Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of requirements and analysis at Coast Guard headquarters, for 13 years. She serves as an advisor for the Military Family Advisory Network and a research analyst for Blue Star Families.
Written by Shelley Kimball
It is hard to believe a year has passed here at From the Homefront. In our first column, we set our goals – specifically to make sure Coast Guard families’ voices are heard and to start conversations together about what matters in our lives. You honored me resoundingly by sharing your stories and experiences and by doing so, we have shown thousands of readers what it means to be a Coastie.
Our top three most popular columns this year surprised me. By far, the most talked about, shared, viral column was “Top 10 things we wish people knew about Coast Guard Life.” I know that I have to answer the same questions about Coast Guard life over and over, and apparently you do too. I still can’t quite believe the statistics on this one: 50,600 people shared it on Facebook – that is more people than there are active duty members of the Coast Guard. About 26,000 people liked it, which tells us that you want people to know what this life means. When we looked at our analytics, we found that the post brought in 107,701 unique visitors to the Coast Guard All Hands blog and 121,273 page views. It spawned great thoughts and memories in the comments section – even the Commandant of the Coast Guard weighed in.
The second most popular column showed us that kids and the Coast Guard are a great mix. The column “What your kids think you do for a living” brought us 5,047 unique visitors and 5,478 page views. It was shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook. And it still cracks me up.
The third most popular column made me so proud to write. It was called “Why military ID Cards matter,” and it was about why being able to access benefits is important to same-sex military families. It was shared on Facebook 575 times, it brought us 5,075 unique visitors and there were 5,478 page views. I loved writing it and I love that it mattered to our readers.
If I had to pick two stories that were personally rewarding to me, it would be one that listed the top issues of concern among Coast Guard families called “Making your voice heard,” and the column in response, “Mrs. Papp answers your questions.” This set means so much to me because it is a priority that your voices are heard. You spoke up and you got answers. That’s what we’re here for and I am grateful to those who took part in the conversation.
Spouses play a primary role in this column and we were able to highlight all of the amazing things they do. One column provided an overview of the exceptional work Coastie spouses are doing to help our families, and it was a pleasure to honor them.
We also showed how spouses back each other up and support each other. This is one of our greatest strengths, especially in times of need.
Coast Guard life carries with it some serious obstacles and challenges, and we need to lean on each other to get through them. One of the more heartfelt posts we ran was about how difficult it is for spouses to find jobs. This one provided real-life stories and advice, as well as resources to help those looking for work.
Some other transitions we covered this year were how to adjust to a new duty station, how to manage a move and what to do when your spouse retires from the Coast Guard. We all have to face these changes and hearing from others who have been there, done that and learned from the experience was valuable.
We did three other columns about navigating the trials of military life that had especially great resource sections. One described our military children’s rights as they move from school to school as outlined in the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. We shared the financial help specifically available to the military from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And, for me, the answer to almost all obstacles in Coast Guard life is finding your ombudsman. They are the superheroes who swoop in and lend a hand, no matter what. If you have not done so already, click the link at the end of that column and get in touch with your ombudsman.
Two columns with especially touching stories about the honor Coast Guard life brings came from two different angles. The first presented stories about Coast Guard kids who followed in their parents footsteps and joined the service themselves. The other showed what happens when producers from The Weather Channel’s Coast Guard series spend so much time with Coasties – they practically become part of the family. What all of the sources had in common was a love of Coast Guard life and a respect for all that Coasties accomplish.
So what’s next? We have some ideas, but we want to hear from you. What should we spend our next year talking about? Share your thoughts in the comments below or respond here.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.