Message board mom
“He’s a lifer,” says Jennifer Weaver, smiling proudly at her husband of 10 years from across the table. Without missing a beat, she grabs the tipped soda cup off the table and hands it back to her daughter, 2-year-old Dixie, and turns to settle Daisy, 4, and Dallas, 9, back into their seats.
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Lifer. In the Marine Corps, the term is slang for a service member who plans to spend at least 20 years in the Corps.
The word seems suited for the whole family. Jennifer Weaver and her family stand ready to cheerfully shoulder the burden of a lifetime of military living, and they are helping others do the same through the Web site MarineParents.com.
When Sgt. Jesse L. Weaver first deployed overseas, the separation was difficult for Jennifer and the family. “I was so used to having him here,” said Weaver. “I didn’t realize how helpful he was, until he was gone. I would have given almost anything to have had to ‘put up’ with him when he was gone. It was an emotional hardship. He’s my best friend.”
During that first deployment, Weaver turned to the Key Volunteers of her husband’s unit. Key Volunteers are trained to act as a support system for the families that are left behind during a deployment.
The network supports the spouses of the Marines by providing communication from the command and serving as a source for information and referral services.
“The Key Volunteers were like a large family for me,” Weaver said.
With the help of the Key Volunteers Network, the Weaver family successfully survived Jesse Weaver’s first deployment, but a second – probably more difficult – one loomed on the horizon. “We were coming up on Jesse’s second deployment and I was pregnant,” said Weaver.
It was in those days before the deployment that Weaver found MarineParents.com, a non-profit Web site designed to support and educate Marine parents, spouses, families and friends during boot camp, training, active duty and deployments. Weaver recognized a good thing when she found it.
“I was in the chat room every night for about four to five months before Jesse left,” she said.
By the time her husband left for the second time, she was doing more than just visiting the site. She was volunteering.
“I became a volunteer moderator for the Web site,” said Weaver. “Now I spend about four hours a day on the site. I moderate on both the Marine and recruit message boards, as well as moderating the chat rooms.”
Nothing travels faster than bad gouge, and that is especially true in the Marine Corps. Weaver thinks this Web site is a great way to provide correct information to a larger audience.
“I saw a large number of wives and young girls getting bad information, and I just wanted to help,” said Weaver.
“The chat room is real time. Active duty Marines and family members are able to share information. We give information to parents, who may not be eligible for some of the other resources the Marine Corps offers like the Key Volunteers Network.
“We also provide member support to wives, girlfriends, fiancées and parents of Marines. They come on the site, with different problems: ‘I just got married, what do I do?,’ and we point them in the right directions. We offer guidance more than anything.”
Weaver frequently calls on her experience to help others on the site. “Being the wife of a Marine who has deployed helps me talk to these families,” she said. “I’m more able to answer little questions, and able to answer from the perspective of having been there twice.”
But Weaver isn’t the only Weaver interested in helping out. Her husband, Jesse, has been known lend a hand, too.
“We had a Marine’s mom come in to the chat room, from Missouri,” said Weaver. “Her son was deploying for the first time, and she was pretty upset, and didn’t have any information. I tried to talk to her, but it wasn’t working out, so I pulled Jesse in. He talked to her about deployments, and what to expect.
“Her son is now on his second deployment, and she’s become an ‘ooo-rah mom,’” Weaver said with a smile. “She even flew out for my husband’s homecoming.”
Even the Weaver children lend their support to the military community, and to their father. Phillip, Weaver’s 8-year-old son, knows exactly where his loyalties lie.
“I don’t need a Spiderman or Superman,” said Phillip. “I have a real life superhero at home, and my Marine dad could kick Superman’s butt any day.”
And there is no end in sight. With Jesse preparing to go to the drill field to train young men into Marines, the Weaver family is ready to follow him.
Weaver plans to continue to share their first-hand knowledge of deployments and Marine recruit training with the fledgling families of the Corps with friends and neighbors, and even strangers via MarineParents.com.
READ HER POSTS
Here’s a sample of the dialogue between family members and Jennifer Weaver on the message boards:
“Well I guess it just finally hit me that in just few short weeks my husband will be gone. I can’t even fold his laundry anymore. Every time I do I start crying and just holding one of his T-shirts. I just don’t know what to do. This will be his first deployment and maybe that is why it is starting to worry me so soon...Well anyways thanks for listening to me whine”
“Figured you were having a rough time, but with everything you guys have had going on who has had time to think about it. Now with the holidays over and a bit of down time, well it hits like a brick wall so to speak.
Yeah you’re normal...You are going to be just fine hon’. I think you know how strong you are, and you have a great family behind you who will be there urging and supporting you on through the whole thing. Just try and enjoy the time you do have with him, and try not to let the stress and worry of the future get to you too bad.”
HOW TO NAVIGATE
Here’s how to visit the message boards Jennifer Weaver responds to:
Go to: www.marineparents.com/
Click on the Marine Message Board link at the top of the page. Here you will find message boards for families of specific units, for deployment support and homecoming or retrograde information, support and advice. To talk to Jennifer, go into the Marine Support message board.