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Maureen Elias served in the US Army from 2001-2006 as a counterintelligence agent. She met and married the love of her life while in advanced individual training and they just celebrated their 18-year anniversary. Together they have three beautiful children. Maureen and I met through a mutual friend, who I happened to interview for the podcast earlier this year. You can check out that episode here. And although our friendship began via facebook we have been lucky enough to become fast friends and have met in person a handful of times.
Maureen didn’t have a military influence growing up. Her grandfather and step-grandfather both served in the military but were out before she was ever born. She did have a chance to visit the officer club or shop on base with her grandfathers. That was the extent of military exposure. She graduated high school at seventeen and thought about joining the Navy. Her mom wouldn’t sign the paperwork to allow her to join as a minor so she decided to try out college. It wasn’t the right fit for her. She tried a litany of jobs before deciding to check out the military again.
“I was at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC as I walked past the seemingly endless list of names of those who had lost their lives in service to our country, I knew that I too wanted to have an opportunity to serve.”
She went back to the military after looking into joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). After finding out that if she served as a counterintelligence agent for 5 years in the military, she could waive her college requirement. So she decided to look into joining the military. Since she did well enough on the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Test so she went to the recruiter and signed up and was gone ten days later.
She met and married her husband while at Advanced Individual Training (AIT). They had to convince the Chaplin to marry them and required them to go through premarital counseling before they could get married.
They were able to get a join spouse assignment and their first base was in Germany.
Being in Germany was hard because she was so close to her family and now was so far away. But she loved her job and had so many great opportunities that she was able to make the most of. And being so far away from family ended up being a good thing because she and her husband had to rely on each other to get through it and it was able to build a strong foundation for their marriage.
They also had their two children while living in Germany. They had discussed if she should get out or stay in and they decided that they would be able to balance their career with a baby. Six months of their son’s birth she was pregnant with her second child. It was a lot harder to manage two kids especially being so close together and being stationed overseas.
The military was also not as friendly toward mothers as they are today.
She was required to pump in the bathroom and once got called into an unannounced meeting and wasn’t allowed to pump for five minutes and ended up dripping out milk on to the floor during the meeting.
After Germany, they went to the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, CA to learn Korean. The first person they met had just gone through a divorce. She told them her goal was that their marriage wouldn’t survive DLI.
Leaving the Military Behind
When it was time to re-enlist Maureen decided to leave the military while her husband continued to serve. They noticed that something wasn’t quite right with their kids. And they felt someone needed to get out to stay at home with the kids. They ended up discovering their older two kids had autism. In the end, leaving the military made it possible for her to get them they help they needed.
We also talked about the importance of speaking up as both a military spouse and a veteran. I recently took a survey focusing on trying to end suicide in the Air Force and felt I needed to speak out on how the survey made me feel. I was lucky enough to get published on Military.com. You can read the whole article here.
We ended the episode talking about how important finding a mentor is. If you are considering joining the military pick up my free Girls Guide to the Military here and reach out to me if you need someone to help answer your questions about military life.
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