For so many of my friends, we are the only military family they know personally. Some have a distant cousin, or like me, grandparents who served long before we were born, but as far as one degree of separation, we are it. Outside of a few college classmates in ROTC, before I met my husband, I didn’t know anyone in the Armed Forces either.
When I started writing the Deployment Diary for the New York Times a year and a half ago, I was overwhelmed by the number of friends, family members, and even strangers, that reached out expressing their appreciation for insight into a military family.
My goal in writing the diary was to make it just that, a diary. I wanted it to be vulnerable, honest, and above all else, real.
I looked at it as an incredible opportunity to share the ups and downs of this crazy life. While I was honored to write about it, and especially to have such a large platform, I was always aware that mine was just one voice; ours was just one story.
Our military families don’t all look the same, and our stories are equally diverse. I wanted to let the world somehow know that, like a giant asterisk after every piece that I wrote to say *this is just one story of millions; not everyone’s experience is the same. I started thinking about how I could do that.
For a long time, I’ve been ruminating over how I could better serve this community that has given me so much. I really, deeply love our military families. I am in awe of the incredible men and women who choose to serve, and the equally amazing people who choose to love them.
And one night, I literally sat up in bed and gasped, and then cried at finding such clarity of purpose. I knew exactly what I was called to do.
I’ve long loved “Humans of New York” for the first person narrative style of writing and the notion that everyone has a story. I wanted a Humans of New York, but for our military.
I took that inspiration and started “Humans on the Homefront.”
I started interviewing people like it was going out of style. Early morning calls before kids were awake. Late night calls for friends across the ocean. Interviews on my commute home from work. I wake up thinking about this project and go to sleep dreaming about what it could become.
Humans on the Homefront launched on Memorial Day, and we share 3 stories a week, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
While I’ve done over 100 interviews to date, I’m actively looking for features – active duty, spouses, parents, veterans, children, siblings – anyone connected to our military.
While every story is different, each one is humbling. Some people have contacted me knowing exactly what they wanted to talk about, and so many have been a conversation where we pull different threads until we’re able to weave the narrative.
Some interviews are heart-wrenching, like the pilot who survived a helicopter crash while others on board didn’t, or the spouse who tried to commit suicide while her husband was deployed. Both of their features were really eye-opening about the unbelievable hardships our military families endure.
Other stories are heart-warming, like the teacher whose students wrote letters to the principal’s son in the Navy. He came home to visit the class over Christmas, and he and the teacher fell in love! Hers was a beautiful testimony of great hope, faith, and encouragement.
I have laughed during so many of these interviews, and oh, have I wept. I try to take very tender care of each feature as not only are they someone’s words, they’re an embedded part of their heart.
I hope you’ll follow along on our journey, and I’d love to feature you. Our military spouses are some of the bravest, resilient, and most incredible people I’ve ever met. I want the world to know that, too.