From the Homefront: 2015 year in review

I love a good year in review of just about anything. I like the efficiency of remembering the whole year at a glance. So let’s call this the ‘In Case You Missed It’ edition of From the Homefront. I’ll give you the nutshell version of how we spent our year.

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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 aviation forces at Coast Guard headquarters, for 14 years. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Military Family Advisory Network.

Written by Shelley Kimball

Janice Steinhagen and her husband celebrate their son Paul’s completion of basic training. Photo courtesy of Janice Steinhagen.
Janice Steinhagen and her husband celebrate their son Paul’s completion of basic training. Photo courtesy of Janice Steinhagen.

I love a good year in review of just about anything. I like the efficiency of remembering the whole year at a glance. So let’s call this the ‘In Case You Missed It’ edition of From the Homefront. I’ll give you the nutshell version of how we spent our year.

Portrait of Shelley Kimball.
Portrait of Shelley Kimball.

Our primary goal is to make sure that Coast Guard families are heard, valued, and are receiving information that can make their lives easier. When I scrolled through our links from 2015, I was most proud of those of you who shared your thoughts, your stories, and your lives with us.

Our two most liked and shared stories this year had one thing in common: they were about frustrating issues facing Coastie families. One was about how to handle the Office of Personnel Management data breach, and the other was about retroactive bills for household goods overages from the previous five years. I said in my very first column that I wouldn’t sugarcoat things here, and I take that seriously. We also talked about the frustrating world of cyberbullying of military spouses.

We met some Coasties doing great things for others. We finished out our three-part series getting to know our ombudsmen at large: Fran DeNinno, wife of the commandant of the Coast Guard, Janet Cantrell, wife of the master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard, and Valerie Johnson, wife of the Coast Guard reserve force master chief. I’m not going to lie – I cringe every single time I introduce them by their husbands. These ladies are so accomplished in their own rights, and they each come to their work helping Coastie families with unique experiences and perspectives. If you haven’t read about these three, take the time. They are fascinating women.

Fran Denino, Auntie Annie, Janet Cantrell, Valerie Johnson at the 2015 Ombudsman of the Year Ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kyle Neimi.
Fran Denino, Auntie Annie, Janet Cantrell, Valerie Johnson at the 2015 Ombudsman of the Year Ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kyle Neimi.

We also met two women who have given so much of their time and attention to Coastie families that they received some significant awards. Stacey Benson, a Coast Guard spouse in Rhode Island was selected as the 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the Year. And Auntie Annie Leighton was named the Wanda Allen-Yearout Ombudsman of the Year. It was a privilege to share their stories, and it was inspiring to see them honored for their work.

We also learned about Coasties doing great things for others. We had an overview of where to go for help during the holidays, which you can use any time of the year. We saw Coastie families come out to Arlington National Cemetery to honor the fallen. And we learned about three nonprofits that are standing by to help Coast Guard families when a crisis strikes.

Coast Guard families celebrate the first day of school. Photo illustration by Shelley Kimball.
Coast Guard families celebrate the first day of school. Photo illustration by Shelley Kimball.

One of the most important parts of this column is to bring you information about the programs you can use to make life easier. We explained how to navigate changes to the Special Needs Program with the help of some fantastic Coasties who shared their experiences. We showed you some free resources to help you better manage your finances. We brought you the updated version of Sea Legs, and manual developed by Coast Guard spouses years ago to help families adjust to military life. We brought you a list of free resources to help military kids adjust to schools (and that one came with a bonus of adorable Coastie kids). And when the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission released its report on proposed changes to military compensation, we were right there to boil it all down for you.

Mitchells It is always important to me to show all variations of Coast Guard families. So many of you were kind enough to share your stories, advice and experiences about geobaching, being male military spouses, and being part of dual military couples. We even heard from brand new Coastie families – parents watching their children join the Coast Guard.

And in all that, I hope we reminded you of the good things about being part of Coast Guard life. I know from experience that it isn’t always easy, but it is a life that is an honor to live. Take it from our Coastie kids, who told us what they like most about this life.

As we head into our new year, my wish for you is health, happiness, and safety for you and your families. I hope that when you need help or information, that you find the assistance you need quickly and easily.

There is one thing I would like this year. I want to hear more from you. You can find From the Homefront here at All Hands. You can subscribe by clicking on the little blue envelope in the menu on the right side of this page. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. But most importantly, and probably easiest, you can talk to us in the comments section below.

So, what do you want to hear about in From the Homefront during the coming year? What are your favorite kinds of stories? What topics should we cover? This column is for you, so tell us what you think in the comments.

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.

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