Real Spouse Transition: They Stayed at Their Duty Station
Julie Provost is known in the military spouse community as the brains behind Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, a popular blog site.
A military family for about nine years with three boys, her husband left active duty while stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. But rather move home or away from Fort Campbell, the family decided to stay put while her husband joined a local National Guard unit and took a job as a truck driver. The family went through four deployments together while active duty.
Military.com: Why did your spouse decide to get out of the military?
Provost: The official reason is that he had to get out because of not promoting. But it was more complicated than that. We were tired. Tired of the deployments and everything that went with them. He had been deployed four times in nine years, and if he stayed in, we thought he might be deployed again sooner rather than later.
Q: Think back to before you got out. What did you think transition would be like?
A: I thought it would be amazing and wonderful and I would always be happy, even though I knew in the back of my head nothing in life is like that.
Q: How did what actually happened compare to what you imagined?
A: It was a lot harder than I thought it would be -- a lot less smooth. I had a lot of different emotions and I was surprised that I missed active-duty life sometimes, or that I would be jealous of friends getting ready to PCS somewhere new or enjoying another part of active-duty life.
Q: What do you wish you could go back and tell yourself about military transition?
A: I wish I could have told myself to prepare more and to do so as soon as we knew he would be getting out. I could have done more and I didn't.
Q: What was your biggest military transition mistake?
A: I assumed that taking a job as a truck driver would be easier than Army life because I would see him more often than a deployment. The reality was it was just as hard, just in a different way. Our family has had too much time apart. He needs to be home as much as possible.
Q: What was your smartest military transition decision?
A: Staying in a military community. This allows us to still shop at the commissary and to still be a part of the military world. We will eventually move somewhere else, but it is nice to still have the military around us.
Q: What should families going Guard or Reserve know?
A: They should know that it will be very different from active-duty life. In some ways, it will be easier. You could spend three weeks of the month not thinking much about the military and then that weekend he has drill will take you right back to the way things used to be. Old emotions will come up -- I was not expecting that.
Q: What transition resource did you love?
A: I can't really think of one.
Q: What transition tool do you wish you had?
A: I wish the whole health care transition would have been explained a little more. I had a lot of questions and had to call Tricare a lot to understand everything.
Q: How did you decide where to settle after getting out?
A: We decided to stay in Tennessee because we want to move back to the West Coast sometime, but not sure where, and our home state of California is just too expensive to be an option right now. We love the low cost of living here and wanted to keep our boys in their school too.
Q: Did you experience any surprises with your transition? What were they?
A: When your spouse is active duty, they are not taxed on BAH, BAS and when they are deployed. They can get the same paying job after the military and they will make less. We also started paying $300 for health/dental insurance. While that is not a lot compared to what some people pay, it is a big change from not having to pay for medical care each month.
Q: Tell us about your new civilian community -- what advice do you have for spouses trying to find non-military community friends?
A: I would say get out there and find fun things to do that don't have to do with the military. Find a new church, a book club or a group for your kids. Know that it will take time, but eventually you will make friends in your new home.
Q: How do you wish you had prepared yourself better for leaving the military, both personally and career-wise?
A: I wish I had started to prepare a few years before he got out. I could have gone back to school or done things a little differently. Sometimes, I wish that we had moved somewhere else after he got out too. Even though staying here made things easier, having a fresh start might have been nice too. I feel, though, that no matter what you do during this time, you will wish you did things a little differently.
-- Do you have a military transition story to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for this series.
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