What it's like to adjust to life after the military
I met my husband back in 2006 in Clarksville, Tennessee. He was in the Army at Ft. Campbell and almost like the worst cliché, it was love at first sight. A week after meeting we were planning wedding songs. It was a great whirlwind. Months later he had orders to move to Ft. Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma and of course, I was going with him.
And what do you know? Four months later we were married (in a courthouse like a lot of military couples) and a month after that learned we were pregnant with our first child. Here we are nine years later, still going strong but not without our share of rough times. I like to think it has made us stronger together and better people for it.
Within those nine years we racked up eight moves and a deployment. I actually love that we had all of those moves, because I have gone from the great open plains of Oklahoma to waking up to the majestic site of Mt. Rainier in Washington. It always felt like an adventure. Our roads trips were made bearable in separate cars by using walkie talkies with call signs like “sugar britches” and “rubber ducky,” and singing horribly off-key to each other.
When my husband was deployed trying to keep the spark alive was a bit tricky. Thank goodness for email, Skype, and very imaginative love lettering. As the spouse left here, you become very grateful for family and friends during this time. Things actually felt easier then. When the military said move, you moved and there wasn’t a thought to it. When my husband’s re-enlistment came up though, we decided after eight years of his service it was time to part ways and get back into civilian life. Believe it or not, this is actually when things became complicated.
I am originally from Ohio and my husband is from Iowa. Neither of us were too quick to say where we would rather go. We have close family in both places. Eventually we had to make a decision and I agreed to move to Iowa.
Things were good for a while. Luckily, I had a great friend in my husband’s sister. She became my go to person other than my husband. I went back to Ohio to visit for Thanksgiving and when I returned to Iowa I cried for three days realizing how hard it would be to not live near my family. Missing all of the holiday traditions were things that for some reason didn’t cross my mind much when we were in the military. I think at this point I was so used to moving around that somehow the knowledge that we might live here forever suddenly made me wish for everything I was leaving behind. This started to take a toll on our marriage. Add in the birth of our second son and you have a postpartum cry monster of a wife and eventually my husband agreed to move to Ohio.
We have lived in Ohio for two years. My husband got a pretty amazing job with the VA healthcare system and he loves it. But he misses home, too. A possible job opportunity with the same company has arisen for him in Iowa and I agreed if he gets the job to move back. Being back in Ohio for me is great. I am very close with my family, but you begin to realize after being gone for so long that friends have moved on (as they should) and maybe your spouse is just more important to you than the things you thought you left behind.
I love my family dearly and they are having hurt feelings, rightfully so. I do feel though, that I can move back to Iowa with a different mindset than the first time. You learn that making your spouse happy makes you happy and all of those things, like traditions, are all things that you can carry with you. At Christmas time I make all of my mother’s homemade cookie recipes with my boys and it gives me the taste of home. Hopefully we will be given the ability to visit as often as possible.
I am slowly learning that you will never be able to make every person who matters to you happy. You can have great love for others but you have to make choices for yourself.