Tag Archives: PCS

America the Beautiful: Our PCS Roadtrip

badlandsMany people have to wait until their retirement years for the opportunity to drive an RV cross country to see our magnificent country. One of the benefits of military life, thanks to PCSing, is seeing many places you might not have traveled to early in life.

My husband and I were stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, in Oak Harbor, WA. Our next duty station would be clear across the country at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC. Having missed out on our last cross country move because I was working in Washington DC, I was so excited to make this trip together with our pets. We were looking forward to seeing many of the iconic wonders of the United States.

We loaded our vehicle to the brim, like most military families do, and made our way to Walla Walla, WA, an area known for its Washington wines. We tried many different types of wines, called varietals, before calling it a night. The next day, we headed for Yellowstone National Park. We opted to take the scenic route through Idaho, called the Lewis and Clark trail. The picturesque and peaceful drive ended with an overnight stay at a little gem surrounded by snow covered roads, called Lochsa Lodge. They had the best pancakes I have ever tasted: huckleberry. We continued on our way the next morning, finally arriving in Montana.

buffaloLocated near the small town of Gardiner, MT, the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park is the only entrance open year round to vehicles. Since we were traveling at the beginning of April, the interior of the park was still closed. But the little town of Gardiner had a surprise for us when we arrived: elk grazing everywhere!

We entered the park and stopped off to chat with the park rangers. They advised us to be cautious, since animals were constantly moving around the park. As we began our drive through Yellowstone, we encountered an entire herd of buffalo on the road! As we drove slowly through the packs, the buffalo walked right past our car… if we opened our windows, we could have touched them! Throughout the drive, we saw plenty of other animals – buffalo…okay, tons of buffalo, a 14-point elk, coyotes, and bear tracks. Fortunately, we never did see a grizzly bear that left the tracks!

Yellowstone was very quiet and had hardly any visitors when we drove through. It was, by far, the best time of year to visit since the crowds were thin. This allowed us to relax in the awe and beauty of the park. We finished our day at Yellowstone by soaking in a nature made “hot tub.” We walked a half of a mile to the Boiling River, a place where the hot water flows into the cold river. Many bathers love to soak in this natural creation, complete with incredible rock formations all around.

mt-rushmoreOur next destination was Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. After getting a recommendation from some locals in Gardiner, we took a sunset drive through the Badlands National Park. The striking geological deposits in the Badlands contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds, and with its rugged terrain, you feel like you’re driving through a science fiction movie. Here and there, we saw bighorn sheep grazing on the rock formations. Being surrounded by such stunning landscapes, I wondered why no one ever recommended the Badlands before now. We eventually made it to Mount Rushmore, which was iconic, and definitely a must-see place on any cross country adventure.

The next part of our journey was all about reconnecting with friends and family we hadn’t seen in quite a while. We stopped in Nebraska for a steak dinner with my old roommate, and then made our way up through Michigan towards Toronto, Canada, which was the most direct route to my college town of Albany, NY. I looked forwarding to visiting some of my best friends, and their families, whom my husband had never met! Before making it to Albany, we stopped on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to take some photos with the falls still bathed in its winter glory.

We took a few days of much needed rest, and then drove a scenic route through New York to Massachusetts, and ended in Bridgeport, CT. Before we boarded the ferry to Long Island to surprise my family, we indulged in some lobster rolls and mac and cheese! Prior to moving to Whidbey Island, much of our family had not seen us since our wedding in September 2012. Our huge surprise visit was complete with some tears from my grandmother!

niagra-fallsWith the entire U.S. behind us, it was so much to be back in all the areas we have visited many times before.

Our next destination was town where my husband and I met, and where family and friends awaited our arrival: Washington DC. We had a few days to visit some of our favorite places in DC, especially Fado’s, the Irish bar, in Chinatown, where we met.

We had one more stop with more family in Virginia Beach before making the last leg of the journey to North Carolina. We got to play with the dogs on the beach, catch up with family, and rest a little from our long journey.
After 4,500 miles, we finally arrived in Cherry Point, North Carolina – our new home.

We were very fortunate and extremely grateful for the time we got to spend with each other, and our pets, on the journey. If your military travels require you to move across the country, I hope you take advantage of the possibilities that await you! Visiting with family and friends all across the country, and seeing some of the most magnificent places America has to offer was incredible. It’s one of those memories I will forever keep etched in my heart.

Posted by Nicole Messmer, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Cherry Point, NC

Orders? Check. Map? Check. Engagement Ring? WHAT!

moving-boxesWhile a permanent change of station (PCS) might not be the most glamorous aspect of military life, it does offer a unique opportunity to explore new parts of the world. Before we were married, my husband and I took advantage of a cross country PCS as a chance for an epic road trip.

We met just as he was re-deploying from a year tour in Afghanistan back to Fort Drum, so we spent the year traveling back and forth between where I was living in New York City and upstate New York, where he was stationed… all the while falling in love.

I knew it was only a matter of time until the Army would throw a curveball our way.

When orders came down for him to go to Korea, my heart sank. Because he was changing to a different military occupation specialty (MOS), he would need to first PCS from Fort Drum to Fort Huachuca for schooling before going to Korea.

We saw this pending PCS as an amazing opportunity to road trip across the country.

The quickest route from New York to Arizona was 2,381 miles with an authorized 7 days to travel (350 miles a day). We based our route on two important stops to visit family and picked interesting places in between. To keep on schedule, we used Google Maps to drop ‘pins’ at the 350-mile markers, making sure to drop pins at places we wanted to see. We also booked our hotel stays ahead of time. That saved us from having to depend on the area to find lodging, and gave us the opportunity to bank on hotel rewards points.

google-map
On the way to Gulfport, Mississippi, we saw the sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama. After three days in Gulfport visiting family, we were on the road again. Our next stop was Austin, Texas, my home city. It was a quick trip because we had big plans to drive to the Grand Canyon from there, but during our stop at Albuquerque, we ate some bad New Mexican food and spent an extra day recovering at our hotel room. We adapted quickly, and rerouted our path to go straight to Sierra Vista, Arizona. Without a willingness to adjust based on travel luck and circumstances, any PCS road trip would be incredibly stressful!

Seeing the scenery and landscape change from each region of the country was by far the best experience of our trip. I loved seeing the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and then driving through the swampy Gulf Coast. The dessert area of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona were amazing to see, too.

At the very end of our road trip, in our hotel room in Sierra Vista, my boyfriend proposed to me!

Little did I know, during our visit to see family, he asked for their approval. My entire family knew his proposal was nearing, and were in on the secret! He planned to propose during our day at the Grand Canyon, but in typical Army fashion, he improvised!

We were married in a courthouse during his leave to Korea, and had a church wedding when he arrived back. Although life in the military can be unpredictable, it opens up new opportunities around every corner. It’s up to us to seize the moment!

Do you have a fun PCS story? Send it to us at Blog@MilitaryFamily.org to have it featured here on Branching Out!

rachel-marstenPosted by Rachel Tringali Marston, Army Spouse

5 Ways to Cope With Kids’ Stress During a PCS Move

little-girl-in-boxThe other day I was driving with my two daughters to Walmart for a much needed grocery trip. From the back seat my four-year-old daughter, Whitney, asked for a drink of the diet soda I had sitting in the center console.

“No, you can have some water instead,” I responded.

She flung herself into a full game-on tantrum, sobbing a dramatic performance worthy of an Oscar. It was one of the worst tantrums in a long, long time. We arrived at Walmart and I was relieved to get out of the confined space. But right there in the middle of the street she firmly, stalwartly, planted her feet, still crying hysterically. In we went, crying, screaming Whitney and all.

When the fit continued inside Walmart, I threw my hands up in surrender. This could not possibly be happening over denying her soda. I say no to soda all the time, only allowing sparing sips. Then it dawned on me. She must be stressed out about our quickly approaching 1500 mile permanent change of duty station (PCS) to Fort Bliss, Texas.

And it makes sense, really. A few days after talking to her about moving to Texas, she had a bed-wetting accident twice in one night; the first and only time she has ever done that. Plus, my husband and I have been stressed and emotionally strung-out lately. I know now that she is feeling the trickledown effect with our pending move.

I knew that I needed to create a strategy of keeping a happier home. After some careful thought, I came up with this short list of five ways we deal with child stress during our PCS.

Stick to the routine.
Kids thrive on routine. It’s often hard for me to stop what I’m doing to pick up a book and look into my daughters’ eyes for longer than a nanosecond knowing that I have a moving to-do list up to my ears. Try. Try to welcome the break the best you can. Do it for the littles.

Recognize the emotion out loud.
Young children do not understand what they are feeling. If you put a word to the emotion, it may help them come down out of the red. When my youngest gets extra loud, I explain, I know you’re angry about Whitney not letting you play in her bedroom. That must make you feel sad. KidsHealth.org says, “putting feelings into words helps kids communicate and develop emotional awareness — the ability to recognize their own emotional states.”

little-girl-packing-PCS-boxListen and move on.
While waiting out the Walmart tantrum, Whitney surprised me by taking a breath between sobs (finally!) by saying, “Mommy, I got so mad when you said no to me drinking your soda.” This made me listen to her frustration, talk about it, and move past the stressful moment. Later that evening, she told my husband about her Oscar-worthy performance.

“That’s right,” we said. “That wasn’t a happy moment, and we know that made you feel upset. Now it’s time for bed. Tomorrow will be a new day to laugh and play.”

Involve them in the process.
Allow your children to pack their special items in their very own box. Place it last on the truck, and unpack it first when you arrive. This demonstrates that all of your things from your last home have arrived at your new home. If you hired movers, bling the box out with stickers so it stands out. Or, keep it in your personal vehicle for easy access.

Dance.
When all else fails, have a living room dance party. Seriously! Who can stay mad or stressed when you’re dancing crazy to your favorite songs?

Do your kids show signs of stress before a pending move? What tips and tricks work for your family? Share it with us in the comments!

erin-bettisPosted by Erin Bettis, Army spouse, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Ft. Bliss, TX

 

Military Family Moves: What’s In Your Locker?

lockerNew orders. New home. New start.

For me, there’s something kind of refreshing about PCSing. It’s like the first day of high school all over again. What will it be like? Will they like my outfit? Will I fit in? How will I decorate the inside of my locker?

Decorating my locker was always the hardest part. So many options. Do I want to commit to NSYNC or Backstreet Boys? A magnetic dry erase board or a cork board with cute thumb tacks?

Like I said, so similar to a PCS move…clearly.

So, when it came time for us to PCS a few months ago, I had all the same anxieties I did on the first day of high school. After I jumped in, made some friends, and made my claim on the best lunch table (read: best local watering hole), things started feeling normal.

Until I started to unpack my house and decorate the ol’ “locker.”

There were 10 different pairs of curtains, 8 different curtain rods, beachy-themed décor, manly rustic décor, and mismatched picture frames a plenty. And don’t get me started on the pillows. Oh, were there pillows. The guys who came to pack our house mentioned they hadn’t seen so many pillows in quite a while. (Consider my love of pillows the adult version of my teenage love for NSYNC: Obsessive and slightly embarrassing when someone calls you out on it.)

It was then I realized I had no idea how to redecorate our new house. A smorgasbord of Pier One, Home Goods, and Ikea lay strewn about my house, like puppies waiting for a good home. But the truth was I had no idea where to start.

So I didn’t.

Finally, one day, I just decided to embrace all the mismatched crap. (That should be a bumper sticker: Embrace the Mismatched Crap.)

I started spray painting this, reupholstering that, swapping pillows here, and moving knickknacks there. Sure enough, my empty locker started screaming my name…it felt like MINE. Yet, there was one room I just didn’t know what to do with – our Master Bedroom.

We can change that.

Our Association is teaming up with design firm Laurel & Wolf, to honor military spouses and all of our mismatched crap! (Well, not so much the last part, I guess.)

Laurel & Wolf is giving away a free Master Bedroom Makeover design, plus some FREE décor from some awesome home goods companies!* It’s easy to enter, and anyone who does receives 10% off a Laurel & Wolf Classic Package!

That’s the thing about PCSing, with each move comes the new chance to make it yours. For me (and most of my fellow milspouses), this means making our house a home, and quick. All of the other stuff seems to fall into place once my house is unpacked.

Now the only decision left is: How will you decorate your locker, er, Master Bedroom?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

 
 
*Laurel & Wolfe contest submissions are due by May 7th.

PCS: Panic, Cry, Scream

ShannnonSeb1In the military community, summertime is notoriously known to be “PCS Season” – the most popular time for service members to receive new orders, or their “Permanent Change of Station.” In my world, I like to think of it as “Panic, Cry, Scream,” because that is usually how I feel shortly after we get the news of our new orders. Panic sets in when I realize all the things already on my To-Do list, followed by a good cry because, once again, it’s time to pick up and find a new home. Screaming happens frequently as the time to move gets closer. To-Do lists are left undone, there are no more tears to cry, and whether I like it or not, change is coming.

That’s the funny thing about this lifestyle – being a military family. Change is inevitable. I remember the turning point when I realized life was going to change drastically. This moment left me with no other choice but to embrace change.

I left my small hometown in Florida in 2009, where I lived for all 23 years of my life, and moved with my now-husband all the way to Oklahoma. He and I had been dating for a while and being left behind while he got new orders to Oklahoma was not an option. I was going with him whether we were married or not! I packed all my things from the bedroom I’d grown up in, took the furniture from my room which still showed 10 years of pencil marks my mom made to track how much I’d grown, and began dreaming of a new life in the Midwest.

The morning came when we packed the car, said goodbye to my mom and dad, and set off for our new installation. I took in the moment like it was the last breath I’d ever take. The smell of pine trees mixed with the humid Florida air while my parents stood at the end of the driveway, waving as their only child drove away. I was fresh out of college, unmarried, and leaving my Southern bubble behind.

Then it hit me. Thoughts scrambled through my head as all the familiar things I knew and loved passed by the car window. My mind raced and all I could do was embrace the change that was happening. I had to be brave and fearless, kind and understanding. It was time to be determined and ferocious to take on the military “lifestyle” and be the best supporter I could be for my service member. This was the moment life changed for me.

I married my husband seven months later.

ShannonSeb2

I never dreamed of a life as a military spouse. In fact, I never dreamed of a life outside of my small, Southern town. Call me naïve, but I did not think life existed in a world where there was no sweet tea, or beach access. Choosing to pull out of the driveway that humid morning in 2009 has been the best decision I have ever made.

Today, I am a strong-minded, gritty military spouse with a few years of deployments and PCS’s under my belt. I am resilient and determined to make the best of any situation. I have learned how to rely on like-minded people for support. I have figured out it is okay to attend military balls wearing the same dress each year because, chances are, no one would remember. I learned how to be a banker, chef, tailor, and nurse!

Change is inevitable, especially in the military culture. It’s important to remember that each PCS is a chance to see the sunrise from a new place, meet new friends, and find new adventures. Maybe it’s not “Panic, Cry, Scream,” but instead, “Perfect Change of Scenery.” I’ll tell you firsthand, our first PCS was a pivotal moment in my life, and it has shaped who I am today! Embrace it and see what kind of person it makes you.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

To Deploy or Not to Deploy: Your orders were changed…again

To deploy or not to deploy: your orders were changed…againThe military lifestyle poses many uncertainties for families. For example, deployment orders, Permanent Change of Station Orders (PCS), or a job assignment could change at a moment’s notice. And when this happens, it can be frustrating. Let’s be honest, I want to jump up and down and scream how can this happen, AGAIN?  My heart starts to race, I take a deep breath, and then I’m able to focus on the task ahead: dealing with the latest change.

Here’s how I deal with changes to orders:

  1. Acknowledge my feelings. Some changes are good. For example, a deployment may be cancelled or the new orders may move your family to a duty location you have always wanted to call “home.”
  2. Review plans made based on the original set of orders. You may have already made plans based on the original set of orders, such as completing school registration for your child(ren), placing a deposit on a house, or alerting your employer of an upcoming move.
  3. Start a new to-do list. A new set of orders brings a new to-do list. Talk to your family and decide what task each family member will take to help you tackle your new list.
  4. Research military protections. This item may not apply to your situation. However, it is worth some research time because you could be eligible for military protections if you need to change a cell phone contract, break a lease, or inform your employer of a change in military orders. It may be helpful to contact your local legal assistance office for specific questions.
  5. Keep a sense of humor. I know this is easier said than done. It is hard to be upbeat when many changes are coming your way, but humor does make is better.

I also try to visualize where I’ll be in a one year. Of course, orders could change again, but imagining that I made it through the latest change helps me realize the chaos is only temporary.

Has this ever happened to you? How do you handle order changes?

katieBy Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Tough Choices: Geo-Bachelor or Another Move?

Tough Choices: Geo-Bachelor or Another Move?Since I became a military spouse more than 16 years ago, my family and I have moved eight times for the good of the Navy. Some moves have been greeted with excitement and others with tears, but each time the Navy has asked us, we have packed our bags, said goodbye to our friends, and traveled obediently to the next duty station.

There’s no denying that it has been a great adventure. While our military life has not been as exotic as some others, we have lived in many interesting places. Our kids have explored Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, visited Disney World and the White House, and enjoyed beaches from Rhode Island to Florida. I recognize that in many ways the military has been good to us.

Still, there have been sacrifices. Sacrifices like the challenges that military families face each and every day. My kids have cried at leaving dear friends and struggled to adjust to new schools. I have given up jobs and worked to find a place in a new community.

It’s true, some things do get easier with each move. I’ve discovered a foolproof way to tape up the hardware for our bookshelves so they don’t get lost, for example. But some things never get easier. And a few things that seemed easy the first move got a lot harder the seventh and eighth time.

So, when my husband told me that he would be receiving orders to another ship, in another town, we decided not to follow him. This time, he will go on to the new duty station on his own while the kids and I stay behind. He’ll be what we in the military know as a geo-bachelor. This was not a decision we reached lightly. We talked about it for hours, over the course of many days, and I still lie awake at night wondering if it’s the right thing to do. It will be hard on us as a family. It will be hard on him as he makes the drive home every weekend. And hard on me as I juggle my job with being both Mom and Dad to two teenagers.

But the more we thought about it, the clearer it became that it is the right thing for us, right now. The kids are in high school, tightly woven into a network of friends, neighbors, teammates, and classmates. We have a house that we probably paid too much for and can’t afford to sell. And I finally – finally – have a job where I can find professional satisfaction. All of that seems like a lot to give up, even for the good of the Navy.

Of course, not everyone agrees with this decision. I have received a few skeptical looks from family and friends when I told them about our plans. Even the Defense Travel Office says that “a fundamental philosophy of military service is that members, with their families, create a better work environment and esprit de corps when they can be active participants in the local base and community.”

I understand the military’s philosophy. In fact, I agree with it. In a perfect world, it would be better if my family could all be together. But we don’t live in a perfect world and family life is complicated. Right now, the best decision for our family seems to be to live apart. That hasn’t been true in the past and it might not be true in the future. Certainly every family is different. What works for one family might be a disaster for another. We can only hope for the best and trust that the strength, resilience, commitment, and love that have gotten us through eight moves can get us through one “not-move.”

What do you think? Have you ever lived apart from your service member? What made you decide to stay behind? 

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association