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.

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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.

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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”.”
-Wikipedia)

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)

8 Things Your Recruiter Might Not Tell You About MEPS

It’s official. On the evening of March 29th, I’ll be driving to Raleigh to check into a Hilton hotel for the evening so that I can be up at the ass crack of dawn to head to the Military Entrance Processing Station (better known as MEPS) to begin my minimum of a month long wait for the Surgeon General of the Air Force Reserve’s blessing on my enlistment process. Fingers crossed I get the green light.

But in the face of this exciting event, I’m reminded of my last time at MEPS. Granted, that experience was over two years ago and in a completely different state (my first attempt at enlistment being made in Louisville, Kentucky), but I can only imagine it’ll be a very similar process. The biggest difference, aside from state location, is that the first time I went, it was a two day event. I drove up there one afternoon, took my ASVAB, went back to the hotel, slept, got up at the ass crack of dawn, then went and spent all day at MEPS doing their physical examination.

I don’t know how much, if any, things have changed since then. Looking over the “rules and regulations” paper my recruiter gave me, things are pretty much the same. I’m sure if you’re looking to face your time at MEPS your recruiter has given you the low down of what to expect, but here’s what I can tell you about it. From one recruit to another, these are the things the recruiters may not mention to you.

1) Get real comfortable with your body.
I’m not going to assume I know how confident you are in your naked self, but if you’re not super confident you might want to work on that before you go up. The doctor will examine you completely naked but they (and possibly a chaperon) will be the only one(s) to see you naked. If you’re a female, you’ll be separated from the males who are processing and be asked to strip to your skivvies but you will be with other females. Males, you’ll be with other males. The only person of the opposite gender who could see you in your underwear are official MEPS doctors and technicians but you will always be in the presence of at least one of the same gender as you. They’re job is to make sure that you’re anatomically clear to serve and that’s really all they care about, so there’s no need to feel self concious. As for feeling weird around all the other recruits… well the likelihood of ever seeing a majority of them again is slim to none so don’t feel too bad.

2) Drink lots of water the night before and the morning of the physical.
If you’re a coffee drinker in the mornings, I would consider passing on a cup just this once. Too much caffeine or sugar could mess with your blood sugar and cause you to be disqualified. They also do a urinalysis once you check into the MEPS center, so having to pee is a good thing. WARNING: you will be watched while you “pee in a cup”. Sorry, but someone has to have eyes on you the entire time you do it. This is where being comfortable with your body comes in handy. I’m pretty comfortable with myself, but even having someone watch me go to the bathroom was weird. If you’re having issues doing your business, try closing your eyes and imagining a rushing river or some other flowing body of water. It sounds cliche, but it really does help.

3) Eat the morning of the physical.
Don’t eat a whole lot, and especially avoid anything high in sugar, but you need to eat something. You’re getting up at the ass crack of dawn (I say that a lot) so you might not feel like eating, but trust me you need to. Once you get to the MEPS center, you’re likely going to be standing outside/in the lobby (depending on the temperature outside) for a good chunk of time and you won’t get to eat until lunch (which is at noon). If your recruiter advises you not to eat because he or she doesn’t want you to be over at the weigh in, tell them you’re not ready to go to MEPS. There was a girl in our processing group whose recruiter told her not to eat the morning of so she didn’t weigh over the limit for her height. She passed out four times while standing in line waiting to go upstairs. She was disqualified before she even got started. I get wanting to get the process started as soon as possible, but if there’s a chance you could be over in your weight class, I would hold off on going to MEPS until you know you’re in the green.

4) You’re gonna get cold.
Just accept that now. You’re basically going to be sitting in a doctor’s office for an extended period of time in nothing but your underwear. While they tell you to wear socks there, you will be asked to remove those at some point (though they let us wear them while we were sitting and waiting to keep our feet warm). If you like the cold, more power to you. You likely won’t feel the affects of sitting on a plastic chair practically naked. For the rest of the normal world, you’re gonna get chilly. Sorry.

5) If you have any piercings, take them out before you even leave your house.
Piercings aren’t a disqualification (unless you have stretched ears in which anything too large could prevent you from passing), but it’s a good idea to take them out before you even leave your house to go to the MEPS center. You’re not allowed to wear them into the physical and taking them out before you even go gets rid of the hassle of having to remember to take them out and then trying to find a place to store them. The first time I went, I forgot to take out the small gauges I had in my ears (they were maybe a 16g). They were actually lip studs. But I digress. I got one of them out and into my purse (which I had brought to put my cell phone in because you’re not allowed to have that on you while you’re processing) but I wasn’t able to unscrew the little ball on the other one. The Air Force liaison gave me the weirdest look when I asked if he had access to a pair of needle nose pliers so I could hold the flat back of the earring while I twisted the ball off. Luckily, he found me a pair and I was able to get it out. Otherwise, I’d have been disqualified for that instead of my heart surgery.

6) A disqualification isn’t the complete end of the road.
In my case, I went to MEPS knowing I would be disqualified. Heart surgery in your medical history is an automatic “no”, no matter what. But if you have documents that prove your heart surgery doesn’t hinder your health at all, you can appeal the disqualification and MEPS will send your medical records and their examination of you to the Surgeon General of whatever branch in which you’re trying to enlist for review and he or she will decide from there whether or not you qualify for a waiver. The first time I tried, he decided I didn’t qualify. But he decided this because he was worried about the affects of the heart surgery on my sternum. Only they didn’t crack my sternum open in my surgery (which is the normal procedure). So I’m appealing my initial disqualification this time. Now there are some instances where a disqualification at MEPS is the end of the road. It really just all depends on why you were disqualified. Talking to your recruiter about it afterwards will help you determine if you can try again.

7) You are in no way obligated to enlist if you pass the exam.
Just like a disqualification isn’t the end, a pass isn’t always the beginning. I don’t know how the process goes after you pass the exam (because I was disqualified), but I know some of the girls weren’t 100% sure they wanted to actually enlist. It all depended on what jobs they got offered based on their ASVAB scores from the previous day. But you are in no way obligated to sign that contract just because you passed your physical exam. Hell, you’re not even obligated to sign the contract if they offer you the job you want. You’re not even obligated to sign that day if you’re still not sure. Though, if they have a job you would like to do, I suggest signing anyway. Until you ship to basic and sign your final contract, you can still technically back out. MEPS isn’t the real day you sign your life away as they say.

8) Your time at MEPS is all in what you make it.
When I processed in Louisville, it was like one big party at the hotel. There were at least thirty other recruits there trying for all the different branches. We had an entire conference room to ourselves to play video games, watch movies, play board games, eat snacks and just hang out. Or you could go to your room. You had access to the pool if you wanted to swim, but it was recommended that you didn’t because the recruiters didn’t want you to be too tired the next morning. But your time at the hotel/MEPS could be fun or it could be a real bore. At first, most of the girls in my processing group were a bit nervous but it didn’t take long to break the ice and by the end of it all we were laughing and making jokes. I haven’t seen them since that day, but I still remember all their names, what branches they were going for and where they were from.

I’m sure there are other things I’ve forgotten to mention. After all, I went through the process over three years ago, but this is what I can remember. In my post-MEPS entry I’ll touch on anything I’ve forgotten or needed to add. Or if you can think of something I didn’t touch on, lemme know!

aim high. fly. fight. win.

For those of you who have been reading since the beginning or went back and read old posts after finding a newer one, you know I want to enlist in the Air Force Reserves. For those of you who didn’t know that… well now you do.

My process to enlist in the Air Force actually started about three years ago when I first went into the recruiting office in Lexington, Kentucky. At the time, I was looking to do active duty but knew that it would be difficult because of the heart surgery I had when I was 17. My senior year, I spoke to a recruiter that came to my high school about enlisting and he said with my heart surgery it was impossible. Then I made a few friends who were USAF and they said I could try for a medical waiver. What was the harm in trying right?

So that’s what I did. I appealed the automatic denial I got at MEPS to the Surgeon General of the Air Force and he came back with a resounding “no”. At the time, I just kinda left it at that, but a little ways down the road I decided to look back into enlisting, this time with the Army National Guard. When I had first gotten denied, my recruiter at the time told me to try a different branch, but being young I wanted the Air Force and nothing else. After a few years I decided it was better to serve anywhere I could than live with a stick up my ass. That recruiter asked me to get in touch with my AF recruiter to make sure my disqualification the first time was purely for the heart surgery and nothing else. So I did.

The response I got back had me shift my sights from the Army National Guard to the Air Force (active duty still). He told me that the SG had been concerned with the integrity of my sternum from my heart surgery. Typically, when you have the procedure I had done, they crack open your chest at your sternum and do what they need to do. But for my surgery they went in through my back. There was no cracking of my sternum, therefore there was no reason for the SG to be concerned with it’s integrity.

So I went back into the Air Force recruiting office and started the process again. Que me moving to North Carolina. Once here, I tried to get the process moving again but had absolutely no luck getting a hold of anyone in the active duty office. Sitting outside their door waiting for someone to maybe even show up, I was talked into sitting down with an Army Reserves recruiter. Mind you, I still really wanted the Air Force, but I sat with him anyway and in talking to him I decided that instead of pursuing active duty, maybe I should go reserves with the Air Force, finish a bachelor’s and then commission active as an officer.

And that’s when I sat down with Master Sargent (MSgt) Q. His last name is actually quite long and I’m certain I wouldn’t spell it correctly, but he’s the only Air Force reserves recruiter in Fayetteville, so if you need to get a hold of him he’s not hard to find. But we got the process started down here and about two weeks into that I was forced to move once again. I knew I was coming back, just wasn’t sure when, so I told him to hold onto my docs and when I got back we’d pick up where we left off.

Fast forward four months and I’m back. So this past Monday I went down to the recruiting office on Pope Army Airfield and say with him again. Filled out the paperwork that had expired, got him a copy of my new social security card as well as my marriage license and he sent off my stuff to the Raleigh MEPS requesting a screening. Now I’m just waiting to hear back from them, which he said I should by next week.

Slowly but surely my life is moving in the direction I want it to. Now if only I could find a job in this over-saturated town things would be great. I’ve got an interview at 1430 so fingers crossed that pans out.

7 Things I’ve Learned in 7 Days of Living on Post

It’s normal to learn new things when you move into a new environment. Things like the fastest way to work, which areas to avoid because they’re just that sketchy or the gas stations that generally have the cheapest prices for gas. But when you move into a new environment that just so happens to be a military installation, I feel like you learn a lot of new things that you wouldn’t normally need to know.

In the seven days I’ve been on Fort Bragg, I’ve learned far more than seven things, but for the sake of your eyes and my fingers, I’ve narrowed it down to the top ones.

1) Hurry Up & Wait Applies To Everyone, Not Just Service Members.
When it comes to marrying into the military, it’s important to get things done quickly. The sooner you get a marriage certificate, the sooner you and your husband start collecting Basic Allowance for Housing (also known as BAH). The sooner you get enrolled in Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (or DEERS) the sooner you are eligible for Tricare and can get your military ID which is essential for getting on post and making purchases at the Commissary or PX (or BX). But despite the rush to get all these things taken care of, you are still at the mercy and the speed of the federal government and if you’ve ever had to deal with them you know they take their sweet time. Be prepared to wait for some things that seem like they should come pretty quickly.

2) Making Friends Is Essential.
Unless your spouse has been married while enlisted (or commissioned) previously, chances are they don’t have the answers to a lot of the questions you’ll have. They know things from a totally different aspect than you do. This is where making friends with other military wives/husbands comes in handy. They are more than willing to answer your questions to the best of their ability and if they don’t know the answer they can tell you where to find it. They get that this is something totally new for you, they were once in your shoes after all, and are generally pretty willing to lend a helping hand wherever they can.

3) Military Police (Security Forces) Aren’t Any More Or Less Unnerving As Civilian Police.
This may not come as a surprise to some of you, but MP’s (or SF) really aren’t much different than civilian police. They’re almost like county cops (if you have those where you live). Essentially, they have a jurisdiction that doesn’t go outside of a certain area. For MP’s that certain area is whatever post they’re assigned to. Now there are times where they can do things off post, but for the most part you won’t ever be in those situations (hopefully at least). But when you see one in your rear view mirror while you’re driving to the Commissary, or pass one on a two lane road, you’ll still check your speedometer to make sure you’re not speeding and your hands will slide to 10 and 2. No one likes getting pulled over. Period.

4) Calling Your Spouse’s Friends By Their Last Names Is Normal.
In the military, people don’t have first names. First names are reserved for spouses and children. Your husband or wife’s best friend will be solely known by their last name. You make never know their actual first name, but you’ll never question it. The weird part is you calling your spouse by their first name but their buddies calling them by their last name. It took me a little bit to get used to hearing someone, especially his friend’s spouses, refer to him as “Watkins” instead of “Daniel”.

5) There Are No Stupid Questions, Only Stupid Answers.
This is something I’ve said for years, but it was something I often reminded myself the first few days I was on post. If I didn’t know something but Daniel wasn’t around to ask nor could I present the question to any of the other military spouses, I would just ask. At first I felt stupid and often made the excuse that I was new to this whole thing, but then I realized it didn’t matter if I’d been in the game for years. If I didn’t know, I didn’t know and the only way to learn something was to question it. Don’t feel bad asking anyone for help. If they feel inconvenienced by you for asking, that’s on them.

6) Always Have Dollar Bills On Hand If You Shop At The Commissary.
I learned this day one. I had left a pretty bad snow storm in Kentucky when I moved to North Carolina and it followed me here. Whereas back home was getting inches of snow, it was predicted that Bragg would get one to two inches of ice. So because there was the chance we wouldn’t be able to leave the next day, my husband and I took a quick trip to the Commissary (which was supposed to be closed for President’s Day but had been opened because of the pending storm). The madhouse we dealt with is a story for another day, but it was in that trip that I learned those who work there as baggers volunteer their time and are paid solely in tips. Not only do they bag your groceries for you, but they push the little carts they load them onto out to your car and pack your trunk/backseat for you. It’s a great thing if you’ve got children to tend to but it’s a little pointless if it’s just you. However, tipping them makes sense. But if you’re like me and never carry cash, it can make for an awkward situation. You don’t have to let them take your groceries out of course. You do have the option of loading your own car so by no means do you need to feel obligated to have them do it for you, but keeping dollars on hand is still a good idea. Just in case.

7) Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff.
Another one that probably doesn’t need to be said, but it’s also another one that I’ve had to tell myself a number of times. Moving is stressful. And unless you’ve already lived on your own before getting married and moving in with your spouse, you’re likely going to be trying to furnish your house with the bigger essentials within the first few days to a week. I only had a few pieces of furniture that were mine before I moved, but not enough to make renting a moving van worth it and because Daniel had been in the barracks for three years, he had very little to his name as well. Housing comes with a fridge, range and dishwasher but those are the only appliances you get. It took us a week to get a washer and dryer (utilize the yard sale facebook groups for your post/base. They are a godsend) and I lucked out in finding a microwave for free. But not having much means you’ll be spending a lot in the beginning, but just remember that once you have those things, you won’t need to spend that money again. Don’t argue over it, just let it go. Life will calm down and things will get settled and it’s then that you can take a step back and enjoy the fact that you’re now married and living with the man or woman you love.

Like I said earlier, these are just the things I’ve learned that I feel are important. If you’ve gone through the trials of moving on post, what things did you notice in the first few weeks that you feel are important to keep in mind? I wanna know!

hurry up… and wait…

You would think I’d be used to that phrase by now. I worked for the Kentucky Educational Television network (KET) for two years and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) for the spring/summer and part of fall. State government work is full of “hurry up and wait”, and it’s no different with federal government. More specifically the military.

It’s been a little over three weeks since I married my husband and I’ll be moving into a house with him on post the day before we hit four. I am thankful, though, that I don’t have to spend the first six-nine months not living with him though. One of the guys in his unit got married January 2nd and deployed last Sunday. I can only imagine how his newlywed wife feels and my heart goes out to her. I dreaded being in her place. So I won’t complain that I have to wait a few more days to be with Daniel, no matter how much I don’t like it.

I’m just excited that I’m finally really getting to start this new chapter in my life. I got asked a lot at work how married life was and my initial guy response was always “it sucks”, but it didn’t suck because my husband didn’t love me or because I never got time to myself. It sucked (and still does for the next four days) because my husband is eight hours away. But in four days and an eight hour drive, he won’t be.

I feel like I should be more nervous about this. Like I should be even a little bit concerned about living with him. I’ve never lived with a guy who was more than just a boyfriend. I always had the option of leaving if it got to be too much. I still have that option I suppose, but it’s more difficult this time. It’s almost not worth taking, though I know if things end up getting beyond repair it’s worth taking it. That thought is mildly frightening, but what comforts me is the belief that it won’t ever get that bad. It’s not a delusional belief either. I really don’t think things will get to the point where we don’t want to be around each other. We’re both adults after all. I turn 27 in April and he turns 29 in May, and we both agree that if we don’t like something in our relationship, we’ll talk about it.

My biggest fear going into all of this was my want to enlist. He’s known about it since before we started dating, but I felt like every time I mentioned it he pulled away from the subject or ignored that I was even talking about it. It was a conversation I wanted to wait to have with him in person, but it was also a conversation I didn’t want to put off anymore than I already had. Should I have talked to him about it before we got married? Yeah, but hindsight is twenty/twenty. So I brought it up last night.

The first and second time I looked into it, I was in a relationship (two different people) but it was just a boyfriend/girlfriend thing. I told them both what I wanted to do and they both said “go for it”, but it never got more conversation than that. I knew they both supported my decision and would never try to talk me out of it. Besides, at the time it was just a thought.

The first attempt at enlistment ended before the relationship I was in at the time did, but the second time I looked into it, the relationship ended when the enlistment process got serious. My first go-around ended because of a medical disqualification (I had heart surgery at 17), but when I discovered the grounds of that disqualification were a mute point, I wanted to try again. At the time I started, my then boyfriend was behind me. He is a Marine himself, so he understood. But as things got going and I was days away from a trip to MEPS with a solid letter from my heart surgeon, he realized he couldn’t support me as a boyfriend. A friend, yes, but nothing more. And so we parted ways.

My relationship ended because of my goals and I didn’t realize it til last night, but I was terrified it was going to happen again. Here I’d found this amazing man who was perfect in ways I hadn’t even imagined possible, and I was terrified that my dream of enlisting was going to push him away. Forget that he’d made a vow of “for better or for worse”, I was still scared shitless and nervous as hell. I had no idea how to bring it up, so I just jumped right into it (in my normal “I’m nervous so I’m going to ramble” fashion) and looked at him over Skype as I waited for him to say something in response. I got nothing for a bit before he was like “And…?” so I just came straight out and asked.

“Are you sure you’re okay with me wanting to enlist?”

I’d said it. It was out there. Now was the time I was going to find out if he knew what this meant to me or if he just figured if he ignored it, I’d give up and never do it. I’m a habitual over-thinker, so of course I had almost convinced myself that the latter was the case.

Thankfully, I was wrong. He laughed at me lightly (in one of those “damn you’re cute” ways) and made sure to assure me that he was more than okay with it. He supported me and when I explained why I had been so nervous to ask he assured me that he wasn’t going to be that much of an ass. He also explained that he understood how important this goal was to me and that he’d never ask me to give it up. He wanted me to be happy and if that meant I had to enlist, then so be it.

If I really think about it, this whole “new chapter” I keep referring to has actually already started. It started before we got married, it started before we got engaged. It honestly started the evening we first met at a Starbucks and sat outside well past close talking about anything and everything we could come up with. It’s not even a new chapter, it’s a whole new book comprised of chapters.

“This Is What You Call Love: Adventures in a Dual Military Marriage”
Coming to a bookstore near you… in like twenty years.