Why I Volunteer:  Because The Ship Doesn’t Pull In Backwards

Almost 20 years of Navy marriage later, and I still laugh at that infamous Homecoming almost 20 years ago.  Allow me to explain:

I met my husband while in my Junior year of college, in October of 1998.  We joke that we are the epitome of the old adage, “a sailor walks into a bar”.  Neither of us were supposed to be there that evening, he claims he was forced to go by several of his then shipmates, and I was out with some friends from school, and we had elected to try a new hot spot instead of our usual go-to for music and dancing. 

I suppose you could say we are our own fairy tale in an odd way.  He asked me to dance that night, and I said “no”.  What immediately followed was a comical sequence of events and here we are, almost 20 years later, married, children, and a host of personal experiences as a Navy spouse that still can’t compare to the ship that never came in backwards.  I promise you, if you could see me now, I am laughing while I type.

My husband and I met October 24, 1998.  He was just a few years into his Navy career, and had only been in the local area for a few months.  I consider myself privileged to have grown up in a military rich community, but was certain the military lifestyle was not for me.  Minus my refusing his invitation to dance, we were inseparable after meeting that night, and I had to become agreeable to the lifestyle very quickly, for he was scheduled to deploy for the first time just 2 months and 4 days after we met. 

Thank goodness for e-mail.  In a time where my parents relied on handwritten letters during my father’s service in the Marines, at the very least we were privy to e-mail, and wrote to one another whenever possible.  It was in that time that we learned a lot about one another, and it was also in that time that I intercepted an e-mail intended for my parents, asking for my hand in marriage.  If Muhammad won’t come to the mountain, you improvise. 

Looking back, I was so fortunate to have the support of my immediate family, and longtime family friends who were Navy spouses who offered their guidance and wisdom.  But what would I have done without their help? 

I would have been lost.

Their support was immeasurable, and their guidance was invaluable.  Their knowledge, derived from years as Navy spouses, made my acclamation and understanding of this lifestyle easier to navigate.  Our friendships strengthened during that deployment, and those friendships continue to this day.  Their kindness, their patience, and their guidance are kept close at heart and frequently in mind. 

That’s why I volunteer. 

I volunteer because I know what it feels like to come into this lifestyle and find yourself immediately immersed in it.  I volunteer because I know how frightening it is when you don’t understand this lifestyle. I volunteer because I understand how important it is to have a strong support system in place during good times and bad.  I volunteer because I remember what it felt like to walk into an unfamiliar location on base for a social function, not know anyone, and feeling as though I don’t belong.  I volunteer because I know today’s girlfriends, boyfriends, significant others, etc., may be tomorrow’s Navy spouses.  And yes, I volunteer because the ship doesn’t pull in backwards. 

The morning he deployed, I remember where I was standing on the pier, and where he was standing on the ship.  I remember watching the ship slowly move away from the pier, the sailors waving to loved ones below, and loved ones below waving to those on board.  I remember it as if it happened just this morning.  Fast forward 6 months later, and I was standing in that very same spot - or as close to it as possible - surrounded by hundreds of excited families, friends, and loved ones, all anxiously awaiting for the first sight of the ship’s return.  As soon as the ship’s hull came into sight, the pier erupted with cheering and excited screams.  I held my position, and I couldn’t wait to see him again.  The ship drew closer and closer, the tugs guiding the ship to the pier, and I began scanning the rails for any sight of him.  One problem:  I didn’t know that prior to their leaving 6 months before, the tugs had already turned the ship around to guide it away from the pier, leaving me standing in the wrong spot at Homecoming.

Can you hear me laughing at myself right now? 

I looked frantically at my parents and exclaimed, “I can’t find him!”  I then proceeded to run back and forth on the pier desperately scanning the side of the ship for any sight of him, all without knowing he was watching me the entire time.  He told me later that it was like watching a tennis match, as I ran from one side of the pier to the other.  I should probably remind you it was June, in Virginia, it was HOT, and I was in heels and a dress.  On the pier.  Running. 

One more reason I volunteer, by the way. 

I finally heard someone call my name, looked up, and saw him.  He was smiling and laughing, I was sweating, it was not the fairy tale Homecoming I had dreamed of, and it led to laughter for years to come from my husband and my parents.  But I wouldn’t trade that moment for anything. 

I hope my efforts within the community, along with the efforts of those I volunteer with, make entering into this lifestyle a little easier.  It is my hope that the extension of a helping hand will provide comfort and support to those who need it, and the wisdom I have gained through personal experiences will help me connect with other spouses today, tomorrow, and for many years to come.

Since then, he has deployed multiple times, and we have always been there to welcome him home as a family.  My parents passed away prior to his last Homecoming, but I could still hear my dad reminding me, as he did for many, many years, “the ship doesn’t pull in backwards, Emily.”

That’s why I volunteer.

Families are a cornerstone of Navy readiness and strength

In October 2017, the CNO released The Family Framework, version 1.  This document represents our Navy’s commitment to our families and reinforces the essential nature of strong Navy families and their role in establishing and maintaining a strong Fleet.  This is version one, because the CNO hopes to gather the feedback and input from spouses across the fleet to ensure that this is a living document, and that it reflects real action being taken across the Navy to better meet the needs of its families.

Navy spouses and families rise to the unique challenges they face every day, and the Family Framework is designed to set forth mutual commitments between the Navy and its families to ensure shared success.  It clearly states that every family – including active, reserve and civilians – are an essential part of the team.

The Framework outlines general guidance and CNO’s intent, while allowing local commanders flexibility in how they support the goals of ensuring that spouses and families are fully supported.  Here are the five main goals in the Framework:

    1. Improve Family Readiness Program

    • Address family readiness challenges
    • Improve program effectiveness and evaluate progress
    • Establish a process to encourage feedback and responds when necessary
    1. 2. Better connect with and inform our Navy Families

    • Connect information to families when and where they need it
    • Give the “real scoop” – timely, relevant, consistent and legitimate
    • Build a comprehensive, simple to use tool for easy access, tailored delivery, and metrics to measure success.
    1. 3. Refine the Navy spouse training continuum and expand our training network

    • Identify spouses’ education, resources, and mentoring options
    • Identify best practices and innovation
    • Expand the training network both in and outside the Navy
    1. 4. Deepen meaningful command leader engagement with Navy spouses and families as a key to mission effectiveness of our commands

    • Foster an environment of inclusion so all can thrive
    • Assure all members of the team feel the Navy commitment to their safety, security, and development
    1. 5. Reinforce Navy families’ commitment to the Navy and core values of honor, courage, and commitment.

    • Navy core values should shape our culture
    • Families feel the rewards of serving alongside their Sailors and Navy civilians
    • Spouses have opportunities to develop as leaders as they gain experience alongside their Sailors.
  • Our Role in Making it Real
    You already know that when one member of the Family serves, the entire family serves.  But not every spouse or family fully embraces everything that this commitment offers.  Sometimes we forget that the nature of our experiences in the Navy is dependent up on how we support each other – support from Navy to families, Families to Navy, and families to each other.  By helping to realize the goals of the Framework, each and every family can create a better experience for themselves and everyone who steps into this life after them. We are not just spouses, and our spouses’ jobs are not just any job. In fact, we are part of the 1 percent—the 1 percent of Americans who choose to step forward to serve in the military.  It is a special calling, and one that offers spouses and family members unique opportunities to engage and contribute in ways you may not have dreamed.

    So where do we go from here?  There are many ways for every spouse and family to engage with these goals.  First, please read the Family Framework document.  It’s short (!) and won’t take long.  And while unit commanders and leaders and the CNIC (Commander, Navy Installations Command) work to embrace their roles and responsibilities, so must we all.  Every Navy Family is invited to:


    • Help identify opportunities to improve program effectiveness and evaluate progress.
    • Participate in surveys and feedback.
    • Identify a problem and recommend a solution
    • Identify what is working well and should be copied across the force and sustained in your area.
    • Help with the “real scoop” information through two-way lines of communication.
    • Look for information from the Navy, or it’s trusted partners.
    • Engage in the dialog in constructive ways.
    • Provide feedback on what information you need and the best way to get it to you.

    • Help identify Navy spouses’ leadership, education, mentoring and other resource needs so we may participate fully as part of the team.
    • Engage within your Navy community.
    • Help create an environment where Sailors, Navy Civilians, and Navy families can thrive within your community.
    • Embrace the Navy and its core values.
    • Help other members of the team when they are in need.
    • Take advantage of opportunities for personal and professional growth
    • Act with integrity, accountability, initiative, and toughness.
  • Stronger Families Means a Stronger Fleet.  Together we can build strong and supported Navy families.Share your input with your command leaders, with your Ombudsman, or with Naval Services FamilyLine by emailing info@nsfamilyline.org

    The Holidays and The Military Family

    The views and opinions reflected expressed herein are of that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect Naval Services FamilyLine. 

    Christmas is just six days away, tomorrow is the last day of Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas.  Traffic is heavy, retail store lines are long, postal services are working overtime, and you may be wishing there were two of you to get everything ready.  Especially when your spouse is away for the holidays. 

    As a Navy family for nearly 20 years, we have been very, very lucky.  Of myhusband’s many deployments, we have only been separated by an ocean at Christmas one time. That year, we put the Christmas tree up very early, and kept the tree up until he returned home from deployment.  I remind myself often how fortunate we have been, as I know many military friends who will celebrate the holidays without their spouses, and in some cases, Gold Star Spouses and families who will never have that privilege again.  As I think of those spouses and families, the tears return, and the typing stops for a moment. 

    Our Navy community is not limited to a specific zip code.  Navy families live all over the world, inside and outside the borders of the United States.  Many will celebrate the holidays in the company of their entire family.  Many will celebrate the holidays in a foreign country, where our customs and traditions will most likely differ, and will long for the chance to be wherever they call home.  There is an old adage, “home is where the Navy sends us”, but in our hearts, we almost always know where home really is. 

    For this Navy spouse, home is still just five minutes up the street.  It is my childhood home that my parents purchased in 1976, and the one we sold after their sudden deaths a few years ago.  It was where we celebrated the holidays, and made priceless memories in the mountain of wrapping paper that formed after all the gifts were opened, while “A Christmas Story” marathon played all day long in the background.  My mother died 5 days before Christmas, and the holiday is now both joyful and sorrowful for me.  I can no longer visit the house I loved so much, but I can continue the traditions I grew to love as a child with my own family as an adult. 

    But I am just one of thousands and thousands of Navy spouses this holiday season, and yet we all have one thing in common: making the holidays as merry and bright as we can regardless of our location, destination, or situation. It’s simply what we do for our families. 

    So this year, as I have done for so many years before, I will make my mother’s Christmas cookies, we will serve a large breakfast on Christmas morning and then snack on our favorite holiday munchies - as my mother called them - throughout the day.  “A Christmas Story” will play in the background, and my husband and I will be in no hurry to clean the wrapping paper off the floor.  I will make bows the way my mother taught me, and I will enjoy thinking back to my father picking out all the cashews from the snack mix, or how he always tried and always failed, to be the lookout on Christmas Eve.  I can’t help but smile as I think back to that particular memory.  Or the way they both lit up watching our children react to the missing cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer.  All of those traditions, those memories, I carry with me today, and will carry on for my family.  No matter where the Navy takes us.

    We would love to hear how you make the most of your holiday season as a military family!  Please comment below with advice, support, or to extend a holiday greeting to friends and family around the world.

    Guidelines for the Spouses of Chief Petty Officers:  For Spouses by Spouses

    Heads up, CPO spouses:  changes are on the horizon!  About 15 years ago, Naval Services FamilyLine composed and printed a wonderful resource still used by many CPO spouses today, Guidelines for the Spouses of Chief Petty Officers.   This booklet is part of the free Guideline series offered by Naval Services FamilyLine and is most often presented to CPO Selectee Spouses when his or her loved one has been selected for the rank of United States Navy Chief Petty Officer. 

    It’s no doubt an exciting time for those spouses and the booklet proves to be of great help at just the turn of a page.  To this day, I still turn to my now very worn copy when preparing to attend any military function, social event, or when I am uncertain of formalities in a proposed situation. 

    But times they are changing,and Naval Services FamilyLine is preparing to update the current edition of the booklet and we’d love to hear from you! 

    What do you like about the booklet?  What needs to be included circa today?  Social media did not exist the in form that it does today. What information or suggestions should be made regarding use of social media - both personal and public postings?  Think:  what happens at the ball doesn’t always stay at the ball.

    The booklet has proven to be of great benefit since it was published, and we want to ensure spouses continue to learn from each of the available Guideline Series publications for many more years to come. 

    We look forward to your honest feedback and thank you for your help in this very special project.  Navy Chief, Navy Pride! 

    Here’s to a great Navy day,

    Dear New Military Spouse:  This Is My Promise To You

    Dear New Military Spouse,

    I write this letter to you with great hope as you enter an exciting, unfamiliar world known as the military lifestyle.  You and I will one day meet, most inevitably at a command function or a family social event.  You will probably be nervous, skeptical, and perhaps feel a bit uneasy at that first event.  I dare say this because that’s how I felt so many years ago.  But let me make you aware of the amazing family you have married into.  The military family - or in my case, the Navy family - knows no limits.  We are stationed all over the world.  We come in all different shapes, sizes, races, and sexuality.  Many have children, some nuclear, some becoming parents in other amazing ways.  Yet we are bound together by one immeasurable, unbreakable bond, and this is my promise to you: 

    I promise to introduce myself at command events or social functions.  I will ask you questions because I want you to know you are an important part of the command family.  I will ask you questions about you. 

    I promise to extend an invitation to the next Family Readiness Group meeting.  Whether you choose to attend on a regular basis is up to you, but I want to help introduce you to some of the many resources available to you as a military spouse, and the opportunity to meet other spouses from the command. Bonus: snacks are usually provided. 

    I promise to open my Rolodex of information to you.  No one military spouse has the answer, no matter how long he or she has been a part of this lifestyle.  But I have met some of the most amazing people since marrying my husband, and I am happy to direct you to them should you ever require their assistance or services. 

    I promise to provide local information.  Moving to a new city, new state, or even new country can be scary.  I will help you find a Target, Starbucks, Walmart, the NEX, and the base commissary. 

    I promise to make sure you have an understanding of what emergency services are available to you.  You will quickly find that your Command Family Ombudsman will be your lifeline in times of crisis or emergency.  I will gladly introduce you to the Ombudsman if it helps. 

    I promise to support you.  I do not care what rate or rank your spouse is, you have my unconditional support. 

    I promise to stand by you.  You are a part of a fiercely independent, yet dependent family.  We will rally around fellow spouses in times of sadness, emergency, or crisis.  You will never be alone, 

    I promise not to judge you.  Oh the mistakes I made as a new Navy spouse!  I was corrected, I was made to feel dumb for simply not knowing.  You have my word that I will not do the same.  I will offer guidance.

    I promise you this won’t be easy. But I swear to you, it will be worth it. 

    I promise you will make some of the most wonderful friends you could ever hope for.  Perhaps I will be one of them. 

    I promise to hold your hand on the pier. We will laugh together through the tears and will rejoice in their Homecomings. 

    These promises will be upheld by all spouses, near and far, young and not-so-young.  We are your new family and we are excited to welcome you to it.

    With my kindest regards,
    A Navy Spouse

    Becoming A Leader Of Character

    We have a very special invitation for all military spouses!  Naval Services FamilyLine C.O.R.E. is excited to welcome Dave Anderson, graduate of The United States Military Academy at West Point, and best-selling author of Becoming A Leader Of Character:  6 Habits That Make or Break a Leader at Work and at Home.

    This exciting, one night only event, is open to all military spouses.  A welcome reception will begin at 6:00 p.m. with heavy hors d’oeuvres and beverages, and will be followed by an inspiring message from Dave Anderson.  The event will conclude with an opportunity to speak with Dave Anderson in an open question and answer forum.

    To register, please complete the online registration form: Event Registration Form.
    For additional information please contact info@nsfamilyline.org. We look forward to your company for the evening! 

    September 11, 2001:  We Will Never Forget

    Our parent’s and grandparent’s generations can still recall where they were and what they were doing the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  Many of us can recall where we were and what we were doing the moment the Challenger fell from a picture-perfect sky.  Most of us can remember where we were and what we were doing the moment we learned of the attacks on the morning of September 11, 2001.

    Many of us had spouses and loved ones deployed, myself included. We were millions of Americans who watched in shocking disbelief, through tears of fear, anger, uncertainty, as we witnessed the horror unfold. We grieved the loss of over 3,000 Americans and prayed for those missing in the tremendous destruction. We prayed for miracles.

    And from the rubble and ruins, Americans rose together. We joined together without words and opened our homes, our hearts, and our communities to strangers. We embraced the afraid and confronted the fear. We resolved, as a nation, to never let those who perished be forgotten.

    The images of unimaginable destruction were soon a backdrop to images of citizens, of all races and nationalities, helping their fellow man. Everyday individuals became extraordinary heroes.

    I have no doubt that I will never forget the very moment I saw the second tower hit, or news of another plane headed towards our nation’s capital. And I surely won’t forget the stories of true heroism of those on board United Airlines Flight 93. I am very proud of the way we came together as one nation, and I vow to always honor the memory of those lost and pray for those who grieve all these years later.

    We, The United States of America, hold you in our hearts and promise to never forget.

    - Emily


    Welcome to season!  This is an exciting time for you and your family, but you may find this is also a time of unfamiliar and uncharted territory. Your spouse will be busy - very busy - during what is affectionately known as “the season”.  It is during this time that your spouse will be part of rigorous training, physical fitness challenges, seemingly unusual traditions (seriously, what’s with the eggs?), and their physical, mental, and emotional capacities will be tested. 

    They are becoming stronger.  They are becoming more determined.  They are learning to work fluidly with those who they will soon call brothers and sisters.  They are becoming United States Navy Chief Petty Officers.

    But in the meantime, they are exhausted.  We hope you, as the spouse, have a good support system in place to assist you during this period of transition.  You may have questions, concerns, or frustrations.  You may find yourself angry with the process.  I assure you, this is all very commonplace and you are not alone.

    Naval Services FamilyLine, with the assistance of C.O.R.E. units around the world, work collectively to make this process easier for you.  We are here to answer your questions, address your concerns, and offer guidance. 

    If you did not have a chance to participate in the online webinar or attend an annual CPO Selectee Spouse Conference near you, we encourage you to reach out to Naval Services FamilyLine or your closet C.O.R.E. group.  Additionally, we suggest ordering your copy of Guidelines for the Spouses of CPOs.  The helpful booklet is available for free and is full of everything you need to know from the time the good news is received to the day of the pinning - and beyond! 

    Your spouse needs your support and encouragement now more than ever, but you are not to be excluded from needing support, too.  We are always standing at the ready to be of help and are always here for you in friendship and support.  You’ve got this!

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride!
    Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy and his wife, Mrs. Elka Franco-Giordano, share a moment with the CPO Selectee Spouse Conference guests in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
    Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano, and his wife, Mrs. Elka Franco-Giordano, share a moment with the CPO Selectee Spouse Conference guests in Virginia Beach, Virginia on August 19, 2017. 

    Navigate the Military Lifestyle with COMPASS

    Want to learn more about our COMPASS Program? Watch this video created by our talented team in Guam.

    Commissary Policy Changes

    The Defense Commissary Agency used their Facebook page to announce a policy change regarding coupons and special orders. This change will limit special orders for large quantities and limit returns of “unreasonable” quantities to discourage patrons from purchasing items for resale or excessive monetary refunds. The change will also prohibit shoppers from having multiple or split transactions with coupon “overage.”

    According to the DECA website commissaries “redeemed nearly 100 million coupons in fiscal 2013 for a customer savings of about $91 million. DeCA ranked sixth among U.S. retailers in coupon redemptions in fiscal 2012.”

    Visit the DECA Facebook page for more information at www.facebook.com/YourCommissary.

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