Friday, November 22, 2013

Military Moments: The Hemphill Family

I continue to look for stories of military families to share on my Blog -- striving to share with Americans what life is like for military families. If you have story you'd like to share, please email me at: 

Our Military Journey… Part 1.

Hello! I’m Brittny Hemphill and I first met Wendi when we moved to Eglin to start residency. She lived across the street from me for 2 years and I love every second of it! She asked me to share our military journey, but it’s kind of long, so I’m going to break it up into two parts.

Our crazy adventure began during the last 6 months of residency when you make the “wish list” of where you would like to go for your next assignment from the options you are given. You learn to laugh when you have to make this list because about half the time you end up going somewhere that was never one of the options they gave you, but you turn one in anyway because the tiny chance of going somewhere cool is really exciting. We made our “wish list” and turned it in before Christmas. (I don’t even remember what we put.) In January, my husband was offered a position on staff at Eglin and we accepted because we loved living there and thought it would be wonderful to stick around a few more years. (This was not on the list, but was a good surprise.) Then, around March or April, we found out that our original list AND our job at Eglin went out the window because my husband was picked to do a remote tour in Korea for a year. (Definitely not on the list.) Totally blindsided. When we were dating, my husband was in the reserves and the week after we got engaged he found out he was going on a 3 month deployment, but this was going to be very different. We had two kids this time around and he was going to be gone for a whole year.

We decided the best option for our family was for the kids and I to move back home so that we could be near both sets of grandparents. I would have the peace of mind that I could call someone in the middle of the night, if needed, and not mess up their lives as much as someone who also had small children. We were told that when Brandon finished his time in Korea, we would have a job at Eglin waiting for us. (One perk to doing a remote, you can say where you want to go when you get back and your very likely to get it.) We packed up, headed back to Alabama and spent the next year in survival mode. It was hard. We ate lots of chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and hot dogs. Sometimes I was bad and made separate meals because I didn’t feel like hearing “Eww!! I don’t like that!!” and I could eat my meal in peace while watching tv. I felt like I did everything wrong. I yelled, I punished, I caved… think mom guilt multiplied.

Thankfully my husband still had his 30 days of leave for the year, so we planned on seeing him about every three months for a week. And to give us something to look forward to, when we hit the 6 month mark, we met in Hawaii for a cruise. The weeks that Brandon was able to come home were like gold to me! Most people who are deployed for a year only get 2 weeks of leave and sometimes they don’t even get that. So I tried to stay focused on the fact that yes, he would be gone for a year, but I knew he wasn’t going to be in the middle of a war zone and we would be able to see each other throughout the year. The hardest part was when the kids would get into the groove of our daily life and then Brandon would come home to visit for a week. When he left I would have to start all over again with figuring out how to deal with sleepless nights, a kid that didn’t want to go school, everyone fighting with each other, all because they missed their dad. Another one of those times you wish they had handed out a manual when your kids were born.

But for all the things that were hard about that year, there were some really good things that did happen. We spent almost every weekend either at the lake with my parents or going on bike rides and to the movies with my in-laws. Our best friends have kids the same age as ours and they were able to go to the same school and play on the same soccer team together. They would have sleep overs and celebrate birthdays together. We never thought we would get to live in the same town as our parents and our friends so we took full advantage of this opportunity and spent every chance with them that we could. The weekends are always the hardest part when your spouse is gone so it was great that we had people who were so willing to make plans every weekend, sometimes at the last minute.

When my husband was finishing up his time in Korea he realized that he really wanted to do flight medicine. We had always talked about doing it eventually, so I told him that if he wanted to do it now to go ahead. The kids and I want him to be happy, so why put off what you want to do later when you can do it now? Unfortunately this meant that we could not go back to Eglin because there was not a spot open in Flight Medicine there. So, guess what? Wish list time again! J

My husband began the process and we were given a list of base options. We were thrilled when we found out that one of the bases was the same one that some of our friends from residency were moving to in a couple months. We thought, “How perfect! This is our reward for making it through a remote tour!” So we turned in our list, very excited about what might happen, but once again it didn’t work out. Somehow we were given the wrong list. (Don’t ask. It’s why you laugh.) We were given another list. We talked and prayed and talked and researched. You see, our options were one of four places. Two we knew that we didn’t want, so it came down to Georgia and Guam. I thought it was easy. Who moves to Guam? My husband wasn’t sure he wanted to, but he was definitely entertaining the idea more than I was. I went to bed one night praying that God would make it clear where He wanted us to go. I also told Him that if that we were supposed to go to Guam then He would have to change my heart because it was the only way I was going. I woke up the next morning and emailed Brandon that we were moving to Guam. Funny how that works! The kids didn’t care where we went as long as Daddy was going to be there.

Brandon came home from Korea in July and had a couple days before he started the 2 months of training he needed to transition into a flight medicine doctor. My parents kept the kids while my father-in-law helped me with the movers when they came and packed up our house. We shipped our van early. I scheduled movers early. I wanted everything in Guam waiting on us instead of the other way around. We spent the rest of our time either in a hotel while Brandon was in school in Ohio (thankfully our friends arrived and we could hang out with them) or at home living out of suitcases and spending as much time with family and friends as we could before we left in October. We were nervous, but very excited to go on what was about to be our biggest adventure yet. I will always remember that morning when both our parents came to pick us up and take us to the airport. It’s funny, but I was 34 years old, married with two kids, had survived medical school, residency and a remote tour, but there was something about moving overseas that finally made me feel grown up. I had no idea what to expect, but I didn’t care. It didn’t matter where we were in the world, as long as we were together we were going to be just fine. I couldn’t wait to make the most of life on a tiny island.  

Stay tuned for Part II


Anonymous said...

Wendi, you and your friends are some of the strongest people I know. I appreciate very much the sacrifices you all make each and every day. God bless you all!


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