My husband served as a section leader for a TOW Section 2nd Battalion 23rd Marine Corps Reserve Regiment. He is now a Staff Sergeant serving as a Platoon Commander with the 24th Marines.
Now I had been a former Active Duty Army wife, from my previous marriage, during Desert Storm, I have more than a little experience in what to expect with a spouse being deployed. In addition I am a lot older than most the wives in my Marine husband’s unit.
When the 23rd Marines were called to Active Duty in 2003, I was given the job of being the Key Volunteer for his section. Now for those unfamiliar with a Key Volunteer it basically works like the Chain of Command. A higher up passes word to their junior KV contacts, then they in turn pass it down the line to the KVs under them. When it gets to me at the Platoon/Section level, I pass word to the family and loved ones.
I took the KV position very seriously. I organized several support group meetings and even had guest speakers come in. A lot of this sort of stuff fell on my shoulders since the TOW Section is out of Oklahoma. The actual Battalion is based out of California.
I was amazed at many of the support meetings as to how little the wives, girlfriends, and moms knew what their loved ones actually did in the Marine Corps. For those who are unfamiliar with a TOW it is a Tube launched, optically tracked, wire command link guided missile, better known as a tank killer. Which in layman's terms means you’re on the front lines in a Combined Anti Armor Team platoon.
One important lesson that I always told all the loved ones is not to stay glued to the news channels. But this is extremely difficult during an all out war with your loved one over there. It is especially hard for the younger wives and girlfriends.
I have two small boys and I didn't watch the news that much because I didn't want them bombarded with war. I saved my news time for after they were both asleep. I think having the media imbedded is nice on one hand however it can also have very detrimental affects on those with loved ones over there.
For example, Every time the news networks announced that a Marine was killed or injured my phone would ring off the hook. It was loved ones wanting to know if I thought it was our guys or not. This is when previous experience would come into play.
I quickly learned that it took about 24 to 48 hours for next of kin to be officially notified by the Marine Corps. My standard reply to the loved ones became, “No news is good news.” It was not always the most comforting reply to some but I knew it to be the most honest answer that I could give.
I worked full time during the 23rd Marines’ deployment. And being a Key Volunteer added even more work for me. Not all the loved ones in the unit worked fulltime. So they would naturally call or email me at work with any breaking news they thought I needed or should be checking into for them.
I developed good friendships with some of the wives and moms that I still cherish today.
I am very proud of my husband’s service. Like all good Marine family members I have an Eagle Globe and Anchor and other Marine Corps stickers on my car and everywhere else that I can think of.
One thing I learned that was much different in the Marine Corps than in the Army was that Marines are Brothers to each other. And in rough times like a war their civilian families join together into one family.