two, so there was always access to small toys despite our best efforts of cleaning up.  We decided at the vet to do an x-ray just to ensure my worry and during the x-ray our little guy seemed to go into shock and stopped breathing.  They revived him several times and called specialists trying to save his life, all to no avail.  After being sedated at a last attempt to put him on oxygen, he passed away.  After the autopsy, it was determined that he had a hypoplastic trachea, which would have eventually caused his demise one way or another.

RIP Brutus Boy :*(

This tore us up so badly.  I loved that pup.  He was truly like my 3rd child.  After many tears and sleepless nights, we decided to get another puppy.  The girls were pretty tore up about it and having the innocence of a child, their solution was to get another puppy.  We tossed the idea back and forth for days, researched breeds and medical problems associated with each and finally decided to buy a boxer puppy.  We got a brindle one, same basic color as Brutus and we named him Caesar to keep the connection alive.  In a way, we are honoring Brutus’s memory by doing this.  We had Brutus cremated and they also gave us a clay paw print for a keepsake, both of which are sitting on a shelf in our bedroom, near our bed, so he’s always close by.

The new puppy, Caesar,   is a handful! It seems we will never have a puppy as great as Brutus, but I am trying my best to show this dog just as much love and attention.  He isn’t housebroken yet, which in one word, is frustrating! But, he’s getting better and he really is a good dog…


Now let me talk about the weather… This irritating, awful weather.  When we were in PA, it was, by no means, summertime.  But, we had a couple really nice days. Sunshine, high temps, around 80.  The rest of the time spent there was decent, not always hot, but never too cold.  It averaged around 60-65 and sunny.  There were a few rainy days, but nothing awful for Spring.  Our first day back at Fort Drum, and we drove into…… SNOW!  It is late April and it’s snowing, even as I type this.  Now, don’t get me wrong… It’s not typical Fort Drum snow where 3 feet accumulates within an hour, but it’s steady flurries. And it’s COLD!!!!  I have vowed to do whatever it takes to be moved to a warmer base as soon as possible. My husband swears that it’s a good possibility that we will get orders to Fort Bragg (NC) or Fort Campbell (KY) within the year… So, fingers crossed!

So, that’s it… Our Brutus passed away; we bought Caesar…. Emma turned 5. We went home for a couple of weeks and came home to snow… My hopes for moving South are very much alive.  And, as I sit here and type this, I am cold and tired…. Seems vacation is over and I am back to reality.  Now I have to go make a meatloaf for dinner later.

It was nice while it lasted…….

Shout Out to Scentsy:)

I love Scentsy. I love so many things about the company, my consultant, the warmers, the scents… Let’s start at the beginning. 

My personal consultant. She truly rocks.  Genuinely has a passion in her work, not just about the sales.  She comes highly recommended by me.  Here is her website:  I own 2 full-size warmers and 2 plug-in warmers.  First of the things I love about Scentsy.  The military warmers, known as the Patriot Collection.  I own the Army one, of course, but they have them in all 5 branches of the military.

Oh, who am I kidding?!? I love EVERYTHING about scentsy.  The products supersede candles in every possible way.  They burn longer, smell better and are so much safer than candles. ( Not that I don’t love me some candles… That’s where Partylite comes in :).  Another great company, although more expensive…) So, a few notable things about Scentsy products. 

 I own the Liberty full-size warmer and 2 of the Rustic Star plug-in warmers, in addition to the Army full-size warmer.  I love them all.  I ordered a few different scents, but I have only tried a couple of them.  Blueberry Cheesecake smells great for the kitchen. Black Raspberry Vanilla is okay for me.  Not one of my favorites and I wouldn’t buy it again, but it’s not so bad that I would advise against it.  I think each person has their own favorites :).  Another one I have tried is the Inner Peace scent, and I like it.  Again, not my favorite, but it’s high on my list.  My absolute favorite is the White Sands scent.  I have it in both of my downstairs warmers and I plan on buying in bulk next time.  I almost wish I would have bought all in that scent; I love it that much.  It’s perfect.  So, that’s my review of Scentsy. I urge you to all go to Carrie’s site, pick up a warmer or two and definitely try the White Sands scent.  If you are a military family, the Patriot Collection is a must see, and truly a beautiful touch to any military home.  And, as a bonus, part of the proceeds of the sale benefit the military and its programs.

Another thing worth mentioning is the Scentsy Buddy.  I personally don’t own these, but I am considering it.  These things are so damn cute, and with the great smelling fragrances, can you imagine how much of a difference these could make in a child’s room.  Not to get all personal, but babies poop… 

A LOT.  They stink and if they make a habit of doing  the stinky deed at nap time or bedtime, these little guys could sure make a difference.  Completely safe; no spraying in their faces or chances of them grabbing the candles or lightbulbs. Just another great idea :).  You can get a lamb, pig, monkey, elephant, lion, or frog, so no matter what your children like, they are sure to be pleased :).

Some links worth looking at:

Some fast facts about the company.

Some FAQ about the product.

Info if you are looking into starting a career with Scentsy. (I recommend anyone looking to start a career also get in touch with Carrie through the link above to her site.)

Military Discounts and Freebies :)

Upon talking with a friend about some resources available to military families, she suggested that I should write a blog to inform other military spouses looking for the same things.  When my husband deployed, I was left at home with two young children and anything I could get for them to comfort them was well worth the time:).  So, here is a compilation of the things I have found for military families everywhere.

Operation Kid Comfort quilt. I contacted our local YMCA and inquired about a link I had found online.  They were offering free quilts to any child whose parent/parents were deployed.  All I had to do was email 9 pictures for each of my children and they mailed me a quilt for each of them.  We ADORE these blankets and even now that he is home, my daughters still sleep with them. 🙂 They work off of donations, so even if you don’t have a child that would benefit from the blankets, please consider giving a donation so that they can continue making kids smile.

Daddy Dolls. These are dolls, dressed in military uniform that you insert your deployed spouse’s picture into.  It serves as a way for your child to “hug” and “cuddle” with their parent even when they are away.  Doesn’t seem like much, but to a child, it means the world.  I didn’t personally buy these, but I had friends that swear by them and adore them.  You can get these a couple different ways, one of which is to buy them online.  The company I found that provides these dolls is Operation Give a Hug. They also work off of donation.

Flat Daddies. These are life-size cutouts of the service member, and again a really cute idea :).

Pillows for Military Children. This site actually just came to me via Facebook, and after looking it over, it really looks like something I would have loved to do during our deployment.  They provide pillows for free for military children whose parent is deployed, and to add a different flare, these ones aren’t only a picture, but also you include a letter that is included on the back of the pillow.  This is really a great idea.

Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments and Homecomings.  This is an offer for a free DVD for military families who have a deployed member.  Our base passed these DVDs out prior to deployment and I watched it with my girls about halfway through.  They enjoyed it.  Upon researching for this blog post, I realized that the website I came across offers so much more for children and adults.  Please check it out, get your free DVD and surf around the website.

Free Flat-Rate Boxes.  I know you can walk into any post office and grab a free flat rate box to mail your care packages in, but to have it all delivered to your house is so much easier and more convenient.   As a military family member, you can order an entire mailing kit and have it delivered to your home free of charge.  The kit includes everything you would need for care packages, including: 3  each of flat rate boxes, two each of Cube boxes, 10 Address labels, one roll of Priority Mail tape and 15 customs forms with envelopes. All you need to do is call 1-800-610-8734 (Packing Supply) and: Choose your language (1 is English, 2 is Spanish).
Choose option 1 (it states it is for Express Mail®, Priority Mail or Global Express Guaranteed® products).   When you reach a live agent, request CAREKIT04.

Here’s to the Heroes. This offers free admission to any one of the parks listed on their website.  You just need to follow the instructions on the website.

A lot of places offer everyday military discounts as well.  Here are some good ones I found.

Cell phone discount.  It doesn’t matter if you are with Verizon, Sprint or AT&T, you can get a discount on your monthly cell phone bill.  I know for a fact that Verizon offers a 15% discount.  As for the other companies, you would have to call to ask, but most offer the same.

Foot Locker 20%

Lowe’s and Home Depot 10% (There are some different issues with these two.  It seems the companies have the policy in effect but one must ask for it and some stores only offer to active duty, while some only offer to disabled veterans.  So, the discount is listed, but not consistent.  So, please just have your military ID handy and ask when you go.  It’s always worth a shot!)

Buffalo Wild Wings offers discounts nationwide.  However, they vary for each restaurant. So, check with yours to see, and make sure you have your military ID handy.

T.G.I Fridays 15%

There are so many more places that offer military discounts.  Too many to go through and list place by place. What I have learned is that you need to ask.  Most of them don’t offer it up generally.  Another thing I have observed is that a soldier in uniform definitely gets better treatment and frequent discounts.  And there are some places that require the uniform to even give the discount (ex. Cheddar’s Restaurant, Morgantown, WV). 

Another thing often asked when regarding discounts is airlines.  I have found mixed answers on this one.  What I do know is that my husband, flying in uniform, got bumped up to first class for the price of a standard ticket.  And, I also know he did not have to stand in long security lines.  They pulled him out and moved him up.  So, as far as discounts, I’m unsure, but special treatment, most definitely.

Any other great discounts for military members/families? Post them here. 🙂

Me? A zombie slayer?

So, my husband is a gamer.  A hardcore, scream at the TV, curse at teenagers who “teamkill” him, sweaty palms, whole nine yards gamer…  I, however, have chosen not to go that route.  Sure, I had a Wii for a while and I would play the Wii Fit or the bowling games, but nothing extreme.  We recently bought the XBox Kinect and some of the games we got with it are great… So great, in fact, that we traded the Wii for this system.  So, now we are the proud owners of a PS3 and an XBox Kinect.

Anyways, back to my point.  My husband is more of a gamer than me.  Hell, my 5-year-old is more of a gamer than I am.  She loves playing the games and she has her own Nintendo DS that she plays religiously.  Even my 2-year-old takes more of an interest than I do, normally.  That was, until my husband, my friend and my friend’s husband all talked me into playing a round of Call of Duty: Black Ops, Zombies. 

Now, I am not by any means claiming to be good.  In fact, I am borderline embarrassing.  I’m not very coordinated, so I have yet to master the whole moving and shooting at the same time… But, for the most part, the game is all about teamwork, and I find that as long as my team is good, I am ok by default :).  So, this has become my new obsession.  I love shooting zombies. I love the adrenaline rush and the good feeling when I get a high score.  And I love being able to share in one of my husband’s greatest affairs. You see, Call of Duty used to be the mistress, and has now become one of the parties in a strange, zombie-slaying threesome. 

This sudden epiphany in my life has left me wondering… How many others women are playing video games out there? Like really playing?  I never looked at this hobby as a “girl” thing, and I wonder how many other girls have been as close minded as I have all these years. 

So, if you happen to enter a match, and you see someone running around insanely, excitedly getting slaughtered and carrying a gamer tag along the lines of “ProzacAndPixieDust”, don’t question it.  Just laugh and keep “pwning some noobs” as my husband so lovingly says:).

Surviving Deployment… Successfully.

I recently did a guest post for my friend Gabie’s blog.  She had asked me to write something for her about our recent deployment.  So, head on over and read :).  And make sure to read some of her posts as well.  Gabie is an Army wife as well, and the mother to 2 young sets of twins… Yes, two.  🙂

Topic #6 Just When I Think I Am Done

Just When I Think I Am Done.

Well, just when I think I am done, I most certainly am not… Ever.  I have two children, three if you include my husband, a new puppy, and a 3 bedroom home.  There is always something to do.  I am always doing laundry or dishes, yes, even with a dishwasher.  I load it twice a day, and still do dishes by hand in between.  I sometimes do laundry everyday.  There are always toys to pick up, diapers to change, something to clean. 

I take the dog outside probably 15 times a day and feed him 3 times a day, along with fixing 2 or 3 meals for the humans in the house as well.  I’m a busy woman.  And, I have recently started looking for a job.  As if I need something to do! But, the reality of it is just that.  I’m not necessarily bored or without tasks, just that the redundancy of the whole routine is doing nothing good for my anxiety. 

So, the answer here is that I am never done.  I will always, and I truly mean always, have something to do.  Even in the middle of the night, sleep is in between motherly duties.  Whether I’m up with the kids or the dog or I just can’t sleep cause I’m too stressed, I never get a full nights’ sleep.  I sometimes miss those days.  When I could sleep a full 10 hours every night, without interruption.

Just this week, for example, I had no plans.  Just planned to do the normal household stuff, but then Ayvah got sick.  Yuck.  So, in between dealing with that, I disinfected the entire house, scrubbed the bathrooms and kitchen down, and cleaned all their toys.  Yay! Major accomplishment that I got so much done in one day.  Next day, Emma was sick.  I just can’t win.  But, we made it through.  2 sleepless nights later, and I am sick.  My nose is so stuffed I can’t breathe and my head feels like a carbonated drink that’s been shaken to the extreme.  But, that’s life.  Always something to do, and I sometimes worry that I don’t take enough time to slow down and enjoy life.  I’m always on the go, and find myself going stir crazy if I sit on the couch for more than an hour. This is one of my flaws. 

Maybe I will start slowing down, enjoying life a little more, savoring the moments that make me smile… 🙂

Topic #5 You Are Here

You Are Here. 

Well, this topic could be interpreted in many different ways.  Upon first reading it, my initial thought was that it meant an actual place.  This was me being narrow-minded. So, I thought about it.  I specifically put this topic lower on my list so that I could think about what this means.

“YOU ARE HERE”.  Where?  I am in Fort Drum, NY.  I am sitting in my house…

I am in the year 2011.  I am in the month of March.  I am in the prime of my life.  I am in the midst of motherhood.  I am in the aftermath of a deployment. 

Hmmm… now we are getting somewhere.

I am in a bubble filled with anxiety.  I am in a town far from my family.  I am in a state known for many great things.  I am in a country that offers freedom. 

 I am in a world full of sin and sadness.  I am in a life with several things to be happy for.

So, I am here.  Smack dab in between anxiety, happiness, motherhood,  freedom, sadness, and sin.  Just passing through, and soon will be on my way somewhere else.

Where are you?

Topic #4 I Want to Brag A Minute

I Want to Brag A Minute.

Now, I don’t usually like to brag.  I don’t believe anything is owed to me for what I do.  I’m not a world leader; I have never started a charity and helped people.  I’ve read about these people.  The young girl I saw on TV a few nights ago, 24 years old, started a charity called Angel House.  She was playing on the game show “Minute to Win It”  to win money for the charity, and she truly inspired me.  You can read a little more about her and watch the episode if you want here: 

 These types of people have plenty to brag about.  I’m not one of them.  I live a normal life as a housewife and mother. 

But, just because I don’t help children in Africa or work in the local soup kitchen doesn’t mean I have nothing worth bragging about.  That being said, let me list the things I would like to brag about today.

  • I have been in a successful relationship for almost 7 years, nearly 4 of them married.
  • I have made it through two successful child births, one of which was a cesarean section.
  • I have mothered two beautiful daughters.
  • I have actually saved two people’s  lives, one of which was my husband. (One choking, one drowning.)
  • I have successfully survived my first deployment, which is a huge accomplishment for anyone!
  • I used to write poetry a lot, and some of them were very well written.
  • I have a knack for remembering birthdays.  Heck, I even remember my 6th grade boyfriend’s birthday, every year when it rolls around.  I’m a freak like that. 😉
  • I graduated high school with a 3.8GPA and college soon after with a 4.0GPA.  I have always been proud of the grades I have earned.
  • I have a bleeding heart, so to speak.  I want to help people, in any way I can, even if that means putting myself in a worse situation.  That’s who I am.  I will go out of my way to give what I can, do what I can, and help in any way that I can.
  • I consider myself a pretty good friend.  I always try my best to listen, give advice when warranted, and be supportive of tough situations. 🙂

I am a pretty basic person.  I haven’t done anything “great” in my life that deserves an award or a medal.  But, I have done some pretty wonderful things.  May not be worth bragging about to some people, but to me… It’s the simple things in life that really matter.  I have lived, laughed, and loved and anyone that can say they have done that has earned some bragging rights :).

Topic #3 When I Feel Frustrated…

When I Feel Frustrated…

Oh man.  A post that intrudes on my deepest, most personal frustrations… What will I ever do??? Well, this one is pretty easy actually.  When I feel frustrated, I get mad.  Easy as that.  Sometimes I scream, sometimes I huff and puff, and sometimes, when I’m really super pissed, I cry.  Yes, I have had those frustrating moments when I cry… I let it out.  Don’t judge me.  It happens. 

However, I will state that there were times during our deployment that there was just simply no room for frustration.  When the girls were being insanely difficult, or when I was sick… When, God forbid, I wanted to sleep with my husband, hold his hand, hug him… These were things that were simply out of my control, which made my frustration even worse…

See. I have control issues.  My therapist told me so.  Yes, I got so frustrated with my situation and my anxiety that I went to a therapist.  Again, don’t judge me.  It happens to the best of us, and apparently I wasn’t bulletproof, and life’s revolver had a never-ending chamber and just kept on hammering me when I was down. 

So, frustration came often, and a lot of the times, I cried.  I sobbed into my pillow at night because there weren’t enough hours in the day to cry at a normal hour.  My goodness, I had to cook, clean, change diapers, get Emma to head start, babysit Kayleigh, grocery shop, do dishes, wash the car, replace batteries in old toys, cut the grass, shovel the snow, bath the girls, get them to bed, and still manage to get a shower at some point before midnight hit.  I barely had time to use the restroom for more than a minute, let alone have a breakdown mid-day.  So, I saved those sobs for my body pillow.

Now, my husband is home, and I don’t have a deployment  to blame my frustrations on.  But, even a normal life doesn’t come without its own frustrations.  Sick kids, snow, potty training, house training a puppy, being cold, writer’s block, reintegration period, forgetting to DVR my shows, and the list goes on and on. None of those frustrations are bad enough to make me cry, but now that my husband is home, the brunt of my frustration gets taken out on him unfortunately.  I get snippy and mouthy and he usually snaps back, which really just adds fuel to the fire.  But, it happens. 

This isn't really me and my husband! Just a good picture of how we probably look 🙂

So, whether I cry, scream, or spaz out on my husband, I should really find a healthier way to deal with my frustrations.  But, we aren’t perfect.  And I am a strong believer in this quote.

“Happiness is not about being perfect, but about seeing beyond the imperfections.” ~ Anonymous

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