A Four Year Journey
I can hardly believe it has been four years since I created Married to the Army. In some ways, it seems so long ago but in others, it seems like it was only yesterday. I will never forget being at MEPS and asking them to change the date my husband was leaving for basic training because it fell on our wedding anniversary. They agreed but let me know it was the last time I would have any control over something in his Army career. I laughed – having no idea just how true that statement would turn out to be.
Along with many other Army spouses, I felt very isolated and alone when he left for basic training. I had family and friends nearby but it was the first time I had been separated from my husband for any significant amount of time. I searched the library, bookstores and internet for any information that I could find about life as an Army spouse. While I found a few books, they seemed to be very outdated and based on the military as a whole, rather than the Army. On the internet, I found a great deal of information about being an Army soldier but very little about being an Army wife.
As I became more frustrated with the lack of information, my determination to change all of that grew. Shortly after he left for basic training, I began writing about my experiences – missing the first few phone calls, writing letters as a main form of communication and preparing for graduation. At that point, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with those articles, I just knew that I felt better by writing them.
In January of 2004, it dawned on me that I could create a small website with general information about being an Army spouse. I never really anticipated it would grow beyond a small presence on the internet. I created the name, registered the domain and began to work on the design for the website. I cringe when I look back at that original design now with the pink, white and black color scheme. Luckily, I’ve taken the time to redesign the entire website three times and I’m finally content with the look and feel.
In April, when my husband was assigned to his first duty station and promptly deployed overseas, my intention was to start a business offering marketing services to small businesses. Married to the Army (MTTA as it’s affectionately called) would just be a hobby that I could work on in my free time. Little did I know that in four years, MTTA would be the main part of my business while the marketing services would seem to fall more into the hobby category.
MTTA was officially launched in May of 2004 with a handful of articles and a group on Yahoo for chatting. If I remember correctly, when that Yahoo group was full steam ahead, we only had a few dozen members. I was excited to check the stats for the website after the first full month of being live and seeing that I had close to 30,000 hits! Wow! I laugh at how excited I was about that as the website averages close to one million hits a month now. Hopefully in a few more years, I’ll be laughing about being excited about a million hits.
In four short years, the website has grown from a handful of articles to over 400 pages of content. We’ve outgrown two chat groups and are now on a third on a separate server. Those few dozen members from the Yahoo group have multiplied to more than 500 active members at any given time. I taught myself how to make jewelry and began offering military name bracelets on the website. Shortly after, graphic design began calling my name and I now offer more than 60,000 products through Cafepress for every military family member.
The website has been featured in numerous newsletters, websites, magazines and newspapers. In addition, I’ve participated in several radio interviews and podcasts. The most exciting publicity for me to date was being featured in a television documentary by Georgia Public Broadcasting entitled “Instant Iraq”.
Since 2004, I’ve received and answered thousands of emails. It absolutely makes my day to receive an email from someone who says that they found the website to be a helpful resource. My entire purpose with this website was to make it easier for Army spouses and families to get the information that they need as well as to be supported in their journey in the Army lifestyle. Receiving emails that the website has made their journey easier is the greatest gift that anyone could give to me.
A lot has changed since I started my website. We moved three times, we endured four deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism and my husband was medically retired from the Army. If I could go back and do it again, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Being an Army wife has made me recognize an inner strength that I had no idea existed. Finally, I feel like I have found my calling. I have a job that I absolutely love that enables me to interact with other Army spouses from across the globe on a daily basis. It is the most rewarding career that I have ever had and I can’t imagine a better way to spend my working life.
It has been quite a ride and one that I hope continues for quite some time. Thank you for letting me take a walk down memory lane.
Founder of MarriedtotheArmy.com