“Oh God, Is This The Right Move?”

It’s officially official and I can now start sharing with the whole world that my little sister is engaged!! She and her (now) fiance got engaged on her birthday (June 13th) and it’s looking like they’ll be getting married in mid-August. Does the short turn around time sound familiar to anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Well, if it does sound familiar it’s likely because you had a short turn around too. And that short turn around might have meant that you were also getting married to a service member. That’s right, my sister is marrying a Marine. Though, unlike me and my husband (Army), they’ve known each other since they were kids. They graduated high school together. He was even her first real boyfriend in like middle school. After graduation, he joined the Corps and they kinda lost touch. Last year, while she was working the renaissance faire circuit with Inner Beast Leather they worked the Southern California Faire and they reconnected while she was there. For over a year they’ve been in a long distance relationship (he was in California for a portion of it as well as being deployed to the Middle East while shutting down bases) and now they’re getting married. Yay!!

Personally, I’m super excited for her. I know she is as well, but I’m like over the moon excited for her. Mostly because I know what her love life has been like her entire life and she deserves this. Her boyfriend is beyond good to her and gets the big sister stamp of approval.

When a normal engagement happens, the girl generally has no idea it’s going to happen. For military engagements though, a lot of the time the woman either knows when it’s going to happen or knows it’s going to happen soon just not when. So she’s always on the edge of her seat wondering “is he gonna do it now?”. The latter was my sister and I. With our boyfriends being so far away from us (admittedly, hers was further) we knew it had to be during one of those rare windows when we were together. We had an idea, just not a certain time. So in the days leading up to her boyfriend arriving back home for his summer block leave (he came back to Kentucky since it’s his home state as well), she was growing more and more nervous. Of course, she came to me for advice and I gave it to her the best I could.

And now that it’s all come to a head and there’s no more need for her to be nervous, I find myself wondering if those moments of “oh God, is this the right move?” is something a majority of mil-spouses go through. Whether it is or not, I felt compelled to write this blog. These are the things I told myself (since I didn’t really have someone to discuss it all with like my sister did) and things I told my sister — which also includes some things I wish someone had told me.

Despite What People May Say, Marriage Isn’t That Big A Deal
Or at least it doesn’t have to be. Nothing has to be a big deal in life unless you want it to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t think hard about the decision to get married before doing it, I’m just saying that making the decision to do it doesn’t have to cause you agony. In fact, if it does, that should be tip number one that you shouldn’t do it. I’ve lived with almost every boyfriend I’ve ever had in my life except Daniel. I can tell you that living with him now is a lot like living with all those boyfriends I’ve ever had. Yes there are differences, but those differences (for the most part) are the things you don’t constantly have on the fore front of your mind. For me, the biggest difference is that I’ve only had insurance through one boyfriend before (because we were technically common law married). My insurance is through Daniel (except dental, that’s mine) whereas I’ve always had insurance through my parents or myself (minus that one time previously mentioned).

You Can Keep Your Lives Separate
Do you have to take his last name? No. Do you have to get joint bank accounts? No. Do you have to completely erase your identity and become “Mrs. So-and-So”? Most definitely not. I took Daniel’s last name because I wanted to, but he had absolutely no issues with me keeping my own name. We have a joint account but our paychecks go into our personal accounts so we can pay our separate bills (phones, car insurance and car payments) and the rest goes into joint so we can pay other bills (cable, groceries, etc). But you don’t even have to do that. No where does it state that you have to share money when you’re married. It makes sense and it’s easier to run a household that way, but you don’t have to do it.

Your Friends =/= His Friends
While it makes sense that you’ll have friends in common, it also makes sense that you won’t have them. There will be people you’re close with that he isn’t and vice versa. And that’s okay. While you get along fine with each other, your spouse might not get along with all your friends and you might not get along with all of theirs. That’s human nature and by no means should you feel bad because of it. Now, when he wants to be friends with all of your friends or doesn’t want to know your friends at all… that’s when you have a problem and should probably consider not getting married. While you are thought of as a whole by the government when you sign your marriage license, you are still two very separate people and should live your lives as such. This kind ties into the previous point, but you can and should keep your lives separate.

Forget Whatever Norm or Standard You Think There Is For Marriage
Everyone is different and because of this you can’t create a “norm” for how a marriage should work. So long as you’re both happy, who has the right to judge your relationship? No one, that’s who. So whatever you think a “normal” marriage is, throw it out the window. Do what works for you and your spouse. I recently altered my schedule at work so that I work all day three days a week and have two days during the week off. This allows me to be home to do the crafty projects I want as well as teach horse back riding lessons (oh yeah I started teaching those!) AND spend time with my husband since he’s home from work due to a medical profile. So that’s two days during the week and both days on weekends where I’m with him pretty much all day (minus the few hours I’m at the barn). While I love my husband and love spending time with him, I do like doing my own thing in my spare time. So the norm for us on my “days off” is making breakfast together and then him playing his video games while I work on crafts in the backyard or the other room. We’ll go hours without talking to one another. Strange, maybe, but it makes us happy. We’re not happy to be apart, but we’re happy that the other respects the things we do in our alone time and that the other allows us the time to do those things. Really, it all comes down to respecting the fact that your husband or wife might not want to spend every minute of free time with you. Or respecting that they do and accommodating to the fact that you might not want to.

Communication Is Your Best Friend
I’ve known this even prior to getting engaged, but talking about things that bug you is the most important thing you can do in any relationship. If Daniel is spending too much time with his video games, all I have to do is tell him that I want to watch a movie with him and he puts the controller down. It’s so much easier than sitting on the couch with my arms crossed and staring at him or the TV screen in silent hatred. There have even been times I didn’t care if he was playing or not but he could tell I was bored and he put the controller down anyway. Even if you’ve been with your fiancee for years before taking the step towards marriage, open lines of communication are the only thing that’s going to keep your relationship healthy and happy.

Your Big Day May Not Be What You Imagined, But That’s Okay
I know a lot of girls dream of the day they get married. They have thoughts of this big, beautiful party with all the trimmings. Well, when you get married to a service member, you might not always have the time to plan something like that. Daniel wanted the big wedding. I did not. So we agreed to instead do something small in the beginning and plan something bigger for a vow renewal. I don’t know what my sister’s plans are, but obviously she won’t be planning the party of the year either. I’m sure it’ll be small and just for family and close friends, but whether or not she does something later I have no idea. My point is, you likely won’t get the wedding you imagined, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have it later. Honestly, getting married is all about the legal part of it. You don’t have to have a ceremony and reception to get married. All you have to have is a piece of paper and an ordained minister (or the magistrate in your county seat can do it). The requirements vary by county so be sure to check the details before you get everything set. EITHER WAY… it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Honestly, if I could have met with the woman that married Daniel and I at a coffee shop and just signed the papers I would have… but our parents wanted a “ceremony” of sorts.

You’re Going To Have Your Best Friend In Your Corner. Breath.
I know I’ve been promoting the fact that you can still be separate and be married at the same time, but the biggest thing you cannot forget in this journey is that, no matter how scary it may be, you’re not alone. Chances are, if you’re taking the necessary steps to getting married, the person you’re with truly loves and cares for you and doesn’t want to see you fail. Ever. If that’s the case, they’re going to be there for you no matter what. I’ve never been the best at this thing called “adulting” and at 27 years old, I often look back on my life and wonder what the hell I did wrong. Why am I not better at this? I beat myself up a lot over it. A lot. Daniel kinda knew that before going into this, but he didn’t know that there were days I was beating myself up over it so bad that I literally wouldn’t want to get out of bed. Now, those days are very few and far between, but one of them happened to come up soon after moving down here with to be with him. Any other time I’ve had these kind of days, I’ve had to deal with them by myself. Even if I was dating someone, I didn’t want to bring them down with me. But Daniel literally wouldn’t let me shut him out. He pulled me up (again literally because I didn’t want to get out of bed) and forced me to go out and do something I enjoyed. He picked me up, dusted me off and gave me the “you don’t have to do this alone anymore” speech and it was in that moment that I realized it was okay to let someone else help me. It was okay to lean on him. He was my husband after all. It’s not that he was doing it because it’s expected of him. He was doing it because he hated seeing me like that. When you marry your significant other, you’re marrying your best friend and like a best friend, they never want to see you cry. They’re not going to let you fail.

A lot of these points tie into one another, but really that’s how all advice should be if you think about it. This huge problem you think you’re having often isn’t really that big and thusly can be answered in one go. But it is always nice to hear lots of things to back your decision, even if it would take less oxygen just to name one thing.

What things did you figure out after getting married that you wish someone would have told you before hand?


On Post VS. Off Post

After my husband and I got engaged, the discussion shifted from when we were going to get married to where we were going to live after we got married. Thanks to his commitment to the US Army, he couldn’t move to Kentucky (unless he were to somehow get stationed at Fort Campbell but because of the “82nd black hole” that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon) which only left the option of me moving down there. I didn’t mind of course, I had intended to live down here before we met anyway, so then it became a discussion of on post or off post.

This is a question I’ve had a lot of people who are moving to Bragg ask as well and I wish I had a better answer for them. Really what it all comes down to is preference. There are pros and cons of each and the only way to determine which is for you (without trying them both out) is to take a look at what both have to offer and see what works best for you and your family. In this blog, I’m going to go over the good and the bad and hopefully answer any questions someone might have. I’ll try and keep my points general so that they can be applied to any duty station.

Living On Post
When you live on post, housing works almost exactly like an apartment complex. Generally, the places you can live are broken up into neighborhoods. In those neighborhoods there might be single family homes and there might be duplexes. There might also be more apartment style housing. There is one housing building that acts like a main office for the neighborhood. All complains and questions can be directed there. Generally, there’s clubhouse like area there with a pool, game room and gym that’s accessible by residents of the neighborhood only.

The benefits to living on post: all your rent and basic utilities are paid for. Well, that’s putting it simply. The enlisted service member in the family gets Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and when you live on post, all of that goes towards rent and utilities (not including cable). It goes into his/her paycheck and comes right back out automatically. You never see the money, but you live for free. For the most part. If your electric bill exceeds a certain amount (usually determined by taking an average of how much electric the entire street is using) you have to pay whatever is over that amount. But adversely, if you are under that amount you get money credited back to you. Since living here we’ve gotten one heating bill (not sure where the others went) and we were $15 dollars under the average, so we got that money back.

Another bonus to living on post is that you’re generally in pretty close proximity to a Commissary or PX. Now, there’s nothing stating you have to shop at this places if you’re in the military (and living on or off post), but they do have their perks. Either way, being close to anywhere you buy groceries is nice, whether it’s a Commissary or not. Not only are the Commissary and PX usually pretty close, but just about anything else you’d visit on post is as well. My neighborhood is within five miles of the Comissary and PX, the library and a gym. We’re super close to my husband’s company and my recruiter’s office.

Being so close to my husband’s work is why he likes living on post, but he’s used to being in the barracks where he could literally walk to work every day. A lot of guys I know don’t like being so close to work and that’s why they prefer living off post. Probably one of the biggest draws to living off post is having the very definite distinction between “home” and “work”.

Living Off Post
Now, when you live off post you can live anywhere you want so long as your service member doesn’t mind whatever drive they have in the morning back on post for work. I know people who literally live right outside the gates and I know people who live 30 or more minutes away. Off post living gives you more options as to where you can live. You can do an apartment, a duplex, a house or even just rent a room inside a larger house. This last option is ideal for those service members who are single and have the option of not living in the barracks. I know guys who go in a rent a house together just like friends would do in college.

The way your BAH works when you live off post is that the allotted amount (which changes depending on your rank and how many dependents you have) is deposited into the service members account every time they get paid. You are responsible for using that money to pay for rent and utilities. If your bills are less than your BAH, you pocket that extra money. This is the number one reason people live off post. When you’re on, you see none of it (unless your utilities are less than the average but even then you never see much). If you do you research, you can bank a hundred dollars (or more) a month.

Living off post gives you the ability to live like a normal civilian family. You’re not forced to live by the rules of post (whatever those rules might be) and you’re able to distance your service members work life from your home life more easily. It also affords you the opportunity to make civilian friends. That may or may not be important to you, but I find having those kinds of friends helps keep the world in check a little. You’re better able to escape the military troubles when you’re with someone who has no idea what those troubles even are.


I’ve never lived off post while being part of this military family, I did live in Fayetteville before getting married (even if it wasn’t for that long). I liked it well enough and wouldn’t mind doing it again, but when we looked at our options it just made sense for us to do on post housing at the time. Daniel’s currently recovering from ankle surgery that has essentially forced him to stop jumping, which means that if i wants to stay in when his contract is up he’s going to have to pick a new job and only the Army knows where that job will send us.

While breaking any contract we signed because he got new orders wouldn’t have been an issue, it was just a headache we’d rather avoid. Though, to get on post housing he had to have at least a year left in his contract (which he had a year and a month). He doesn’t have to stay here for a year, but he couldn’t have gotten housing if he were getting out of the Army in the next eleven months.

So, all-in-all, no one can really tell you which is better in the “on post VS. off post” debate. Everyone has their own opinion of the lifestyle and neither is wrong. It really does all come down to personal preference. It also all depends on which duty station you’re moving onto. To determine which is best for you, I suggest reaching out to people who already live in the area and see what they have to say. Join all the Facebook groups you can that are geared towards that specific duty station and ask away. Those already living there will have insight that no one else can give you that might help sway your decision.

Above all else though, never be afraid to ask any question, no matter how stupid it sounds to you. Chances are you’re not the first to ask it and if you are it’s only because someone else hasn’t gotten up the gall to ask it themselves.

What are your thoughts in the on post VS. off post discussion?

EDIT;; It was brought to my attention by a fellow Army wife that there is at least one restriction to living off post. Well, there is here at Bragg. Apparently, there are stone black listed locations where you can’t live for whatever reason. I suppose you could probably find a way around that if you really wanted to, but the way I look at it is it’s black listed for a reason. Stay away.

6 More Things Your Recruiter Might Not Tell You About MEPS

I’ve officially had my second go at MEPS and this coming Tuesday I’ll be making another trip up there for a psych consult. The doctor that examined me and asked me a few questions was concerned with the two speeding tickets I got in June of last year (“You’re still speeding even after your big accident,” I believe is what she said). So I get to talk to someone about my, apparent, speeding addiction.

Either way, the things I mentioned in my last post about MEPS still ring true. However, as predicted, I have a few other things to add to it, so here goes nothing.

9) Don’t Sweat the ASVAB.
Seriously, it’s not a pass or fail test. You’re not supposed to get every answer correct. This test is to determine your aptitude for certain fields. For the Air Force, your scores are broken down into four different categories that spell out MAGE. They stand for Mechanical, Administrative, Electronics and General. They’re a combination of the ten different categories that the ASVAB is broken up into and they determine what jobs you are and aren’t qualified for. Obviously, if you have a low score in the Mechanical portion of things, you likely won’t get to be a Maintainer (which is pretty much and Air Force mechanic). Either way, stressing over the test is only going to make you do bad on it which is going to lower your scores and either not qualify you for the branch you want or the job you want. So take a deep breath and just chill. Every question on that test you’re taught in high school, so there won’t be any content that you haven’t learned before.

10) Listen and Pay Attention to Direction.
So after I retook my ASVAB and gave my scratch paper to the proctor to destroy, I swear she told me to go back to the Air Force liaisons office. So I did. I knocked on the closed door and was told to sit down and that someone would be with me shortly. Two hours pass and the liaison I checked in with at 0600 that morning walks by, looks at me and goes “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at medical”. Well, I get up and go to medical for my physical exam and it turns out that they had been waiting for me to show up for the two hours I was sitting outside the liaisons office. I have to wonder if I would have gotten through everything any faster if I had just gone to medical first and processed with all the other girls, because waiting for that two hours made me process through on my own and so I got through everything in maybe thirty minutes. Suppose I’ll never know.

11) If The Doctor Says It’s So, Don’t Argue.
When the doctor told me she was referring me to a psych consult for my speeding tickets my first reaction was an eye roll and to think “are you f*cking kidding me?” to myself. It’s been almost ten years since my accident and while I’ve been in two other wrecks since then, neither of them were speed related. I think I’ve gotten maybe a total of three speeding tickets (two of them being last year) since that wreck. That means I’ve gotten one speeding ticket in an eight year period. I tried explaining that to her and why I got the two last year (the first one was total bogus because why the hell would the speed limit on the interstate be 55 just because you’re within city limits?), but halfway through explaining that and looking at her “puh-lease” face, I decided it wasn’t worth it. Just let them schedule the damn consult and get it over with. They’re going to make you do it no matter what anyway. This is likely the first of many hoops you’ll be jumping through if you get in anyway, might as well get some practice in.

12) Make Friends and Impart Wisdom.
Even though I didn’t process with a bunch of other girls, I made a friend in my roommate at the hotel. She wasn’t up there to test or for the exam, but she was signing her papers that day. She’s in the National Guard and going in as an MP. Her ship date for basic is in September. I found her on Facebook, added her, wished her luck and said if she was ever in the Fayetteville area and needed a place to stay she was welcome to hit me up. There was also a guy there doing his hearing test again who was signing up for active Air Force. He mentioned that he wanted to do something mechanical so I told him to go for Aircraft Structural Maintenance. Told him I had a buddy stationed in Okinawa with that AFSC who loved it. I didn’t get to stick around and see what job he picked, but I like to think that he considered the option I gave him because of what I told him.

13) Do A Dummy Check Before Everything. Twice.
When I left my house, I went through a mental list of the things I needed. Before I left my room I did the same thing but included the things I needed to do before processing, but I only did each check twice. What happened? Well I forgot my phone charger at home. Luckily my roommates alarm woke me up (I turned my phone off overnight to save some battery because I had to call my job in the morning) and I drove up there so I was able to leave my phone charging in my car while I processed, but if it hadn’t been for that I’d have been screwed. Before I left my room, I made sure I removed my necklace and my earrings but completely forgot about the chainmaille bracelet I’d been wearing for the past year plus, so while I was waiting to check in to take my ASVAB one of the other guys waiting asked me if they’d let me keep it on because I clearly couldn’t take it off. I freaked for half a second because I didn’t have my pliers to pry the rings open, but then realized they were aluminum rings that I could easily bend and remove by myself. Crisis averted. But if he hadn’t said anything I likely would have been reamed a new one.

14) Keep A Good Attitude About Everything.
Even when I found out I had been sitting outside the liaisons office for two hours for no reason (watching She’s The Man with Amanda Bynes in it… horrible, horrible movie…), I kept a good mood about everything and it made the process that much more enjoyable. It’s already a pretty awful experience so there’s no need to make it worse. I was joking with the staff the entire time and I think they really appreciated it as well.

Really, number fourteen ties back into number eight but it’s an important thing to remember, so I’ll put it in here twice. And it really applies to everything in life. If you’re not having fun doing something, what’s the point in doing it? I try to look at the bright side of it all so that I don’t look at it so negatively. Ain’t no body got time for that.

Got Ink?: Tattoos and the Military

Once upon a time, a service member being covered in tattoos wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities. Whether they were a soldier or a sailor, seeing men with ink on their arms, chests, and legs wasn’t uncommon. In fact, an entire style of tattooing became popular thanks in part to the military.

(TL;DR version:
“Norman Keith Collins (January 14, 1911 – June 12, 1973) was a prominent American tattoo artist, famous for his tattooing of sailors; he was also known as “Sailor Jerry”.”

So when the powers that be came down hard on our tattooed service members a while back, it seemed almost like punishment to a lot of them for carrying on a tradition that had started years before they were out of diapers (or even a thought in some cases). For the most part, tattoo policies in the military have been the kind that made you go “well that makes sense”. There was the standard nothing offensive (sorry neo-Nazi’s, but y’all lost so give it up), no gang related ink (so if you have something you best get it removed) and nothing obscene or explicit. The rules for content are the same across all the branches. It’s when you get into location and size where things vary. I’m only familiar with the Army and the Air Force’s policy on tattoos, so those are really the only two branches on which I’m going to speak, but I’ll leave links at the end for the Marines and Navy (pretty sure the Coast Guard follows the same rules as the Navy because, let’s face it, the Coast Guard is the National Guard of the Navy).

Now, the Army policy has changed a few times over the years. Going from no tattoos on the hands or neck, to allowing it, then going back to not allowing it along with removing the ability to have sleeves on the arms and/or legs. If you already had these things prior to the regulations changing, you got to be grandfathered in so you didn’t have to have them removed… however you lost your ability to commission to officer status.

The most recent addendum to the regs stated that any tattoo visible while in a PT uniform must be smaller than the size of your palm and that there can be no more than four visible tattoos on your body. Again, if your ink violated this rule prior to the change, you’re okay but if you want to enlist and you violate this rule… it’s likely not going to happen. Sure, you can apply for a waiver but they issued this change for a reason. They were looking to cut down their numbers after the War in Iraq ended, and this was a sure fire way to slow people coming in as well as force a lot of guys out. Like I said, if you already had ink you weren’t getting kicked out but I know a lot of guys got upset over the rule change and left anyway.

Onto the Air Force. I feel like their policy is slightly more lax than the Army policy, but I don’t really know what percentage of exposed skin the palm of your hand takes up (x4)… so maybe that’s why. See, the Air Force policy is practically identical to the current Army policy except for the rule about how big or how many tattoos you can have on your exposed body while in a PT uniform. Above I linked an Army PT uniform. Now here are the Air Force PT uniforms.

Note: for whatever reason the Air Force doesn’t have just one image of both the short and long PT uniform together so this is the best I could find… and it’s funny so laugh at it. No need to get butthurt.

The Air Force’s rule for ink on exposed skin is that it cannot cover more then 25% of the exposed area. This means that if you have a line of text similar to this, you’re not completely out of the running. That is far less than 25% of his exposed arm but bigger than his palm (which would rule out the Army). The same would obviously apply for tattoos on your legs as well. Now I suppose I should clarify that “exposed skin” doesn’t count hands, neck, head or face. Aside from cosmetic tattoos (eyebrows, lipstick and eyeliner), anything on your hands or above the collar of your tee shirt disqualifies you. This includes your inner lip even though you can’t see it. It is possible to apply for a waiver for anything outside of where it’s supposed to be but actually getting that waiver depends on a lot of things. Pretty much, if you’re thinking of enlisting, talk to a recruiter about any current tattoos (or piercings) because they’re really the only ones who know what will and won’t be approved for certain.

I currently have two tattoos of my own with plans for eight plus more in the future. All of the ones I have plans for fit within the current Air Force Regulations, but if what was released by the Army on April First (it was really shit timing for them to say something then but they swear it was coincidence) is any indication, the tattoo policy across the board should be loosening back up again. I know SEVERAL ink’d soldiers who were ecstatic to hear about the change in policy that’s coming down the line.

“Society is changing its view of tattoos, and we have to change along with that … It makes sense. Soldiers have grown up in an era when tattoos are much more acceptable and we have to change along with that.”
-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno

So pretty much, sleeves are allowed in the Army again, which means my buddy from high school, who had plans to make a career out of the military, can now commission as an office if he wanted to. This is a great thing for the military if you ask me. Odierno is right about society becoming more accepting of tattoos, so it doesn’t make sense to keep to an archaic doctrine where ink = irresponsible. I know several single mothers who have tasteful tattoos and are probably some of the most responsible women I know (Hannah I’m looking at you). While tattoos might have distinguished who the heathens were once upon a time, that’s no longer the case and it’s about time that we stopped treating people as such, especially those who willingly do the job of a soldier or an airman.

edit;; totally forgot the links to the Navy and Marines policies. My bad guys. For good measure, here are the links for the Army and Air Force too. The Army link doesn’t reflect the changes that the SMA talked about in the article above because they’re not in effect yet. But like they said, they expect them to change in the near future.
Navy Tattoo Policy
Army Tattoo Policy
Air Force Tattoo Policy
Marine Corps Tattoo Policy (I couldn’t get the office Marine Corps .PDF link to work so this will have to do for now)
Coast Guard Tattoo Policy (because apparently the Coast Guard policy is different than the Navy policy. All the other branches use a crew neck tee shirt whereas the Coast Guard uses a v-neck… because they’re gay… kidding… kinda… okay totally kidding)