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Are your bags packed?

Lt. Col. Samuel Skaggs, 314th Airlift Wing plans and programs chief

Lt. Col. Samuel Skaggs, 314th Airlift Wing plans and programs chief

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- About 10 years ago, a group commander of mine liked to ask the question: "Are your bags packed?" He was speaking, of course, about readiness to deploy. The bags he referred to weren't the A, B, C, D or E bags you might be thinking of - rather they are all the "things" we as Airmen need to do in preparation for a deployment - training, immunizations and our personal affairs.

Generally when we think of personal affairs, we think of finances, childcare, powers of attorney and so on. We have been trained, or at least encouraged, to maintain a current will, and are reminded of this each time we process for deployment. Most Airmen do, in fact have a will, but it's less common for their spouses to have a will (or life insurance for that matter).

I suppose it's human nature that many of us only worry about wills (and life insurance) for ourselves and not our spouses, since we're the ones seemingly at the greater risk. Human nature or not, it's just as important to maintain a current will for your spouse as it is for yourself. I can tell you from personal experience, the last thing you want to be concerned with after losing your spouse is how to handle their estate if he or she didn't have a will. In many cases, the settling of an estate is covered by law (except where specific provisions have been included in a will), but it still makes the process more efficient if the deceased had one. I know that discussing wills can be difficult at best, and it's definitely not a pleasant thought or topic of conversation. However, like life insurance the will is something we hope we never need, but are relieved we had it when the time comes.

Speaking of wills and unpleasant topics, you should also strongly consider discussing "living wills" for both you and your spouse. A living will is a legal document that a person uses to make known his or her wishes regarding life prolonging medical treatments. It's important to have a living will as it informs your health care providers and your family about your desires for medical treatment in the event you are not able to speak for yourself. This is possibly the toughest conversation you and your spouse will ever have, but it's one you will regret not having should you find yourself making decisions about your spouse's survival -- especially if a family or someone else contests your decision.

If your spouse doesn't have a will (and living will), have them get one. It's a very quick, easy and free process through the base legal office. The effort will be well worth it, if you ever have the misfortune of losing your loved one (or representing their wishes for life-saving/continuing medical treatment). Consider it just a must-do task for your family readiness. So, are your bags packed?