The year was 2018 and I was 6 months into a year long deployment in the Middle East. While doing one of the many “fun” tasks any deployed lower enlisted Soldier is familiar with, I had an idea…
Rewind to the previous week: it was mail day (hopefully) and any service member who has been deployed knows that is the highlight of the week, or month in most cases. Being halfway through a tour, care packages became a source of sustainment: physically, mentally, and emotionally. At the time, my wife (Jenny) and I were in a big rut, we were finding it hard to connect over thousands of miles and hours of time difference. I needed some delicious goodies to get the taste of field kitchen food out of my mouth and more importantly, some glimpses of home for comfort. Hours later the mail came, and care packages were delivered, however… they were from a random retirement home and were filled with tube socks, generic toiletries, spaghetti Western novels, and even pet supplies! Definitely not the thoughtfully filled boxes from loved ones we were hoping for. It wasn’t that we didn’t appreciate that support from some well-intentioned elderly patriots, but we needed more; I needed more. Most importantly, my wife who was at home with a one-year-old and a house to maintain needed more.
Fast-forward back to me on duty. As I looked at the shelf of unused items that were sent to us from strangers, I thought how cool it would be if there was a subscription box service geared towards military members deployed or at extended training sites, sent from families back home? Boxes full of awesome American snacks, gear, and personal care items that I'd actually want to use! I wrote down the idea in a field notebook and tucked it away to share in passing with Jenny when I got home. Shortly after that day we had yet another argument borne out of the frustration that separation brings, she cried on the phone about how lonely she felt and how she needed more from me than just, “how was your day?”; she needed “a damn pizza” to take the burden off her even for a night and some intentional connection from me. So when I told her later about my idea, she took it and ran with it in the best way. She immediately saw the opportunity to not only serve the person on the front lines with snacks and gear, but also serve the person on the home front, and most importantly serve both with engaging relationship material to prompt and promote healthy connections with loved ones while separated, and from that Fronts was born.
I didn’t marry a Soldier; Orrie enlisted after we’d been married for three years, so we were learning military life together. His first deployment was one he volunteered for and we had a four day notice before he left for a year, leaving me and our one-year-old at home to figure it out. A few months in, I was feeling lonely and emotionally empty. My normally thoughtful and supportive husband was down range with a new group of Soldiers, new equipment, and in an incredibly austere environment, so who could blame him for not sending me love letters and flowers? Eventually, I snapped screaming, “just send me a damn pizza” into our bad phone connection, thinking the extra carbs would fill the loneliness I felt. Did I suddenly mean nothing to Orrie and did he ever stop to think of us at home? Those were irrational questions I thought to myself out of frustration. I thought there had to be something out there to help military couples during separations…but there wasn’t! That is our motivation in creating Fronts.
While Orrie was gone on this deployment, I had a friend at home who would come over every few weeks, sometimes with treats, and always with encouragement. My friend had no military affiliation but she often spent time away from home while traveling for work, so she understood what it was like to balance the mission, support her relationship with her husband at home, and care for herself. She and I would brainstorm ways to help me care for my marriage and myself despite the separation. Knowing she was in my corner and cheering for me was invaluable and helped me get through the year without Orrie. We’ve designed our boxes to walk through this season of separation, provide encouragement, and help connect you to your service member on the Front Lines. We are on your team.
Oh, and Orrie did order me a pizza for delivery and I cried knowing I didn’t have to make supper or do dishes afterwards.