FORT DRUM, N.Y., Dec. 20, 2011 – Balancing work and personal
responsibilities is a challenge for many families, but dual military
families face a different set of challenges when dealing with long
duty days, deployments and other separations.
The Armstrong family stands outside the 2nd Brigade Combat Team headquarters Nov. 21, 2011. From left, Sgt. 1st Class Everett Armstrong; Devyn, 17; Everett "E.J.," 4; Warrant Officer Julia Armstrong and Trinity, 4. Not pictured: Stephon, 15, who lives in Dallas. Army photo by Michelle Kennedy
One Army couple here -- Warrant Officer Julia Armstrong and Sgt. 1st
Class Everett Armstrong -- has endured almost 35 years of combined
military service, all while raising a family, balancing work
schedules and keeping open lines of communication.
Armstrong, who serves as an adjutant general technician for 2nd
Brigade Combat Team "Commandos," works down the hall from her
husband, who is the brigade's dining facility noncommissioned
officer in charge. While working in the same building has its
benefits, it hasn't always been easy.
Everett Armstrong who
has served in the Army for 20 years, never thought the military was
the right choice for him. "The military was always something I loved
watching on TV, but I never thought it would be for me," he said.
That was until he figured out the military would be his ticket
out of his rough Houston neighborhood and for the family life he
"Growing up, I was adamant about being married," he
continued. "I didn't want to be a football star; I just wanted to be
“I was already ready for the mission that was
coming,” he said of his decision to enlist. But, “I think it was
hard on my family when I went straight into the military. They had
no clue until that recruiter showed up on the doorstep. I was ready
to write a new chapter for myself, and I say it turned out great."
Armstrong's high school graduation was June 6, 1991, and five
days later, he was at basic training.
"The military has been very good for me -- I've got my
kids, my wife and everything," he said.
He and his
wife met in 1996 while he was stationed at Fort Sill, Okla.
"We met on a basketball court, of all places," he said.
That wouldn't seem strange except, "I'm 6'2" and he's
5'4," and everybody assumes that I'm the basketball player,"
Julia Armstrong said, laughing. "I'm so not athletic."
Armstrong was not in the Army when she met her husband
while dropping her friend off at her job on Fort Sill. She
noticed a group of soldiers playing basketball and goofing
around. That's when she saw Everett.
her friend about her future husband, but her friend warned
her that he was "short."
"From a distance, 5'4"
doesn't look that bad, but when I met him -- he was short,"
she said. "We exchanged phone numbers, and we talked on the
phone every day that week. We had our first date that Friday
and we've been inseparable from that point on. We got
married six months later (in September 1996)."
though it's been almost 16 years since they met, Armstrong
still remembers exactly what his wife was wearing.
thought she was gorgeous -- in tennis shoes, sweat pants
that were a little high because she was so tall, and a big
Starter overcoat," he said. "Our first words were, 'Wow,
you're short!' and, 'Wow, you're tall!' And we joked from
The Armstrongs think it's funny when people
don't realize they're married.
"It's hilarious, even
now," Julia Armstrong said. "We have the same last name, but
even until a couple of months ago, there were people who
didn't put the two together that we are married."
Laughing, understanding and communication have helped this
Army couple stay strong during their careers.
months after they were married, Julia Armstrong decided to
join the Army in May 1997.
"I had been going to
school, working two jobs and raising our oldest (son), and
it was just too much," she said.
Fifteen years later,
she still loves the Army, but she said she's a little scared
at what the future may hold if her husband decides to
"He's at that point where he's at the end of
the road, and that scares me because I'm so used to us being
a dual-military couple," Armstrong said.
Armstrong family has been fortunate to not have to endure
too many separations from each other or from their four
children -- Devyn, 17; Stephon, 15; and twins Trinity and
Everett Jr., 4.
With the exception of training and
his deployment to Iraq from 2003 to 2004, the couple has
been able to stay close. The Armstrongs served together
during all their assignments, including Korea.
of our duty stations have been always been about us being
together as a family unit," Julia Armstrong said. "We've
always considered our family and the Army equal; if it was
good for the Army and it was good for the family, it was
good for us."
During their careers, balancing work
and family hasn't always been easy, she explained.
"There were times where you question if you're putting the
military before your family or vice versa," Armstrong said,
adding that over the years, they have learned to share the
responsibility equally. "There are so many other factors. I
think what works for us is that we communicate."
has faced jobs that required long hours and late nights,
while the other tended to the children, cooked dinner and
cleaned the house.
"I think for us, it just works,"
Julia Armstrong said. "We tackle things head on. We discuss
it and talk about it. There's no time for someone to say 'I
don't want to do that,' because it's all about the kids and
making sure things are good for them."
couple has mastered the ways of Army life on and off duty,
it is still a struggle when it comes to ensuring their
children are taken care of. When both have to go to the
field, they have to know that the people who watch their
children are responsible.
"It takes coordination,"
she said. "You can't just leave your kids with anyone; you
have to have that support system. We don't have family here,
so it takes a while to get to know people and trust them
with your kids. That's a lot of responsibility to pass on to
Everett Armstrong agreed. Right now,
it's his wife's turn to work late some days, so he picks up
the slack at home.
"We're in sync," he said. "I
already know what needs to be done, and I know when she's
working late. There's no reason for me to call to ask what
she needs me to do. I'm already starting the washing,
cooking, kids are bathed, so when she gets home all she
needs to do is rest."
He added that throughout his
career, he has been fortunate to have great assignments.
"At Fort Sill, when I first met my wife, it was pretty
rough because I was always in the field or always working,"
Armstrong said. "As the years progressed, I've bounced
around and gotten some excellent jobs where I can cover my
Julia Armstrong added that she believes a
lot of their success throughout the years has to do with the
command climate. They've been fortunate to have supportive
commands that understood their situation.
to understand that (with us), they're getting two for the
price of one," Armstrong said. "There will be times where a
kid gets sick, and I have to leave work because he can't.
Working in an environment where people understand that
and they support you and they see that you're still part of
the team, (you're) an asset and they're getting the best end
of the deal makes all the difference."
By Michelle Kennedy
Fort Drum Public Affairs
American Forces Press Service
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