Bonnie Reeves served on active duty in the Air Force. She reached the rank of Master Sargent (E-7). She worked in Logistics Supply, working on various jobs in supply support ranging from aircraft to vehicles to communications. She met her husband while serving on active duty. They served dual military most of their military career. They have now both retired from the military. During her career, she faced multiple deployments and even faced the challenge of being deployed at the same time as her husband. While leaving her children in the care of her Mother-in-Law. Read the amazing story of the challenges of dual military life.
Why did you decided to join the military?
To serve my country and travel
How did you meet your husband?
We met in a training class when stationed at Little Rock AFB, AR
How did life change when you married your spouse?
Um, I really was carefree and did what I wanted when I wanted took lots of deployments for married people because at the time we could exchange and not have to go like the system works now. This is my second marriage my first was a little different we really never lived together because of the military and that is why we grew apart but we were really good friends and made the mistake of marring in the first place.
What was it like to be a dual military couple?
Good and bad. The money was good and we both were decided to our work. The understanding of what we had to do at times helped when both of us were active duty. Getting the same time off together or going to double function sometimes got old. At times there was whose job is more important struggle.
What challenges did you face while both serving in the military?
The biggest challenge would be our children and making sure they were taken care of and they knew we always look out for them rather we physically were there not. Working late, getting dinner on the table, making them feel just as important at our work was our goal.
What is the hardest part of being a dual military couple?
When our boys were 3 and 18 months we both had to deploy and leave them to my husband’s mother to care for them. We (Michael and I) were apart for 9 months that year and 3 of those months our children were with her.
We will never get that time back.
It really lets you know the difference between knowing without a doubt your children are cared for with your spouse to having someone not us taking care of them. She was their grandmother but it just wasn’t the same. He was in Al Udied was in Kuwait right before he left to go home his Chief told him to go pack an overnight bag and be back in an hour when he got off shift. The Chief knew I was deployed to and that we would not see each other for another 4 months.
Michael being the person he was didn’t really as any question just went and packed a bag. When her returned he said call your wife tell your you will be on the ground for 4 hours to visit with her, (you pack an overnight bag just in case the plane breaks) he said it was the least he could do.
He did not call me he called my boss to let them know so he could surprise me. I was the Vice President of the 5-6 club over there and we were putting on a fun run so my boss told him where I was and let someone there know not to let me leave. The run was along the flight line so he didn’t have far to get to me. I am sitting there at the check in table and I see a guy walking my way with his uniform on and I say to the person next to me if I didn’t know better I would say the guy coming this way is my husband he walks just like him. As he gets closer he smiles and well let’s just say I knew then it was him.
We went and got coffee and just sat and had longer than a 10-minute phone conversation for the next 4 hours. I can’t tell you what we talked about because that wasn’t the point it was just that we got to be in each other’s presence for a little while in the middle of our crazy!
I had to leave my youngest on the day after he turned 6 months for a deployment. He became a Daddy’s boy and I never got him back. It hurt.
How did you overcome the challenges of military life to both make it to retirement?
God, communication, understanding, love, support from your military family, mentors in front of us that did it as well, and knowing that there was an end at the tunnel. I think you either have the resilience to withstand what the military puts you through or you don’t. Knowing we had each other’s back when we were away and that nothing changed as far as that support no matter what.
What is the best benefit of both being retired from the military?
Our ability to both retire and spend time with our children before they leave the nest. We had our children late in our military careers and sometime that is a good thing and sometimes bad. You go through the stage of the sick kid who’s gonna take off whose job is more important to take off and then the deployments and missing the important parts of their lives because your gone.
I retired when the boys were in 2nd and 4th grade I did not work for the next 5 years I volunteered in their classroom went on every field trip and was there when I counted. We had summers together to explore and do things they could remember forever. We had a sit-down full breakfast and dinner almost every day with all of the family when Michael was not deployed and it made a difference if I did not retire I would have had to work to help support the family but with my retirement coming in I didn’t have to.
Michael retired the summer before the boys were 9th and 7th grade. To me these are the years they need their father for development and becoming a man. With both our retirements and very good planning he doesn’t have to work.
I substitute for their high school for a little extra income. We don’t have money to spend willy-nilly but we are surviving and have a wonderful place to spend our retirement. We provide for the boys and they finally have a place to come back to. I am 47 and Michael is 41 so we have plenty of youth left in us. But we can make every sports game every art event can be there when they need us and nothing stands in our way. It is a wonderful feeling from not able to make vacation plans because you don’t know rather you are going to be deployed or not.
Where did you deploy to?
South America, Kuwait, Germany
What was your job while you were deployed?
My job always revolves around supply. I either worked a supply or Logistics squadron or I was out in the squadron like Transportation or an Aircraft Squadron. I basically provide support by parts need to fix items from computers to Aircraft. Anything in-between. Along with the items like toilet paper to uniforms items needed for the region we were in.
What deployment was the most memorable and why?
Some deployments were more like a vacation. I deployed to South America to Curacao. It is an island that actually belonged to Netherlands. Anyway, it was a paradise. I was there for 60 days spent most of my time in a bathing suit. It was a 12-man team I was supply the rest were maintenance and we had one aircraft we supported.
We had to be there when it took off and when landed. Fix it when broke and not were our uniforms till we were at the airport where it was parked. We stayed in a 5-star hotel on the beach. It was awesome. It really beat the ones where you’re in the desert and heat with no water.
This was BC before children I was 29 and still in good shape it was just a great time except that my husband was not with me. I had a great group of guys that knew my husband and treated me with respect and protected me if needed I knew nothing was gonna happen with my 11 big brothers.
What was the hardest part of being deployed?
Separation from my family and knowing if I were to screw up at times it really could be someone’s life on the line.
Did you experience any differences between the culture of the US and the various countries you visited?
In Saudi and Riyadh you are considered as a woman a second-class citizen there. I had to wear the headgear when we went out and going to and from work. Walking 6 paces from your male escort and the fact that the male escorts were not your husbands you just really had to not draw attention to yourself. Scary.
What is your favorite memory(ies) from your deployment experiences?
Before our children were born my husband and I got to deploy to Germany together. They arranged for us to get adjoining rooms that share a bathroom in the barracks we stayed in so we got to spend some time together and travel. Not a lot of time but we were very thankful for the time we had because we could have been separated.
He works Mid shift M_F which is 11pm-7 am I worked 3 on 3 off 12 hour shifts 7am to 7 pm We to Paris and a few other trips and brought back lots of sweet wine it was a great hooray before children.
Did you face any challenges deployed because you were a female?
I think now that I am out in the civilian world we are probably more advanced in this area in the enlisted ranks than civilian companies in certain career fields. I would run across a person now and then that did not like someone in charge as a woman but there was not a lot they could do about it.
What challenges did you face as a mil-mil family during deployments?
When one of us is gone we still have the hard work at our jobs plus the home stuff. In the military you have more Intel of what is really happening instead of being the civilian spouse. That sometimes can be good and sometimes scary.
What is the hardest part of being a mom while serving overseas?
Leaving your babies.
How do you stay connected with your child(ren) while being deployed?
When I deployed it was before Skype and facetime and they were smaller and really couldn’t read or write just yet so we mostly did what little phone conversation we could and pictures sent by email.
Did you face any challenges with your spouse being deployed while serving on active duty?
When 911 kicked off I was 3 months pregnant with our oldest so I knew I was not going but knew he would. About three weeks after he left and when he arrived at his location they told him he was forward deploying and that where he was going was not even bare base they were the first in.
They were told to warn spouses that they were not going to have communication or mail for at least 30 days but to prepare for 60. It was not what you wanted to hear when you’re pregnant with your first child and hope your husband gets back in time. It was a rough one.
By far his worst deployment mentally and physically, he had some close calls and was changed when he returned. I think our child was a lifesaver in his life and our marriage just because we had something to focus on. He got back a week before Trevor was born, I was in 30 hours of labor, and Michael slept on the floor and held my hand and never left my side. He did have to leave 3 months after Trevor was born. I think that was a hard one on both of us as well.
What would be one piece of advice you would give to others facing deployment when their spouse is serving?
Communication there is nothing that will get you through better. Have it before you leave during and when you get back. I think if we stress anything to our kids it is always communicate. Either both deployed or one person deploying? The same and realize what you want and what you get might be two different things but know that the other person is doing everything they can to give you what they can. Sometime Uncle Sam just does not see it your way. Be understanding and patience.
If you faced any difficulties did any of your struggles directly relate to the fact you are a female?
A few problems with troops not wanting a woman in charge.
How were you able to overcome this challenge?
There are standards put in place to address them paperwork and protocol. You just follow the rulebook and if you do it right your covered. It still doesn’t feel good but hey.
How did being in the military affect you as a person? Did it change you? Did you learn anything about yourself?
Showed me I could do anything I could put my mine to and even then, some. You have to rely on others as a team
What would you tell girls who are considering joining the military?
They can do it. Find a few good friends to lean on when times get rough and do be afraid to stand up for what’s right.
What is your favorite memory from your military experience?
While stationed at Abilene I had a team of Airmen that you could say was my ride or die team. We had each other’s back and there never a question of loyalty to each other or the job. We worked hard and played hard most of the time shorthanded.
Thanks for the opportunity. Typing up my answers I cried a few times just thinking what all we did have to endure as a military family. I will say as time went by our faith in God grew and it is a blessing that we did get through what we did. I am so thankful for everything we have and what He has provided our family with today. Stability and a loving home and none of it was possible without God giving us the grace to stand it and get by.