When Hana joined the Marine Corps she felt the pressure to prove she was worthy of being there. But she learned that you don’t have to prove yourself. Just do your best.
Hana Romer served 10 years in the Marines as an Aviation Ordnance Technician. She also spent some time on recruiting duty. She graduated from Texas A&M in 2017, and is currently an advisory board member for the Military Family Advisory Network. I am MCAS Yuma’s 2020 AFI Military Spouse of the Year. She also runs a personal blog called SemperAg.com
Hana decided to join the Marines her Senior year of high school to get out of her small town. Her parents had aspirations for her to go to college and become a doctor or a lawyer, but she had her own ideas. Without her parent’s knowledge she met with a recruiter, signed the paperwork, and attended MEPS. She decided to tell them before it came out in the high school newspaper near the end of high school. She left for bootcamp the summer after graduation.
Bootcamp made Hana realize how hard she had been on her parents. As she met people from all over the country and had her freedom taken away from her. It made her realize how much her parents sacrificed for her. And changed their relationship.
Pressure to Prove
She graduated from bootcamp and Marine Combat Training and headed off to become an Aviation Ordnance Technician with training in Florida and North Carolina. Her first assignment was in San Diego and she worked on F-18s. It was back breaking work and she felt the pressure to prove herself worthy of being there but now realizes that she was worthy because she met the requirements like her male counterparts and didn’t have to do anything else.
She deployed to Japan at that assignment and when she returned home moved on to Camp Pendleton to work on helicopters. From there she deployed to Iraq. As one of two women in her unit she was very lonely. She also was on night shift and struggled to get on rhythm that worked for her.
Recruiter Duty and a Life Change
When she came home from deployment, she volunteered to be a recruiter. She completed the Sergeants Course and then went to the rifle range where she met her now husband. She started her schooling for recruiter school and was told she was going to go to Georgia because she spoke Korean. Since she had volunteered the Marine Corps was supposed to give her first choice, but someone who did not volunteer who also spoke Korean took her spot in San Diego. She was frustrated with the situation and on a whim her husband and her decided to go to Vegas and get married.
She ended up getting reassigned to Orange County. She and her husband were both working special assignments and hardly saw each other. Eventually, they went back to normal jobs and continued their career together while also growing their family. When her husband deployed, and she was left behind to care for their child and work as a Marine, the reality of dual military life and the stress made her rethink her plans to stay in until retirement. As she filled out her family care plan and created a will. Thinking of who would take care of her kids if something happened to her changed her path forward. She decided to separate from the military with 10 years of service.
Traumatic Brain Injury/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Along with all the normal stressors her husband was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from an event that happened in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2004. As he worked through this, she has been there to help him and support him in sharing his story. He was awarded a Purple Heart over 15 years after the event and has been on his own healing journey. She urges veterans and those on active duty to not be afraid to reach out for help.
Pressure to Prove
She ended the interview by sharing her advice for young women looking to join the military. She told them that they earned their spot and don’t need to kill themselves trying to prove they belong. The pressure to prove themselves has already been done through the work they have done. Do your best and work hard, but you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone.
Connect with Hana:
Check out Blog: www.semperag.com
“But when I do decide to spill my guts on my little corner of the internet, I like to write about our life as a military family, the challenges we face, the good things we experience, and everything in between. Sometimes I’m serious, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I just share posts with nothing but photos taken in poor lighting from my iPhone, and other times, I share a posts with something deep, meaningful, spiritual, or vulnerable.” – Hana Romer
Being Alone On Deployment – Episode 31
Finding Herself in the Marines – Episode 12
Serving as an Officer in the Marines – Episode 51
Read the whole transcript here.
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Amanda Huffman 00:00
Welcome to Episode 94 of the Women of the Military Podcast. My guest this week is Hana Romer. Hana served in the Marine Corps for 10 years. She started out in the aviation ordinance technician career field, and then she did a tour in recruiting duty. And then she met her husband while she was on recruiting duty, and they started their family, which eventually led to her getting out of the military. She also deployed to Japan and to Iraq. And so we talked about those experiences. Well, it's another great episode. So let's get started. You're listening to the Women of the Military Podcast where we share the stories of female servicemembers and how the military touch their lives. I'm Amanda Huffman, I'm an Air Force veteran, author of Women of the Military, and a collaborative author of Brave Women, Strong Faith. I am also a military spouse and Mom. I created Women of the Military Podcast as a place to share stories of military women past and present with a goal of finding the heart of the story while uncovering the triumphs and challenges women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women and be inspired to change the world, keep tuned for this latest episode of Women of the Military. Welcome to the show, Hana. I'm excited to have you here.
Hana Romer 01:29
I am so excited to be here. I've been looking forward to it and unofficially meeting you. That's exciting for me.
Amanda Huffman 01:36
That's exciting for me, too. So let's start with why did you decide to join the military?
Hana Romer 01:41
I didn't have the traditional, I guess a sense of I guess it was more selfish reasons. Meaning it wasn't pride to serve my country. It was really just because I wanted to get out of Texas and the military just kind of seemed like I don't want to say easy but a fast way out and I grew up in a very traditional Korean home. My parents are immigrants. And so stereotypically they kind of fell in line with, hey, we came here to for a better life for you. So you're going to go to college and get an education and go to medical school or go to law school. And that really just wasn't in my interest. And I've always kind of been the rubble and my family. And so I decided the military would be just a great way to I give kind of stick it to my parents in a way and I met with a marine recruiter and didn't really have much of a desire to speak to anyone else after I spoke with him and decided to sign the paperwork. I was 18 years old. So I didn't need my parent's consent, but because my parents are not natural-born citizens, they needed their citizenship paperwork for my security clearance. And so I lied to my parents and told them I was doing a government project and that I wanted to see their citizenship paperwork, and my parents were like, Oh, great, and they handed them right to me and I went to maps on a Saturday to do my physical and all my processing. And I told my parents I was at a track meet, and they totally believed it. And eventually, I did have to tell them, I let them know just a few weeks before I graduated high school and you know, that didn't go well. They were not happy with it. But...
Amanda Huffman 03:20
So you're in high school and kind of going by and they're back going to get all the requirements done. And you were 18. So you could sign and you didn't need a waiver or you're their parent, your parents signature, and then I guess, you were about to graduate and about to leave for boot camp. And so you're like, maybe I should tell them or out of that.
Hana Romer 03:40
So because we were getting so close to high school graduation, and at the time, like I hadn't really told them set in stone, like where I was going to go to college or my plans. Yeah, they always just kind of, you know, living by the seat of my pants, and I was like, man, I really need to tell them and my high school newspaper prints out every year, this big column of all the seniors and what their plans are after high school, and I knew when that paper came out, it was going to say my name, and United States Marine Corps and my parents were going to see it. So I needed to tell them before that paper came out, so I let them know and it was not good. My parents were extremely upset and angry. And I mean, rightfully so. I think if my child did that, to me, I'd be pretty upset too. But their anger stemmed a lot from I guess, they felt a little betrayed, that they had worked so hard, they immigrated here to give me a life to be able to go to college and get an education because my parents do not have an education. And it was just a lot of tension. But I was leaving for my boot camp date was in July, and so they really just kind of had to get over it and support me because they knew that at that point I was going to leave whether I got their blessing or not because I was an adult and there was nothing they could do to hold me back because they didn't they couldn't hold me back financially because I was like, Well, I'm gonna be making my own money, I'm gonna have my own insurance. I mean, there's nothing that they could really hold over my head to keep me from going. So they really just were almost forced to get behind me and support me in that decision.
Amanda Huffman 05:12
So they were mad, but then they realize that they could either support you or like not, and that would be a worse option. And so they just got behind supporting you. And yeah, that's good. So you left for boot camp in July and you had just graduated from high school on your way to Marine Corps, but boot camp, which is segregated you were with all females, right? Yes. So what was that experience like to go from high school to boot camp?
Hana Romer 05:41
Man, that was so long ago, that was 2002. So going back there, it's crazy. So I grew up in a I would say, just a very comfortable middle class home and my parents never expected me to have a job because they wanted me to focus on school, and I played sports in high school. I was not great. At any of them, I was just kind of mediocre. But I did have that background as far as I was in shape. So the physical aspect was not the problem for me, the problem for me was not having the freedom I was used to, and not having choices that I was used to having, and just having. I mean, I think this is true for all branches when you go to boot camp, that kind of stripping away of all your rights, you know, and you're at the mercy of your drill instructor. And I think that is kind of when I realized how precious like my freedom was. And I think everybody goes through this moment and boot camp when they're homesick and they're second-guessing their decision and wondering man, maybe this is not the right decision for me. What can I do to get out of here, and I think in that moment when I was going through this thought process is when I started really appreciating my parents and all that they had sacrificed for me and I want to say because I was kind of I was so mad at my parents at that point, when I was Left we had a rocky teen years like I didn't, I fought a lot with them. And I think it was while I was in boot camp when I had all that taken away from me all my freedoms and autonomy and you know, being told how to eat and how to sleep, and you know how to march and being told when to talk and even how to talk all of this stuff when it's when it was taken away from me is when I kind of started missing my parents and me thinking like, oh, man, I've been a really awful daughter and like, they deserve an apology from me. And I think my mom saved all my letters that I wrote home, I think I brought my mom daily in boot camp, and I want to say every single letter has some form of apology in it for being such a horrible daughter to her. So it was definitely an eye-opening experience. And I think we all say in hindsight, man, if I could go back, I would do this and this differently, because, you know, looking at it from the other side, you know, the game that is played because I That's what boot camp is. It's one giant mind game. And it's all mental really more than anything, even the physical part, those instructors are trained to push you and they know your limits. And they know your limits more the limits that they have set for you are like up here. And what you have mentally is like way down here. Like you don't realize that you have that potential. And so I think it's all just a mental game. It's like mental gymnastics on this and looking back now I'm like, man, if I could go back again, I would be awesome. I would be a stellar recruit. But I think that was really my experience was the challenge of realizing what I had and how lucky and blessed I was. And then also being in a platoon with people from all over the country from all backgrounds like I had girls in my platoon that came from really broken homes, and some of them that came I had one girl who was like a prima ballerina, and you have all these people from all these different backgrounds and It makes you it really just kind of puts your life into perspective. Like, you know, my life was not as terrible as I thought it was before getting there.
Amanda Huffman 09:07
Yeah, I think the boot camp and the military, not only do you meet, like all kinds of people who have all different life experiences, but it also makes you grow up really fast. Because it's like, from like, high school student with like, no responsibilities, something totally different, where you're like, What just happened? And it's kind of crazy and how quickly you have to adapt to it and change your focus. Yeah,
Hana Romer 09:29
Amanda Huffman 09:30
After you completed boot camp, you went to your like technical school for your job, is that how it works or is different.
Hana Romer 09:38
So in the military, every single Marine, if you're not in the infantry, every other job goes to is called marine combat training. It's a couple of weeks, I want to say it's like four to six weeks. And it's basically just a very watered-down version of Infantry School because we have a saying in the Marine Corps that every marine is a rifleman. And so like I said, it's a very watered-down version of infantry. They just give you the real basics. That's where we throw grenades and learn how to dig fighting holes and just spend a lot of time in the field. And so after you complete, we call that MCT. Then you go to your technical school and I was an aviation ordnance technician. So I think in the Air Force you guys call that ammo and ammo tech sounds right, which I basically that job is basically just working with any type of armament on aircraft. So whether it's guns, missiles, bombs, anything that shoots or blows up that goes on an aircraft is basically what job I chose. And there's two schools for that. So you go to a Basic School, which is in Pensacola, Florida, and then that was about a month-long and then you go on to a follow on school so they split you up between which aircraft you're going to work on and whether you're going to be working directly on the aircraft or on the logistics side of it, and I ended up going on the logistics side with fixed-wing so that put me in cherry point, North Carolina. For I think it was six weeks for my technical training and then from there I ended up going to was my first duty station Miramar in California.
Amanda Huffman 11:10
It's hard to remember. I talked to a marine a couple weeks ago and he was telling me about how that basic and then like the shooting and the all that is like separate in the Marines and like in the Air Force and Army, they kind of like combine it all together. So I was I forgot about that. But yeah, that's cool. And then you're right, that is the mo kerfeld in the Air Force. So what was your experience like when you went to your first base, like doing your job and being a marine? For me,
Hana Romer 11:39
I've never done blue-collar work in my life. And aviation ordnance is a very blue-collar job. And so that was very new to me. And being on my feet all day and being greasy and working with tools was just my eyes were huge, because I was just like, Oh my gosh, like I cannot believe this is my life that I signed up for. And I want to say it was physically taxing because I was just not used to. I mean, it's heavy lifting all day long. And you know, when you go through your technical school, they're just giving you the basics of how to fix things and how to put things together. But when you actually get out to your first unit, and you're actually having to do the work, it is back-breaking work. And that is not something I was used to. And then I also had this chip on my shoulder because I was a girl and I was like, I'm not gonna be that girl that the guys are like, Oh, well, she's a girl. She can't do it. So I was like, I'm gonna do everything that the guys can do. I'm not going to complain about it, no matter how much it hurts. And I mean, I worked my butt off because I wanted to prove myself to the guys I was the only girl in my shop at that point. I wanted to prove to them that I was worthy of being there and that I was just as good as they were, if not better, and I think that was just my mentality. Then looking back now I look at things differently. Now. I shouldn't have had to do that. I shouldn't have to prove that prove myself to anybody. But as a young female in the Marine Corps that was just kind of my mentality is I'm not going to be viewed as weak. And I remember coming home from my first full day at work, and I couldn't even get undressed because I was so sore. And I just lay down on my rack and fell asleep. And I think I woke up at like midnight, and I was like, Oh my gosh, I need to shower and it has to be at work in like five hours. And so that was just quite an eye-opening experience for me. And it was a learning experience definitely. And something that I look back at now. Use that experience as kind of a way when I speak to women who are joining the military Now, as far as if they ask for advice is you don't have to prove yourself and don't kill yourself trying to prove yourself or trying to fit in because you're just going to hurt yourself, you know, and you're we're in you're more than worthy of being there. You went through all the training, just like the guys did. And so looking back at that experience, I I'm just like man, I was so young and so naive and just really had no idea Yeah,
Amanda Huffman 14:00
yeah, but I feel like that's a normal pressure that women sometimes fill. I think it's starting to change now but I mean in 2000 to 2003 there were a lot less women which is crazy to think because it hasn't been that long but there's, it's it makes a big difference just having like you were the only female in your shop you felt like all the pressure on like representing woman was on you because you were the only one and so I can understand how you felt that way. And the advice you give to young women who are joining it's so good because it's true. You just have to be you have to do your best but you don't have to like kill yourself to pick it up. And let's talk about like your career. Where did you go after cherry your SharePoint? Right?
Hana Romer 14:43
Yeah, my first was Miramar and California it's in San Diego. So while I was there I did a deployment to it will Cooney in Japan It was a six-month deployment we call it a UDP and I should say before then I got married My first husband and it was not good. I was, I guess it is such a stereotypical young military story. Like I joined the military and I was 19. I was like, Yeah, let's go get married. We barely know each other, but marriage sounds like a great idea. So I was married, and it wasn't a great marriage. And then I deployed and that time apart was really good for me personally, because I was just, that's when I kind of figured I was like, I don't want to be married anymore. And this was just not a good idea. And so I went to Eva Cooney, Japan, and we supported and fa 18 Squadron out there out of Miramar, so we got to do a lot of cool training exercises out there and I got to go to Alaska to Elson Air Force Base. I spent a month there working with the Air Force and doing some training the pilots were learning how to fly I want to say because it was in the summer when we went so it's not even cold weather training, but did some cool joint services work up there and I really enjoyed My time in Japan, it was short. It was only six months. But I feel like when I did have time off, I did get a chance to explore and go to some really cool places. And that was a really, really neat experience for me.
Amanda Huffman 16:12
Yeah, sounds really cool. And that's cool that you got to work with Air Force like so early in your career because a lot of people when they talk about like joint assignments,they either don't get to do it or they don't do it until much later on. So it's cool that you got to do all that in the beginning and I got to explore Japan. That sounds really cool.
Hana Romer 16:31
And we came home and I went through a really nasty divorce as soon as I got home and then I got transferred to Camp Pendleton and which is just north of Miramar. It's about 30 minutes north of Miramar. It's one of our biggest spaces and that platform there are helicopters halos, and I had been trained on F-18 teams so going from F18s to helos was different and it was a learning experience for me too, because he was are so different F-18s, we built a lot of bombs and worked with a lot of missiles, you go to hilos. And most of them, it's guns and rockets that's like their main form of Ordnance that they use. And so I was at Pendleton, and I got, oh, while I was at Pendleton is when I did my first deployment to Iraq. So I went there. It was 2000. I want to say 2007 when I got to Iraq, and we deployed to Al Assad, which is in the Al Anbar Province, which is one of the large larger bases over there, and then seven months over there,
Amanda Huffman 17:37
And were you supporting helicopters the same way you were supporting the F-18s? Or was it different?
Hana Romer 17:43
So in Iraq, because we get units from all over the Marine Corps that deploy there we support it everything so helos F18s it was now because all my calls at that point were with helos. I did mostly stuff with helos, but as far as there was no specific like You only do helos and you only get to do fixed-wing. It was kind of a joint effort to get these aircraft up in the air and give our ground troops support. So
Amanda Huffman 18:08
Was it was kind of crazy like you're touching all different parts and you guys were probably super busy getting all the different missions set up and ready to go.
Hana Romer 18:19
Yeah, it was. So it was a 24-hour crew, which we weren't used to having in the on stateside. We had a night crew, but we had like a night crew, a swing shift, and a day crew. And while I was there, I worked the night crew, which that was different. It's crazy how your body because you would sleep during the day and I had blackout curtains on my little windows in my little hooch that I slept in there but it's so crazy how your body knows that it's light outside no matter how dark it is in your room and you cannot sleep like it is I want to say that was like the worst sleep I ever got was that deployment was just because my body just never got used to that. You know, what did they call it the circadian rhythm or whatever, like, I just could not sleep during the day. But that was something that was different to me too is just because it is a high paced out there. And so just having just knowing that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there were always aircraft flying out and there was always ordinance being built. And there was always some sort of operation going on just 24 seven and was just pretty incredible that you can get people working around the clock like that to support a mission.
Amanda Huffman 19:31
Yeah, when I did most of my helicopter flights, they were in the evening closed for like protection of I mean, it makes sense that they're always working and all kinds of stuff going on. And I've done night shift for like exercises for like a week or so and it sucked, but I just thought I was like trying to switch over and I didn't even think about doing it for months and like your body still being like, nope, this is it, right? I'm not one and were there any other females that were deployed with you or were Like one of the only ones?
Hana Romer 20:02
From my immediate unit, there were, I think there was only one other female because obviously they put females together to room. And I was an NCO at that point. And she was a PFC, and we shared a room together. And they normally wouldn't do that, especially in the Marine Corps. They're all weird about intermixing rank, but because there weren't that many females. It's like, well, you guys are the only two so you guys have to be roommates. And so they did put us on different shifts. So she worked the day shift and I work night shift, but so yeah, I there were a few I'm trying to, I can't remember how many there were a few from the other units that came out there from the east coast. And man, it's so weird how cliquey units are in the I don't know if it's a military-wide, but these girls that came from other units, their guys were very protective of them. And there was like no female bonding or like anything going on out there. It was very unit based So I didn't really get to know a lot of them very well. There's a couple that I have become friends with later on in life. Like we reconnected years later, like, Hey, remember me. And now we're great friends that I want to say at the time it was it was very cliquey with units like I'm part of this unit, and you're not part of our unit. So we don't talk and it was I don't, there was a little bit of cattiness. I feel like too, and I also feel like our age and immaturity, he had a lot to do with it, because a lot of we were all most of us were 2122 years old. We were very young. And so I think that has a lot to play into it. Because now we're a lot of us are friends. But this was years later, and now we have kids, and you know, a lot of us have transitioned out of the military. So I think, I think immaturity and age had a lot of a big factor in that.
Amanda Huffman 21:51
Yeah, that makes sense. And I mean, it's unfortunate but it makes sense. And I think sometimes you get in like these coping strategies to get through the deployment that out have the deployment. They're like, That doesn't even make it make sense. Like, why would you like be protective? Like you're on the same team. But for some reason, I think that happens sometimes. And we just, I don't know, we don't really know why I could see that. It was like something that the guys were trying to protect the girls, which is important, but also like you're on the same team, different units. What was the hardest part of being deployed?
Hana Romer 22:25
I think that was it was just so I kind of felt like an outsider, like the guys got real tight on deployment. And no matter how hard I feel like you try you, it's hard for a girl to be one of the guys and a lot of times I didn't want to be one of the guys but they were the only people that I had that were familiar to me. So I think that was the hardest thing for me is just I didn't really have any friends. Like I had co-workers that I cared about and they cared about me and we had a mutual respect but no one that I I could just at the end of the day like, complain to and just talk about home. And I think that was the hardest thing for me. And I think looking back, it's really unfortunate that a lot of the girls because we were all in one section of this camp together didn't I don't want to say we didn't not get along but didn't become close, because we were there stuck together there for seven months. And looking back. That's just really unfortunate that we, I think it could have been that deployment could have been a lot easier if I would have had that friendship or someone that I could complain to at the end of the day, end of the day, and I think that was what I struggled with the most was guys had this bro code, and I wasn't allowed in that almost. And so yeah, I think that was the hardest. That was definitely something that I struggled with on that deployment.
Amanda Huffman 23:48
Yeah, that makes sense. It must have been really hard. I was deployed with another female officer and I, at the time I was like, this is great, but I didn't realize like how great it was until I started doing the podcast and I've heard stories from other women about how lonely and how hard it was to go through their deployment without that support person, yeah. So you came home from your deployment after seven months of being in Iraq. And did you stay where you were? Did you PCs, what happened next,
Hana Romer 24:14
I stayed where I was, but I volunteered to go on recruiting duty, which nobody volunteers for recruiting duty, but I did just because I knew I needed that as a career move as really a guaranteed way to get promoted and just to get out of your comfort zone. And like I said, right before that deployment had gone through a divorce, and I was just kind of finally kind of getting into my own skin and I guess getting to know myself and so I volunteered to go on recruiting duty and I went to recruiting school. I went I think about seven months after I came eight months after I came back. So right before I went to it's called sergeants course and it's an NCO Academy basically, and that is a requirement for promotion. I knew once I went on record doody, I wouldn't get a chance to go. I went ahead and did that after NCO Academy, I went to the rifle range because I had to qualify before I went to recruiter school because that's a requirement to go. And then because recruiting duty is three years long your way from the range, so they want you at least up to date on all your calls before you go to a special duty assignment. I met my husband on the rifle range, he was a drill instructor and I shot at the same range that the recruits shoot at and that's where we met and I went to recruiter school and he was like, oh, recruiter, schools down to mcrd. And I'm stationed there and this is when MySpace was a thing. I'm so dating myself, but he messy found me on MySpace and started messaging me and that was April and then we got married May 31.
Amanda Huffman 25:47
So you guys, he just met you and then he was like, Oh, I'm gonna, I'm gonna find on MySpace and essentially start dating her through.
Hana Romer 25:55
Yeah, we hung out a few times. And so It was crazy because our relationship moved so quickly. And I got orders to Georgia. That's where I was going to be recruiting at originally. And it was a crazy story. So if you volunteer for recruiting, most of the time, they give you your choice on where you want to go. If you don't volunteer, it's just like, here's your wish list. And we'll try and get you but because I've volunteered, but I speak fluent Korean, and they needed a Korean speaker and Duluth, Georgia, because apparently there is a heavy concentration of Koreans that live there. And that was a market that recruiters were having a hard time getting into because things were getting lost in translation with parents. And I threw a huge fit about that, because there was another Korean speaker in my class who did not volunteer and he got the orders that I wanted, which were in San Diego, and he had used the excuse that he owned a home and was married with a child and so it just made no sense for him to sell his home and I'm like when in the military Has it Have they ever cared about your personal life, you know, to that extent, and I through just a huge stink about it at recruiter school. I was like I volunteer for this. And I volunteered because I wanted to come here. And at that point is when I almost kind of accepted my fate that I was like, I guess I'm going to Georgia, and there was no proposal or anything romantic. My husband and I were just like, let's just go get married because if we get married, then they have to at least they have a year to station us together. And so we flew to Vegas on Friday after work Friday night, I got out of class and he got off work. And we got married Friday night at a 24-hour courthouse at the stained glass chapel. And then we flew back Saturday morning, married and my husband went to work because he worked. He had a duty that Saturday and I went to class on Monday. I was like I got married and my instructor was like what? And they had to let the schoolhouse know and I know made a lot of people mad. But that decision I know, there were rumor. There are a lot of rumors and a lot of the male Marines were like, Well, of course, she's a female and she's going to get what she wants. And I got orders to San Diego. They switched my orders to San Diego because it's going to cost them more money to send me to Georgia and then send me back because my husband had two years left on the drill field, and there's nowhere near Georgia where he could have he could do the same thing. So I ended up going from San Diego to Orange County. So I ended up recruiting out of Orange County.
Amanda Huffman 28:33
Well, I think you said you volunteered and you're supposed to get your first choice because that is like that's like a known thing. If you volunteer for something then you supposed to get and the fact that there was someone else who had volunteered who was a Korean speaker that would infuriate me too.
Hana Romer 28:48
That's really the first time I feel like in my career that I really stood up for something that I felt that I was being screwed over for, you know, and it's no secret You're you get screwed over a lot in the military. It's just the nature of the job. And for the most part, you just go roll with the punches. But at this point, I was just like, No, I'm not going this is not fair. And I understand that nothing in the military is always fair, but I think part of it was because I had this relationship on the line and even I only my husband and I have now been married 12 years, but at the time, he was like, Oh my gosh, their relationship isn't gonna last and she's doing all of this for this guy. But I think at the time it was just for me I was in love and I was like, I do not want to go to Georgia and be away from him and so it was just I'm gonna fight for it and I ended up recruiting in Orange County and he was in San Diego which is with traffic it could be an hour and a half away so we got a little apartment halfway and made it work.
Amanda Huffman 29:49
Yeah, so what was it like for dual military for how many years where you guys don't military like or yeah for years. So what was it like to be dual military guys were Living together, but then you have those long commutes on nation and recruiter duties that people don't volunteer. And I know it's because it's like long hours and a lot of work.
Hana Romer 30:09
We never saw each other when we first got married because he was on a special duty assignment to the drill field, which they weren't very long hours to. And I always say, because our marriage didn't have such a solid foundation, we just kind of got married on a whim. I always tell people, I think that the reason our marriage has survived is because we really spent the first few years of our marriage never seeing each other. And so when we did get to spend time as each other, we really kind of appreciated each other more. And he ended up finishing his tour, and he got stationed at Camp Pendleton and did his first deployment to Afghanistan at that point. And I think that is when it really just kind of hit me how hard life is. It's hard enough with one active duty spouse but when both are active duty, and at the end, we had just had a baby. And so I'm juggling trying to be Good mom, but a good marine and a good wife to deploy husband and trying to make sure he's being supported while he's over there with, you know, care packages and making sure that I write him letters. And it was just extremely stressful and so taxing And that, I think, was kind of the point where I was just like, I cannot do this for the rest of my life like, and I've always I've never questioned myself outside of being a career marine. I always imagined myself doing my 20 years or maybe even more and retiring. But I think that is when I was just like, I can't just not do this. And I hear this from a lot of the active-duty women that are in my life now that our mom's mom guilt is a real thing when your act is it's a real thing, just any working mom, but when you're active duty and you have to write a family care plan on who's going to take care of your children if you deploy and, you know, shuffling your kids around to grandma's house for the summer. So you can go train I mean is another level of mom guilt that I feel that often gets overlooked when people look at the military and supporting military families is there's this whole little group of people that they don't quite fit into the military spouse group, but they are military spouses, but they're also serving active duty. And I think that is just like a little niche of people that I have kind of in the past couple years just I have a big heart for cause I know it's tough.
Amanda Huffman 32:28
It is. And like you said, dual military is really hard. My husband and I did two military for six years. And then when we had kids, I was like, I'm not doing this anymore because like you said, it's challenging to be dual military, but they've had kids it's like, so much more complicated and very stressful and the mom guilt. Yeah, I mean, mom guilt is, I think, a part of life. But yeah, it's just intensified and the realities of like a family care plan. It's not something that you're like writing up and oh, this will never use it. You're going to actually use this family care plan, and it's who's gonna watch your kids? And how's it how's that gonna affect your kids? how's it gonna affect you and all that stuff. So that makes sense.
Hana Romer 33:10
I think what really hit me was when I was doing my family care plan, and part of it is you have to write your will if something were to happen to you. And I think that is what just kind of hit me the hardest is, you know, the nature of our job deploying and going somewhere places that are dangerous. It's always you know, something that you have to think about is, you know, who's going to take care of my kids if something happens to me, and God forbid, something happens to you and your spouse. And so I think that is just kind of the moment I was like, This is not the life that I want for myself or for our children. And it's just not something that I'm willing to risk and not saying people who do are wrong, but that was just a personal choice for me and we have two friends who are dual active duty that just both retired and knowing them and watching they have two kids and watching them the most Um, she deployed to Iraq for a year at one point, and then her husband deployed in the middle of her deployment. And they have two kids and they sent their kids to live with their grandparents for almost a year. And their kids have turned out amazing. But you know, I'm just like, that is so hard. I can't imagine missing such a giant chunk out of my kid's life like that. That's just a whole nother level of sacrifice that I think needs to be honored as well.
Amanda Huffman 34:26
Yeah, there's some people who can do it so well, and like they're able to juggle it. And it is a personal decision. And like neither choices wrong. It has to be what works for you and your family. I mean, it does work for some people, it doesn't for others, and that's cool that, you know, a married like that they posted 20 years. I'm always odd, but how they're able to make it work. And it's so cool when you see that. I think
Hana Romer 34:51
It's just I mean, that part of me. I'm like, you guys are crazy, but work and so I'm just like, you know, kudos to you I think actually Nick has a major that he works for her and her husband or her husband's a pilot, and they have three kids. And I'm just like, wow, like that is just that's a level of sacrifice and dedication that, you know, I was not willing to do. And part of me sometimes when I see them, it's like, I admire it like, man, maybe I should have stayed in and we could have done it. You know, there's always that thought in the back of every once in a while that creep up. But I think ultimately, a lot in a lot better place in my life, and I'm happier out and being able to take care of my kids. My husband deploys and I'm okay with that role. And I'm, I've come to terms with that role, I should say, I'm not gonna say it was the easiest thing.
Amanda Huffman 35:39
Yeah. So one of the things that you mentioned when I did my like pre-screening is that your husband is a Purple Heart recipient and suffers from a TBI and PTSD and I wanted to talk a little bit I know it feels like I'm like changing gears dramatically, but I really don't want to miss that part of that's not something that people talk a lot. About so what is it like to be the military spouse who's supporting your husband as he, like, went through that, and it's still going through it?
Hana Romer 36:08
Yeah. So my husband was actually injured and Fallujah in 2004, in the Battle of Fallujah. That was the big battle at the beginning of the Iraq war. He's probably gonna listen back and be like you told the story all wrong, but I think they were in a convoy and they started taking small arms fire. So they stopped and he was they were being hit by rockets. And he was knocked out unconscious by some shrapnel. And I think the last thing he said he remembers is just waking up. And there's a He's like, there's a chunk of my life there that I don't remember what happened. And this is when the Iraq War was at its infancy. So we didn't have all the technology that we have now. So they had there was no medical officer out there. There was a corpsman I think, but he basically was like, Well, I'm conscious, I'm fine. So he went back into the firefight because his thing was, he wasn't going to leave his guys and Here's like, I'm fine, I'm fine. And the way traumatic brain injury works is sometimes it does. The symptoms don't show up till later. And so when we first met, I knew nothing of this story. He had not been awarded his Purple Heart yet. And it wasn't I want it literally it was this year when I learned, he told me that when I first met him, and he was on the drill field, he's like, it was the perfect job for me because I could, it was my job to be angry all the time and yell at recruits, and he was like, that was my outlet at the time. And it was a way for him to be angry. And I want to say in the last several years is when his symptoms started coming back or TBI symptoms started surfacing. And we went to he went to go see some doctors, which I knew it was serious when my husband's like, I'm going to go see a doctor because he never goes to the doctor and after doing some interviews with his medical officer, he was like, I think you have TBI and he basically said you need to gather all your paperwork from that firefight. To submit for your purple heart because it's gonna really benefit you in the long run as far as benefits that he gets, just because he has that. And when you see the process to get a Purple Heart, it is insane, like the amount of witnesses witness statements that you have to get. And then because they didn't have a medical officer out there like they had to find a corpsman and the Corman's accounts have to be verified by a medical officer even though he wasn't there. And then the medical office and then, of course, his physical exam and stuff, and so he didn't get his Purple Heart till 1514 years later, and we had a ceremony just a couple years ago, and he's still able to serve active duty because his TBI is considered mild. Now what I have learned with TBI is symptoms can be managed and it's not curable but it can be managed and so that is just been a whole new part of our relationship is I feel like sometimes I turn into a caregiver because One minute he's totally fine. He's totally healthy. He looks like a healthy marine and then whenever he has a call on his flareups it's when his migraines get really bad and he's basically it's like a debilitates and he cannot move he cannot drive his left arm goes numb and that's when I'm just like, you know there's he can't do anything for himself and so I become an almost like a caregiver to him. And that's been something that it's like new territory for me. And he also is 36 years old and has hearing aids because he has severe hearing loss and has really severe tinnitus. And so and people don't realize but even little things like when his hearing aid battery dies, it is like a logistical nightmare to technically we're supposed to get free hearing aid batteries for life, but the process to get it it's just easier to go to Walmart and buy it ourselves, you know, but I mean, just little things like that. It's just been it's just new territory for me at this point because, at the beginning of our marriage, his symptoms weren't Really surfacing. They were surfacing in other ways. Like, we now know mental health PTSD, some of the stuff that we dealt with it was PTSD related. And it's just crazy because I didn't know any of this until recently in our marriage. And it wasn't until recently when I found out really all the details of what happened in Iraq. And this is obviously not something you know, guys like that had been in situations like that like to talk about openly. And so I almost felt betrayed a little bit because I'm like, has our marriage like been a lie? Like, I didn't know this whole part, a huge part of your life, and now it's affecting our whole family's life, you know, and so that is something that we have been working through and continue to work through because, you know, I feel betrayed, but at the same time, I get it, you know, and I understand why he wouldn't want to share that. I think some of it is a little bit of a stigma with shame and having to go see, mental health was she's very open about it now because he realizes that we both kind of made the agreement that we would Be very open about his journey with TBI and PTSD and going to seek therapy because it wasn't until this all kind of came out that he started having guys that he served with back in Fallujah reached back out to him, they're veterans now saying, Hey, thank you for sharing and I'm going to I made an appointment to go see and talk to somebody. And so I guess that's kind of the good thing that has come out of all of this is we've kind of used this, I'm very, we're very open about it. And the good, the bad, the ugly, and I know some of it makes them really uncomfortable to talk about, and I think guys in general just don't want to sit around and talk about their feelings, you know, but it has been really important because a lot of he's helped a lot of people be okay with getting help and realizing that they have these injuries that they didn't know they had. And so that's been quite the learning experience for us.
Amanda Huffman 41:54
Yeah, and I think that's really important to talk about because going to get help I struggled with peace. Yesterday when I came home from my deployment, but I was like, I'm fine. It's not that big of a deal. Like, I just got shot out a few times, I didn't get hurt like I find, and when I finally did get help, it was, oh, now my life has completely changed. And I could have kept on living the way that I was living, I probably would have got worse when I got better. But I could have always like, found a way to justify and eventually there's no point of like justifying it because you like, No, you need help. But it is it's so important to get that help because it really it changes your whole life. And like talking about it can change someone else's life. So that's really cool that he's been able to see that and that's awesome. And
Hana Romer 42:43
Then another thing too, is people don't realize they have PTSD. And like, you know, we've been married 12 years and for the first six years of our marriage, some of the ups and downs with some of the real low points in our marriage that we went through. I just when I look back at that time, she's like, well, this is just part of marriage, marry are just hard. And you know, there's low points in marriage. And after we've been a couple therapy and just looking back, those really low points were when he was really dealing and struggling with his PTSD. And there were points when he was drinking a lot. And you know, there's a point when it goes from social drinking to now you're just drinking to drink. And when I look back now and all the low, the real low points in our marriage that I just chalked up to this is marriage. You know, marriage is tough. No one said it's easy. Everyone tells you is hard. But now that we've kind of address the issue and we kind of know because TBI also presents PTSD symptoms too. And so we didn't know he had TBI either. And so some of his decision making and stuff now looking back, I'm like, okay, so that there was a reason for that. It wasn't just marriage is tough, you know, and I think that's important. That's why think veterans, whether you think it or not you everyone needs to go through some sort of therapy when they get out just to get your head checked.
Amanda Huffman 44:05
It's so true. I liked what you said they like you don't even know because I I was struggling with anger and I never would have said like it was because I deployed Afghanistan I like blamed it on. I mean, some of there were other factors that caused it. But a lot of it stemmed from the deployment and I had to deal with what happened when I was deployed to be able to get free. And I was like, No, no, I don't have Yeah, so it's really true. I think more people need to go and get help and more people need to get mental health checkups, just to make sure like you don't know what you don't know. Yeah,
Hana Romer 44:38
no, like in the I don't know about all the other branches in the Marine Corps because no one wants to use the word therapist, or even the word shrink. I know my husband when he's gone to his appointments, like he's like, I'm gonna go see the wizard or I'm gonna go see the witch doctor and they have all these other terms that I guess are a little bit more lighthearted and it makes me I feel a little bit more comfortable about going and I'm like, hey, if that works for you to call the therapist, the wizard, then you go see the wizard, you know?
Amanda Huffman 45:08
Yeah, that's really good. I really enjoyed getting to talk to you. And you gave a little bit advice in the beginning to what you would tell women, but is there anything else you would want to add to young girls who are listening or thinking about joining the military?
Hana Romer 45:23
I think that's my biggest piece of advice is, if you made it through boot camp, and you're there, you're worthy of being there, and you're no less than the guys that are there. And you don't have to do anything more or extra to prove yourself to them unless they're doing something more an extra to prove themselves to you, which is rarely the case when it comes to work. You are equally as deserving and worthy to be there and just as badass as everybody else who has made it through that training, and so I would say just be and do your job.
Amanda Huffman 45:57
Thank you so much for being on the podcast. I I really enjoyed hearing your story.
Hana Romer 46:02
Well, I am so glad I finally got to talk to you and just meet you.
Amanda Huffman 46:07
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