By Sarah Thomas
“We received our orders today!” This is a statement many military families have heard several times in their lives and will continue to hear many more times.
Orders are the notification of the military members next duty station. Most families move every 2-4 years with multiple if not all duty stations being far from home. Military life is the definition of being transit. What does that look like? Well, it looks like hard, it looks like exciting, and it looks like every emotion possible. As military families, we quickly learn there is a physical and emotional process we all go through when moving. When learning of one’s next duty station, one cannot google enough. Schools, houses, things to do, cost of living, demographics, and pictures! One can’t seem to type fast enough to learn all things concerning this new location. Although very hard at times, PCSing (moving) can be very exciting. Even if you have never heard of your next location, it seems to open the possibility of a newness and adventure. Military families hold onto to that possibility as moving is always sad and tearful. Even when families think they will celebrate leaving a certain area there is always a sense of sadness when they leave.
Moving is only one of the things that military families deal with.
There is deployment, TDY, war, low pay, and high stress levels in the workplace, as well as at home. These can affect all relationships and the quality of life for the whole family. Deployments can leave children filled with fear, and deep down inside fear in the hearts of the spouses too. Military work hours are well above the 40-hour work week, and the salary often leaves one questioning how they will make it to the next paycheck.
With all these challenges one might ask why do people join the military, and are there any positives to this lifestyle? I can honestly say YES! Through the hard, the harder, and the hardest times, there is always light at the end of it, and my experience is, it is usually a bright light. I am not only a military spouse, but I grew up as a military child, and I am a sister of an active duty military member. In all these capacities, I have seen many positives of being in this military community.
As a child, I saw my dad fly a plane he loved dearly. I learned about passion and doing something to your best ability as I watched him prepare for his flights. I experienced community when moving around frequently. Then when I got married, my husband joined the military. We had no idea of the blessings, opportunities, and possibilities that would come our way because we chose the military life. We received blessings of scholarships and benefits while attending medical school, residency, and fellowship. As well as blessings of healthcare when our children were born. The blessings of lifelong friends who know how to lift and love when things are hard were also found. We have had opportunities to live abroad, learn new cultures, and gain new perspectives. Both my husband and I have had the opportunity to work with pilots, maintainers, JAG, medical, police, special forces, and some of the best leadership the military has. The possibilities that we as a family have experienced are endless. The possibility to become better than we are. The possibility to push through hard and the possibility to experience something we never would have known if it were not for the military.
You see being in the military makes you into someone you didn’t know even existed.
My experience as a military child, spouse, and sibling has broadened my perspective. It has made me more comfortable with adventures, the unknown, and yes, even more, accepting of moving boxes and packing paper. The military community has given me times in my life when I could practice the philosophy of being mindful of others. I believe for me personally, if I would not have ever been a part of this community, I would have been a little shyer, a little more cautious of life, and I would not have some of the most amazing selfless people in my heart. As a family, we are abundantly grateful for everything we have gained from our experience in the military. The life lessons we have learned we will take with us forever. Yes, there is hard in this life. However, there is hard in every life. The blessings, opportunities, and possibilities we have been given through the military are greater than any other journey we could have chosen. We will always look back on this time in our life as a time we would not give up for something better, even if it meant we didn’t have to unpack those boxes!