Military Spouse Appreciation Day: Staff Spotlight-Laura Lonsbery
Today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and we would like to highlight Interim-Program Director Laura Lonsbery as she shares her story about her experience as a military spouse.
Before we delve into Laura’s experiences, though, let us share with you the military service of Laura’s husband, Mike. Mike joined the Michigan Army National Guard in 1995 as part of the 119th Field Artillery. In 2001 after 9/11, he was assigned to airport security in Lansing.
In his 24 year career, he spent 21 years with the 119th Charlie Battery out of Albion, MI, and three years with 119th HHB out of Lansing. He’s worked with five different cannon platforms, had two overseas deployments, and many trainings. He was awarded best section chief, the Honorable Order of St. Barbara, and a Meritorious Service Medal.
During his career in the National Guard, Mike has been through two deployments. His first was at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from 2003-2004 as a prison guard. Laura and Mike met in 2006 and married in 2009, one week after Laura started her career with the National Home. In 2010 Mike did another year deployment to Camp Virginia Kuwait in support of Operation New Dawn.
During this deployment, he was with HHB in the Electronic Warfare Operations. He retired from the National Guard Dec. 2019 as an E7 (Sargent First Class).
"The years had proven to me that next to a husband in uniform, spouses tend to become invisible."
“My first experience with deployment came within the first year of our marriage, and that was tough.” Explained Laura.
“Being the wife of a National Guard member was a steep learning curve, and one thing I can say is that Murphy’s Law is real. If it can go wrong, it will. Here is a list of just a few things that have happened while Mike was away at drill: roof torn off the sunporch, flooded basement, a raccoon came into the house, our first ‘child,’ our dog Sergeant passed away. All of these obstacles were overcome either alone or with support from family and friends. Going through these, solving them was a huge opportunity for growth.” Said Laura.
“As the wife of a National Guard member, you often hear the terms ‘playing army’ or ‘part-time soldier,’ but that isn’t how it felt for me. It was like walking in two different worlds, never fully belonging to either one. It was being in this weird limbo between the civilian and military worlds for 12 years where you had very little control over many things. Plans were never set in stone because you never really knew when the unit would be activated. Drill changed/extended, trainings moved, and the official deployment day was always up in the air (Operational Security, you know),” said Laura.
“Every overseas skirmish resulted in fielding phone calls trying to answer, ‘Are they going to send the guard?’. I served as the treasurer for the Charlie battery FRG for several years, helping plan events, attending trainings, and volunteering at the armory cooking/serving meals to the unit. There I met several other spouses from the unit, and we became friends. Each guard family was connected, but yet an island onto themselves because we are spread all across the state. I felt fortunate to work at an agency that was understanding and supportive of the military community in all of its forms.”
Laura’s career with the National Home has grown over the past twelve years. She hired in as a part-time Education Specialist and, through the years, has been promoted to full-time education specialist, education department supervisor, support services supervisor and is currently serving as one of the interim Program Co-Directors.
“I have always loved learning, science, and helping people. I love to be outdoors and have worked with animals since I was a child. My hobbies include photography and sewing. Mike and I enjoy hunting and fishing together, as well as reading, and watching sci-fi movies/shows, and playing video games…yes, we are nerds. We have 2 Great Danes, four cats, fish, and birds.
Since Mike retired from the National Guard, we have also taken up an interest in being more self-reliant, learning how to can vegetables, making jam and jelly, and now processing our own venison and store-bought pork, making our own burger, sausage, and snack sticks.
Being a National Guard spouse had many challenges and many benefits and offered many opportunities to grow. I’m proud of my husband’s service, proud to be a National Guard spouse, and I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
Laura shared one memory that stands out clearly for her.
“Mike and I were eating at a local diner when a senior couple came by our table. It’s a small town, and they knew Mike had been deployed; in fact, he was still wearing his uniform as he had just finished drill.
They were talking to him about what it was like, his years of service, etcetera. I just sat there, as usual, nodding and smiling. The years had proven to me that next to a husband in uniform, spouses tend to become invisible.
Anyway, right as they were going to leave, the gentleman thanked Mike for his service. Then his wife turned to me, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, ‘and thank you for yours.’
I’m not an overly emotional person, but I immediately had to catch myself. The reaction was gut level and instantaneous, and I almost burst into tears in public. I choked out a ‘thank you’ and nodded because that was all I could do. That was the first time I remember anyone thanking me so directly, and it was apparently something that I really had needed to hear. So to all the military spouses out there that might need to hear this, you are seen, and thank YOU!”