He left the Army a few months ago, after more than seven years of service. Here’s what happened.
Although the military was his career (he was the one who signed his name on the dotted line and who eventually received a DD-214), his career became our lifestyle.
On his last day, I surprised him with some gifts:
- A bottle of champagne
- A G-Shock watch to commemorate this new time in his life
- An Afghanistan veteran hat
- An Army coin
- Two Army brat coins so he could coin our children
Immediate Change For All of Us
None of us really knew what to expect.
Him — He had a job lined up with a government contractor, which was reassuring, but it didn’t stop the recruiters from calling on repeat. In other good news, he was thrilled with the fact that he no longer had to shave every day or wake up at o’dark thirty for PT anymore.
Me — I worked from home, so it didn’t matter where I ended up. I had fun helping him shop for new clothes for his civilian job, and provided feedback every evening of, “Yes, that looks great.” I realized that after wearing a uniform for years, having to select and iron clothes again would take some getting used to. Also, I suddenly didn’t know what to call myself. He was now a veteran, but could I still use the term milspouse? Hmm…
Our kids — The boys told everyone that they were moving soon, and became “mad at the Army” because they couldn’t stay in their house or school much longer. I realized then, that the boys were very much a part of this transition as well.
Months After The Fact
We are now in a civilian neighborhood, and the kids switched schools during the year for the first time. Most of their new classmates have been in the same school since kindergarten, whereas my kids can say they’ve lived in another country. The teachers and administration have been very welcoming, because it isn’t every day that they get Army brats in town. Amazingly enough, the guidance counselor was an Army brat herself, and the support has been tremendous.
Living in a civilian neighborhood again after years on base, has its pros and cons. Here is what we’ve discovered:
- Neighbors are incredibly friendly. They have lived here for years, and want to get to know the new family, because moving in and out isn’t as common as it is on a military base.
- They pick up after their dogs. Perhaps it is because they take pride in their neighborhood and home ownership, and don’t feel as temporary and transient as many do in military communities. It’s a nice perk.
- We are surrounded by senior citizens. We’re used to living with young families, but this is kind of neat, having friendly grandparent-types who dote on the boys and let us pet their dogs.
- It can feel like a ghost town. I’m used to living in communities with lots of stay-at-home moms and young kids, and now everyone seems to work. If I go for a mid-morning walk, I’m lucky to see anyone out and about, unless they are a retiree.
- We miss having tons of kids to play with. We were surrounded by families on base, and my kids would spend every afternoon after school playing outside with their buddies. There are some kids here, but their parents both work, so the neighborhood kids spend lots of time in after-school care.
- No playgrounds in the community. Every base we’ve lived on had playgrounds nearby. Now, we have to drive to a park to take advantage of something they could once walk to and enjoy with lots of other kids.
How Are We Now?
Him — I talked to him a lot to make sure he felt confident about getting out of the military, and losing that identity. I’d say that overall, he has done a really great job handling the change.
Me — I asked myself a lot how I felt about leaving the stability and security of the lifestyle I came to know and love. I realized that although no longer the spouse of an active-duty service member, I can still work with and support the military community. This milspouse experience I had was all mine, and no one could take that from me.
Our kids — The boys are so incredibly resilient, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. I believe that their experience as Army brats of moving, and having friends come and go, has positioned them for success in meeting new people, starting over, and confidently being who they are, no matter where they live.
Hey Army, Thanks For The Memories
Although terrified when he joined the Army after we were already married with a child, I can now look back on the experience quite fondly, and with a great deal of appreciation.
I hope that one day when you or your spouse transitions, you will have plenty of quality memories to keep in your pocket as well. (And no more pens in pockets in the wash, and no more missing PT belts! Ha, I had to!)
But to get serious once more, most of all, I thank him for his service, and for the experience we enjoyed of being a military family. It is one we will always cherish and never forget.
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