For some military members and families, retirement can be a scary or bad idea. Others find the idea amazing and exciting. Our family wholeheartedly associates with the latter.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, when it comes to counting down the days until my husband retires from the United States Coast Guard, we are totally Semper Paratus – always ready.
I’ve learned a few things during my time as a military spouse, but here are the two most important ones:
– The strength of military spouses is second to none.
Their courage is infinite. The sacrifices they make and their dedication to their service member and their mission are extremely admirable. The trials and tribulations they face are beyond explanation. It takes guts to do what they do. It’s very inspiring!
– Being a military spouse isn’t for me.
I can hear the gasps that some of you made as you read that last line; reading it myself makes me feel horrible. Some of you might be thinking “Her poor husband!” or that I’m not supportive of my husband’s career because I can’t seem to get the hang of life as a military spouse. Trust me, I get it.
Please understand that through an extremely HUGE amount of luck, conversations, decision making, trial and error, etc., my husband and I just happened to be ready to leave military life at the same time. There was no guilt-tripping. There were no ultimatums.
He’s ready. I’m ready. Our family is ready for retirement.
I have never liked change. I also have no problem admitting that I do best when surrounded by others who support and encourage me. We spent two tours in Michigan, which also happens to be our home state. We were never further than 3 hours away from the closest family and friends. I lived through postpartum depression with the support and security of the home that I needed.
After our move to California in 2016, I had an extremely hard time adjusting to life 2,000 miles away from any support system. You can read more about that struggle here. Not only did I struggle (and continue to), but this move took a toll on our oldest child, Colin. I think that was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back – at least for my husband. Seeing what it did to Colin sealed the deal for him.
My husband has been to New York twice, Alaska, South Carolina and two tours in our home state of Michigan before we moved here to Alameda, California. He’s done missing his nieces’ academic and athletic success. He’s done missing out on weekends away with friends at our favorite cabin in Northern Michigan. His list of things he’s missing grows longer every day.
Typing and rereading this really makes me feel like we’re resentful, or even ungrateful. However, that couldn’t be more wrong.
We are incredibly thankful for all of the amazing opportunities that the military has afforded us. We’ve seen things we never would have seen and we’ve been places that are so beautiful! Our children have grown to be more resilient than they might otherwise have been, and I know I’ve unveiled a lot of strength that I didn’t know I had before. My husband loves his job, and he loves being a part of such an amazing group of women and men.
But it’s okay to say that life in the military isn’t for you. It’s okay to give credit to the amazing men and women who call themselves military spouses and in the same sentence say that I don’t like doing it myself.
And as I am looking back on my 10 years as a military spouse, I can’t help but think of all the things I have done for the last time as a military spouse. A list of lasts, if you will. I hope you find this list encouraging, inspiring, and even a bit humorous!
For the last time…
…I stood in the front office of the children’s school wondering who I was going to put down as an emergency contact. Our closest relative was 2,000 miles away. Next time, I will have an abundance of names and numbers to give them.
…I used my GPS to get to and from my home for a month in order to do the simplest of things. No more turn-by-turn instructions to the grocery store, get gas, or go to the mall. Next time, I won’t be afraid if I get lost.
…I glared in awkward silence when the cashier at Costco saw my Detroit shirt and asked me if I know Eminem or Kid Rock. Next time, everyone will know that neither of them is actually from Detroit.
…I worried about how I was going to buy plane tickets for all four of us to get home for Christmas AND make sure we had groceries. Next time, we won’t need plane tickets.
…we got a text message about my brother-in-law, who is in need of a kidney and is awaiting a transplant, landing in the hospital; we were so far away that even if we wanted to do something, we still couldn’t. Next time we get a call, I will be on my way to sit with my sister-in-law and nieces as they wait for good news.
…I lost a friend to the PCS season. Sure, I might lose a friend or two throughout the rest of my life. But for some reason, losing someone you opened yourself up to with no explanation other than the move burns a bit more.
And for the last time…as we drove away to head back to our station, I watched my 90-year-old grandfather out of the rearview mirror, waving to me with tears in his eyes. I will not be scared to death that it might be the last time he ever sees my children again. Next time, Grandpa, I will never ever leave your side.
So our time in the military has come to an end.
We are at peace with it, and we are ready for the next chapter in our lives. Whatever it brings, we will ultimately look back on our time as a military family and smile.