What to Do When You're Stationed Somewhere Terrible

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I write to you today out of frustration, aggravation and humiliation. My husband PCS'd to the Great Lakes area. He was forced to go there -- it was not one of his choices.

Now we are here, and we've been here for one year, a year of total hell. This command is horrible. Every family that I speak with, unless they're an officer, commander etc., absolutely hates it.

My frustration comes because there is nothing here that really supports the family. Living on base is out of the question because the schools around the base are horrible. To live out in town, even in the most inexpensive area, is still expensive.

Moving here has depleted our family savings just to stay afloat. We don't buy lavish or luxury things -- just the basic necessities. I have been looking for work in my area of expertise, but have found nothing. I am a certified guidance counselor for the state of Texas. Illinois doesn't offer reciprocity or any kind of wavier for military spouses.

My husband and I have sought help through all avenues here, speaking with anyone and everyone to see what can be done. The saddest part about the whole thing is many of the higher-ups are aware of this problem, and nothing is being done.

Families here are truly hurting financially, not because they are spending frivolously but because they are just trying to survive. I have even tried to obtain government assistance and been denied because they said my husband makes too much for a family of four. We have cut back so much until we have nothing else to cut.

The extra humiliation to this all is that I went on an interview for a maid service, and they said I was over-qualified.

My husband has been in for nine years and is now deeply contemplating getting out of the Navy. I'm so sad because, just since I have moved here, I have met other families who are in the same situation.

The Great Lakes are the Great Mistakes. If you can offer any advice, please do.

-- Becky

Dear Becky,

This is the first time I've heard it called "The Great Mistakes!"

Well, let me first say that I know there are Navy spouses around the world who totally understand what you are going through. I should say all military spouses (both men and women) across the service branches understand.

Many of us have been stationed places that we absolutely hate, where we couldn't find employment, the schools were terrible and housing was undesirable. I think this assignment may be one of those places.

I do have some quick advice.

First, you must remember that this is temporary. Yes, it's tough and a hard pill to swallow, but it's still temporary. All assignments won't be like this one.

Second, tell your husband not to give up his career. Doing so would mean that he's having a "knee-jerk" reaction. He's put in a lot of time already. I hear from many service members across the service branches who believe they should have stayed in longer for retirement at 20 years and even longer because of the availability of employment as a civilian.

Third, it sounds like there are many spouses who feel the same as you. I think it's time for you all to build a support network to help each other get through this tough time. That could be book clubs, first Friday of the month game night, or girl's night etc.

Of course you're not spending frivolously . It practically takes two incomes to make it most anywhere these days. You can only cut back so far; I get it.

During my husband's career, I too have accepted jobs as a temporary assignment to help make ends meet. Think about working as a substitute teacher, check with the local colleges and universities, and with staffing companies, too. I'm not surprised they wouldn't hire you to work in housekeeping. Yes, you want employment, but they know you wouldn't stay very long in that position.

Lastly, check with the Military Spouse Employment Program. They can help you locate legitimate work from home employment and other work. Contact Military OneSource for more information. Again, please know that I understand. However, I think you will make it through. Keep in touch.

-- Ms. Vicki

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