Written By The Schuety’s
I picked up running a little later in life, when I was about 19 or 20. At the time, it was a way for me to combat the extra calories that seemed to come along with college life. My husband and I (who went along on this run with me and will be co-writing this post) were married after he graduated from Iowa State University, where he was a Phi Delt with Mr. Steve Good- hence the connection to this blog.
After graduation, Clayton commissioned into the Air Force and went right from college life to Pilot Training in the military. I went from only living in Iowa my entire life to suddenly moving every 6 months to a year. During this time, I found running was so much more. It became my way to explore a new “home”. It became a stress reliever when I had to say good bye to so many people, only to meet more people that I would eventually have to say good bye too as well. And it became a way for my husband and I to stay connected when we didn’t have much time in the busy military life. A quick 3mile run would be a great way to spend time together. Here we are, 7.5 years later, two kids and a dog have joined us, and we still use running as a family activity. In fact, when I heard about this project, that’s the first thing I thought, what a great way to get the family together and support a good cause.
We are now stationed in New Mexico, however we chose not to do our run here. We spent the spring and summer bouncing from place to place in true military style, so we decided to go with Little Rock, AR. We spent the summer here, and a few years back we spent a winter there as well. We love Little Rock, and truthfully, it’s a little more exciting than were we currently call home.
We started our run at the Big Damn Bridge. This is a 1mile pedestrian bridge that connects Little Rock with North Little Rock in the river trail system. This trail system is great and allows runners, bikers, and walkers a beautiful area to get outdoors. This bridge was 4 miles from our apartment so it was easy to walk out the door and run down to the bridge and back for a daily run. There was also a park along the way, which was a great stopping point to let the kids take a break from the jogging stroller and stretch! Our plan was to start at this bridge and run to the downtown portion of the trail, making around 13 miles. This would have been a great plan, if we weren’t running in the hottest summer ever in history (I added that fact, it’s probably completely false but it sure felt that way!). It was already 95 degrees at 7AM and quickly getting hotter, so we ran the bridge and jumped in the car to drive to the downtown portion of our route. But not before pausing to thank our first group of people, my military spouse friends.
As a military spouse, you hear the same things from everyone who is non-military. One of the things that tops that list is “I don’t know how you do it”. I’m not a huge fan of this statement, mostly because I don’t know how to respond. I am not super human, I’m not an overly independent type of girl, and I love my husband just as much as anyone who is fortunate enough to spend every single night with their spouse. It’s not always easy, but I also do not want sympathy from anyone because this is a life we chose. This is a life that gives us a great deal of satisfaction, which makes the many sacrifices worth it. So now I stick with the response that I have an amazing support system and I couldn’t do it without my many military spouse friends who have helped me along the way. There is no one else who will truly understand this life other than those of us living it. We get it. We do not offer each other a pitty party, we do not give each other that “I feel sorry for you” look, we offer each other support. We give each other a shoulder to lean on when we are having a bad day, we listen to each other when we need to vent. We understand that there are things about this life we simply cannot talk about to other people for security reasons. We don’t wait to be asked for help, we check in on each other during deployments and instead of asking if everything is ok, we cut to the chase and ask what needs done – around the house, with the kids, quick trip to the grocery store, done.
Thank you to all my friends I have met along the way. There are literally too many to list, it would take up the entire blog entry. From those of you I met in pilot training years ago that helped keep me sane when our husbands worked 12 hour days and then came home to study more. We may not be stationed together anymore, our husbands may not fly the same aircraft, but we still hold a bond and a friendship that will never go away. Thank you. For those of you who I met once we got to our ops squadron…thank you. Thank you for helping me adjust to this life. Thank you for keeping me sane when we don’t hear from our husbands for too many days on a deployment and the news has us freaked out. Thank you for watching my kids when I have to take the other one to the ER in the middle of the night. Thank you for filling in for family on holidays, and making me realize I am part of a new wonderful family. Thank you for the support and understanding that no one else is capable of offering. Thank You.
This wraps up the first 4 miles, now we pack up the stroller, hop in the car and drive a few miles down the road to the downtown version of our run. From here we begin what we like to refer to as our bridge portion of the run, following the river trail through the farmers market and amphitheater area over to North Little Rock. And now I pass the blog over to Clayton.
As you can tell I am married to a beautiful, strong, loving and caring women. Jess and I have known each other since we were kids. We have grown together and continue to do so with every adventure we come across in life. I wanted to first thank my girls, because they are the few in this dynamic life that do not change. They are my inspiration and driving force behind what makes me want to be the best person, father and husband I can possibly be. My wife didn’t sign up for a life in the military, and frankly didn’t exactly know what we were getting into when I decided to take this journey. 9/11 changed the demands on military members and on the family units left behind with constant and persistent deployments. These families became the glue that continues to hold together our nation’s combat capability. It is often a thankless job, but I am so incredibly grateful for and proud of my amazing wife that picks up the slack every time Daddy heads out on the road. Jess is faced with being a mommy and a daddy, an energizer bunny, as well as both good cop and bad cop! Having this amazing family brings so much joy to my life. The girls support and love allows me to focus on the task at hand and accomplish what needs to be done so I can get home. So to my girls, I love and cherish you and can’t remember what life was like before you entered my life.
I love to recharge the battery and make the most of our family time. This past summer we had a great opportunity. I was able to take the girls out with me to Little Rock for a 7 week trip. I’m not going to lie, Jess is way better at staying connected and saw Steve’s blog and I agreed it would be a nice family activity for us to do. We had a blast using this opportunity as a way to get to know different parts of Little Rock. It is a beautiful city, with lots of fun outdoor activities. Inevitably though, we would always end up around riverfront park. Whether it was for the river market, movies in the park, cooling off at the splash pad or to catch a Traveler’s game across the river we were always there. So with all the enjoyment we got out of the park, this is were we decided to pick up our run.
The Riverfront park, like it’s name suggests is right along the river and has access to the other side over the Junction Railroad Bridge. This bridge has been converted for pedestrian and bicycle use and links both sides of the Arkansas River Trail. The picture shows the “little rock” sign where the settlers in the area first came. It is a great place to unwind and there are a ton of events that take place in the park throughout the year. From the bridge we ran over to the Traveler’s stadium were we enjoyed a few baseball games during our stay… or more often than not, watching the girls play on the grassy hill behind left field and/or throwing their toys into the opposing team’s bull pen.
Funny story, the girls were in charge of hanging onto the marker and dry-erase board during the run, and apparently Daddy was driving the stroller “too rough” and we lost the marker. Thus, you will just see a thank you on the board for the rest of the run!
This is where I wanted to take the time to thank my mother. It seems there is a theme here… great women in my life have made me who I am today. In addition to my wife and girls, my mother is no exception. My father passed away when I was a young boy and my mother was forced to take on the role of a single parent. Some of you reading this may be in this same situation and I just want to say thank you to you as well. This has got to be one of the most difficult jobs out there. I cannot express how grateful I am to my mother for all the long days, nights and sacrifices she had to make to afford my brother and me the opportunities in life we had. Mom I know it wasn’t easy, but watching and learning from your example has made me the person I am to day… so for those who know me you can either love or lament my mother! Thanks mom. I’ll pass it back to Jess and the girls for the last few stops.
We continue our run through the River Trail a few miles, and pass over the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge. This is another beautiful pedestrian bridge that connects North Little Rock to Little Rock. This bridge is pretty to run over, but it’s also nice to stop at the top and take in the scenery of the river. Before our first trip to Little Rock I had no idea what to expect of this Arkansas city, but it really is beautiful and has become one of my favorites. When you cross over into Little Rock it takes you to the Bill Clinton Library, and closer to our favorite spot, which I will get to soon enough. I wish I had captured the trail at this point as well, as there is a part of the trail that leads you around an natural habitat through a walkway. In any case, I pause at this bridge to thank our nations military members, most importantly my husband.
We all know that being in the military is a job full of sacrifices. Clayton is an amazing husband and an incredible dad, the girls and I are so fortunate to have him in our lives. With that said, I have lost count of the number of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, vacations, and special occasions he has had to miss out on. Can you imagine having to miss all that? It amazes me how much our men and women sacrifice to protect our country, and they do so in a time when many people continue on with their normal lives as if there is no war, there is no threat. I know I could personally not do this job, yet my husband manages to balance it all. Even when he is not with us physically, he makes sure we know he is thinking of us. My oldest daughter, Emme, calls these people (especially her daddy) super heroes, and she is right. To my husband and every military super hero out there: Thank you.
From here we run down to my all time favorite place from our summer in Little Rock. The River Market district. We loved to come to the farmers market on Saturday mornings, or go to a movie in the park in the amphitheater right outside of the market. I personally think the best thing a city can do is provide outdoor entertainment like this. It gets people outdoors and moving! The girls’ favorite park was the Peabody splash pad. It seemed only fitting that we pause here and say our final thank you.
I know Clayton already thanked his mom, but I would like to thank her again, along with the rest of our family. Our parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, everyone. We have a pretty darn good family. They have not only been supportive in our crazy mobile lifestyle, they have also embraced all the changes that came our way a little over a year ago when our youngest daughter, Layna, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Layna had some continuous health issues for her entire first year of life. She was constantly vomiting or spitting up. She wouldn’t sleep, would scream in pain all the time, and the list went on. We were going to the doctor every month it felt like, and she in return would refer us out to all kinds of specialist. No one had answers and my poor baby had more x-rays and blood work done in that first year than anyone should have in their life. At a year, we finally found an answer. Her body could not digest gluten. She had some other food allergies as well, so we found ourselves suddenly changing our entire lifestyle. Within a few weeks, the vomiting had stopped. Within a month we were able to take her off medication she had been on her entire life for excessive spit up and she was finally starting to gain weight.
Over the next year all of her random symptoms started to disappear. We knew this would be a big change for us. The way we ate and thought about food would need a complete makeover. We knew our family would be supportive, but we had no idea just how wonderful they would be. They have all embraced this with us 100%. We go home and there is safe food waiting for Layna. For those of you with food allergies or celiac, you know this is not always easy. There’s always a risk of cross contamination if the food is even near what she is eating. It is so comforting to know that she is surrounded by people who care about her health and well being as much as we do and will do what it takes to keep her safe. Layna is now a healthy and happy 2 year old, and we have all of you to thank for this.
To finish our run, we make a stop at one of our favorite deli’s. This was a really hard decision, since there are so many great food choices in Little Rock. We are used to not going out to eat much because of our food restrictions, but we found so many restaurants that accommodated to a gluten free lifestyle here. We decided to go with Dempsey’s Bakery because the kids really did love going here, and it is a 100% gluten free restaurant. They also carry many foods free of allergens (eggs, dairy, peanuts, soy, etc). It was nice to go there and know for 100% certainty that there was no risk for getting sick. And the food was amazing! They serve all kinds of baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, pies, and brownies. They also had fresh baked breads and served a lunch menu that was beyond good.
We’ll take this chance to talk about the charity we donated too. We went with the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. This charity provides full educational scholarships to children of fallen special operations force members and also provides assistance to wounded special force soldiers. With Clayton being a member of the special operations community, this was an easy choice for us to support. If you’d like to learn more about this charity or how you can donate, please check them out here http://www.specialops.org
Clayton and Jessica have been married for 8 years and have two children, Emme and Layna (4 and 2) and a dog, Baxter. Clayton is a pilot in the USAF and Jessica is a part time hairstylist and a full time mom and military spouse. They currently reside in New Mexico but grew up in Iowa and will always consider the Midwest “home”.