What I Learned While Filming a TV Show During Deployment

Photo Credits: Sara Dunlap and AMothersEye Photography

I am sure the burning question in your mind is “why?” I got asked this a lot; why would I subject myself, my husband, and my children to added stress? For me the answer is two-fold, first and foremost military significant others are so much more amazing than they give themselves credit for and America needs to know it! And second it gave me a purpose. It became “my mission” to tell the story of deployment from the home front.

Two years ago I was married to a civilian; I would sit shoulder to shoulder with my husband and watch TV shows that showcased troops in uniforms surprising their children at elementary schools, tears of happiness streaming down my cheeks. All I could think was how romantic it all seemed. These men would come home, valiantly walk in the door and sweep their wives off their feet. What I did not see was the 10, 12, and 17 month deployments leading up to that moment. Or the months of training that prepared them for that deployment, all of the tears of the babies and their moms. Tears of frustration, sadness, fear and anxiety… tears that only military significant others know all too well.

After my first son was born and I had been married two years my husband looked at me one day and said he wanted to go the Army, I replied with something like “Yeah, okay, hand me the ketchup.” He said no I am serious. I was confused and hurt, was he tired of me? Was he tired of our lives? We were both college educated and had started our careers; we had no reason to get up and move except that my husband needed to serve his country. God was calling him to serve his country which meant I was being called to be an Army spouse. 18 months after the first conversation in our kitchen my husband left for basic training, he enlisted airborne infantry. After eight months of basic, infantry school, airborne school, and JRTC we joined Dusty in Alaska and were once again whole. During those eight months are oldest son turned two and our youngest son was born.

Within my first week in Alaska I read about a docu-series that was slated to be filmed at Fort Richardson. They were looking for wives that were new to Alaska and going through their first deployment. My mind was reeling, all I could think was how much that couple sitting on the couch needed to see the behind the scenes of Army life because we had no idea what we were signing up for. We knew we would be apart at times, but the vast amount of time and the pain associated with it are something you just can’t fathom as a civilian. This was a chance for America to see what nobody knows; how incredibly hard this is and the myriad of sacrifices military families make day in and day out without even realizing it.

Three months after moving to Alaska to be with Dusty he left for Afghanistan. Shortly after, I was told I had been chosen to be on the cast of Married to the Army: Alaska. I was honestly shocked I was chosen; I felt I was too boring and just couldn’t imagine why people would want to watch me shovel the snow out of the back out of my truck or go to the commissary. When the production crew ascended on my house I was floored, the amount of people it takes to film something is truly unreal. Right off the bat I was filmed moving into a new house across base I was issued due to the other house being old and set for demolition. The same day we met at Mrs. Goins house. Let me tell y’all at this point in deployment (about 100 days in) I was not sold on the Army or my husband making a career out of it. All of that changed when I walked into the brigade commander’s house.

Their walls were covered in Army paraphernalia; flags, awards, and sweet sayings like “live every day like he deploys tomorrow.” She served us a lunch that was color coded to our brigade on dishes that had our husband’s company on them. As Mrs. Goins spoke of sisterhood and her son being at West Point, Army pride started flowing through my veins. By the time I left that day I had met six women from six different walks of like that shared one common thread… our husbands were fighting the same war. I learned that Rynn was on her fourth deployment with four children and Blair was navigating the newness of motherhood all on her own. From each woman I met that day I grew stronger just from being in their presence and hearing the small battles they were fighting on the home front. I would have never met this diverse group of strong women if I had not been on the cast of Married to the Army: Alaska.

While learning everyone else’s story I found my purpose in telling my own story. Every military spouse learns that it is easy to get lost in your husband’s career. Due to the constant moving, crazy hours, and time away the spouse is often forced to drop what they are doing to cater to the needs of the military. I immersed myself in my children and fitness but I needed more, I needed a mission. Operation: “Give America a Face for the Home Front” began. My mission was to tell my story and open up my life in a way that would effectively portray the struggles we silently deal with day in and day.

I truly encourage every spouse to find an extra project or purpose when your spouse is away. Your purpose can be anything from taking classes at a local college, to rekindling an old hobby, to trying out for a fashion show. The days that I had done something for me I felt better and I had more to talk about to Dusty while he was overseas. He was truly so supportive of my mission, he was just as proud of me as I was of him… and that felt amazing.

Being surrounded by spouses that were successfully navigating the Army way of life solidified my decision to encourage Dusty to make a career out of the Army. He is now working on his Officer Candidate School packet and I could not be more thrilled or proud. Being apart for 21 months out of 24 has made us stronger than we have ever been, together and apart. I will forever be grateful for the many doors the Army has opened for my family.

As a military spouse you forget how profound the things you do day in and day out are, please take this as a reminder of what an amazing person you are! You are single handedly running a household, raising children, and supporting your spouse overseas! You are a ROCK STAR and don’t let anyone tell you different!!

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