I had the most awesome day ever! I got to ride in a MH-53 Helicopter - like 4 times! I got to ride out to the Charles De Gaulle a French Aircraft Carrier Vessel in the Gulf. What’s funny is that the press that I was with was playfully arguing over whether it was the Persian Gulf or the Arabian, so we just agreed its best to call it the Gulf. The Charles De Gaulle was filled with mostly 2,000 French Navy and Marines which is significant in the current war on terror and our efforts to partner with our Allies. This trip was an opportunity for me to be part of history enfolding, watching policy and strategy in our Department of Defense. For the first time in history, the French have more than partnered, they have come up underneath the task forcing of America in order to complete the mission against ISIL. The Charles De Gaulle is part of the nightly air strikes on Syria and Iraq to push back ISIL. The french on board were so gracious and excited to greet us. They took us to their Officer Bar where we drank french coffee and marveled at the swanky bar. It was a beautiful ship in and out. I had the honor to speak with a French fighter pilot who is one of the service members helping us make a difference. We talked about how much he loves his job, the favorite part being his love of taking off on the aircraft carrier. He was also vulnerable about the pain of dropping bombs but that it is part of the mission. They were so excited to partner with America, that we had so much they could learn from. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me to see how international military families also have benefits and programming with help them with needs the family might have. The ship’s hangar was filled with French fighter aircraft and the Secretary made sure to thank them before we had to jump on the elevator, a huge platform that lifts you to the top deck. That was a fun ride, actually. We got on the helicopters and I was thankful for the crew chief of ours that once I told him who I was and what I was doing, took me under his wing. Everyone has been excited when they hear a spouse has come to see what things are like. They want to show me things, talk to me about what deployment is like and make sure I am where I need to be. True gentlemen and I know Matt appreciated their protective spirits. Honestly, though, most service members I have met- especially those who are married are like that. It’s built in them to be protective. I honestly was amazed at everything I saw today since it wasn’t my branch. The helicopters were smooth, fast, and I sat back and pictured them full of Marines going into a mission. I thought how I don’t think I would have wanted to be on the front line, maybe helicopters were the better way for me. But then I thought about how many of them take our service members past the front line into dangerous situations, and I pictured them sitting across from me as we flew over the water. I would go into danger if it meant bringing them home. Then it clicked why so many, when asked why they do it, say they want to take care of the one next to them. At the USS Kearsarg, another US aircraft carrier, we got to eat in the mess hall. It was a lot smaller than I thought. I was able to speak to two Marines there who were missing their wives and children for Christmas. Overall, talking to all the troops and seeing their eyes light up when they talk about what they love to do was the best. Like one General I spoke with at the end of the day said, “We are a volunteer force. People feel bad for us when we are deployed, but we get to do what we love.” That was a well made point. Here is my #PowerofMarriage for today: 1. Today, I was reminded of the power of purpose. We all need it and we all need the support of our spouse to do it. Whether it is being the best stay at home mom or working on our career, you were built for something and it usually is the thing that gets you most excited and ramped up when you get to do it. If your spouse doesn't have that light in their eyes, talk with them and find out why. You have incredible influence into speaking life giving hope and support in your spouse. Don't misuse that power by neglecting to use it. 2. Try to remember that the "long work days" that your deployed service member says is the reason that they cannot call really may be a long work day. On the ships I went on to, internet/computer time was limited to 30 min for some, leaving the phone the best option. This was the answer I got most often when I asked what spouses don't understand "They can't comprehend that we work sometimes all day." 3. Taking care of yourself is more important than what you get done at home. With Matt and I reversing roles this week, I have seen him tired- all because he wants to make the house perfect for me. I can see now, from this side- that what I really want is for him to take care of him- sleep, exercise, and doing things that make him happy. Helping with the house when I get there will be easy. I wish I would have listened and thought he meant it.