The 11th Hour God: Guardian of the U S Military

John's Army Retirement

I’m writing this on Veteran’s Day 2014.  It’s the 11th month, the 11th day, and almost the 11th hour my time here in Texas.   You see, this specific time has been ingrained in me to think about our military and to remember the service of our American Veterans.  

My husband John used to be in The United States Army Band Pershing’s Own in Washington D.C.  He was a military band musician with one of the military’s special bands, so he worked, and we lived, in that D.C. area for all of his 25 years in the military.  

Every Veteran’s Day, I would watch my husband either in person or on the television screen on the 11th day and 11th hour of this 11th month as he performed ceremonial duties in Arlington National Cemetery every Veteran’s Day for 25 years straight.  

It has been weird on this day since my husband’s retirement from the Army in 2006.   My husband spent 25 years at Arlington National Cemetery on this day, and as I mentioned, I was there too in some form or fashion (physically or through the TV screen) for 25 years too. That veteran’s ceremony was always kind of my focus each and every year on this 11 day of the 11 month of each year.  However, John is a veteran now, and he spends this day doing other things while we both remember fondly those precious moments of his time in service there in D.C.  I do still watch my husband’s former military co-workers (some of them still good, close friends) in action on this day, if only on the television screen from 1,400 miles away now.  

It is just kind of weird each year when this day pops up.  I kind of feel a little lost each time, a little confused or something.  Things have changed so much.  

Sometimes I need to remind myself that my husband was in the Army for 25 years.  Sometimes I need to remind myself he is now a retired veteran of The United States Army.  Yes indeed…  Some things change so much.  Some things seem to not change at all.

My dad served in World War II.  He was in the Army as well.  (It is kind of a neat feeling when your husband and dad have a bond like that.) 

My brother served in the Army during Desert Storm.  

I haven’t even begun to dig the surface of my other family members who have served in the ranks of our nation’s military.  I’m proud of all my friends and family who have given of themselves so that our country can enjoy the freedoms and blessings that we have today.   Their efforts have NOT gone in vain!

John's Army Retirement

My family in 2006 upon the military retirement of my husband John
(L – R) Chris, Amy, Scott, John, Carrie, and John’s Mom Jo

A couple months ago, an old, dear friend of mine, the wife of a now-retired Marine Corps Officer, sent a YouTube video to me.  The title of the video she sent was “U S Marines Singing ‘Days of Elijah'”.  She thought I would enjoy seeing it.  

Diana, I DID enjoy seeing that video.  I DID watch it; I pulled it back up again to see today, this 11th month and 11th day, and that video touched my heart to its core!   

I would like to share that same video with you here, but before I do, please give me a moment to share something about that video.

The video Diana sent depicts a large, classroom-type room of Marines, uniformed Marines, all together singing the jubilant, victorious song ‘Days of Elijah’.  It appears to be an organized worship service for these Christian Marines, a military worship service. 

When I started watching the video, I immediately felt a sense of joy and shared in a glorious sense of praise and worship with these men.   It was exciting as well as comforting to see dozens and dozens of Marines singing Christian music and worshiping our Lord with all their hearts.  

These Marines held nothing back.  They gave their all as they totally and completely worshiped their Lord and God.  

Watching them from afar, their uniforms reminded me they were in a career, an occupation, where they could put their lives on the line that night.  At the same time, their open, outstretched arms; raised hands, cheerful faces, and joyous dancing reminded me that should they die that night, they would all be all right, immediately safe in the arms of a loving Heavenly Father.

 It was during that back and forth toss of reality that I realized what I was really seeing on that screen. 

I was seeing them in this life that I know now.  THEY were seeing Jesus Christ in the life that they will have in the 11th hour we will all have someday.  

When you watch this video, and I hope you all do, look at these men and ask yourself if you think they are worried about that night, about tomorrow,, or the next day… or next month.  Ask if you think they are consumed with fear. 

Sure, they are humans, and I’m sure they do have concern over certain things.  For instance, if they have family, I’m sure they would probably rather not just up and leave this world out of the blue, leaving their families in sadness behind them.  They also might wonder what it would feel like to die in battle; to have a leg blown, to lose their eyesight… or their hearing…  or a friend who was just standing beside them. 

However, when you watch the moments of this video, you can see that, regardless of what they know… what we ALL know deep down.. COULD happen, whatever these courageous men may face, or whatever their families may be up against,  there should be no worries about the hearts of these men.  Their bodies are fighting machines, but their hearts are sheltered safely in the Lord’s arms.

Doesn’t that make you feel safer knowing we have men and women like this in our military, men and women of God who place their trust and their faith in Christ?  I know that sure makes me feel better about things!  

Believe me when I say you will be totally amazed when you watch this video.  The level of trust and faith shown by these men is amazing.  There is not much you can compare to when you see what is happening in this video!  

It is just an amazing, amazing feeling to understand there are military men and women among our military forces who are fighting for our safety and protection, placing their lives on the line, and watching out for our nation, men and women who are doing so only by their ability to place their own entire life in the care of Jesus Christ.  

Add to this the many veterans who, for many years, have placed this same faith and trust in their Lord as they put their own lives on the line for us all!  

If you ever wonder if we are a blessed nation still, you can rest assured we are blessed by these men and women and by the men and women who walked this same path before them.  We have been blessed, and from the looks of this video, we are blessed as a nation still!  

I just realized….  I guess I once again spent today, the 11th month, 11th day, at the 11th hour looking at our military, and I’m asking you to look at them now too on this day.   But remember… the men in this video won’t be looking back at you.  They will be looking upwards to a mighty Lord that is their rock, their fortress, their stronghold and shield.  They will be seeing their Father, their Savior, their deliverer and friend.  

They see the One who will be there for them and the One who will hold them closely under large, loving wings out of love on their 11th hour someday.  

You see…

When our military looks up, they are not alone.

I don’t know about you, but that seems to be the kind of safety and protection I would like to have.  At least I know that, so long as we have men and women of faith in our armed forces, we are all ULTIMATELY in the best of hands. 

Here’s the video.  Enjoy, and be strengthened.  Then go find a veteran somewhere to thank for his or her service, an active duty service member for his or her dedication, or a military family for their sacrifices each and every day.

Then sit down a spell, think about your life and how temporary and fragile life is for us all, and look up.   You won’t be alone.  

That same 11th hour Lord of these Marines is there for us all.  

http://youtu.be/V1my79LtsdU

 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  -Psalm 33: 12 – 16

 

How We Get Military Base Lodging for Cheap Family Vacations

Military Base Lodging

It isn’t always easy getting those cheap rooms and suites on military bases, but this Army wife discovered from years of using military travel benefits that, when we had the urge to travel, we could always depend on those base accommodations being worth any patience or efforts we needed to get them.

Here’s what we have done to get military base lodging and Space A lodging reservations when we plan a family vacation and the tips we have for you to get them too.

Military Base Lodging

Tip # 1

Check into every single military lodge, temporary housing office, Military Space A travel office, and military campground or recreational area connected with the base in the area your family wants to visit.

Understand there are several different types of military family travel options available for leisure travel, usually even different ones on one specific base, and that they do not share reservations, staff, facilities, nor even have the same rules of use.

To raise your chances of getting an inexpensive sleeping accommodation on a base for your family, know ALL you have available to you, investigate all housing options connected with your destination, and check all possible reservation sources including these:

1.  Purchase one or more of the Military Living publications which are available at your local base exchange.

While you can find a lot of information online and even make online reservations at the Department of Defense lodging websites and other websites that show Space A listings, these hard copy military travel guides provide the easiest way to see and understand what bases are close to where you want to go, what different kinds of overnight opportunities are available at any given military location, what other services are available there (such as recreation, dining, auto hobby shops, chapels, family support services, etc.), and the different phone numbers for each of the different offices, front desks, and/or recreation area staff.

You can purchase separate books on Space A housing, military campgrounds and military rec areas (with cabin rentals), and Space A Military Air Travel.  However, usually one of those books will at least cross reference the other opportunities available on each base and provide the phone numbers you need to call each individual reservation desk.

2.  Search the DOD Lodging website to find lodging at a number of overnight accommodations for military vacations.  You’ll find Navy Lodges, Air Force Lodges, Navy Inn and Suites, etc. there and can see if any of those places are in line with your travel plans and if those lodges have room.

3.  Get information and reviews on camping sites on military bases and campgrounds at military recreational areas from sites like http://www.militarycampgrounds.us/state-listing.  Don’t just look for RV and tent camping sites at these places either.  You’ll want to look for cabin rentals at these military campgrounds as well!

4.  Look at base websites where or near where you are going and see if they mention any inns, suites, temporary housing, Space A lodging, camping, or recreational areas on their website.  Not all bases will provide lodging information on their base sites, but many do and may in fact provide a direct URL to where you can go for more information, pictures, or reservations.

5.  Call the local MWR office close to where you want to travel and ask for assistance and information.  Calling also gives you a good chance to ask what recreational equipment they rent there as well as well as fun things to do there.

Did you know that you can rent RVs and camping equipment from many MWR offices on bases?

military family vacations

Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene TX

6.  If you’re planning a longer vacation stay, check out the Armed Forces Vacation Club at http://www.afvclub.com/.  This is a great benefit for military families who would like to stay at one of the time shares or condos that have been purchased specifically for their use only.  While the cost for these military travel resorts might seem a little higher than a quick weekend getaway or an overnight stay on a base, when you consider the quoted price is for an entire week of vacation and for 4, perhaps 5 to 8 people, depending on the rental, these are downright CHEAP.  You can navigate the site and see what’s available there or just make it easy on yourself and call them directly for ultra easy military travel reservations.

While locating all your various housing options and making sure you check each one out separately is number ONE when trying to get a reservation for family leisure travel, there are three more tips that will give you a better chance of booking one of these cheap rooms, suites, or vacation rentals.

Tip # 2

Be flexible with military travel discounts, housing, and plans. 

If you can’t get a reservation for every night you would like, could you change your schedule a little or could you spend the nights you can there and then use other military travel discounts by taking advantage of military discounts offered by hotels in the community?

Could you go family tent camping one night, or two, and combine those nights of camping with staying in a suite or room on base another night or two?  Even when lodges, suites, rooms, and cabins are taken, rec areas will usually have a few camp sites not taken, even at the last minute.

Combining housing, camping, and/or lodging might just make your trip a little more exciting.  Taking advantage of ALL the possibilities provide a better chance of going on vacation, period.

Tip # 3

Be persistent, even to the very last minute.

Here is where we have hit some of the best home runs of our family vacation planning.  It’s risky for someone who doesn’t live on the edge, but if you couldn’t get a reservation at an earlier date but are willing to call again the day OF your trip, perhaps the day or two before, you can sometimes pick up a great room or suite or cabin that has been given up by another military family with a change of plans.

We have found reservation personnel for military inns and suites, lodges, and rec areas to be extremely helpful and open to us calling later in the day, a few times even, when we were traveling and didn’t yet have a reservation with them.  We called five times throughout the day when we went to Corpus Christi, TX last spring, all with permission of a very patient front desk worker who kept telling us to call back in 30 more minutes.

We ended up getting a front seat to the Gulf Coast when we did that too!

A disclaimer:  We know, when we do this, that we might have to end up with staying at a hotel in the city or cutting our trip a little short if we can’t get something on base, but I have to admit that it does add a little excitement to the trip too.

Did I hear someone say “extreme vacationing”?

navy gateway inn and suites

John & Scott – John has his free coffee from the Dyess Air Force Inn followed by a tax free breakfast for all 3 of us at Burger King on Dyess AFB

Tip # 4

Appreciate and use whatever travel benefits for military families are available for your use.

Military base lodging , Space A lodging, and recreation lodging are all benefits to enjoy, but they are not requirements the military has to provide for you to have a family vacation getaway.

Whatever you have available though, take it.  Take it; use it, and be thankful for whatever can save your money and let you enjoy life a little more.  It’s what makes military life with your family that much more special for you all.

Confessions of a Real Military Travel Junkie Army Wife

My favorite family vacation was at the Naval Station at Winter Harbor, Maine in 1993.  We stayed the most times in one place in the recreational area cabins at Fort Story, just above Virginia Beach.  We only stayed at a military space available apartment at Wright Patterson Air Force Base because we got drenched camping the night before at Bob Evans Farm in Ohio and had to find a last minute place to dry out along the way back home, but we ended up loving it there, so we prolonged our return home, and we camped the NEXT night, on the base of course.

I still can’t believe my entire family stayed in a full suite at Wallops Island near Chincoteague Island for $6.00 a night, or was that $8.00?  No, it was $6.00, six bucks a night for the five of us.  A few years ago, but still…

Those are true words from a military wife and mother who raised an entire family on military travel opportunities.

We were very pleased with our military lodging, shown here, when we stayed overnight at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, TX just last week.

In fact, even just last week, my retired Army husband, our 20 year old college son, (our baby), and I stayed overnight at the “Dyess Inn” on Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, TX as part of a short family getaway on the way to Lubbock, TX.  We completed our stay there with breakfast at Burger King… on base.

This past spring we spent a night at the Navy Gateway Inns and Suites in Corpus Christi, TX, a bold move since we went down there with no reservation and just hoped for the best.  We got it.

For both fun family vacations and family weekend getaways and breaks, military Space A travel and other available military base lodging has been the livelihood of our family travel and getaways.  Combined with military base amenities, military recreational areas, and military travel discounts, we have had a lifetime of fun and enjoyable memories.

We’ve been very blessed by the resourcefulness of the military making good use of its buildings; the graciousness, assistance, and support of military lodging staff; and a good Military Space A travel guide or two I purchased throughout the years at the base PX.

Maybe this is a good time to thank all the services for the military discount travel opportunities they have provided which made our family life a whole lot stronger and a whole lot happier.

Thank you Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard!  Thanks to you too, NASA.  We used your towels with the NASA logo on them when we stayed at the Space A suites there at Wallops Island!

Military family travel has not only been one of the highlights of our military family life, it has been one of the best highlights of our entire family’s life.

When we have struggled with the plain old stress of life, when we have felt overwhelmed and needed a break to refresh and bond as a family, when we just needed something special in our lives, and when we needed to make the best use of our budget, we found a resting place and a new start (over and over again) with the military family travel and trips we have enjoyed throughout the years.

Oh, and thank you Navy Gateway Inn at Kingsville, TX for mailing my personal pillowcase back to me when I left it there last time.  As I mentioned then, that old Texas flag pillowcase is one of the few gifts remaining from our wedding more than 30 years ago, save our marriage and each other!  Fortunately, you treated that pillowcase as well as you treated us there.  If you’re reading this, thanks again.  I think you’re great.