Category Archives: Guest Posts

Christmas in the Military: They Answered the Call

A few years back, my husband, Dave, was on a deployment rotation where he was deployed for 4 months and then home for 4 months. This cycle continued for 2 years. During this time, he missed a lot of special days, including some holidays. I wrote this poem to reflect the Christmas holiday for families with a deployed family member. I have never shared it, but this year I decided to share it in support of all of our military that are serving and are away from their families this Christmas.

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Christmas in the Military

Another year has gone by and we cannot wait,
Christmas time is coming; time to celebrate.

Mommy told me Christmas will be different this year,
As I looked at her face, I saw one lonely tear.

She says Daddy cannot come home, he will not be here,
All I can do is look at her with sadness and fear.

My Daddy is a hero, for everyone to see,
He’s fighting the war for our proud military.

I am sad at first, but I think for a while,
And finally I am able to show a bright smile.

If Daddy can’t be here, it is perfectly clear:
We take Christmas to Daddy and fill him with cheer.

Mommy smiles a big smile to show she understands,
She says let’s get busy and start making our plans.

First things first, we start writing our list,
Double checking it twice, to make sure nothing is missed.

Off to the store to buy our supplies,
So many great things brings wonder to my eyes.

Back at the house, let the projects begin,
Can we finish in time? That would be a blessed win!

We mark the calendar, December 10th is the date,
If we cannot finish, Daddy’s gifts will be late.

First, we make a collage with pictures of us,
Will he love seeing my first day of school on the bus?

Next, we pack a shoe box with all of his needs,
Soap, deodorant, shaving supplies, and books that he reads.

Moving on to a special gift for Daddy from me,
Drawing is ‘our thing,’ I give him a lot to see.

Our next gift is all of Daddy’s favorite treats and more,
Cookies, candy canes, brownies, and movies galore.

The last gift is the most special you see,
A video is made by mommy and me.

We tell him how much we miss him, can’t wait until he is back,
And hopefully all of his gifts will fit in that great big, green pack.

Finally, I wrap all the gifts and place a bow on each one,
To the post office we go, our job is almost done.

At the counter, we prepare to ship our box,
I’m very nervous, shaking in my socks.

The postman, replies, “I will do all that I can,”
I answer, “Thank you sir, my Daddy’s a very special man!”

“Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Daddy would always recite,
But this year we read it and it took all of our might.

Christmas morning we wake up and go downstairs,
Santa has been here, but still nothing compares.

What happens next, is the best gift of the day,
The computer screen comes on and I hear my Daddy say,

“Merry Christmas, son, thank you for the gift,”
“You and mommy are my world,” and I feel my little heart lift.

We talk on the computer for a long while,
And all we can do is smile and smile.

Daddy says he has to go, but tells us each day he loves us more and more,
Only two more months and he will be through with this tour.

As the computer goes off, Mommy and I look at each other,
You can feel the love between a son and his mother.

We open our gifts and Mommy says she is so proud of me,
Giving Daddy a special Christmas has been an amazing journey.

Later that night, she kisses me and tucks me into bed,
As I drift off to sleep with happy thoughts in my head.

Remember, children everywhere, and listen with care,
Because I have something very important to share.

If your Mommy or Daddy cannot be home on a special day,
Take the special day to them and do it your own way.

Even when they are gone, they love you through and through,
You are their pride, you are their hero, too!

Merry Christmas, happy holidays to all,
Our military is where they need to be; they answered the call!

Posted by Sonserae Martinez, Marine Spouse

PCSing During the School Year: Be Prepared and Ask Questions

According to Department of Defense’s (DoD) Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the military moves roughly 530,000 service members and their families every year. More than half of those moves are during peak moving months of May through August. That leaves more than 250,000 service members and their families moving off season: during the academic school year.

While moving during the summer months may add a heavy workload to the DoD, moving in summer presents an ideal time for families to transfer schools without missing crucial educational requirements for military connected children. In contrast, moving the other 250,000 military members during the school year brings an entire new set of challenges for military members.

When changing schools during the year, there are plenty of hurdles both parents and students face. The important thing is to gather as much information and ask as many questions to school administrators and teachers before (and after) you PCS. Being organized and prepared is key to a successful mid school year transition.

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Here’s a solid checklist and questions for parents with school-aged kids to ask, but we’d love to hear some of your tips and tricks when moving during the school year, too!

Research and Compare Curriculum – Do your research before you move.

  • Will the school be able to meet the educational needs of your child?
  • Compare curricula of your current and new schools.. You need to know if your child will struggle to keep up or be ahead of peers and thus bored in the classroom.
  • Collect and review important schoolwork showing your child’s academic aptitude.
  • Compare current schoolwork to curriculum in new school. What type of math are they teaching? Does the school use Common Core or has it opted out?
  • Plan a conference for your child’s current teacher or counselor to review the new school’s curriculum.
  • Take a picture of your child’s text book covers, websites they use and gather work samples of current work.
  • Ask the new school how new students who are behind/ahead of current grade-level objectives are handled.

The Teacher(s) 

  • Educational continuity is at risk each time a military child – no matter what grade they are in – moves to a new school.
  • Teacher-to-Teacher Letter – A great preemptive idea is to have your child’s current teacher write a letter to the new teacher – even though you don’t know who it will be. This is a perfect venue for teachers to share information about your child’s learning methods or insight into behavior.
  • Meet with the your child’s current teacher before you PCS. Take lots of notes at a parent-teacher conference. These notes will be critical when you advocate for your child’s education or services at the next school.
  • Administrators Ask your current school to explain procedures for withdrawal and forwarding your child’s records to the new school.
  • Ask for a copy of your child’s records to hand carry to your new location.

Education Binder – Compile a binder that is home to all of your child’s important documents, including:

  • Report cards – all of them, even ones from previous schools.  It allow teachers to know the educational history of your child.
  • Schoolwork samples
  • Assessment results
  • Teacher comments and conference notes
  • Individual Education Plan
  • 504 plan
  • Shot records
  • Speech or occupational therapy evaluations/summaries
  • Letters from teachers (to teachers), including specialty teachers (music, coaches and art teachers, for example) if applicable
  • Test results (Cog AT, Iowa Assessments, reading readiness, SAT)

Families On The Homefront offers a free downloadable Operation Dandelion Kids Education Binder to help parents advocate for their child and help tell their child’s education history.

Know Your Rights

Military families have rights and responsibilities regarding children’s education. It’s up to you to understand these rights and responsibilities. Don’t leave your child’s right to a good education in the hands of a stranger. Own it!

  • Interstate Compact – Start here! Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission  is fighting to level the playing field for military family education.
  • The School Liaison Officer’s job is to help parents navigate the local school system, every base/post has one, contact them for insights about your school or if you have problems with placement of services.

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Information About Your New School

  • School calendar – Ask for the new school’s calendar right away. It will list important dates you need to know.
  • Registration requirements – Every school is different but most schools require PCS orders, proof of residency and immunization records.
  • Holiday hours – Call the new school and learn when the school will be open to register and take a tour hours.
  • Appropriate placement – Gifted and Talented and special needs programs often differ between schools. Understand what the school offers and how placement works for your child.
  • How does the new school handle new students with IEP/504 plans, documented academic struggles and/or academic discrepancies?
  • How do they program for Gifted and Talented students? Not all schools are equal when it comes to curriculum or testing.
  • Speak with a grade-level teacher and/or counselor to get a feel for the school climate and available programs.
  • Does the school offer a way for your child to connect with a peer school is back in session?
  • Secondary students: understand transferring credits, graduation requirements, ranking and how to determine appropriate academic placement.

Contact Your New School – Once you arrive, get on the phone and be ready to get to work.

  • Register and tour the school as soon as possible. Bring the education binder with all your important documents, share your education binder when you register so staff can place your child accordingly.
  • Ask about the school’s procedure for reviewing and implementing a new student’s IEP or 504 plan. Schedule any necessary meetings to review your child’s IEP or 504 plan.
  • Ask about procedures for parent/teacher conferences, schedule on within the first two weeks of school and share your education binder with the teacher as well.
  • Don’t be shy. Parents need to be involved within weeks of arrival at their new location. There will be a ton of information and insights you WON’T have access to unless you make yourself available and start connecting.

Organization and preparation are keys to a smooth school transition, especially one during the year. The loss of support, routines, and social networks associated with changing schools can be challenging for both children and parents. Being prepared for this transition is your best chance to ease the anxiety of changing schools. Start early and be sure to follow up when you arrive. We all know that as parents, we aren’t happy in a new location until our children are happy and settled.

Have you recently moved during the school year? What is the best piece of advice you have for others?

stacy-huismanPosted by Stacy Huisman, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Air Force spouse, mother, and freelance writer. Stacy was published in the popular book “Stories Around the Table – Laughter, Wisdom, and Strength in Military Life.” She is also a judge for Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year 2015. 

Parenting Military Kids: It’s Time to Get a Babysitter

I need to get something off my chest: lately, I have been feeling like the odd-man-out, and I am completely bewildered! None of my friends ever get a babysitter and go for date night with their spouse…EVER!

Do people think they aren’t good parents if they leave their kids with someone for the evening? I’m not sure, but listen to me on this one: I think leaving your kids and heading out for some personal time will make you a better parent! And for me, getting away from the house and the kiddos is crucial for my husband and I to reconnect. When we are home, we could go days without actually connecting because of busy schedules, housework, honey-do lists, kids, and all the other distractions! Not to mention, I work from home, so I’m with our kids all the time!

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“But I can’t afford a babysitter.”

“We live so far from family, I don’t trust anyone else.”

Stop it right now! Do a swap with a friend; you watch their kids on Friday nights, and they will watch your kids on Saturday nights (or whichever days works best). You don’t have to pay someone, you can trade babysitting for favors. Have your elderly neighbor watch your kids, and in return, your husband mows her lawn.

You can make it work!

And the date doesn’t have to cost money either. Go for a run together, have a picnic, take the dog for a walk. I don’t care what you do, just get out and do it!

I promise you that disengaging from your home life for a short ‘break’ can only help your mental well-being! I feel like it’s made me a better parent, and it’s been good for my kids, too! They get to stretch their wings, and have a little time away from mom and dad. I promise, they are just as annoyed by you, at times, as you are by them! And it’s good for your kids to meet new people–expand their horizons; let them learn to trust people other than you! It will build their confidence and teach them how to behave in the world. They need to know that there are other people out there who do things differently, and that there is more than one way to handle a situation. These are life skills that they are missing out on if you take the burden all on your own. It takes a village, as they say.

The feeling I get when I come home and my little guy runs to me for hugs and kisses is the best. You have to go away for them to miss you! Not to mention, I think you set a good example for them by showing them how to lead a healthy and balanced life, especially with your spouse. I don’t think it’s too healthy to be completely and totally consumed by one area of your life, but neglect another. You have to nurture and care for yourself in order to properly nurture and care for others!

So, I beg of you, please go. No more excuses, just go.

Do you think it’s important to use a babysitter so you can take time for yourself and your spouse? Share your thoughts with us!

alicia-steelePosted by Alicia Steele, military spouse and blogger at Two Kids and a Blog

Running Towards an Enhanced Career: Lace Up and GO!

You are at the starting line, with the finish probably no where in sight. A gun goes off. And then you run.

For me, this applies literally–to actual running–and metaphorically to continuing my education. Currently, I’m attempting both. Both journeys are endless pursuits of self-fulfillment and self-improvement.

I started running about five years ago. We had just moved to sunny southern California, and my husband promptly deployed. I knew just a handful of people, had a job that I disliked, and was spending too much time moping about.

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So I ran. I started with up and back loops in my neighborhood. I took the dog for company, and we chatted about how my day went, what was for dinner, and what type of treat he wanted when we got back.

Those first weeks were painful. I was doing Couch25K before that was a ‘real thing,’ and I was frustrated. I remembered, from high school track, what it felt like to go fast, and I remembered my sub-three minute 800 meters. I remembered flying around the track. Now, I was barely wogging (if walking and jogging had a baby) along, even with frequent trudging breaks.

Right now, I am going back to school for an additional certificate in education. I am scared out of my mind. I’ve been out of school for over five years, and this whole program is online. I’m not sure how to pay for this, or how much work it will be, or if it will be worth it in the end.

But I’m trying it. If it is a disaster, at least I tried.

That’s how I viewed running when I started out: even if I am the slowest person on the road, I’m still faster than the person who never left the couch.

So I kept going. I laced up my shoes and pushed myself farther and faster every single day. One day, I was running again, not just jogging or trudging, but flying.

Education isn’t new to me; I’m a teacher. So you could say I’m pretty comfortable around a classroom. However, my program is in teaching English as a Second Language. English is my first, and only, language. Fine, I can throw a few “holas” around, and could probably find the bathroom if lost in France. Beyond that, I’m hopeless. How am I going to be able to teach children who are coming in without any English language skills?

Also, we just moved. Once again, I have no connections to the education world in sunny SoCal. My course requires that I teach sample lessons. I need to find a classroom. I need to do so many things to make this successful.

As the worries about ‘what-if,’ and ‘what-then’ overtake my mind, I think back to the very first race I ever ran post-high school,:an off-road 5K up in the hills of Camp Pendleton with my running buddy. I was so nervous at the starting line, my stomach was knotted up. I was pretty sure I might actually throw up, or pee my pants. Then my friend looked at me, smiled, and the gun went off. There we were, two former track runners conquering this intensely hard trail run together, side by side the whole entire way. The amazing part was that we both placed in our respective age groups. She got second in her group, and I pulled off a first place finish in mine. At that moment, I was hooked. I loved running, and everything about it.

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I’ve run many races since then. I have only placed in one other race–second place in that same trail’s 5K the following year. But each and every time I cross the finish, I am victorious. My journey to that place, in that moment, has been a triumph of my will over my body, the weather, the road, and my negativity.

My favorite races have been the hardest. The Marine Corps Marathon 2012 was the hardest race I ever ran. Completing a marathon less than six months following a PCS move from SoCal to DC, training through humidity and heat, and healing an injured knee, was just plain hard. But nothing would stop me from lining up that morning; not even Superstorm Sandy, and not even the nausea that hits before every race. I hit the wall hard at mile 20, but trucked along, pretty sure that I would need to stop, but willing myself forward. When that Marine handed me my medal, I had tears of absolute joy rolling down my cheeks.

Right now, as I look over my program–the expense of it all, the time required–I’m pretty sure I might throw up. How on earth can I balance military life, being new to my region, raising a toddler, and taking these courses?? But then I remember how satisfying it is to cross that finish line. How rewarding it is to overcome all of the obstacles placed in front of you by the military, by motherhood, by finances, by sheer self-doubt.

So, I’ll lace up my shoes, pay that hefty bill, and move forward. I will overcome everything in my path. I am a runner. I am a mother. I am a determined, courageous, highly-educated military spouse who WILL advance my career. Because when I reach the finish line of life, I don’t ever want to say I didn’t get off the couch in any part of this journey.

Have you ever conquered something awesome in your military life? What made you push through and do it?

meg-flanaganPosted by Meg Flanagan, a special and elementary education teacher who holds an M.Ed in special education and a BS in elementary education. In addition to classroom experience, she has also worked in private tutoring and home schools. Meg is passionate about education advocacy for all children, but especially for children with special needs and children of military and state department personnel. You can find Meg online at MilKids Education Consulting, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

3 Tips for Military Spouse Writers Who Want to Publish a Book

I’d like to tell you my path to publication was easy, but that would be a lie. It took five states, five assignments, one retirement, another move, and 17 (that’s not a typo–17!) years to publish my first novel. But when it happened — it happened fast.

I started writing a novel after seeing an ad for a short story contest in the Dayton, Ohio newspaper when we were station at Wright-Patterson in 1997. I tried writing a short story, but subplots and interesting characters kept bubbling up onto the page, and I realized the story was so much more.

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So here’s my best advice about publishing:

Study the craft of writing.
I went to my first writers conference while we were stationed at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. As part of the conference, I read the first five pages to the group. As I read I thought, “This is the worst drivel ever written and it’s all backstory.” Fortunately, it was a very kind group–they pointed out what was good, and I got back to work. Since then I’ve attended writers retreats and conferences, taken classes at a community college, listened to every author speak that I could find, joined a critique group, and read lots of books about writing.

Tagged for Death mech.indd

Get out there.
When we moved to Northern Virginia, I saw an ad for a mystery convention called Malice Domestic. While it’s considered a mystery fan conference, there were plenty of writers, agents, and editors roaming around. One year I met a well-known agent as I was checking in. She told me to mail her my manuscript and while she, ultimately, turned it down, it was an opportunity. In 2005, we found out we were going to be stationed at Hanscom AFB outside of Boston. That year at Malice, I happened to sit at a table with a woman, Julie Hennrikus, from Boston. She told me I should join the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime and attend a conference called Crime Bake. That chance meeting eventually led to my being published–more on that in a bit. There are organizations for Sci-Fi writers, children’s writers, almost any type of writing you are interested in.

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Get used to rejection.
In the early days of my writing journey, I snail-mailed my manuscript and got rejections back the same way–lots of them! I have a file folder with around 65 rejection letters. Some are just a copied form letter, some at least have a signature on them, then are some with a personal note. The ones with a personal note gave me a little hint as to why they said “no” and kept me going.

So back to meeting Julie. I did join the Sisters in Crime chapter and attended Crime Bake. I met more and more published and hoping-to-be-published writers. Three years ago at Crime Bake, another friend, Barbara Ross, introduced me to her agent, John Talbot. I pitched my series to him but he wasn’t interested (by that time I’d written three books). A few weeks later, I received an email from Barbara. An editor in New York had an idea for a cozy mystery series with a garage sale theme. The editor contacted John Talbot. John then asked Barbara if she knew anyone she thought might be able to write the series. Barbara knew I loved garage sales and asked me.

ALL MURDERS FINAL mech.indd

A week later, I’d written a proposal for the series. All the characters, the setting, and the plot flowed out of me. I turned it in to John. He tweaked a few things and sent it off. After much handwringing and pacing, I signed a three book deal with Kensington Publishing (and they’ve just asked for two more). The Sarah Winston Garage Sale series is set in the fictional town of Ellington, Massachusetts, and on a fictional air force base I named Fitch Air Force Base. The first in the series, Tagged for Death, came out last December and was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel at Malice Domestic. All of those years of preparation paid off when an unexpected opportunity came along.

So hone your skills, meet people in the writing world, and don’t give up! If you have questions you can contact me through my website, SherryHarrisAuthor.com.

Are you a military spouse writer? Let’s connect!

sherry-harrisPosted by Sherry Harris, military spouse. Sherry started bargain hunting in second grade at her best friend’s yard sale. She honed her bartering skills as she moved around the country while her husband served in the Air Force. Sherry uses her love of garage sales, her life as a military spouse, and her time living in Massachusetts as inspiration for the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series

Unchained: Being a Military Kid Taught Me Something Amazing…

As I began to grow up, I truly started to realize how different each person’s life can be. Our childhoods, our experiences, and, most importantly, our definition of “normal” vary considerably. In many respects, I had what many would consider a “normal” childhood: two loving parents, a sibling, a cycle of various different pets, and a family that was able to put food on the table, buy school supplies, and take an annual vacation. However, there was one aspect of my life that separated it from many, and that was being a military “brat.”

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Being the son of a father who is active duty Air Force, my life came with everything you would expect from a military household. Every time my dad had a permanent change of station, it was time to move again. This meant new schools, new friends, new surroundings, and even new social norms and subcultures. These moves were not even consistent, although most happened after a period of one to three years. Many occurred during the summer months, although a few occurred in the middle of the school year. Some occurred with more warnings than others. Most significantly, many of these moves brought with them a new way of life. Constant transitions occurred, including living on base versus living in the city, atmospheres changing from being surrounded by many children my age to living in a house that almost felt isolated, to even the simple changes of climate, which required changes to everything from your clothing to your daily routine. And, worst of all, this is all in addition to having to build new friendships, new social circles, and essentially, a new way of life. Nearly every day I would read a book or see a TV show where a character would reference being “friends with somebody since kindergarten,” something I was never able to have.

From my experience, this comes across as sounding virtually unbearable to somebody who has never lived through this kind of life. Many of my friends have lived in the same house since they were born, and have had the same or a similar circle of friends for nearly as long as they have been alive. Their extended family lives within an almost trivial driving distance, and their family has lived in the same area for generations. What they consider to be “far away” is no greater than my daily commute to work. They look at me with awe, as if they could never imagine any good from coming out of this life.

However, as I grew older, went to school, entered the workforce, and started to build a life for myself, I started to realize how thankful I am for this, as some would say, “abnormal” childhood.

Being a military brat came with its number of benefits. For example, living on a military base provided a level of safety, and it was normal as a young, elementary aged kid to grab your friends, grab your bikes, and ride around the area with relatively little worry. Military amenities, such as shoppettes, pools, and the BX food court were all within short biking distance. I got to experience F-15’s flying over my house as a normal daily occurrence. And, to top it off, I even received my own unique ID card at age 10, which, for some reason, was the coolest thing ever back then.

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However, the greatest benefits came as a byproduct to what many people consider to have been the most difficult obstacle of all: moving. As you move around, you have the opportunity to see different subcultures, different ways of life, and different geographical areas. Small towns? Been there. Large suburbs? Been there. Each coast? Been there. I’ve seen the canned, carbonated drink that I refer to as “soda” be called by more different names than I knew existed. You can tell fascinating stories, and be told, affectionately, that you have an interesting life. For some of us, the constant moving develops a very outgoing nature, a de facto requirement for constantly making new friends. I credit this trait with finding success in my first sales job during college, and ultimately leading to securing a job as an account executive with a multi-billion dollar firm.

Ultimately, though, I thank my military brat childhood for leaving me with what I consider to be my most important trait: feeling unchained. I have lived in six different states, moved regularly, and on average, see my extended family twice per year. To me, this is “normal.” There was no hesitation in my mind with going to college hundreds of miles away from my family. When people ask me if I miss my family, I tend to look at them rather dumbfounded, and reply with, “Well obviously. I definitely miss my family. But it’s 2015. I can call them anytime, and Skype and Facetime are always an option.”

When I look at where I would potentially want to move, important factors tend to include anything from climate to job markets to local recreation. Factors such as, “How far away are my parents/sister/grandparents?” or “Do I know anybody here? Have I lived here before?” are essentially just added bonuses if you will. In fact, in my personal opinion, living in the same place as to which I grew up would almost drive me crazy.

To this day, it still surprises me how many people are unwilling to relocate or pursue new opportunities due to fear of losing everything they are attached to. To be honest, I find this completely understandable. However, when you grow up with a very mobile life, seeking new opportunities and pursuing passions in a new area becomes attractive. You feel a sense of freedom, and have a unique ability to be able to dive headfirst into something new. This mentality is ultimately to what I credit my education, experiences (such as receiving a skydiving license this past summer), and virtually everything on my resume. I have found myself applying for jobs anywhere from Washington D.C. to Atlanta to San Mateo, California. When you hate the concept of feeling “stuck,” your only other option is to move forward. Moving creates a sense of self-confidence, proving to you that you can overcome obstacles and build things up for yourself.

You realize what is truly important, and manage to hold it dear to yourself. The house I spent a few years in before moving off to college? It’s just a house. The school I went to for 7th grade? It’s just another one of many. However, the experiences you gain, the friendships you build, and the family you go through hardships with are things that you realize can never be taken away from you. A good friendship doesn’t get destroyed by you living somewhere else, and I have friends that I have seen on and off for years. Being able to see every corner of the country, gain a wealth of knowledge regarding many different ways of life, and developing the ability to adapt to ever-changing situations are things that very, very few people are fortunate enough to share in.

At 22 years old, I have lived across the country, built up lasting friendships nationwide, and have nurtured an adaptable, ambitious character capable of handling change and overcoming obstacles. I am a military brat.

Are you a military kid? What do you think is the most meaningful thing you learned?

Posted by Matt Jackson, Air Force military kid

Remember Me, Your Civilian Friend.

What is life in the military like? Well, I don’t know. I’m not in the military and neither is my husband. In fact, we are contractors, so when we have to work overseas, we are basically stuck in limbo somewhere between military and civilian lives.

Currently, we are living at, and are stationed in, beautiful Bavaria, Germany as contractors who support the mission and efforts of the U.S Army. We both work all day on the Army post and we work with Americans; specifically, military members and their spouses. Working overseas as a contractor, we are much more involved in military lives than even contractors in the states. We have most of the same access to amenities on post since we are overseas, so I can enjoy American delicacies like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and Reese Peanut Butter Cups, despite living abroad.

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What this boils down to is our whole support system comes solely from the military community.

But being contractors, this also means we stay put, as opposed to the typical military PCS schedule. My sister is an Army spouse, and every time she had to PCS, my heart went out to her. How could she stay so strong every 3-4 years, pack up her home, leave a job behind, and move to a strange, new place only to know that in a matter of years, she would have to uproot herself and family, yet again? She struggled to find jobs because many employers only want applicants who will stay around. She struggled with having to open boxes of broken and damaged goods from incompetent movers. And while I know it is never easy to have to make new friends in new places, she always seemed to fair well for herself.

One thing I have learned about the military community is that you can make some fiercely loyal friends. Living overseas, we needed a support system, a “Germany family,” if you will. We needed people we could spend holidays with when we couldn’t afford or make the trip back to the states. We needed people that could understand the nuances of living OCONUS. We needed people to just be there for us when we needed someone to talk to.

And we found it.

We found it in countless military families and friends, but specifically in a small group of couples who became that family; we traveled together, had game nights together, were there for births of babies, and more. They were our Germany family.

Rewind four years ago, when we moved to Germany and started living the quasi- military life. I was secretively grateful I didn’t have to go through PCS season…that is, until three years later when I did.

Except it I wasn’t moving anywhere. It was time for my friends to find their new home, and PCS out of Germany. The first round of friends received their orders and were packing up. Tears were shed and a final goodbye dinner was held. For the following months, there was a gap in our group, yet we still held our monthly game nights, and those of us left still traveled and explored Germany and Europe, and continued to be each other’s support system.

Then the next ones started purging their home in preparation for their upcoming orders. And just as the first family left, we reminisced on the memories, hugged, and eventually said our goodbyes. No matter how many this-isn’t-a-goodbye kind of speeches there were. I knew in my heart, most of them really were, and yet, they never got easier.

Before long, it was just me, my husband, and our final ‘family members.’ We knew what was around the corner. As my best friend started looking online for a home to rent at their next duty station, or would mention something about where they were going, I would go into denial mode. Surely if I just didn’t recognize or believe they were leaving, they wouldn’t, right? Maybe, if we just wouldn’t talk about it, they could just stay here with us! We could continue to go through life together, embracing each new stage with the love and support that you can only get from such close friends or family.

But that’s not the way the military life works, is it?

Sure enough, we had to go through the same heart-wrenching, tear-jerking dinner that included all the same conversations:
“We will always stay friends!”
“Thank you all for all the memories, we will never forget them!”
“The Army is a small place; we’ll see you in the future!”

But as the moment set in and they took off for their new home, I knew the reality of the situation: I could still see what they were up to on Facebook, but our communication over time would slowly start to fade. I knew they would readjust to their new homes because that is what military members do. They are resilient and become conditioned for frequent up-rooting. While I know it is never easy for them and their families, I’m convinced they have some magic power.

moving-civilian-friends

I secretly think military members know some secret on how to move frequently and yet still establish new ‘families,’ homes, and routines wherever they go with relative ease (mostly because I know they HAVE to). I know they will all find new friends, who they would have game nights and dinners with. They would establish new bonds and start their next phase of life.

All while I would be left behind.

While they would be off at spouses clubs meeting other new members in their community, I would be left going to groups, where I suddenly knew nobody. While they are off exploring their new town, I would be left walking the same streets by myself that we once jogged together. Basically, it felt like some horrible relationship breakup where my significant other decided it was time to move on, leaving me with only material token reminders, empty inside jokes that I couldn’t share anymore, and memories of four years that helped to shape who I am today. I was left to cope with an empty heart and home.

At this point, you may be thinking, “So why don’t YOU go out and find new friends!? Stop wallowing in your own sadness and do the same as they did!” And believe me, I do. I try to find new people I can connect with, and that we can rely on. But now, every time I meet someone new, one of my first questions is, “And how much longer do you have here?” The fear of becoming close to yet another person who will move away in a few months sets in.

So, as you prepare for your next PCS move, and the worry and anxiety fills your mind about moving to your new home, remember you are a special breed of resilient, strong people. You have developed coping mechanisms that many of us, average civilians, haven’t quite adapted yet.

I know your move is not easy on you and your family, but don’t forget about your civilian friends. After you have moved on and are posting new BFF selfies, clearly settled into a new life, send your old BFF a quick note to remind them that they are still special to you, and were not just a passing phase in life. Because to us, you’re some of the best people we’ve ever met.

Have you left behind close civilian friends after a PCS? How do you keep in touch?

Posted by LeAnna Brown, an Elementary Certified teacher with a certification in Montessori Ages 6-12, with a background in Special Education. Now living in Germany, she helps military members learn how they can see the world and bring real-life education through travel to their families through her website, Economical Excursionists.