“Three Things” Fall 2021 – VNG Land Component Commander Update

Virginia Army National Guard Team,

I hope this message reaches you and your families during a happy holiday season. I know that for many in our Formation, the holidays are looking and likely feeling a little different this year. At this very moment, historic numbers of Virginia National Guard Soldiers are deployed to overseas locations, while others are conducting training and awaiting departure. This message, while always written for our entire Virginia Army National Guard team, is dedicated this season to those Soldiers and families that may be apart right now. Whether this is your family’s first or third deployment, I hope this message brings you some encouragement and a new tool for your resiliency toolkit. Most of all, I hope you know that Anne and I are thinking of you and your families during this holiday season.

1. Sunshine and Bunny Rabbits. For as long as we have been married, Anne and I have always joked about her desire for multiple puppies and my strong conviction that I am a one-dog man. Before deploying years ago, I half-jokingly asked Anne not to take advantage of my absence to get another dog. Caring for and loving our dog Moxie was more than enough for me!

The day I got home from my deployment, I was greeted at the door by a tiny new puppy. I am ashamed to admit that I was annoyed and more than a little confused. Anne had done the one thing I had asked her not to. Anne quickly explained to me that Moxie had died just a few months before. Knowing that I was a one-dog man, Anne didn’t want to welcome me home to a dog-free house.

To this day, I am grateful to Anne for her thoughtfulness and strength. Most of all, I am glad that she didn’t tell me about Moxie’s passing while I was away. I would have been hurting and distracted during the critical last few weeks of our mission. I would have been frustrated knowing that I couldn’t be there to help my family. I know that bearing that burden on her own must have been a challenge but she did it for me.

I challenge you, Soldiers and families, to bear the bad news for each other. Focus on the positive things, or as I like to say, the “sunshine and bunny rabbits,” when you communicate with your loved ones. However, this does not mean that you have to carry the heavy stuff all on your own. Soldiers, rely on your battle buddies, your chain of command, and your chaplain. Families, lean on each other and your support systems. Take advantage of our Family Programs and Family Readiness Groups. We are all part of the Virginia National Guard family and we always look out for our own.

2. Letters and mail. Family life won’t stop while you are away. Life goes on for Soldiers and families. Unfortunately, this means that you’re going to miss out on things, both big and small. For me, it was my son’s Eagle Scout project. Although my family was posting all about the project on social media, it wasn’t until I got a package in the mail containing photos and items from his project, that I felt some of the physical distance between us lessen. Something about having an item from home to touch, feel, hold, and smell, helped close the ten thousand mile gap. I never felt as close to my family while deployed, as when I was holding a picture or reading a letter from home. For those of you who prefer email or social media, I invite you to give snail mail a try. It really does make a difference.
Practice intentional resiliency. When I was deployed, I never used the term “free time” to describe open space in my schedule. When I was not on mission and found myself with an hour or two to spare, I would tend to my resiliency. I encourage you to do the same for yourself and your teams. This “resiliency time” can be organizational. Maybe you can organize a group PT session or creative team building event for your unit. Resiliency time can also be personal. Whether you decompress through reading a comic, playing video games, or hitting the gym, be intentional about it. Task yourself with making time for resiliency every day and then do it on purpose. Families, this goes for you too! When I was deployed, Anne would find a project to work on or goal to achieve that got her away from the stressors of home life, even if only for a short time. No matter how you choose to tend to your resiliency, be intentional. Do resiliency on purpose. 

As always, thank you for all you do. Anne and I are wishing you all the very best this holiday season and I look forward to seeing you around the Formation.

Death to Tyrants,                                                               
Brigadier General, VaARNG
Land Component Commander