Memorial Day

Memorial Day

I don’t remember my very first Memorial Day as an Army Wife, but I do recall that it was 2003, and my husband was serving his first tour of duty in Tikrit, Iraq, at that time.

I also remember that in 2003, Memorial Day began to mean fathoms more to me than it had before because that year, 4 men in Alan’s unit died.

Memorial Day

photo courtesy of Rachel Jack

SSG Steven W. White

SPC. Richard Arriaga

SGT. Anthony O. Thompson

SPC. James C. Wright

I didn’t personally know these men or their families. Alan only knew one of them.

You would think that these deaths of soldiers serving with my husband and my friends’ husbands would have made me extremely fearful and anxious for Alan’s safety.

But I can’t explain it to you. I did not feel all that worried about Alan’s safe return. I always just figured he’d return home without a scratch. That sounds foolish, but you have to remember that I was 21, perhaps that’s yet another reason we let our young adults fight our wars. Some of us, like me, are still brazen enough to believe nothing tragic will ever happen to them.

Unfortunately, so many tragedies did happen, and are still happening all around us. In the past few weeks, several soldiers from Alan’s duty station have been killed in action in Afghanistan, and it always hurts.

It may not be us, and yet it IS us. Every one of these service members IS us, and they gave their very lives to fight for our country.

I asked my friends to share photos of friends and family members who were killed in action defending the red, white, and blue. It always makes it more real to me when I see the pictures and am reminded of those whom we have lost.

Today we want to honor all the men and women who have given all they had for this country.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  –John 15:13

CPT Leif Nott., Operation Iraqi Freedom (photo from Sally Chavous)

Sally was one of my best Army wife buddies during Alan’s first deployment.

Sally wrote:

“This photo of Captain Leif Nott was taken the day the guys left. He was killed during OIF 1. He was in 1-10 CAV with Jon (Sally’s husband) and was killed in Belaruz, Iraq July 30, 2003.

The news of Leif’s death really impacted me (Jon too). Going to his funeral was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He is buried in Cheyenne, WY. I remember the streets were lined with people between the church and cemetery.”

Sally and Jon also lost their friend CPT Matt Mattingly. He served with 1-10 CAV as well but he was killed during another deployment with the 82nd airborne in Mosel, Iraq in September 2006. I don’t have a pic of Matt.


Memorial Day

Sgt. Michael J. Knapp (1983-2012), Asadabad, Afghanistan, photo from forever missed.

My friend Kasey wrote, “He and his wife were dear friends of ours when we were stationed in Ft Lewis. We were in the same small group together.”


This next one is in our own family, Alan’s Uncle Carey.


Memorial Day

Carey Allen Cunningham, Vietnam War, USAF, photo courtesy of Anna Cunningham

Anna writes:

“Captain Carey Allen Cunningham, USAF, Navigator of an F4 Phantom. Shot down over North Vietnam while on a reconnaissance mission on August 2nd, 1967.

Status: killed in action, body not recovered until April, 1998, when new mitochondrial DNA testing was advanced enough to identify his remains so we could have a funeral. He was buried at the cemetery in his hometown of Collinsville, Alabama, overlooking his High School.

He is my Dad.”



Rachel, another one of my best Army wife buddies from way back, sent me a photo of SPC. Richard Arriaga, one of the 4 soldiers in Alan’s very first unit who died while they were serving in OIF I.

Memorial Day

SPC. Richard Arriaga, photo courtesy of Rachel Jack

He was only 20, of Ganado, Texas; was killed Sept. 18 during an ambush by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in Tikrit, Iraq.

We’ve lost so many of our very best. We could go on and on and on. I wrote about the time Alan’s boss died in Afghanistan, a few years ago. You might take a moment to read that one.

I recently made friends with a young Army widow with 2 elementary age school children. Her husband was a Ranger. She wasn’t expecting to live out life as a single mom either. Watching her is the most powerful reminder I’ve ever seen of just how great a sacrifice these men and their families have made. My own sacrifice pales to a mere thing that happened, rather than a sacrifice.

So today, we simply want to say thank you. We can’t express our gratitude enough. Thank you.



***This post is part of the Real Army Wives series, which runs every Monday morning, on*****



It was time to meet the Army.

Us on the day of Alan’s commissioning

In April of 2002, the train ride into the future became more like a hurry-it-up rocket trip to Mars.

It was time to meet the Army.

Meeting the parents had nothing on meeting the Army.

So there I was, sweet, innocent, 21-year-old April, twirling my brand new engagement ring around and around, filled with visions of happily ever after.

Did I skip the fact that I started dating Alan in December, and we were engaged by Spring Break? Well, yes, that’s true. If you’re looking for more on that story you can find it here: The Boldest Thing I Ever Did for Love.

By April, we were getting ready to jump off the proverbial cliff. Alan had his orders, and they were for Fort Hood, Texas. On April 15th, I met with my advisor and learned that I had enough credits to graduate in December 02, rather than wait until May 03, as planned.

So, of course, we moved up the wedding date.

Our date books were exploding with significant events.  Alan would be commissioned on May 16, and he would leave May 28th for his military assignment in Washington state. Then in August, we would be married.

But first! There was the annual Alabama ROTC spring ball with my fiancee!! Squeeaaaaal!!!!

I was all giddy and nervous to prepare for my very first formal military event. I did all sorts of things to prepare for it, like buying 10 visits to the tanning bed. (Never do that. I paid for that with an early stage melanoma, 6 years later).

I drove home one weekend and picked up my beautiful indigo prom dress. No one at college had seen it, so it was as good as a new dress.

I hung the dress on the closet door, safely in its plastic bag, not touching the ground. I could just gaze at it and smile and think about how much fun I was going to have, going to the ball with my own Prince Charming. It was going to be the perfect weekend.

I was not in a sorority, so in my 3 years of college, I had never gotten to go to any formal dances.

I was finally getting my chance, but it was going to be complicated to pull this off.

Alan earned the George C. Marshall Award for outstanding ROTC cadets, so he was at the Virginia Military Institute the week of the ball, where he got to see none other than President George W. Bush speak along with many top Generals.  This was months after 9/11, y’all, this was beyond exciting.

It was time to meet the Army.

Alan took this photo of President George W. Bush addressing the George C. Marshall award winners at Virginia Military Institute, 2002.

I’ve done my share of vicarious living through Alan over the years, but that’s okay because you couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to strap on all that protective gear and guns and stand out in the 135 degree desert, away from home for a year at a time. No ma’am. No sir. April stays local. April doesn’t want a heat stroke.

Alan was flying into Birmingham, from VMI, just in time for me to pick him up at the airport and drive us to campus, do a quick wardrobe change, and charge on to the ball. The party must go on!

Around 3pm, I got a phone call from the airport pay phone. Remember those?

“Hey, honey, I’ve got bad news and good news. Um, they overbooked this flight, and anyone volunteering their seat gets a FREE ticket…which will always come in handy…we could even go somewhere fun later. What do you think?”

I tried to hide the disappointment in my voice, “Oh….”

“But honey, even if I don’t give up my seat, the flight is delayed, so I probably wouldn’t make it to the ball in time anyway. I’m sorry. I hope you didn’t have your heart too set on going to the ball.”

Disappointment. Yes, I was disappointed, but I was also relieved. No mad dash to the airport and back and quick change of clothes. No uncomfortable silences trying to make conversation with people I’d never met before.

I put the dress back in my closet. Some other day, perhaps.

I waited until 9 or so, and I drove to the Birmingham Airport to pick up Alan. I had only been in an airport once before, to pick up another friend, and I had never flown on an airplane myself, so airports were still a novelty to me.

During the day, airports are a bustling, upbeat place, but at 9 o’clock at night, it was much different. The airport was a quiet, deserted place that night. It felt like I waited forever, all alone, in an atmosphere that was foreign to me.

It was time to meet the Army.

Waiting at an airport gives you a dangerous amount of time to think.

I remember feeling contemplative, and I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this what my life will be like, as an Army wife? Waiting at airports alone? Always watching for his plane to land?”

I wondered….

Just how many times will I sit here, waiting for him to return?

How often will our plans be canceled because the Army had other plans?

How much should a military wife even bother to plan?

Will it always be like this? Is this just a taste of things to come?

What exciting places will I get to go to too? When will I get to go along?

I looked down at my beautiful engagement ring and wondered just what sort of adventure I was setting out on, and I hoped that I wouldn’t always be the one waiting. I wanted to join him too, for some of the fun, not the Afghanistan trips, but certainly there were many places I’d like to travel to with him.

If I had a time machine, I’d go back and give my younger self a hug that night. I’d pat 21-year-old April on the shoulder and tell her that everything will be okay.

Would I tell her that eventually she will stop going to the airport and waiting? That he can ride the shuttle? That one day she will be so buried in babies, that she will actually let him come home from a SIX-MONTH Afghanistan deployment via taxi, because who takes 3 babies to the airport at 5am after so many years of this routine?

I can’t help but chuckle at that idea. No, obviously, I couldn’t tell her that. That would not help her at all.

It wasn’t a sad evening. I had that young, filled-with-hope, love, and joy feeling, but at the same time there was a hint of reality beginning to dawn on my heart.

I was realizing and accepting that when I got married, the adventures would not always be my own. There will be disappointments, and waiting, and tears. There will be a massive amount of uncertainty, but it will be worth it. It’s just what we do for those that we love.

And I couldn’t wait to begin the journey.

It was time to meet the Army.

The cover of my journal that year was perfect. Seize the day. That is exactly what we were doing.


Don’t miss the next installment of this series! A new Real Army Wives post comes out every Monday morning, before you even get your coffee. Sign up below to get just this series, and not the rest of my blog, in your email.
Want to be sure to not miss any future articles in this series? The next installment comes out every Monday. This sign up is to receive ONLY the Army Wives posts. Do not sign up if you already receive my blog. Thanks!

Subscribe to the Real Army Wives series on

* indicates required


It was time to meet the Army.


10 Reasons Why We Don’t Have a Dog

When we were moving from California to Georgia last year, I actually entertained the idea. That was mostly because Daniel kept asking if each prospective house “had room for his dog.” It started to melt my cold, cold, hard dog-disliking heart for a bit there.

But Alan quickly came to the rescue with a firm, “No, Daniel, we aren’t getting a dog. We don’t have room, time, or desire enough for a dog. We move too much, and when we go on vacation, what would we do about the dog? No, it just doesn’t work. It’s not time for a dog yet.”

The dogs in these photos are both types of poodles. If we ever got a dog, which we won’t, we’d get a poodle, I guess.

We don’t do dogs. The boys’ grandparents just got a new dog, and the way that it has taken over their lives is actually a prime example of why we don’t have one. ha!

This dog belongs to our friends.

10 Reasons Why We Don't have a Dog

#1–And this is the biggest and most truthful reason—No one is really even asking us for a dog. No one has begged or pleaded at all, no one is drawing pictures of dogs, buying stuffed animal dogs, or mentioning them in their prayers. Not a single boy actually seems to care that we don’t have one. So phew! No pressure is reason numero uno.


#2. They poop.

a lot. And people expect you to clean it up, and that’s just gross. Touching poop is gross. I’m so done with that phase of life.

#3. They pee.

…and sometimes they do that in your house, and again, you have to clean it up. I am finally at a place where all of my little humans are toilet trained, so why would I go back to that?

#4. I’m sorry, but unless they look like a puppy their whole life, like the one in the photo below, they aren’t even cute.

Sorry, I know half of you hate me now, but I’m just saying. Dogs aren’t cute to me.

Okay, granted, that one is cute, but most of them aren’t.

#5. We move every 2-3 years, which is much more difficult to do with a pet along.

Hotels, car trips, planes, waiting, house hunting. This is not a dog-friendly life style.

#6. The 1st year we live in a place, we are basically friendless, so we don’t even have anyone to dog sit for us on vacations.

Okay, yes, there are kennels. I know that, but this article is about why not, not about being positive and finding a way. hehehe

#7. They stink.

Well, they do!

#8. They lick me, and I don’t like that.

#9. Unless they are trained, they jump on you with their muddy yucky paws. 

And I certainly do not have time to train some smelly dog.

#10. And in spite of all of it, if they ever put out a concerted effort to beg us to get a dog, I’d get them one, okay. 

See, I do have a heart, but it’s coupled with a great deal of practicality, and dogs are simply not practical. They don’t even provide a service. At least cats do eat mice and things. Well, some cats do. No, we don’t have a cat either. For good reason. That would be a rather similar list. Just add allergies and ‘litter box’ to this one.


This may be one of those posts that makes me more enemies than friends. But, y’all!!! I have to remind myself of ALLLLLL these reasons when I see how cute my little boys are when they play with these puppies. I will re-read this post every time the boys visit Bella (the cute puppy in the photos), to remind myself why we don’t have one!!




The 15 Best Things About Having All Boys

The 15 Best Things About Having All Boys

The 15 Best Things About Having All Boys

This week I happened upon a super cute post by Janine Huldie titled The 8 Best Things About Having All Girls.

I had to read it! I needed a sneak peek into what that world is like because, mamas, the view over here, in my house of many little men, is a whole lot different!

Janine wrote a great article. You should totally go read it.

The 15 Best Things About Having All Boys

Things I stumble upon while the boys are at school. I feel certain there is a very important conversation going on here.

Naturally, Janine’s list inspired me to type out my own best things about having all boys, a life I never dreamed of having. Never in a million years did I plan to be a mom of all boys. No, I was not a tom boy. No. I never played a sport, unless you count cheerleading or church league volleyball, or gymnastics…….okay so really it would be more accurate to say I was never into sports.

I don’t fish, touch worms, or laugh at bathroom jokes, and I love everything sparkly and glittery. My toy of choice was Barbie dolls, and I’ve never made a mud pie in my life.

I was never a wuss either. I grew up climbing trees and doing bicycle stunts, and by the way, I killed a snake once.

But oh man, this world of testosterone I’m living in now is a unique ADVENTURE. Here are the 15 BEST things I could think of about having all boys. 

15 Best things about having all boys

#1. Their clothes are cheap, and you don’t have to buy that much.

It’s so easy. For setting my oldest 2 up for spring/summer, I bought them each a new pair of tennis shoes, gym shorts, a pair of camo shorts, sleeveless tees, one nice shirt a piece, and that was it. I was done. The others have handed down clothes.

#2. All boys want to be Batman.

Not even kidding. They have all gone through the Batman phase. They have all worn the costume. It’s universal, and it is the cutest thing ever.

15 Best things about having all boys

#3. The Hair

Wet it. Comb it. Done. So easy. Very little room for drama.

#4. Going to the Bathroom Alone

Once they are fully toilet trained, and they have a big brother to escort them, you are done.  Will you ever see me in the bathroom with a little person sidekick? Nope. Am I the one who has to take them to wash their hands at restaurants? Nope. All Daddy. And when Daddy isn’t there, I send them in pairs, with my oldest son. I’m a free woman.

#5. Bug Squashers

They squash the bugs for me. Never have I had to hear someone flipping out because they ran across a bug. They live for getting to squash pests. I’ve seen them kill spiders with their bare hands.

#6. They don’t expect me to play with them much.

Does that sound mean? Don’t worry. I promise I do play with them sometimes, a little. I’ll play board games or occasionally jump on the trampoline, and I love to read to them. But no one asks me to spend a bunch of time at a tea-less tea party or dressing a Barbie doll. I’ll even color, but thankfully, no one expects me to play pretend, which is a relief! They know my interests are a little different than theirs, and they play basketball or super heroes without me.


15 Best things about having all boys

#7. Boys love their mama.

“I’m riding with Mom!”

“No! I want Mommy do it!”

Mom. Mom. Mom. We are still at the golden age where it’s still all about mom.

#8. The hugs!

I’m sure girls are very affectionate too, but I just adore the way little boys are so physical. That means lots of wrestling with their dad, but lots of hugs for mom.

#9. The laid back atmosphere!

When you are dealing with a house full of dudes, the approach to social functions, free time, vacation, etc., etc. is seriously laid back. There’s not a person in the house that cannot get up and ready in just a few minutes, if necessary.

#10.Their toys are simple.

Hot Wheels. Action figures. Trains. Baseball cards. Skylanders. Done. No need for a billion tiny Shopkins pieces. No need for a $200 doll with a $40 dress.

#11. Hand-me-downs

I have 4 boys, but I actually only have to buy a full wardrobe for 1 of them, and then I get quadruple my money’s worth out of each item they don’t destroy.

#12. Body guards

I do feel extra safe already when I go walking with one of my already-over-5 feet tall and 100 pounds pre-teen boys. Just imagine how much more like a body-guard they will be in just a couple more years! We strut across those parking lots like we own the place.

#13. They’ve made me less prim and proper.

Yeah…. I can say “Everybody get their butts in the car” as loudly as I want because frankly, they love the word butt. It makes them soooo happy.

Me, showing off all my newest Crimson Tide jewelry.

#14. I get to focus all of my fashion efforts on my OWN wardrobe.

Who has the cutest Lula Roe leggings outfits in this house? Yep. It’s me.  Who has pretty colored hair clips? Again, me. And until the boys get married, I get to be the prettiest girl in this house.

and last but not least…..


#15. No crafting requirement

I don’t craft, nor do I ever have to craft again. A friend of mine, who is a girl mom, said that the girl moms make bows and do crafts at play dates. I don’t know if that’s true, but I was horrified at the idea of doing anything other than laughing loudly at playdates.

I hope you got a couple of good chuckles out of this list. Being a boy mom is a treasure. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Whatever your situation is, it has to be THE BEST, because we only get one go at life. Might as well enjoy it.

Are you a boy mom or a both mom? Be sure to check out Janine’s list if you’re a girl mom! I enjoyed her insight.



The Real Army Wives #1: Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

I was supposed to get up at 7:30 to be at work at 8:30 that morning, but I overslept, such a typical college student I was…Instead, I woke up at 9:10am for my 10am Anatomy and Physiology class. I had put off my shower long enough that it was non-negotiable that morning.

You see, I was a junior at the University of Alabama, and I had the hard-earned privilege of a private room, thanks to my job as a resident assistant in the largest freshman dormitory on campus, Tutwiler Hall.

I had my radio on while I was getting ready. Before I got into the shower, the D.J. mentioned that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center (north tower).

I paused in consternation. “What!? Weird.” That was puzzling, but I went ahead and took my shower.

The thing I will never forget is that moment when I got out of the shower, and I had my towel wrapped around me like a dress, and the man on the radio told us about the 2nd airplane hitting the other tower (south tower).

I immediately sat down.

“Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa. Wait. What? What is happening?”

I listened intently. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to turn on my t.v. to watch coverage of this. It’s like I was stuck in 1930, listening to my personal stereo. I suppose I was too shocked to think anything at all besides, “What is happening?? Are we at war? What will happen next??”

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

My Fall 2001 Journal.

They didn’t have much more information to give us that morning. What could they say? Unsure what else to do, I went about my normal routine.  I put my clothes on in a daze and walked the half-mile to my anatomy class, hoping to hear some reassuring words or just more information, from my professor.

Instead, I entered what felt like the Twilight Zone. Seemingly, no one in my class had any idea that it had happened. Probably they didn’t. The professor certainly didn’t know. He taught class as usual, and I absorbed absolutely nothing that Dr. Graham said.

Have you ever felt like you knew the world was ending, and no one around you had a clue?

And you start to wonder if you misunderstood? That one hour, on 9/11/01, I felt that way, which is funny because I was normally the one who was notorious for not being up on current events. Watching the news wasn’t my thing. I’ve always been more of a bookworm than a t.v. person.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I arrived to my 11am class, Psychology Research Methods, and the professor marched in and canceled class. Finally! I didn’t imagine all of this! I’m not crazy. This really did happen. Now I was free to talk about it.

There was a resident on my floor, named Stacy, who was from New York City. I had a burning urgency in my chest to get ahold of her. I left her notes on her door, I looked for her, I called her, and I prayed and hoped her parents didn’t work at the Towers.

She found me that afternoon and reassured me that all of her folks were present and accounted for. It wasn’t easy back then. This was 2001. Most of us did not have cell phones, and the regular lines were jammed with so many people calling that I heard reports that it was hard to get a call through.

Stacy told me this story:

“My parents are good. Everyone is fine. Even my aunt! This is incredible because this is the 2nd time my aunt has been rescued from harm in the towers. My aunt works in the WTC, but she had gone across the street to get coffee this morning. She saw the crash happen from a window and went straight home from there. My aunt is a faithful prayer warrior, and she says God has protected her, and it was not her time to go yet. She was spared once before, during the 1993 WTC bombing. She happened to be at home sick with the flu that day.”

Then Stacy went home to New York City to be with her people for the rest of that week. It was just as well. She didn’t miss anything.

The world stood still that week. 

Airplanes were grounded. Ball games were canceled. Tests were postponed. Candles were lit everywhere. You couldn’t walk a mile on campus without running across candles or a group of praying people.

I’ll never forget holding hands in a giant circle on the University of Alabama quad. There must have been 100 or more of us, both teachers and students. There were Jews, Christians, and agnostics all standing there praying together, between classes. We sang hymns too, though I don’t recall which ones. It was an empowering thing to be a part of.

In my journal that day, I wrote that “What worries me is–what if more awaits for tomorrow–or next week.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

My actual journal entry. Yes, you can laugh at me about the Pentagon bomb, but it was early, and I didn’t have all the facts straight yet.

I was only 20 years old at the time. I was a full-time student with 2 part-time jobs. Alan was just a guy in a group of friends that I ate lunch with on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

After 9/11, I looked at Alan differently.

On Wednesdays, the ROTC cadets wore their uniforms all day long, so the day after 9/11, I saw Alan in his uniform at lunch. Alan was the top ranking cadet at Alabama. He was an impressive looking young soon-to-be-officer in the United States Army, standing at 6 foot 3, 225 pounds, in his size 15 combat boots. Alan has a strong jaw line and an air of authority and strength about him, but once you get to know him you realize that he is also exceedingly kind, reasonable, disciplined, and even funny.

I asked him how he felt about all this.

Alan was so business-like and serious in his response to my question.  He said matter-of-factly, “We are always ready to go to war and defend this country, to keep Americans safe and defend our freedom. Always ready.”

“You’re not worried? This will affect you directly. You aren’t afraid?”

“No. This is what we train for. I can’t wait to go.”

Maybe that was the day I started to like him, though I didn’t know it at the time. At the very least, it was the day I began to deeply respect him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

a Crimson White clipping I saved from those days after 9/11


How September 11 would affect us

The already married military spouses knew they would soon be called upon to make humongous sacrifices.

As we watched all the sacrifices that the firemen, policemen, and rescue workers were making on 9/11 and the time following, we held our breath with them. We cried for them.

How could I know that someday my children and I would make sacrifices too, and that so many families would give all?

When you are enduring hardships for your country, like sending your husband overseas for months on end, over and over again, you need a good reason for that. 9/11 is always the reason I remind myself of.

When Daddy misses a whole year of birthdays….that’s for 9/11.

When I ate my 1 year anniversary wedding cake alone…..9/11.

When Christmas feels lonely……..9/11.

When I had to shepherd my son through the confusing and scary seizures and testing for epilepsy without my husband there to share the burden…….9/11.

And I remember what Alan said in 2001. It held true for all of these years, though no one ever wants war. War is a horrible thing, but on that day the terrorists attacked us first. They left us no choice.

“We are always ready to go to war and defend this country, to keep Americans safe and defend our freedom. Always ready,” and I am proud to be the flip-flops back home, supporting the boots on the ground overseas.

Every Monday: a new installment of The Real Army Wives blog series on

This is just the beginning of my series of The Real Army Wives, stories from the home front of the War on Terrorism. 

I hope you will join us next week, Monday, May 21, for the next installment, Marrying the Lieutenant.


Were you already a military spouse or have a compelling 9/11 story to tell? I’d love to share it on Please send your submission to Feel free to just send me your article or just your idea to see if it fits in with what I have planned. Thank you!



Want to be sure to not miss any future articles in this series? The next installment comes out every Monday. This sign up is to receive ONLY the Army Wives posts. Do not sign up if you already receive my blog. Thanks!

Subscribe to the Real Army Wives series on

* indicates required

1 2 3 4 5 132