Ridgefield writer shares reality of military life


As an attorney with the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, Lori Volkman is trained to express her thoughts in an exact, succinct style.

After all, she said, legal briefs tend to be stale and concise.

But professional discipline couldn’t sustain Lori when her husband, Randy, an active reservist, was called to serve overseas last September. He would be gone for more than a year.

Lori quickly expresses her gratitude for her family’s fortune. In 12 years, she said, this was the first time he had been called to serve. Still, his absence would have an emotional impact on their family.

"The feelings I was having were nothing like legal briefs," she said.

Randy is an individual augmentee (IA) and acts as a commander in the Navy Reserves. Without a Navy facility nearby or other military spouses to turn to, Lori turned to the Internet, where she eventually found a growing online community of support.

At first, however, she turned to WordPress, where she crafted her blog, Witty Little Secret, as an outlet for the tumultuous sentiments she struggled to process. She wrote mostly at night after work and putting their two children Olivia, 8, and Cooper, 5, to bed.

"It was a diary that I thought I would one day share with my children," she said, sitting on the porch of her Ridgefield home. "I didn’t tell my husband about it at first."

After WordPress featured her blog the following month, it was selected as a finalist in the spouse blogs category at the 2011 Military Blog Awards in Washington, DC. Lori told her husband about the blog, which he said he thought was nothing more than "a trivial aside at first."

The couple shared a laugh over his initial reaction to the blog as they lounged in the shade of their patio recently. Randy had been home for a few brief weeks of rest before heading back to the Middle East. His plane left early on the morning of July 11.

Admittedly not a blogger, Randy said he went back to read Lori’s posts once again.

"That was when I realized it was very real and not trivial at all," he said. "I thought it was this lighthearted thing, but it was feelings-based. True Grit, if you will. A reflection of the good, the bad and the ugly."

At the blog awards, Lori said, she found herself moved over the authors who are living with wounded warriors, the spouses who help their partner’s deal with Post Traumatic Stress, brain damage or other debilitating injuries.

A few of Randy’s heavily-edited email messages are also posted on the blog. Lori said she hopes they help people get perspective, although as a spouse she knows how to read between the lines.

A special operations commander, Randy is the intelligence surveillance reconnaissance chief of unmanned aerial vehicles. It’s eye-opening work, he said, in a sizable command comprised of all branches of the military service. On average, he works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a heightened sense of urgency in that environment, he said. Time passes quickly.

"In a way, it’s a huge blessing," he said. "There’s not time to sit and think about where we really are or what we are doing. We are focused on the importance of what we are doing, but we are separated from the political conversations.

"It’s really easy to sit back in a comfortable chair and be political. We are focusing on what do we have to do next."

Although ready to get back to work, Randy said he has never worked harder and if he stands back to look at the job ahead of him in the next few months it is easy to become breathless facing just how much has to be accomplished.

In her online profile, Lori writes that "faith is the scariest thing I do." Her outlook is partially fueled by military slogan, she said.

"I can choose to be worried," she said. "I can choose to have hope. At the end of the day, my choice doesn’t change the end result of what can happen, so I choose hope. There are no guarantees."

In person, Lori tends to be collected and calm, but her writing exposes what lies under the surface, and the emotional honesty has created a following of online readers. Read Lori’s work at http://wittylittlesecret.wordpress.com/.


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