Home. Perhaps I’m waxing nostalgic because Ryan left Tuesday for his TDY. Home is such a funny concept in the military though. Depending on what branch you’re affiliated with, you pick up and move every few years either stateside or OCONUS (outside of the continental U.S.), establishing a new home each time. I moved a lot growing up. I was blessed to grow up with parents who believed we carve our own path. My mama is as bold as bold gets. She picked up and followed her dream, leaving her family in South Africa and traveling Europe as a professional figure skater. And, when the time came, she moved to the U.S. to follow her heart. Never once growing up did I feel that home meant being stuck. Home became a flexible reality for me, and I truly believe that my upbringing prepared me for what home means to a military family.
Ryan and I have been married for six and a half years. In that time, we’ve lived in Arizona, New York, and Washington. We’ve lived in four different houses. Our kids were each born at a different duty station and state. If that’s not unconventional, I don’t know what is. But it’s also normal to us. I’ve written before about how in the military, the abnormal becomes normal, and I truly believe that the same concept applies to what home means to a military family.
I have friends who’ve never left their home state, and that’s wonderful. They’ve established a base of their own – a niche, if you will – in which they’ve planted roots for generations to come. For us, the military gives us the best of both worlds – roots and wings. Each time we PCS, we’re given an opportunity. That opportunity is to explore, discover, see, do, feel, and grow. We don’t always love our duty stations but, for better or worse, that duty station becomes our home for a given amount of time. Home doesn’t mean a place we have to put down deep roots, but rather it’s an opportunity to branch out, build a community, find our people, and make a home.
Home, for so many of us though, isn’t a place. It’s a state of mind. When people ask me where home is, I’m often struck with the thought that I just don’t know. Is it New Jersey, where I spent my formative years? Is it New Hampshire, where my family now lives? Is it Florida? Utah? The answer though, is actually more simple than you might think. Home is where we are together. It may not be a place we spend permanently, but it’s a place where togetherness lives. Home, for our little family unit, is Washington. It’s wherever the Army sends us. My home home though? New Hampshire. It’s where your heart is. There are many challenging elements to military life and, while the process of moving is stressful in and of itself, building a home wherever we are is such a gift.
Home for a military family isn’t the house.
It’s the people. It’s the community. It’s where you celebrate the changing seasons, life’s littlest and biggest milestones, and the opportunities you have. It’s the place that you feel most connected to all around you. And, I truly believe that some of us have more than one home. As we move closer towards our PCS next year, I’m struck by the fact that we like big changes. We thrive on bold adventures. We grow with the risks and journeys we take.
Home though? Home will always be wherever we’re all together.