It’s now or never.
That’s what Brook Morgan’s husband told her when he finally decided to join the military.
Even as an established pharmacist, the calling to join the military was too strong. At the end of summer last year, Brook got home from work and Matthew told her, “We need to talk.”
With no idea what to expect, she sat down and listened to her husband list the reasons why now was the time he needed to join the military.
While his decision somewhat surprised Brook, she knew the military lifestyle had been calling to her husband for some time. In 2019, he signed up for the Army National Guard at age 30.
“Everything he does is so selfless,” says the second-grade school teacher. “He’s an amazing man.”
And while he wasn’t planning on doing full active duty, the thought of him joining the military scared her. She didn’t know what to expect, and in their town in Arkansas, she didn’t have much experience with the military.
Plus, her school year had just started and they had two young kids.
But they agreed together — it was now or never.
On Oct 17, 2019, Matthew swore in. Now he’s in training for 10 weeks at Fort Jackson.
Since then, it’s been a whirlwind, Brook says.
“We were just thrown into this military life,” she says with a laugh.
Her kids, who are 5 and 11, are taking it day by day, too. The oldest, James, has naturally taken on responsibilities since day one.
“James has stepped up big time. He took the man of the house attitude. He helps with lunches. I got sick that first week Matthew left. He helped Emma and tucked her into bed and read her books,” she says.
As for Emma, it’s been a little bit tougher.
“She’s a big-time daddy’s girl,” says Brook. “We bought her a military bear. She named it Daddy Jr. and we tell her every time she hugs it, daddy can feel her hugs.”
And once basic training is done, there’s always more, of course. Matthew will go on to Officer Candidate School where he hopes to become an engineer of some type.
It will only be a few more weeks before the family is united again. Until then, daily life ensues.
The biggest challenge, though, hasn’t been learning the acronyms or even waiting for those much-anticipated letters. Because Brook is also a Sandboxx user, she can track Matthew’s training and the letters she sends. It makes life easier for her since she’s a busy mom.
For her, the most trying aspect of her new military life has been separating herself from someone she’s been with since she was a teenager.
“The biggest challenge is loneliness. It is very very lonely,” she explains. “You don’t realize it during the day because you’re working so much. It’s not until nighttime you notice when it’s lonely and quiet.”
To keep herself preoccupied, she’s been working on a big project.
She plans to surprise Matthew with a “50 states love project.”
It includes snapping a photo in every state of a note that reads: “Matthew, Brooklyn’s love for you is so big it reached (location). ARMY STRONG.”
In the last few weeks, she discovered the idea and ran with it.
Because she and her family can’t travel to all the states, she’s enlisted the help of her church, family, and friends who live in various locations. The background of the photos is meant to be the best representation of that particular state.
When she ran out of volunteers to help, she turned to her online military social media groups. Within minutes of posting, she said offers and pictures flooded her inbox.
Not only has she gotten nearly all 50 states, but people from other countries have sent photos from as far as Sweden and New Zealand.
It’s shown Brook just what Army Strong means.
“It’s been overwhelming, amazing,” she says of the response to her project. “I feel loved and I feel our family is just wrapped in love by people who don’t even know us.”
The turnout from the military community has been touching, too, she says. Especially given it’s a social networking online group that she joined just so she could better understand military culture.
“The military members that I’ve never met before or even spoke to them before and automatically within five minutes I get a message like, “Here you go!” Their outpouring has been a huge support system for this,” she says.
She’s also found military connections locally, too.
For a gift, she had given Matthew a local gun club membership. Just recently she found out the gun club owner’s wife is going to start up a military wives’ group. The plan is to meet with them every other month.
“We have a little tribe,” she says.
When she has free time, Brook says writing has been therapeutic, too.
“I write to him every day. I don’t send them every day, but a couple of letters at a time [when I do send them],” she says. “I don’t write anything stressful in his notes.”
She aims to keep it positive for him, she says.
But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her own outlet. Whatever she’s feeling on any given day, she writes it down in a personal journal. While a letter to Matthew may reflect positivity, if she’s having a terrible day, she’ll put it into the journal.
Brook plans to give it to him when he gets back from BCT, along with the 50 states project. Once she gets all the images in, she plans to scan them and create a photo book of magazine-quality.
Her family is big on scavenger hunts, so she plans to make him do a hunt to find the printed photo book. Matthew thinks scavenger hunts are ridiculous, but she knows he’ll love what he finds at the end of it.
To add an even more exciting twist to the project, she’s hoping some big names she reached out to might participate, too.
For the project, she reached out to President Trump, the Arkansas governor, state representative, and senator to see if they’d be willing to pitch in a photo for the book. Brook contacted the president of the college Matthew went to along with his favorite sports team — the St. Louis Cardinals. Sporting Kansas City Soccer got a request from her, too.
She figured it’s a long shot, but it’s worth it to show Matthew how proud of him she is. While it’s been an interesting new life experience so far, she’s thrilled to see how it turns out for their family.
“I’m also looking forward to hearing about Matt’s journey through BCT, then OCS, and the future — especially as someone who enlisted at the age of 30 — as he serves our country,” she says. “Those adventures are becoming huge life lessons for our children.”
As for the project, she’s excited to give it to him. The military hasn’t sent them on a travel adventure yet, but Brook says it feels like she’s experienced all of the continental U.S. through this project.
She hopes Matt feels the same.
“I think that’s what makes it cool, because while it’s Matt’s present, we get to see each state [almost] like we’re visiting it,” she says. “My love language is gifts and his is acts of service. I put those two together. I wanted to have a gift personalized to him. That’s where it’s gone from there.”
Want to Help Brook With Her Project?
If you’d like to participate in Brook’s 50 states project, please send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your image. The deadline is February 29.
The project requirements are:
- The note must be handwritten
- Military symbols or representation appreciated
- The background image should best reflect the state/country
The note should have this exact phrase: “Matthew, Brooklyn’s love for you is so big it reached (location) ARMY STRONG”
What’s your favorite part of being a part of the Army Strong community? Let us know in the comments below!