Perhaps it’s because Ryan’s in the field, or perhaps it’s because we’re heading into PCS season (not us, mind you), but friends are leaving, Ryan’s summer TDYs are imminent, and Army life seems to be moving full-speed ahead while the rest of the quarantined world stays slow. Steady. Calm. I found myself waxing nostalgic the other day about how clueless I was when Ryan and I first started dating. I mean, hell, I actually started this blog because I hoped to connect with other military spouses/significant others. Obviously, this blog took on a life of its own along the way, but one thing remains true. I’ve learned a lot in our six years of marriage and eight years of navigating this married military life together. That’s why I came up with a list of 8 things I wish I’d known about Army life before I entered it.
Some of them have been hard-fought and harder won. Others are simple blessings. All of them, however, make up this lifestyle that we lead and that, overall, we’re blessed to have. It’s hard, and I’m absolutely sure this isn’t the lifestyle for everyone. For us though? It works, even though we had to learn a lot of these things the hard way.
10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Army Life
1 // Duty Stations Are What You Make of Them – Let’s be honest. Even before the Army started utilizing the marketplace, you could put down your preferences, and the military could laugh in your face. Duty stations aren’t guaranteed and, more often than not, are ultimately out of your immediate control. But here’s the thing; you can still make the best of it even if you don’t love your duty station. I’ll say it. I don’t love JBLM. I do love exploring though, and taking my kids on adventures to places like Gold Creek Pond and Port Angeles were one hundred percent worth it. The same went for Fort Drum. Your time there is what you make of it.
2 // There Are Harder Things Than Deployments – I mentioned a few months ago that I actually prefer deployments to TDYs, and I was surprised to see that a lot of military spouses agree. Before I truly became familiar with this lifestyle, I thought deployment would be the worst of it. Reintegration was harder. Back-to-back TDYs are painful. Trying to get small children to comprehend that their parent still exists even though they don’t see them is the hardest. Deployments are hard, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all of military life.
3 // You Create a New Family – There are a lot of times when I wish I could’ve been home for something special – like the birth of my nephew, or helping my mama post surgery. There are times when I wish I was within driving distance again, but that’s just not the case. Over the years, however, we’ve created a new family; our military family. They’re widely dispersed, wonderful individuals from all walks of life, and all of them have contributed to our journey in some way. Those people? They’re your family, too.
4 // Never Take Your Career for Granted – Some of you know I recently lost my job due to COVID’s effects on the travel industry, but for nearly eight years prior, I was blessed to continue my work as a copywriter for the same company, regardless of where the Army sent us. So many spouses aren’t that lucky. So many overqualified individuals are consistently unemployed or, perhaps worse, working in a different job far from the career path they chose. This lifestyle isn’t kind to military spouse careers in most cases.
5 // You Will Have Incomparable Opportunities – Hear me out before you protest. Yes, this lifestyle is hard, but like it is for duty stations, it is what you make of it. Without being an Army wife, I would never have had the opportunity to fly Space-A in a military plane across the country with three children solo. I likely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore the far corners of this country and, hopefully, the world before Ryan’s career is done. Seek the opportunities and seize them. You won’t regret it.
6 // It Will Teach You How to Be Self-Sufficient – I’m a pretty independent person, and I like to think of myself as being pretty capable in most things. Navigating military life? It’s a whole different ballgame. There are a lot of technicalities that I never thought I’d have to figure out…like enrolling Mieke in DEERS while Ryan was deployed, or registering the kids in ChildCare Aware, a government-funded military childcare subsidy program to get the kids better care off base. Hell, I never thought I’d move solo at 37 weeks pregnant without my husband. But I did it, and I’m grateful for those challenges.
7 // You Will Learn a Lot – I’m not just talking about the acronyms because, let’s be real, there’s an acronym for everything. You’ll learn a lot about yourself. I learned that I had no clue what I was doing, and I learned that I needed to change my mindset before I could truly embrace the challenges of this lifestyle. If you are open to growing and becoming a better person, this journey will teach you more about yourself than you’d ever guess. I had a lot of growing up to do, and I am grateful for the challenges that have refined my perspective on military life, as a while.
8 // Military Healthcare is the Best (and Worst) – There are a bazillion hoops to jump through with TriCare. Sometimes they approve things. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes there will be local subsidiaries that let you see providers of your own choosing. Sometimes? Not so much. In the end though. I’m grateful for it…hoops and all. It’s how I was able to go through my last pregnancy at a birth center. It’s how we managed to finally get Porter’s ENT surgeries done last year. I’ll take the hoops as a pretty awesome trade-off against healthcare premiums. Perspective, friends. It’s a thing.
There are a lot of things about military life that are difficult, but I’d honestly say that if you’re looking at this as a mixed bag, most of it (for us, at least) feels positive and good. Though this has been a really difficult duty station for us as a family in terms of work/life balance, we’re still grateful for the challenges and the opportunities with which we’ve been presented through the years.
Tell me: if you’re not familiar with military life, what is one thing you’re curious about? I’d love to see if I know the answer 😉