Navigating Life as a Military Wife

When I met my husband in 2008, I never imagined my life would have come to where we are now. I never imagined myself as a military spouse, nor was it anything I ever aspired to be.

My husband Shaun is a member of the United States Coast Guard and is now in his seventeenth year of service.  I haven’t been with him throughout his entire journey in the military, but he has been to New York twice, Alaska, South Carolina and Northwestern Michigan before coming back to Detroit (where we are both originally from) in 2014. 

I joined Shaun when he was transferred to Charleston, South Carolina in July of 2009. While in South Carolina I found there was a huge military presence there.  There was base housing; encouraging a sense of community and togetherness among military members and spouses, a commissary and exchange for military members and spouses to grocery shop, and wherever you went you saw people in uniform. I thought it was great to see such a sense of camaraderie and support for each other.  It was like no matter what you’d always have friends and a family when you couldn’t be near your own.  It was nice to feel that if I ever needed that kind of support – it would be there for me – for my family.

In July of 2011, we were relocated to Ludington, Michigan – a mere 4 hours from Detroit!  It sounds like a lot, but compared to the 13-hour distance we had in Charleston, anything was better to us! Although I know we had our second “military family” we started to build, I felt safer in the fact that we would be closer to our firm Detroit roots, our forever home (one day).

There are so many wonderful things about being a military family.  Traveling to places I’d never otherwise get to see, meeting so many amazing people with huge hearts, learning how to deal with difficult life situations, and a very important one: learning to live with constant change without any control of the outcome i.e. uprooting your family entirely every 2-4 years.  I will admit that if it was just Shaun and me, uprooting wouldn’t be such an issue.  Once kids were added to the equation, Shaun and I felt just a little different about life with the military. We felt a very natural urge to start winding down our military journey “on the road” and bring our family home to Detroit to stay – forever.

Once we were settled in our home in Northern Michigan and started getting more frequent visits from our family and friends who live here, our minds began to wonder: How are we going to leave this place and move far away again?  It doesn’t quite seem comfortable – it doesn’t seem right. Of course, like a broken record, I heard constantly from family members, friends and other military spouses that “this is what I signed up for” and “you knew what you were getting into when you married him.” You know what?  I don’t believe that for one second. There’s no way to expect or understand the experience you are about to embark upon before you actually embark upon it! Now that we’re in the middle of it, especially after starting one of our kids in school, Shaun and I both feel the same way.  Maybe picking up and moving across the country for the next 10+ years just isn’t for us. 

Our son is in one of the best school districts in the state.  He has had the most amazing start in his education. I do not want to pull him from this beautiful foundation we’ve built for him. Now I have to look for a preschool for our daughter and a school district in an area that I have never been to and is 3,000 miles away.  Online resources for this are great – but nothing compares to being there in person to see where your child will be learning.

 Colin is just now starting to make friends and constantly talks about when he and his friends get into first grade and when he moves up in Boy Scouts and having play dates with his classmates this summer.  Guess what buddy?  We’ll be in California this summer – where you’ll know literally no one except us within a 3000-mile radius.  He’ll have to start from scratch in the friendship department.  My son would be amazing at this since he is probably the most friendly little boy I’ve ever known, but the thing is I don’t want him to have to keep doing this over and over.  I understand it’s possible to “make new friends, but keep the old.” I just don’t want to cause any unnecessary heartbreak.

Every time we move, we have to change/find new doctors, hairstylists, dentists, places to live, grocery stores, banks, etc., This is pretty much self-explanatory.  You have to find a new…everything.  Starting from scratch every 2-4 years is taxing, emotionally and financially.

For my family, we’ve decided that our next transfer to Alameda (San Francisco area) California will be our very last.  For us, it’s the most natural progression.  Shaun absolutely loves his job and has every reason to be proud of his military career – but we both agree that to everything there is a season, and we’re very excited (and nervous) to see what the next season will be like for our family.

So, we’re leaving on our cross-country journey in July for approximately three years.  Fear not, family and friends – we will be counting down the days until we return to you and never leave again.  Our roots, our home, our forever.

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