August 29, 2007

Journalist finds more than club membership at Super

Sorry! I forgot to post this on Saturday ...

Editor's note: In a previous post I told you that I was working on a commentary about attending various activities on post and writing about my experiences. Last week my boss decided that it was such a good idea that I should make it a series and write a commentary each week. This is the fourth of that series. After sitting down with the command information office today, we are not sure when the series will end as we keep finding new areas to explore.

-- Published in Fort Polk Guardian (Aug. 24, 2007) --
By: MICHELLE LINDSEY, Guardian staff writer

In the past six months I’ve said goodbye to many close friends and it has left me feeling a little abandoned. Each friendship helped me grow in ways that I didn’t realize until they were gone. Charlotte Watson was my strength, with a shoulder to cry on and words of encouragement during the last deployment. Luz Montour was a mentor and coach as I looked to her for advice as a military spouse. Staci Chiomento reminded me to laugh. As the spouse of a fallen Soldier, she had more reason than many to be bitter, but she never lost her smile. There are many others whose friendships I treasure. Staying in touch with them has helped me learn that friends may move, but they never leave your heart.
As I reflect on those who befriended me, I look for ways to make new friends.
“I can’t stop making friends just because they will leave someday,” I scold myself as I look through the Guardian for a new activity to try. I notice the Officers’ Spouses’ Club and Enlisted Spouses’ Club are holding their joint Super Sign Up Wednesday. I make plans to attend.
“I’ve covered this event for the paper for two years,” I say to myself. “Maybe I should stop being a spectator and participate.”
As I pull into the parking lot at Warrior Community Center, I park in the overflow area in back because there are so many people already there.
“These clubs must be Fort Polk’s best activities for Families,” I mutter to myself as I pull into a parking spot. “Let’s see what’s inside.”
As I enter the building I am greeted with smiles. “Are you interested in OSC or ESC?” one volunteer asks. “Well, I’m eligible for OSC, but I was hoping to get some information on both to pass to some of the spouses in my husband’s unit,” I reply.
She escorts me to the sign-up table and says she will find the OSC president as I start talking to ESC members.
After getting some brochures from ESC, I walk around the Warrior Community Center looking at vendors booths.
“Hi!” I hear as I look over the long line of booths and try to figure out where to start.
“Hey!” I answer, recognizing Dawn O’Brien, a spouse I had met at the ACS Game Night.
“Can I answer some questions for you?” she asks as we move out of the way of the crowd.
“I was just wondering what some of the benefits are to joining OSC,” I say.
“Well, it’s a great way to make new friends,” she says. “It gets you out of the house and you get to be a part of something, which is why I joined. We have
monthly luncheons, which are fun, and fund-raising events such as The Creole Caddy Classic, the annual arts and crafts fair and Casino Night that members can help plan. I have a blast. Each year I get to meet so many people.”
“Sounds like it’s worth joining,” I say.
“Definitely. You should talk to the OSC president, Connie Conrad,” she adds.
“Well, I’ll let you get back to greeting people, thanks so much for the information,” I say as I head back to the vendors’ area.
There is so much to see, from programs offering activities for children to learning about merchants in the area. I am excited about the possibilities.
I stop by the Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital Community Health Nursing table, where I pick up information on pandemic flu and learn about over-the-counter medications class.
As I move through the area, I am intercepted by an ESC member who offers to introduce me to Scarlett Sharkey, the ESC president, to answer any questions I have.
Upon introductions we realize that we’ve already met before at the ceremony when her husband assumed responsibility as Fort Polk’s garrison command sergeant major.
“Hi! I am eligible for OSC, but I was wondering if I could ask some questions about ESC to pass along to other spouses in our unit,” I say.
“Sure, what can I help you with?” she asks.
“Well I was wondering if you could tell me about ESC and how spouses benefit from it,” I ask.
“This is a great place to meet friends,” Scarlett says.
“We are trying to offer a variety of programs and events through ESC to reach every (enlisted) spouse on post. We have an incredibly diverse group of spouses here –– with children or without, various ages. We want to offer different activities so that every spouse can find something they enjoy,”she adds. “We do a variety of things and the areas that we support are diverse as well. An example is the (Christmas) toy drive. Last year we helped more than 750 children have a brighter Christmas. Another activity is the Bike Rodeo (Saturday).
“These activities are a chance to interact with other spouses. Our motto is ‘friendships made here’ and that is what we want to offer spouses. We also host mini clubs such as cooking or reading, where spouses can meet others who share their interests.”
“That’s great,” I say. “I used to get information from Charlotte Watson about the program when spouses had questions, but since she left I didn’t know who to ask.”
“Charlotte was really great, but I’ll take her place as a friend and source of information if you want,” she says.
“Well it’ll definitely be easy to go from Charlotte to Scarlett,” I reply with a laugh. “Thanks so much for answering my questions.” After getting her contact information I head off to find more treasures.
“Who knew that making a friend could be so easy,” I ask myself as I begin filling out the sign up form for OSC. I make a mental note to e-mail Charlotte later
because she was always encouraging me to try new things.
As I finish talking to the OSC members at the sign-up table, I see Connie Conrad, president of OSC.
“Hi, I was told you might have some questions about OSC,” she says, after greeting me.
“I do. I already signed up but I was wondering if you could give me some information about what spouses can gain from being a part of OSC,” I say.
“For me, OSC has opened so many doors to meeting people in the military and surrounding communities of Leesville, DeRidder and Rosepine. You belong to a club that works for the community. That helps open your eyes to what is here for Families.
“It also offers support. Sometimes you don’t realize how you need that until a deployment comes up or you become a new parent. And, after a while, acquaintances become friends.”
After I leave Connie, I realize that even having been married only three years, I still have experiences and knowledge that may help others and it’s my turn to impart that knowledge. I guess being a military spouse is a give-and-take relationship in that sense. You will never know if your experiences can help someone else. Just as my friends helped me, maybe now is the time for me to help others.
My stomach reminds me that I haven’t eaten so I head for lunch at the Warrior Deli.
As I drive back to the office, I think about today’s events. I went searching for friends and found more than I thought I would. Strangers become acquaintances, acquaintances become friends and, in the military life, those friends can eventually become the strength that gets you though the hard times and the laughter that fills your heart with memories to last a lifetime.
“I guess Fort Polk teaches more than just military skills. I definitely learned a lesson,” I say to myself, as I drive back to work. “I have a lot of friendships yet to be made here.”

For more articles in the Fort Polk Guardian, visit our
web page.

1 Tea Party Guest:

smilnsigh said...

A beautiful, beautiful entry.

Yes, military spouses give up much and suffer much. But they also can gain much. I'm so happy to read of a gain. A lovely gain of friendship.