Making the Military a Career: How an Elephant Sat on My Dreams

flag-on-a-white-picket-fenceThere’s been an elephant in the room between my husband and me for a while. That one huge topic we’ve been dancing around. We think we know what the other is thinking, and feel okay when the topic drifts away, untouched. Because it’s a big, fat, life-changing elephant:

Are we really going to make the military a career; we’re really going to do 20 years of this?

I’ll be honest: I dreamt of a life where my kids would grow up having the same friends since second grade, like I did. I hoped to see my husband work a job with normal hours and be able to come home at 5pm and coach little league. I thought I’d get to have tons of quality time with my best girlfriends from college, since they’d live right around the corner. I relished in the idea of being able to take a vacation with little to no advanced planning.

When I first met my husband, his goal was to do a short enlistment, then transition back to the civilian work force, allowing all of my little white-picket-fence dreams to come true. Now, we’re 8 years in, and my husband has some of the most elite and prestigious tours in the military on his resume. We have had amazing opportunities because of his service – some I never imagined possible…like meeting the President of the United States in the Oval Office and using the big, important phone on his desk. Okay, so only half of that is true, but still: IT’S THE PRESIDENT.

Recently, we stopped ignoring the elephant in the room and had the talk: are we staying in, or getting out? His eyes widened with excitement as he went through all the possibilities awaiting him in his next decade of service. Mine sank to my feet as reality set in that my perfectly planned life with the white picket fence probably won’t happen.

So, what does that mean for me and my perfectly planned life and white picket fence? Honestly, I have no idea, and that scares me a little bit. But in the last 8 years, I’ve learned that life doesn’t come in a perfectly packaged box. It might come in 3 year billets and surprise IA deployments. It can require a therapist and some serious amounts of wine. And wine is totally okay.

Military life doesn’t exactly give you the opportunity to dream up a life you’d love to have. But I guess that’s the beauty of this one of a kind journey. It gives you other things you never thought to dream up.

Have you and your spouse made the decision to make the military a career? What advice would you give?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Online Engagement Manager


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  1. 1
    Debi Avocato

    Definitely talk about it first. At the 9 year point, my husband and I decided that he was going to leave the Navy and get a “normal” job. I was so excited that we were finally going to be one of those normal families. Then one day shortly after making this decision, he called me from his off-crew office to inform me that he had changed his mind and that he re-enlisted. I began sobbing. I couldn’t even talk. I was devastated. That night when we both had gotten home from work, I cried some more, and then he told me why he decided to re-enlist. He loves his career, and he loves being in the Navy, and he didn’t want to give that up and just walk away.
    So, here we are just past the 21 year mark in my husband’s career. We’ve lived in several different places, including an overseas billet. I still envy those people I know who have lived their entire lives in one place, and who have known their neighbors for more than 3 years, and whose kids have grown up with the same kids in the same schools since Kindergarten. But I love my life and everything I’ve experienced following my husband around for the past 20 years, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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