When we received this letter from a military girl friend asking for advice on what to expect from military life, we knew we had to answer. We gave her some of our tips -- can you add some, too?
I am extremely new to the "military spouse" community and very passionate about learning the fundamentals. My boyfriend is active duty in the Army and the love of my life.
I am only 21-years-old, and with him being 25 and in the military for four years I feel like he is far more experienced in life than I. We plan on taking our relationship to the next level by moving in together next month (we both agree it's best before rushing into marriage) and soon after that decide on our future together.
A little about myself: I currently attend a local community college where I will receive my general Associates degree after summer and plan to transfer to a four year college the following fall. It is a goal and extreme passion of mine to become an educator myself.
I have a 3-year-old daughter. My daughter does reside with me full time but I do not have a legitimate parenting plan in place with her father and I.
I believe that my boyfriend is due to relocate around this coming up October and I am more than willing to go with him. One of my main concerns upon relocating is continuing school. My daughter does reside with me full time but I do not have a legitimate parenting plan in place with her father and I. I need some help with how that works as well, especially since I plan to relocate.
I guess my concern lies upon what my life is going to be like after not only committing my life to him, but to the military as well.
Sincerely, Nervous Girlfriend
When you're on the verge of possibly marrying into military life, everything can seem a little bit, well, foreign. We live in a world of uniforms, acronyms and marching orders. Our lives are often not our own, and we say "see you later" to our spouses for long periods of time, constantly praying that they come back to us safe.
There are a lot of things to learn about military life that will come over time. But there are also some things we think you should know from the start.
1. Your life belongs to you -- but his does not. Being a member of the military is a 24/7 job. Work hours are often predictable -- but there can also be lots of field time with long hours and nights away. Sometimes life will be interrupted for Army needs. Family plans, approved leave and things you thought were for sure don't matter when the Army comes calling. These things can be really frustrating, but they are all a part of the job. They are easier to stomach, though, if you are expecting them.
2. There are benefits to service -- lots of them. The military offers literally hundreds of family programs to support military spouses. Once you get married both you and your daughter will be able to receive military provided healthcare through Tricare, dental coverage through Metlife and a host of other benefits including use of the military's grocery store or "commissary," use of on-base recreation (known as Morale-Welfare-Recreation or "MWR"), money for education depending on your soldier's rank, career help, parenting support and more. None of these are available, unfortunately to girlfriends or even fiances. You have to be hitched.
3. You will want to figure out your custody situation ASAP. Since I am not a lawyer or an expert in legal matters, I am going to suggest you contact someone who is about this one. However, I can tell you that it's important to get this figured out sooner rather than later. Military moves are complicated enough without custody drama.
4. You will move, and then you will move again. For many military families, moving is just part of the fun of this lifestyle. For others, it's a chore. But for everyone, moving is what you make of it. You get to decide what attitude you have about the new place you're living. So why not choose to enjoy it? Explore your new area, see the sights, enjoy the outdoors and culture. Join the spouse club and make new friends. Make yourself get out of the house and get plugged in.
5. You will meet amazing people. One of my favorite things about military life is all the really great people I get to meet. Because of the military I get to spend time with people I never would've crossed paths with otherwise. Military spouses are a loyal bunch. We know what it means to have to find new friends every few years.
6. Deployment sucks, homecoming is hard, but loving a military guy is amazing. Here at SpouseBuzz we try to look on the bright side as much as possible. But we also don't deny the hard things. Saying "see you later" to your soldier is hard. Living without him is harder. Homecoming is an amazing, joyful time. But reintegration sucks. For each of these steps there are hundreds of spouses who have been there, done that and support each other through it all. And there is nothing like the pride you feel knowing that your soldier is serving his country and protecting YOUR freedom.
7. Building a career as a military spouse is really, really hard. The bad news is that, thanks to frequent moves and different requirements in each state for licensing for jobs like teachers, as a military spouse building a career for yourself is going to be hard. The good news is that it will not be impossible. As you get ready to move you'll want to look into schools at your new duty station and make sure that the classes you are taking now are transferable to their program. The military has lots of scholarships available for military spouses (after you're married you can research them here) and the Defense Department is working with states to making transferring licenses, including ones for teachers, easier.
8. Prepare yourself for acronym city. You've probably already noticed this about soldier. These dudes tend to speak in acronyms. After 5 years of marriage and 7 years covering the military as a journalist I still find myself asking "what does that mean?!" But the best way to tackle the Great Acronym Mystery is to just ask. When your soldier, or anyone else for that matter, uses an acronym stop and ask what it means. There is no magic acronym dictionary that you can just download to your brain. Learning it all is going to take time.
These are just a few of the tips we have for a military girlfriend-turning-spouse. We know that the list could go on and on and on ...
What would you add?