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How to Handle Life on the Home Front

Elaine is the daughter of military parents, the wife of a former military pilot, and the mother of 4 military officers. She has a child in 4 of the 5 branches. Even though she wasn’t active duty, Elaine knows what it’s like to live in a war zone. From July 2010-May 2011 she lived in Kabul, teaching at an English-Speaking school.She says she has a heart for military families.“What they do is hard work,” she says.“ When you love someone in the military, whether its mom, dad, wife, husband, or child, you need support.” Many people with loved ones in the service are scattered all over the country and are not included in a military community, but have many concerns. She wants these people to know they’re not alone. Over the years she has become a mentor for other military parents who have trouble navigating the challenge of letting go of their children as they choose to serve their country. She created the Naval Academy’s Parents’ Listserv, which is a support system for military parents. She has also become a spokesperson for military families. Her unique, yet honorable circumstances let to her introducing Michelle Obama at the 2012 DNC.

SEMPER GUMBY

Over the years, Elaine says she has learned the concept of Semper Gumby, which means “always flexible.” Semper Gumby is the motto for all military families. When there are loved ones in the service, life is often unpredictable and can feel unstable. This means it is necessary to be ready to adapt to change. For Elaine, it sometimes means having the family holidays when everyone is home, instead of on the calendar date. For instance, in her book, she describes celebrating Christmas in August. “Sometimes everyone won’t be there, you have to let go of the expectation she says.

COMFORT THROUGH FAITH
Military parents live with the reality that devastation is always just a phone call away. Elaine says although being a military parent is hard, there are ways you can hold yourself together. She stays encouraged through her faith in Christ.

Elaine calls Psalm 91 “The Warrior’s Psalm” because she says it promises “the guardianship of angels, protection for the faithful from dangers seen and unseen, and the satisfaction of a long life.”  Elaine says it’s important to pray through each part of the day. When knitting, waiting at a doctor’s appointment or while doing other routine tasks, prayer is important. She also says miracles that have occurred throughout her life help her understand the ways in which God protects her children.  For instance, when her husband was involved in a surfing accident and broke his neck, doctors said he should have been paralyzed.  Miraculously, he wasn’t. Years later, was diagnosed with bladder cancer.  Doctors gave him two years to live, and said if by some chance he survived, they would never have any more children. Not only did he survive, but they later conceived their youngest son Brendan. She says she believes that God protects her children from harm much in the same way He protected her husband.

Concerning the ways her faith has helped her, she says, “In good times and in bad, in pride and sorrow my God is with me. No matter what comes I will be not be alone.That is why I love Psalm 91 so much. It is a reminder of a loving God’s power (MORE) and protections over me and my children no matter what the circumstances. It took me a lot of personal growth to bring me to this place of resting in faith on Him. I do like to be in control! I picture myself peeking out from His feathers as He guides me through life. 

With the acknowledgment that God is in control and He will never leave me I can have a sense of calm and control in the midst of scary situations. There is a great sense of power in that and it gives me strength even if I do not understand it in the moment. As I acknowledge Him and try to follow His direction for my life I can hang on to HIs omnipotence and His love for me and my family. He has demonstrated over and over again to me that He is with me in big and little ways. When I feel myself sinking or frightened I close my eyes and count all the blessings and the ways He has provided for me in the past. God is good all the time.”  

ON PARENTING, STAYING STRONG AND FOLLOWING YOUR DREAMS

Elaine says, “The difficulty that comes for many moms is two-fold. Often “losing” a child to the military comes at a time when a painful shift in the mom’s parenting role is already taking place. She goes from doing everything she can to keep her child safe to losing absolute control and having that child go into some of the most dangerous situation imaginable. And, her nest may be empty for the first time. It is a dramatic change. My biggest piece of advice is to take charge of the experience. You have to be strong to cope and that means you have to train and become your best self, too. Don’t just react. You can make the best of this difficult challenge and use this time to become stronger.

She also believes that for many children, the path of serving in the U.S. military is a lifelong dream. She says, “I believe in the power of dreams and encouraging children to work hard to achieve those dreams, no matter how outlandish they may seem. Call me a Dreamkeeper. That’s why when my kids say they wanted to climb a ridiculously high mountain or fly way to close to the ground, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and say go for it.” Passion creates a desire to be excellent that no amount of parental nagging can replicate. “Helping kids find a passion and supporting it is the key to being a successful parent, and if that happens to be doing scary things, how can I get in the way?”

Mentioned in the Video

Guest Info

Credits

Author of Be Safe, Love Mom (2015)

Introduced Michelle Obama at the 2012 DNC

Mentored parents through the Naval Academy Parents' Listserv and USNA Parent Community Facebook page

Bachelor’s degree in Medial Technology

Master’s in Business

Training in Air Force ROTC

Served in the Women’s Army Corp

Children:

Eric-Marine F/18 pilot

Jordan-Naval Flight Officer

Katrina- Engineer with US Space Command

Brendan- Army Aviator (Flies the Chinhook helo, biggest in the Army arsenal)

Husband: Courtney, former Air Force Pilot

Father: former Army Colonel

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