One of the biggest problems we encounter as a military family is distance. There are some advantages to the distance - we don't have to deal with the family politics that fly fast and furious at home. The distance insulates you from participating in the dramatic episode that ensues when Cousin Jeff or Auntie Gina finds a new trucker boyfriend, stops mowing their lawn, and starts decorating with leather and chains.
On the other hand, the distance also means that participation in important events and milestones are at the whim and whimsy of the United States Armed Forces and whatever war happens to be "hot" at the moment.
In our case, I've missed both my brother and sister's weddings because my husband was TDY to Korea and the money just wasn't there to send myself and all my horde of children across the country for just a few days.
We missed hubby's step-dad's funeral because when he died we were mid-PCS and in a hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. His mother didn't tell us for a week (we did have a cell phone, I'm not sure why she thought we didn't need to know) and by the time we were told his funeral was the next day and we still had to finish the drive to San Angelo, Texas.
And now we are trying to arrange for the care of Hubby's mother, who is in the early stages of Alzheimers. In a more "normal" situation, without the ever-present threat of PCS, when a family member enters the stage in life when she can no longer care for herself, she can be placed into a facility near the family where she can be visited and continue to have the best relationship possible with the children and grandchildren.
My own great-grandparents were brought to my grandparents' house every Wednesday night and every Sunday all day to be surrounded by family. My grandmother and grandfather visited them every night.
But this is not possible for us. Military family time home is spent in finite chunks, and they simply cannot be extended. Vacations can turn into exhausting obstacle courses where we are trying to accomplish all our familial duties before the buzzer goes off and we have to head back.
And it can be expensive. Very expensive. I don't complain too often about our military paycheck - one glance at the extended families living in mud huts in Ethiopia tends to shoot me into the "grateful for what I have" camp. But more often than not military families are on a completely different coast - if not a completely different country - than their families. Anything that needs to be taken care of is going to have a large bill attached. Airline tickets, hotels, pet boarding, food, loss of school time... It all adds up.
I still believe it is worth it. But it does get overwhelming at times.