If you’re a civilian like me, you may not consider everyone affected by a military deployment. You may think about the tough good-byes of loved ones and the tear-jerking reunions when soldiers return. We may not imagine the daily living of those left behind. Military spouses move on a regular basis, starting over again and again. One spouse explains how she made several military moves and why she misses that way of life.
The Beginning Of Military Life Wasn’t Easy
Jason finished military medical school in 2000 when he received his orders to move to St. Louis from Washington, D.C. With a three-month old baby at the time, Mary felt thankful that the military set everything up for them. The military chose a mover, sent the mover out to look at the things they needed to move, and told them what to expect on moving day. The movers did most of the work for them. Unfortunately, everything else got off to a rocky start.
Mary and Jason purchased a house in a civilian neighborhood, but it wasn’t ready for them at move-in time. So, they needed to stay in an Extended Stay America for six weeks. As a new mom in a new city in a small space, this wasn’t easy for Mary. This was the first time she wasn’t working and she tried to telecommute but she didn’t have adequate computer access. Mary explains, “I almost went crazy being in that hotel room all day long with the baby.” She decided to find a way to make the best of the situation.
Mary headed over to the base which offered a top-notch gym. She strapped her baby onto her chest and walked around the track. Mary didn’t get very far when an employer rushed over and said, “You can’t do this with a baby. There are liability issues. You need to leave.” Mary burst into tears. Whether or not you’re a military spouse, any new mom can commiserate. Throw a military move into the mix and all bets are off. There will be unexpected challenges when surviving a new way of life. Not to be brought down by one setback, Mary joined a local Y instead.
Later Military Moves Offered Adventure and Friendship
In 2003, Mary and Jason received orders to move to England with their two kids (ages 3 and 9 months). Jason’s sponsor, another physician, welcomed them to the new base. She and her husband, a helicopter pilot, helped them with their paperwork, showed them around, and even helped Mary and Jason find their first house in England. The military didn’t have enough base housing, so the U.S. government leased out entire rentals in the community and this is where the family settled down. It was perfect for them.
Mary found it easy to meet new people since they were so closely tied to the base. The overseas community felt tight-knight and welcoming with someone always organizing a moms’ group or talking about a fun festival they should attend together. The base travel office offered bus tours that would take them to Stonehenge or other destinations. The overseas base seemed intent on lifting morale, so they would offer extra vacation days to keep spirits up. Jason and Mary took advantage of these opportunities to explore the country with their two kids.
Returning Home After Overseas Deployment
After three years in England, the couple felt ready to return home. They wanted to get back to be closer to family. Mary tells me, “We were ready to leave. We thought we missed America. But, when you get back to America, you realize you built up what you missed.” The thrill to be near Starbucks and Barnes & Noble wore off soon and then it felt like regular America again. They missed England. “I really liked the community overseas and we were in an adventurous time. I loved living in a foreign place. Now I look back and think we could’ve done so much more if we had stayed and traveled with our kids.”
Although Mary and Jason missed living in England, many of the same benefits of military living proved true in Colorado. The community helped one another in times of need. Mary’s son broke his leg only days before Jason’s deployment to Afghanistan. Colleagues would stop by and shovel her driveway and Mary appreciated any help she received while Jason was away. Mary also felt empowered by being able to do many things independently. “Once you’ve accomplished it, you feel totally empowered. It’s hard, but there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment.” Mary and Jason returned to civilian life after ten years in the military. She looks back upon those days of adventure, friendship, and logistical help from the U.S. government with great fondness.
10 Things Civilians Can Learn from Military Moves
- Moving is an adventure. Embrace it.
- Find a “sponsor” to help you settle in.
- Be willing to offer help when needed.
- Accept offers of help as well.
- Make an effort to become part of a community. It makes a big difference.
- Try not to romanticize your old place too much.
- Enjoy your new city because you’d probably miss it if you needed to leave.
- Keep your paperwork in order.
- Give yourself time to explore to boost morale.
- Even when things are planned with military precision, unexpected things happen when moving.