When And If: Are You Leaving The Military?


All this talk of sequestration and transition secretly means one thing to many military spouses:  are you leaving the military?  Will you be forced out?  Will you retire?  Will you want me to get a full-time job so you can stay home and do the juice box thing?

We kind of need to know.  If we are leaving the military, we kind of need to make a plan. Instead, we spouses get a lot of “when and if” from our servicemembers.  This isn’t new.

When then-Colonel George Patton was thinking of leaving the Army right before WWII, he had a 63’5″ schooner built for himself and his wife.  He promised they would sail the schooner, “When the war is over, and if I survive.”

He named the ship the When and If.  His wife must have loved that.  But at least they had a plan.  Not a good plan, perhaps.  Not a plan that would have paid the bills.  Not a plan they ever got to use (Patton died in a car accident right after the war).

But the When and If is about as much of a post-military plan as we are allowed to have, I think.  It is almost as if some of our servicemembers secretly think that making a plan for if their MOS is eliminated or if they get passed over or if their injury doesn’t heal quite well enough for their particular job that they are jinxing themselves.

Which is making a lot of spouses nervous in the service.  Maybe the best thing to do is to take the Patton plan.  Maybe you build an imaginary ship of dreams for When and If.

When you leave the military I want to go back to school and be a dentist.  If you leave the military, I think we should get a house where we can’t even see our neighbor’s dog.  When you don’t deploy any more, I want us to stay in bed every Sunday afternoon.  If you leave the service, I think you should get a job where you work with a lot of young people—you are really good at that.

Those things don’t seem like the kind of plans that will bring in a paycheck by December.  But a lot of those plans put together are the beginning of a life after the military—whenever that day may come.

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