0800 colors. Sunset taps. Being carded just to get to your house. Your neighbors are aircraft carriers and F18 Hornets. Everyone seems to wear the same thing and walk in step. You stand to say the pledge before a movie starts.
Did you just land in some foreign land!? Nope. You just moved on base for the first time and for some people that’s one heck of a culture shock. Once you get over the strangeness of living on base I can assure you that it does get easier to navigate the craziness and it will be worth it to do it just once in your spouses’ career. For the connections you’ll make that last a lifetime, to help educate yourself on the military community and because living on base will give you a sense of pride in your military that can’t quite be matched by those who never set foot on base. (See 5 Things You Mom Didn’t Tell You About Your New Duty Station)
You would think that housing would come with a rule book to help all those new families know why exactly all traffic comes to a halt twice a day and what to do when the dog eats that all magical ID card that gets you into the places you need to go. While there is no “know-all” handbook there is something I think is even better. Your new neighbors! Seasoned military families who have been through the ringer with household goods moves and deployments that get extended the day after the FRO sent the homecoming date out. For new spouses, please don’t be intimidated by the neighbors. They will be your greatest resource when emergencies arise. These are the people who will step in to help when the kids put liquid dish soap in the dishwasher and all the sudden your kitchen looks like a foam party. So don’t be afraid to introduce yourself because someday you’ll be that seasoned spouse the new kid is looking up to for advice. Here is a cool way to introduce yourself to your neighbors with a watermelon.
Not only are there academic education options for military spouses, there are amazing personal education opportunities. By meeting all the amazing military spouses that live around you on base, you will also get a crash course in military etiquette there. I know plenty of military families that are very happy to always live out in town. They want to keep the separation between what the service member does at work and what the family does at home. That’s great. But it does sometimes lead to confusion about military rules and regulations that a military family should know. When you live on base there is no separation. You will learn rank insignias, uniform styles and names, and how to navigate the commissary on payday like it’s the battlefield. Having that background information makes being part of the military community much easier. Or at least a lot less foreign.
There are days I think the doctors should have marked my rear with “property of the US Military” when I was born. I was born in a Navy hospital. I grew up running around Navy bases. enlisted in the Navy after college. I got married to a Marine. There is pretty much not one aspect of my life that the military hasn’t been involved in. You would think because of all of that I might get a little jaded to seeing F18’s fly over or driving past the piers when all the carriers are in port but that’s not the case at all. The second I drive on base I am overcome with pride for the military and what every service member does. Seeing formation runs in the morning makes me thankful for those who are preparing for another deployment to protect us. Hearing colors and taps every day makes me pause and say a quick prayer that all of our service members have made it through another day safely wherever they are. Jet noise really is the sound of freedom to me. And as much as I hate battling base traffic it means our ships are back at home, safe and sound. When you live on base you see these things every day and it makes you very aware of how amazing our military truly is and that’s not something that everyone will get the honor of experiencing.