Flower arrangement photos, scrumptious cake ideas, and scores of tabbed pages of gowns in bridal magazines littered my desk. It was the spring of 2002. I was getting married at the ripe old age of 24. Eighteen months earlier, my fiancé had proposed after we had been dating for a year.
My red-headed beau was on his first tour in the Coast Guard when we met. I had been out of the Marine Corps for almost a year so; the concept of living the military life certainly was not scary to me. In fact, I was somewhat relieved to be getting back into the military arena. I knew it would be vastly different as a spouse than it had been to be active duty. Still, it just seemed right—the whole thing. We spoke the same language. He did not need to explain acronyms to me, and I could appreciate his sea stories easily without much need for a back story.
Still, I felt I needed something more. We were not living in a military community. Our nearby friends were mostly civilians. I sought to learn more about Coast Guard family life. I knew that the deployments differed slightly from that which I was accustomed. I understood pay issues might be handled differently as well and so many other little questions that would add up to a lot. So, thanks to search engine technology, my quest commenced.
I had found a few sites a year or so before, which offered support and information: CGSpouses and MyCoastGuard, but after a while fell by the wayside as websites often do. After poking around the World Wide Web a bit more, I happened upon a new and blossoming site known as Coastie Chicks. I joined in 2002 and there I stayed.
The Coastie Chicks support forum was the piece I was missing. It filled in the gaps of information I was seeking. I made friends. I found support. I grew. The forum has grown considerably over the years in a way that I cannot even aptly put into words that would do it justice. I met many of the Coast Guard spouses that I have come to call friends and family through Coastie Chicks. I birthed three babies in my years as a member of Coastie Chicks, and I virtually watched friends from coast to coast share photos of their own newborns each month. I was deeply affected by tragedies and unexpected deaths and moments of heartbreak through my extended Coastie family. We have endured deployments together and concerns about health care, finances, and housing. Regaling others with anecdotes about childhood mishaps, spouse club events, and happenings on the job, I became a part of something bigger than I ever expected. My fellow Coastie Chicks got me, and I got them.
Now, we haven’t always agreed on things over the years, but by and by, we have come to terms on agreeing to disagree as families often do. In the past 10 years on Coastie Chicks, somewhere along the way, I became a semi-seasoned Coast Guard spouse. People have asked my advice. I have shared experiences, and I have mentored, that being said, there are more spouses on the board than I can count who I continually to look up to and seek out for their wisdom and advice. In many ways, I feel I still need this community now as much as I did in my newlywed days.
Support forums like Coastie Chicks offer a unique environment where spouses can ask questions, answer others and share their lives. Ten years ago, I would have never thought I would be writing about my fondness for a military support website. I sincerely hope all military spouses find something as wonderful for them as Coastie Chicks has been for me and so many others.
Sure, there are naysayers who dispute the importance of networking and mock the virtual friendships made through websites. I say, forget about them. After all, I am thrilled to say that I had some ready-made friends that I met online who answer my many, many questions when my family and I PCSed 3,000+ miles last year to a community that is nothing like any place we have ever lived before. All I had to do was logon, say where we were headed and poof the information came flooding in. The bonus when we arrived at our new location, I had hugs waiting and the seeds of growing friendships already planted in the ground.