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A Milspo Project collaboration with Badass Backpacks and artist Bergen DeLeeuw 

 
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This bag is a tribute to the voices of U.S. military spouses at every station, in every season. Spouses who carry the honor and weight of supporting their service member and family wherever military life may take them, while trying to also maintain their own identity and success. Spouses who carry themselves with determination, grit, poise and caution.


 
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Who are military spouses? What does a military spouse need for her military journey? What obstacles does she encounter on the way? What's unique about her story?   . . . okay, we had a few questions, but we were curious, and so began our journey to share the collective voice of the modern military spouse with you. 

 
 

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We had an idea, we knew we wanted to share the story of military spouses in a special way, but we needed help. Enter Badass Backpacks, a collaborative art company based in Austin, Texas.

 
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Rusty and Adam (aka team Badass Backpacks) were just the guys for the job. They're dedicated to self expression and creating connection through conversations around their art-inspired bags and work. So, energized by their mission, and fueled by our own passion for the military community, we were ready to explore the possibilities of creating a backpack that speaks to the journeys and adventures of military spouses today.


 
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The crew wasn't complete yet, we needed artwork for our backpack. In late 2017, Milspo Project's team put out a call for artists.  We were looking for someone who wanted to use their medium to convey an amazing and emotional story, had a sincere desire to align with a good cause,  and had likely been or knew someone who has been affected in some way by military life.  Bergen DeLeeuw answered that call.

 
 "Life is cause for rejoicing! Through my work I seek to bring nature’s small intricacies to the forefront. Through layering different consistencies, blending softness with bold strokes, I create works that give cause to pause and experience a thankfulness that emanates through slowing down to see the little things, the simple things.  Nature inspires my art with water and plants being cornerstones. I seek to develop a hunt for wanderlust and continual discovery in my paintings. Through the use of acrylic and watercolor, I celebrate life with the use of both rich and serene colors. My work evokes a joyful peace while celebrating God’s beauty in the infinitely vast creation being discovered. "  -Bergen DeLeeuw

"Life is cause for rejoicing! Through my work I seek to bring nature’s small intricacies to the forefront. Through layering different consistencies, blending softness with bold strokes, I create works that give cause to pause and experience a thankfulness that emanates through slowing down to see the little things, the simple things.

Nature inspires my art with water and plants being cornerstones. I seek to develop a hunt for wanderlust and continual discovery in my paintings. Through the use of acrylic and watercolor, I celebrate life with the use of both rich and serene colors. My work evokes a joyful peace while celebrating God’s beauty in the infinitely vast creation being discovered. "  -Bergen DeLeeuw

 
 
 
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   The story of Amaryllis    The amaryllis flower is forced into bloom. During the cold, barren winter months, one can often see the striking blooms radiating beauty against the winter white landscape. The stalks are thick, forming a support system for the delicate yet hardy blooms.   Military spouses are part of a vast and deeply rooted network of some of the strongest individuals I know. We do what we need to do without complaint, and often without thanks. Persevering through tying circumstances on the daily is part of who we are regardless of whether or not we think ourselves capable. There was a time not so long ago that I hoped I could be the strong, independent woman I so aspired myself to be. Day in and day out the culmination of a thousand tiny things like pulling weeds at our house when my hubby is away, dragging the trash out to the curb on Sunday nights and being there to kiss my little guy’s scraped knees, have caused me to see that I am made for this role. All the small, sometimes seemingly insignificant pieces of our lives form us, refine us and define us. I am so far from perfect, but at the same time, I can be a rock of security, joy and belonging for our little boy, and I can be a force of love, encouragement and faithful commitment to my husband who is leagues away from here on his deployment with the MEU. I think each and every one of us is capable of more than we give ourselves credit for, and this painting celebrates that quiet beauty and strength. 

The story of Amaryllis

The amaryllis flower is forced into bloom. During the cold, barren winter months, one can often see the striking blooms radiating beauty against the winter white landscape. The stalks are thick, forming a support system for the delicate yet hardy blooms. 

Military spouses are part of a vast and deeply rooted network of some of the strongest individuals I know. We do what we need to do without complaint, and often without thanks. Persevering through tying circumstances on the daily is part of who we are regardless of whether or not we think ourselves capable. There was a time not so long ago that I hoped I could be the strong, independent woman I so aspired myself to be. Day in and day out the culmination of a thousand tiny things like pulling weeds at our house when my hubby is away, dragging the trash out to the curb on Sunday nights and being there to kiss my little guy’s scraped knees, have caused me to see that I am made for this role. All the small, sometimes seemingly insignificant pieces of our lives form us, refine us and define us. I am so far from perfect, but at the same time, I can be a rock of security, joy and belonging for our little boy, and I can be a force of love, encouragement and faithful commitment to my husband who is leagues away from here on his deployment with the MEU. I think each and every one of us is capable of more than we give ourselves credit for, and this painting celebrates that quiet beauty and strength. 


 
 
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In seeking to build bridges, Badass Backpacks guided our team in incorporating the military spouse experience in a bag that is worthy of starting a conversation - one that now invites our community to share their own story.  


 
 
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Our team worked remotely on the project, meeting virtually each week to get inspired, ask ourselves 'what if?', as well as discuss progress and next steps.

 
 

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In the oldest Revolutionary War widow. "To Valerie, best of wives and best of women." - Alexander Hamilton

 
 
 Paul Weeks / Opal Weeks, 1940

Paul Weeks / Opal Weeks, 1940

 Paul Lemmon / Billie Lemmon 1942

Paul Lemmon / Billie Lemmon 1942

 
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"Memories of my grandmother, Lilly (Billie) Lemmon rocketed to the forefront of my mind.  She was a military spouse who showed me grit. We talked about poise. Memories of my grandmother, Opal Weeks, and her elegance came rushing in, because her poise shined in how she lived her life.  Both of my grandfathers were veterans of World War II. Both of my grandmothers were military spouses."  -Adam Lemmon
 

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In 2017, Elizabeth Boardman invited me to join an adventure. The question at hand: how can we create a backpack that highlights the beauty inherent in the journey of a military spouse? We wanted to create a bag that would symbolize the Truth. The Truth that the journey of this tribe (all military spouses) is fraught with challenges, and the Truth, that those challenges do not determine who the members of this tribe might become. In our very first conversation, Elizabeth gifted us a focus: we are here to talk about military spouses thriving, not surviving.

Our work together has been full of conversations - resilience, dignity, identity, and emotional labor. Big questions, questions that sometimes have answers, and other big questions that do not. Walking with the resolved, and the unresolved — this adventure continues moving forward. I hope you will smile with us and enjoy what we’ve created together so far. The Amaryllis backpack is a beautiful symbol of exploration. This is a reminder that we can choose what we carry with us. This is a reminder that military spouses are thriving.

Badass Backpacks’ work with the Milspo Project is not yet done; we have more work to do. But having the first Amaryllis backpacks in our hands gives me pause. Seeing Bergen’s gorgeous artwork on the bag, and knowing all that this bag represents, I am full of gratitude. Gratitude for all of the work that the Milspo Project team has put into this, gratitude for Bergen’s artwork, and gratitudes of the highest order to all of the military spouses, “spouses who carry the honor and weight of supporting their service member and family, wherever military life may take them, while also maintaining their own identity and success.” Thank you and ever onward!
— Adam Lemmon, May 10, 2018 | Austin, TX | Flightpath Coffeehouse

 
 
 
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Now is your it's your turn. As an owner of this bag, you will not only carry those voices and stories with you, but also will be helping to ensure more military spouse voices are heard and supported.

 
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