Saturday, May 4, 2013


Resiliency. This word bounces off my tongue lately like a beach ball at a rock concert. Hands in the air, we all take a turn shooting it up and out into the crowd to see who might get it next.

In the United States Air Force, presently, this has come to the fore, along with the term “Preservation of the Force and Family” (POTFF), utilized as a noun and pronounced POE-TIFF.

After more than 10 years of constant deployment, nerves are shred; families are torn; and the divorce-rate escalates like the United States deficit.

We are in deficit — collectively and one-by-one. Many of us feel we’ve paid out more than we’ve brought in; spiritually, in our minds, our relationships, and physically in our worn-out and broken bodies.

Command Seargent Major Chris Faris (Senior Enlisted Leader, US Special Operations Command) and his wife Lisa paid us (RAF Mildenhall, 352 Special Operation Group) a visit last week. They, like many, are searching for their own answer to the question, “What is resiliency?”

They share their story in hopes they may make a difference —maybe save other marriages, while they work on their own. Theirs is a heart-wrenching tale; one that reaches most of us on some level or another.

Some whisper, “I am lucky.”

Others fret, “I am fucked.”

Collectively, we share the same outlines, but the lines in between are made of individual words formed into unique sentences. For we all come to the table bringing vocabulary from our personal language.

So we talk about this word, resiliency. We wonder what it means for ourselves, for our family; for the United States Air Force; for the United States.

I asked this through a Facebook post last week. In our present-day version of spouses network, this is where I meet and sometimes help people most; our FB group page. I am learning to adapt.

In my role here now, I feel responsible in part to help the active-duty military spouses in my husband's squadron to find their own definition; to remain strong; steadfast in their choices.

“What does resiliency mean to you?” I posted.

Those who responded, came forward with their own trail of words to define what it means to them.

I worry about that; about finding lasting meaning in this term that gets used more and more. I worry it will get worn out; overlooked; forgotten.

One fire-cracker speaker, a clinical child pshychologist who came last week to help us find the answer, calls it “failing forward.”

I like that term. As a person; a wife; a mother; a United States citizen. I may screw up often and again, but somehow I am rich in my ability to do this — fail, and yet still move forward; hopefully with more patience, if not wisdom.

Is this cultural — an Americanism? Is it our own take on the British bent — “Keep Calm, Carry on?”

As a nation, we were reminded again of our vulnerability, and our will to bounce back, a few weeks ago in Boston. We watched in horror as we bore witness to another act of terrorism.

Some of us missed the explosion by minutes. Some of us didn’t. But we all felt the aftershock. No matter how close or far away we were from Boston’s finish line.

I asked myself as I sat on the counter absolutely fixed on the events as they unfolded, “Where have we gotten in 12 years?” And at what cost? Hurt and anger screamed, “Exactly nowhere.”

But I have to believe the sacrifices we continue to make mean more than the sum of their parts. I thought of those people in Boston as I sat in on a session yesterday focusing on individual resiliency.

“In order to find the answer (to the question of resiliency), you must know how to define yourself. Know who you are, and where you want to go,” suggested the visiting spitfire psychologist.

And then I’m thrown back into a conversation I had nearly 15 years ago. I was a different person then, only the question was roughly the same, “Who do you want to be?” “Where do you want to go?”

I was in the midst of leaving my chosen career field to explore new things; to start a family, and little did I know at that moment, to enter a life of service as a United States Air Force spouse.

I had enjoyed a certain measure of success. I feared leaving, yet felt I had to — to move forward. I couldn’t answer then. And I was around 31 years old. I filled the void with sarcasm. “I don’t know, a rock star?!”

I can answer that question better now, all these years later. I am not a rock star.

I am a runner; a swimmer; a cyclist. I have a passion for words; and movement; and music. I show love through service — to my family; to friends, and to my country.

I am a fiercely devoted mother. Sometimes I try too hard.

I am a proud wife. Sometimes I don’t try hard enough.

I find God easily when I’m in the woods. I find him less so in man-made structures. But I show up anyway.

I am an American. I’ve come to learn that this distinguishes me no matter where I am in the world. I am a United States Air Force spouse. I find this to be more or less of a distinction depending on where on home soil I am standing.

And with all this, I am adept at failing forward.

I am resilient.

(Thank you to Col Chris and Vickie Ireland for bringing forward this focus and conversation to the 352 SOG; Command Sergeant Major Chris and Lisa Faris for sharing their story; and to Doctor Krystal White for sharing her opinions. You can see more about the Faris' here —; and learn more about and from Doctor White on her weekly AFN radio program here:


  1. beautiful Laurel...well said. I like the phrase...failing resonates with me. Each moment another opportunity to make a change, a difference, love you....hope to see you soon...

  2. Wow, Laurel, I am impressed as always by your eloquence. Thank you for addressing a topic that was important WAY before it was trendy...