As a veteran turned military spouse, I now understand the complexities involved with military retirement, both separating and retiring from the military…
I mean, I did go through TAP 4 times! However, none of that prepared me for what was to come when my family it was time for military retirement from the Navy. We were stationed in Okinawa, Japan and it was our most challenging (personally), yet most rewarding duty station!
My husband and I met, dated, and married in Whidbey Island, WA. It was my first duty station (his 3rd). We were engaged, married, honeymooned, packed, and on the road heading to Ventura in less than 30 days! From that point forward, our lives were filled with adventures! By adventures I mean military-orchestrated, beautiful chaos! LOL
It included extended deployments, secret squirrel missions that we couldn’t discuss, missed birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, glorious re-unifications, road trips, almost missed child birth, and LOTS and LOTS of putting the Navy first! Since our professional lives were so unpredictable, it made it difficult to plan our personal lives. So we took advantage of every moment we had together. We agreed not to spend precious and limited moments between deployments and detachments arguing.
Here are a few things I’d tell myself, see if any sound familiar to you:
- Who wants to spend time arguing when you’ve already been separated for 6+months?
- We only have a few weeks before you have to go out again, let’s just live in the moment.
- He has enough stress on him from work; I don’t want to be one of those “nagging” spouses.
- We can talk about it later; it’s not a big deal right now.
- I don’t want to send him off to work or deployment upset; he may find comfort in the arms of another woman.
These are a few of the things I would tell myself to avoid conflict and put the mission first. That was until it was time for military retirement and we could no longer avoid what we were really feeling inside. It was time to put family first, and make that the mission!
Here are the top 3 eye-opening moments of my Crazy Military Life: Retired!
1) There’s No Place Like Home: Wait, What?
When you’ve been in the military for more than 25yrs, no place is really home. As the old saying goes “home is where you lay your head.” So when it was time for use to pick a “final resting place,” we were completely overwhelmed and felt like fish out of water! It’s comical now when we look back on it, because weren’t accustomed to having the entire world as an option! We considered jobs, schools, real estate, entertainment, weather, etc. Military moves spoiled us, and we knew it was our LAST one (let’s face it, moving yourself sucks!)
My husband’s home of record was Indiana, but we knew jobs in his field were scarce. We settled on Texas, which just so happened to be my home state. Through our research we learned that Texas loves and appreciates their Veterans! The cost of living, weather, quality public education also played a factor.
The thing is, during this process we were essentially on our own, for the first time in over 25yrs! It sounds weird I know, but when some one has made this decision for you for so long, you grow accustomed to “being assigned” a location.
For us, this worked out beautifully in the end, and we recently purchased our dream home here in Texas!
2) Who Are You, and When Are You Leaving?
While deployments and detachments are difficult, you learn how to find the silver lining in them as time goes on. Deployments for me often meant I got to clean the house, do the laundry, cook, shave my legs, wax, etc. when I felt like it! Sure, I could probably do it when/if I felt like it!
After military retirement, there are no more deployments, no more TDY trips, no more “breaks.” My husband enjoyed 10 months off after retirement. We had such grand plans and ideas of all the special moments we would share now that he was FREE, just the 3 of us! Well, it was not the thrill ride we imagined. We actually spent that 10 months and more getting settled in, working on marital issues, and learning who the heck we were married to all over again!
There were so many personal milestones we missed along our military journey, and we were playing a tense game of catch up for months! I’m happy to say, we not only survived the transition, but we can honestly say we are stronger today than ever before! #wemadeit
3) You’re Not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy!
As much as I complained about Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs), I found myself wanting to go on base and be seen at one! The retired life brings with it a sense of losing control, loose boundaries, and confusion. Yes, even as 45 & 35 year old adults, both my husband and I admitted to feeling a little “lost.” Going on base to shop at the commissary, NEX, and being seen at an MTF were all just our attempts to feel comfortable and surrounded by what was familiar to us.
My husband and I both, like many service members and their families, struggled with anxiety, depression, and adjusting to our new lives on the outside. As his wife, I helplessly watched him struggle to get his footing. Our local VA hospital, our faith in God, and our #teamedgington spirit all played major roles in helping him bouncing back!
My military life-retired isn’t so much different from most of the people that I’ve talked to (the ones that were honest enough to say it was a challenge). No matter how much you prepare for it financially, the emotional and mental part is something you just have to take as it comes. Making sure you surround yourself with people that get it, and legit want to see you win!
I left my home and family in TX at the age of 17, so the military and all those that I had the pleasure of encountering became my family! Today, I can be found advocating and supporting spouses of retired service members because I get it! Those voices often fade to black once the service member transitions, but they need just as much if not more support during this difficult time. They are struggling with their own set of challenges and the changes, along with supporting their spouse as they make the transition…throw in children, a cross-country move, and it’s easy to see how it a can be very overwhelming.
The next time you see a retired military spouse, understand…their life drastically changed too so it’s to ask, “How’s the transition going?”
Develda Edgington, Content Marketer, Military Spouse (ADCS Edgington – Retired)