From The Homefront: The Power of a Good Story

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 16 years. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Military Family Advisory Network.

Written by Shelley Kimball

After four years, hundreds of interviews and thousands of words, From the Homefront is coming to an end.

This will be the last installment, and I wanted to take the chance to express my gratitude for the opportunity to share your lives in this space.

Being a Coast Guard spouse was not what I intended at all – I was a military kid, so I had had enough. But here I am, a cheerleader for this life. And I owe that in large part to all of you.

This has been a volunteer effort on my part, but I could not have done it without those of you who opened up your lives to me and let me tell your stories. I have always believed in the power of a good story to bring us together.

As a military kid, it was stories of each others’ experiences that made us feel less isolated. As a newspaper reporter, it was the way our community stuck together for the things that mattered. And now, as a teacher and researcher, stories are my path to knowledge.

But this path I took with all of you will remain one of the most moving of my life. Look at where we have been along the way:

More than four years ago, Coast Guard public affairs took a chance on me to highlight the lives of our families as a way to provide support and reassurance. It was also so that you could be heard — so that you could show the world what Coastie life is like.

One of my earliest stories came from the frustration of no one understanding what our lives are like. Top 10 Things We Wish People Knew About Coast Guard Life went viral – we were amazed at the number of people who visited the site and stayed to talk about the Coast Guard. That column has been shared more than 100,000 times, and people are still chatting in the comments section.

I promised in my first column that I would not sugarcoat these stories. With your help, I didn’t. We covered lots of hard stuff, like preparing for the worst emergencies, how to deal with orders you didn’t want, or even death or divorce.

You shared your frustration with issues like the childcare subsidy, the data breach, mandatory housing, and household goods overages and we found ways to manage solutions.

You revealed your personal lives in the most moving ways. Whether it was telling your stories as same-sex families, how you help your special needs kids thrive, or choosing geobaching. You shared your wealth of knowledge with others facing some huge life changes: becoming a new military spouse and welcoming a new baby.

And I am continually heartened by the support you show each other. I have to start that list with the incredible ombudsmen, who selflessly give of their time and talents to make us better. I loved writing about every ombudsman of the year (you all are astounding), and helping pull together the history of the program. It meant a lot for me to tell you about my beloved Arlington Ladies. And each year, it was a joy to bring you the spouses and military children of the year.

Portrait of Shelley Kimball.

Portrait of Shelley Kimball.

Speaking of the kids. If I felt like we needed some laughter, I went to talk to our phenomenal Coastie kids. Whether it was their hilarious ideas of what you do for a living or what aviators do, or explaining to me why they love Coast Guard life.

Keep using these stories when you need them. They will stay up as long as the Coast Guard is willing to host them. I put the lists of resources in the bottom of each story so that you would not have to search too far to get the help, support, advice you need. I’ll continue to share the stories on social media as a quick way to get people what they need (and to show them they are not alone.)

So here is what I would love to see happen next. Keep telling your stories. Keep sharing your experiences. It truly matters – it brings us together in ways nothing else can. It reminds us all that we are in this together. I’ll still be listening and cheering you on.

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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