Story Time-Our Wedding Day

The Big He and I get to celebrate our anniversary for two days. I know, you are asking yourself, how is that possible. Well, 31 years ago, we eloped on the island of Guam, which is a day ahead of the US. Guam was the Big He’s first Duty Station. We had planned for me to visit for the summer of 1990 and would marry later in the year. Well, as with any good love story between two very young kids, fate had us marry earlier than we thought.

A few days after my last college final in May 1990, I was on a plane to visit the Big He on the island of Guam. I had a return ticket for the first part of August. I would have two whole months, sixty consecutive days to be with him. By this point in our relationship we may have had a total of 45 days we were physically together and keep in mind they were not consecutive.  Let me just say, I had the best time with him on the island. I was, for the first time in my life, off on my own-okay I was with the Big He but it still counts. I was on a tropical island with the most gorgeous man AND he was in a uniform. Who knew I had a thing for smart-ass and uniforms. In mid-July, the Big He was preparing to go off island for an exercise. He would be gone for 30 days. We had only two choices for what I could do. I could go home early or stay. So, we got married July 30th, 1990 which was about one year after we went on our first date. I was twenty years old and he was twenty-one. I had no job and only 2 years of college under my belt. He was just an Airman First Class and on the day we married, he had negative $80 in the bank. He had bounced a check for a microwave of all things. Of course a bounced check could not stop love!

You would think finding out you were negative $80.00 would be the worst thing that could happen on your wedding day…it wasn’t. You ready? Here is the story…

We had arranged for two friends of the Big He to come with us to be witnesses and also because one of them had a vehicle to get us to the Justice of the Peace (JP). There was actually five people in the vehicle that went that day. At the JP’s office, we did have to wait a litte bit. In those minutes before our time to get hitched, my stomach was a ball of nerves. The Big He and I could barely look at each other. I knew I wanted to get married, but man was I scared. Standing in front of the JP and looking into the beautiful green eye’s of my future husband, the best I could mumble when asked if “I take him to be my…” was not “I do” but “Yea”. WTH??? Such a romantic and traditional way to express my desire to cheris this man for richer or poorer or in sickness and in health. The look on his face…he has yet to let me live that down.

After the ceremony, which there are zero pictures, we headed to McDonalds because everyone was hungry. Remember I said the Big He had bounced a check…yep no money to eat. After McDonalds we headed back to Base. On our way back, we were pulled over because the driver was speeding. After getting a ticket, we took off once again towards Base. About a mile down the road, we had blowout. Not a big deal until we realized there wasn’t a spare. The blowout occured on a back road to Base and in the middle of no-where. There was however a small house on the edge of the boonies or jungle line. I was voluntold to go knock on the door and ask to call the Law Enforcement Desk. Oh, hey, did I mention that all the people in the truck were cops but I was the one that was supposed to knock on a stranger’s door for help. One of our brave USAF LE’s did come with me and the LE Desk would be sending a patrol car to come get us and sending a tow truck as well.

As we waited in typical tropical island weather, we had on again, off again rain events. Y’all know I have naturally curly hair right? It does not do well in hot, rainy, humid weather. The tow truck was the first to arrive. My new husband and our friend Daryl, my man-of-honor, jumped in the truck and off they went to Base. Yes, if you are asking yourself, did she say new husband left with Daryl, that would be correct. I was left alone on the side of the road with two people, none of which were not my new husband! The two LE’s decided it was probably a good idea to start walking back to Base in hopes the patrol car would get to us soon. Yep, that didn’t work out very good. The patrol went out the wrong gate which took him around the island before he caught up with us…only a few miles from Base at this point.

Once back on Base, we were dropped off at the dorms, where my new husband was waiting for me, freshly showered and I swear he took a nap cause he look rested. Me on the other hand, had wild crazy curly hair, sweaty and my pretty white heals were worn flat from walking on the road which had a coral base to it. Once I freshened up, we went to have a wedding dinner at the NCO club…cause we had no money and he knew if he took me to the Mac T I would kill him. The only thing left that late in the evening was steak, potatoe and salad. They also had a few slices of cheesecake for dessert so that was our meal. One we have eaten every year since. Steak, potatoe, salad and cheesecake for dessert.

The day wasn’t picture perfect but that is not really what a marriage is about is it? It’s about the people. We actually laughed most of the day and night about what had transpired. The Big he and I have always found reason’s to laugh. We just love being with each other and truly enjoy each other’s company.

Since it is already July 30th in Guam, I am taking the opportunity to wish my beloved a Happy Anniversary. Love you more!

All my love,

The She

Month of the Military Child # MOMC

See the source image
Button courtsey of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation

April is the month we recognize children of those that serve in our military and in realty those that have served. Our Little He came in to our lives years after the Big He honorably discharged from the USAF. We never imagined that we would be thrust so actively into this community again. Our time in the military were stories we shared with our boy. Pictures we shared and fun souvenirs he could take to school.

Once we learned the Big He’s ALS diagnosis was connected to his military service and our connection to this community was re-established, our son has now seen first hand what being connected to the military community really means. Just as we learned when we were so young, the military takes care of their own. They watch out for you for one reason, you are family. The Big He’s brothers and sisters he served with have reconnected with us and have shown our son the same love and friendship they have for us.

Today I want to recognize our amazing man-child. He was only 13 when he learned his Dad had been diagnosed with a terminal disease. It was the day that would start his journey as a kid caregiver. I have to say kids are amazing and we don’t give them enough credit at times. As much as we want to protect our boy from the heartache this disease causes, I know it is this journey that will shape him into a man we could only dream he will become.

Our boy has become so much more empathetic which is not something you find in a tween and teen. His responsibilities are also more than the average teen. He assists with those things around the house that his dad once did. He assists with the daily hands on care of his dad. To some extent, care that most adults will never have to do. He does it with a smile and joke most days. His sense of humor has grown and he has learned to use humor to help cope with the sometimes embarrassing or awkward moments. His emotional intelligence is sharpening [more than some adults I know]. This trait will serve him well in the future. I hate he has to experience so much pain so early in life, but the man he is becoming because of this journey makes his mom and dad’s heart smile with pride. We know he will have the skills to handle whatever this life throws at him.

Tom and Trey
Tom and Trey during physical therapy
Valentine Shenanigans

All my love,

The She

A little puppy love

As the morning is starting, the dogs are ruff-housing on the floor and on my bed. The play seemed to change when the wrestling shifted to the Big He’s bed. Lou the service dog called a time out to get some one on one time with the Big He. Not to be left out, Remi also got herself some Big He cuddles.

Lou and the Big He
Remi and the Big He

Happy National Puppy Day

All my love,

The She

Good for the soul

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Indianapolis Hidden Heros/Today Show event. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF) and its Hidden Heros Campaign were featured on the Today Morning Show. The show dedicated a whole hour to military caregivers. Caregivers for veterans of all eras were brought together for what they had in common. They were brought together because they love and care for wounded, ill or disabled veterans. I mentioned to another Dole Fellow that I was having a hard time putting into words exactly what being with these people meant and she hit the nail on the head when she said, “it has been good for the soul.”  She was so right and as I reflect on last weeks trip (and talk it over with my  therapist) I realize that I was actually unaware of how that part that makes me, me, had been drained. The stress of this disease, the fear of my future alone without the love of my life and the realization I need something of my own and not just be seen as the Big He’s caregiver had drained me. Who knew a crazy, busy two days would actually fill my soul.

The first full day in Indy was a busy one. There was a luncheon at one location followed by art therapy and dinner at another location. This was my first event as a Fellow and my first real trip since the diagnosis that I have done without the Big He. For this trip, I had two goals I had set for myself. I wanted to meet and connect with as many people as possible and step out of my comfort zone and just be…alone. I think if I was to follow my old habits I would have stayed close to the few caregivers that I knew through Facebook (and I did a few times) but I also ventured out and struck up conversations with other folks as well. Guess what, I survived and I met some amazing people who have been through their own extremely stressful time. Some still are, some are finding comfort in rehabilitation and a new normal and some know that their life will continue to be guided by the visible and invisible wounds their warrior suffers from. Everyone’s journey is different but we all share the same feelings of fear, anxiety, being overwhelmed and a since of loss for ourselves and for those we care for. As I spoke to folks I found that it wasn’t really like talking with strangers it was more like talking with family I just hadn’t met yet and trust me, I come from a big Italian family and there are cousins I have never met. I am sure if I did run into them, it would be the same, the sharing of a bond that cannot be broken.  We are caregivers of disabled veterans. 

While there were plenty of smiles, I did have a few moments where the sadness crept in and over came me. I saw families. Husbands and wives, fathers and sons and daughters. It seemed as if everyone had their veteran with them and I did not. So, like the problem solver that I am, I video chatted with him and let him just watch and take the excitement in. The evening was made more special sharing this with him. While I was showing him the room I was able to point out the amazing Senator Dole along with Savannah Guthrie and Tom Hanks. It just so happened that while I was sharing the excitement of the day with the Big He, a Today Show camera and producer caught me and soon Tom Hanks was video chatting with my veteran. How cool is that. While the Big He could not physically be there, he was there and could be a part of the festivities. Technology can be a headache sometimes but in this case it was a blessing. 

Meeting and connecting with other caregivers and experiencing the event with the Big He had my mind on over drive by the evening. Once we got back to the hotel, I couldn’t sleep so I figured I would accomplish my second goal which was to do something that included a party of one. I went to the hotel bar, something I would have never, ever done before. I needed to prove to myself I could sit by myself, at a bar, and survive. I know that may sound silly to some but I have never really done anything alone. I am the youngest of four, I went from my parents home to married to the Big He. Being alone is something I have never had to do. Knowing the end game for this disease, I know I will be alone. Yes, I will have family and friends and of course the Little He, but after some time, everyone will fade into the shadows and go back to their own lives, and I will be alone. Doing something simple like having a drink by myself was practice for when the Big He passes. I think of it as I am a widow in training. 

The trip concluded with the filming of the Today Show. Even with thunderstorms outside the excitement in the room as we took part in the show was as energetic as the lightening from the storms. You could feel it. It made my heart full, my soul full to be surrounded by strong advocates willing to be open and honest about their journeys. There are so many stories out there each one filled with sadness, happiness, yes comedy but most of all each story is one about love. The Today Show helped to get the conversation started about Hidden Heros and the love we have for our veterans. 

All of this has energized me, to step up my advocacy game. If I can be half as amazing as the women and men I met then I am on the right track. This is something I can do that is mine. I can be an advocate in addition to a caregiver. 

So yes, the trip filled my soul in unexpected ways. It made me get out of my comfort zone, it allowed me to take baby steps as a widow in training and it gave me a purpose.  I have a voice and can use it to advocate for veterans and caregivers. 

Thank you Senator Dole. Thank you Dole Foundation team. Thank you Hidden Hero’s. Thank you all for showing me…me. 


All my love,

The She.


So, the Big He did get to video chat with Tom Hanks twice. In the picture of Tom Hanks holding a phone, that was the Big He. So many people were encouraging and helped to keep the Big He involved. His spirits have been lifted. He is doing much better these days. He is really finding his photography to be therapeutic. Oh, and by the way, seeing Sheryl Crow did not suck.