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Building a community with military-connected families and celebrating diversity

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I am really excited to be a guest on this episode. I moved a lot as a kid and that is okay. It took me to some interesting places, and it made me who I am today. My parents believed in encouraging my curiosity and when they sent me to schools, I was able to explore new things and develop my own set of friends. They always knew that their opinions were not important because they learned from their mistakes; they were always learning while taking risks.

Every day, I get to tell stories about how my mother helped us through tough times and what it meant being a military family. I am so excited to share these stories with you. We all want our families to feel loved and supported, especially when they are serving our country.

'Holding down the Fort' is produced by Jennifer Amos, a gold star daughter, and veteran's spouse. Encouraging conversation and community building, it helps military personnel live a purposeful and fulfilling life. The show is co-hosted by Jenny Lynne Stroup, a military spouse, mother, and mental health advocate. We will share expertise, resources, and relevant stories about holding down the fort for ourselves and our loved ones with special guests from the military community. My fourth blog post will feature my responses as a third culture kid (TCK) and movement maker, helping military families stay in touch across the globe.

Jen Amos says that she loves how Sharmaine’s book can be used as a conversation tool for military families to speak to their kids, and for their civilian counterparts to understand what it is like to be raised in this life. She was reading a little bit about how Shermaine has been all over the world, from Asia to the West Indies to Europe and the Middle East and she is sure there are other places there that she has not listed. Now that Shermaine is an adult and apparent from what she has gathered in their conversation, Jen is curious how Shermaine has been able to create a community for herself today and what can she share with the listeners of the podcast about community.

Shermaine respondsWe're creating a community, and I am a creature of habit. I have some friends in a community that is more adventurous because I like hiking. My indoor skydiving was blinding, things like that. I have friends with that I can build a community around with that. Some are based more on cultural affinity, as their family turned out to or from the islands as well, and we connect in that regard. I also have military friends who will come to you if I call them. I have not seen them in 20 years, but if you need them, they will drive right over.

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I feel like the community is just honoring the diverse areas of who I am. I have people in different pockets and of course if nothing else, just always keeping family as close as possible you can but the word community is just like as I pick people up and they become a friend. They become a friend forever. Oh, yes, years go by, and your kids will do this as well. Jenny Lynne, they will be like, oh, yes, that was my real friend from third grade. Once shared Hot Cheetos or something together and that became that was the story that tied them 20 years later, they will still be friends and laugh and joke about the same thing every time they see each other but that is a community. I think anything that ties me to a great memory good or bad that I have just become part of my community.”

Jen Amos adds “Yes, I appreciate that answer and your existence and our conversation today continues to affirm how my life has turned out, and just like with you, my community is quite multifaceted. Just like you I have, I am part of the podcasting community, and then I am part of the military community and then, with my heritage, I am part of the Filipino community, and now I just need a fitness community because we are here.

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Shermaine agrees and believes she needs a group too. Jen Amos says “Yes, I have been working. That is something I have been trying to figure out as things are opening. One thing I want to say is, this is not even like relevant, but some people appreciate it. I have been working on one thing, which is not even like relevant, but some people appreciate that. I was talking to my therapist about like, oh, I want to get into like, food and fitness again and take making healthy habits and one of my therapists asked me she's like, well, so then let's start by asking you like when was the last time you had a healthy mindset about taking care of your health and fitness?

I was like, never I always have buddy-shaved-myself and I've always like gone from zero to one hundred and then I go back to zero. I feel like I have never had a sustainable thing. If you are looking to get started somewhere you got to start with a mindset. It is a whole different conversation to talk about reading books and getting meditation apps. But I feel like that's sort of what is helping right now kind of go in that direction. Yes, if I could find a community that values fitness. This is to say, particularly when it comes to the military community, we are multifaceted by nature, but I might be in a better position with that. Therefore, when we say community, it is not just the military community. It could be other aspects just like what you share Shermaine, what I shared, and Jenny Lynne I imagine that you have, different communities that you are a part of as well outside of the military

Jenny Lynne adds “Oh, absolutely. I mean, that is one of the things for me, that is necessary. I can't be so singular and focused that I only belong to the military spouse community, like no, I need to be in a neighborhood and there are just so many other places that fill my bucket that if I simply hung with only other military families like myself, I would not be as well rounded either would my children and I would never have a different worldview. For me anywhere we have been I have always had multiple touch points of community, whether it be a church, or when my kids were little as mothers and preschoolers. It has been a 12-step program. It has been the neighborhood, all those places, and military spouses.

Jen Amos agrees “Yes. Wow. What a great conversation. I feel good about this.

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Shermaine, are there any other final thoughts you want to share? With our listeners today in this podcast?”

Shermaine says “I just want to add that diversity should be celebrated. It is not just racial. It is not just gender or even generation. It is about the diversity of thought. Having someone of a different background and celebrating it and saying, do you know what, let me learn from you and the world just needs more of that celebration of diversity and everything. People will now feel free to talk and share their experiences without saying, oh, you are different. It is like, okay, well, you are different but tell me something about you. Let me learn more about your culture, your food, your heritage, and having a true curiosity for others. I feel like that is going to help us, especially in a time when we are, we are so separated just from the nature of the world event.

Jen Amos continuesYes, real talk! I love everything you said. And I think that's part of why I had really run hard with podcasting, especially during the pandemic because it seemed like every other media outlet was all about division and yes, division, divisive rhetoric, etc. Podcasting had given me the opportunity to fight against that by having conversations to find common ground and, communities so I'm really grateful to have been in this space and obviously to have Jenny Lynne with me to do this because I know this is one of the highlights of your day, and I'm glad that you do this with me.”

Jenny Lynne adds “It is I mean, that’s what reminded me of that saying like if you're the smartest person in the room, you need a new room, like yes, which I love and to constantly remind my boys up because they're in that very like the teenage is like I am the smartest person in the room and I should be and I'm like but no like you need a new room. We are always learning from other people that is how we get better as human beings and serve the community around us of course, I get the side 12-year-old look, but, if I keep saying and.”

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Jen Amos says “It will ring you know, echo later in life, you would be like, oh, that is what mom meant. When can we hope? I feel like I can reflect a lot of my childhood and I was like, oh, that is why my mom did what she did. She was not trying to, A, B and C me like she just, wow, she really loved me, right? Anyway, got to give kids a couple of years for that but with, Shermaine, thank you so much for being a part of our conversation today. I really enjoyed it. You are like what I said earlier existence is validating, and I do not know if you will agree with me, but I think that military kids can be the most empathetic people out there. Just because from the very early stage of our life, we had to be we had to adapt, we had to assimilate, we had to adjust and you know, I just think that is a skill set that a lot of us have, and I sense that with you, and with the work that you've been able to produce. Thank you for your existence and for taking your childhood and turning it into the work you do today and to be a part of our conversation today.

Shermaine responds “Thank you for inviting me I have so many more stories that I'm writing and then I'll be sharing just some great moments as I said over the childhood things that have occurred and you put some things that other stuff in there to keep the flow, but something my mom was saying, and I know we've all shared a mom story. She used to always tell me that suddenly just rings in my head and it makes sense. Now she would say the things that make us different make us special. Then you wonder Oh, my hair is big, and it is curly and this and that, all these things that you complain about as a kid? Why us, why we? like someday you will love this because this is a significant difference, but it will make you special. I think we're in that frame of the world now where it's coming back full circle where people like Jenny Lynne will talk to their kids and community members and say, yes, this was so different, but we show you how my experience really validated the next generation with what I'm doing, especially podcasting and writing for you Jenny Lynne.” Jenny Lynne agrees with this.

Jen Amos continues “Well, Shermaine, let our listeners know or remind our listeners how they can get a hold of you if they want to reach out and check out your books.”

Shermaine answers “Well, they can always just fly to Atlanta, I am joking. You can reach me on books for military on merit has links to my social media as well, but please reach out. I would love to do a virtual visit with your school. I would love to partner for a giveaway, or more importantly, just to make your child feel heard and seen by gifting them a book so please let me know how I can support you.”

Jen Amos says “Impressive. Well, thank you so much for being with us. It has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today and then Jenny Lynne thank you for hosting with me. Just bring you back in here, thank you for co-hosting with me as always.” Jenny Lynne agrees and says she is happy to be here.

Jenny Lynne adds “Get access to our show notes and subscribe to our newsletter by checking out the details of this episode on your preferred podcasting platform. Or visit our website holding down the fort and while you are on it download the Holddownthefort and be sure to follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or our YouTube channel.”

"I move a lot and that's okay." by Shermaine Perry-Knights is a story about my experience living in a military family. I mean it is really a story about military families and I am so glad that we are talking about how you connect with your family while they are deployed. This is me sharing some of my stuff. I hope that it helps you develop a story out of yours and connects with the military family more, but this is specifically what happened to our family back in the day, and when you are producing stories is getting a little bit more. Mom used to always tell me that suddenly just rings in my head and it makes sense.

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Check out this episode of the podcast if you appreciate writing, stories, and community. Because it is not what you experience that matters, but how you express it, this journey will empower you. The following hyperlink will take you to this episode of the podcast:

I am hoping that sharing this experience, it can help people who are going through similar things.

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