A Trip Down Memory Lane Sparks Surprising Melancholy for this Military Spouse

The Good Chaplain and I took a trip down memory lane this week when we visited the now-closed Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, IL. It was hard to see many of the buildings boarded it up. It also brought back memories of base life.

Chanute was decommissioned in 1993, but before that, it was one of 32 Air Service training camps in the U.S. during World War I. After the First World War, the base was used as a storage depot for plane engines and other surplus items. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Chanute became a training facility for ground crews, and later as a training base to include intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). In 1971, all military flight operations were closed at Chanute, and it became a non-flying training base until 1993 when it was closed permanently.

Chanute Air Force Base Hospital boarded up

Not to say bases look alike, but we could pick out an astonishing number of buildings for what they were used for. Hangars are obvious, but we also picked out the golf pro shop, the chapel, the hospital, the fire station, the headquarters building, the shoppette/gas station, and, of course, base housing.

Many base areas are used by the Village of Rantoul and repurposed as housing, a motel, a fitness center, daycare centers, the golf pro shop and course, and a general aviation airport.

Chanute Air Force Base Chapel is being used by a church. The design is the same as other base chapels built at the same time.

But several of the buildings are unused and boarded up. We felt a certain melancholy at all the unused space which could be fixed up and repurposed for the village or private use. Housing even looked the same as older housing on other bases where we lived, and I wondered why none of it was updated.

One reason for the disuse of certain buildings is that the former base is an EPA Superfund site because of all the chemicals used over the years. Also, many of the buildings have asbestos and other issues that come along with older buildings.

The final legacy of Chanute Air Force Base — an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The closure of Chanute hit the economy of Rantoul and the surrounding area very hard. The base employed 2,665 civilians at the time of closure. The loss of military and civilians caused revenue to decrease, while the village’s number of roads doubled. The street and police department budgets also doubled. The village also was responsible for the repair and maintenance of gas and steam systems at the base and the many buildings in need of repair or demolition.

Chanute contributed 25 percent of the total economy of the village of Rantoul. But with the base closure, other businesses left as well, such as restaurants, retail, construction, and auto.

In a 2014 survey of residents, people reported that Rantoul’s biggest challenges included negative community image, a large number of rental units and low-income housing, dilapidated buildings, lack of downtown events, and limited downtown shopping hours, a slow economy, and Chanute maintenance and redevelopment.

While I did not go downtown in Rantoul, our drive around the former base gave me the impression of an impoverished community that needs a lot of work. The fact that old base housing was still being used instead of being renovated or torn down was evidence enough without the other empty, boarded-up buildings. And I know Rantoul is not the only community to still have negative economic effects of a base closure.

As I said earlier, I felt melancholy at the base’s emptiness and conditions, one I know was once vital to the military and the community to thrive. I pray for all communities facing the same situation because of military downsizing.

Until next time,

Vicki

Have you visited a base or live near one that has closed? What was the effect on the community? Post your answers in the comments below.

On-base Job Opportunities Abound for Military Spouses

Now that you’ve decided whether you want to pursue a job or a career, your next decision is whether to work on base or off base. Opportunities abound for on-base jobs. And many have spouse preference when it comes to hiring.

Mrs. Tech Sergeant is the director at her base Child Development Center

The Military Spouse Preference program makes it easier for spouses of military members to get federal jobs. It can also help reduce the interruption of a career because of a PCS. Mrs. Tech Sergeant has worked in the Child Development Center field since she graduated from college. When she and Tech Sergeant moved from Alaska to England, she was able to get a job in the CDC in England. As a Government Schedule (GS) worker, she had a year to find a job in the same GS rank she currently held. That was okay because she was pregnant with Tony B at the time they moved. After Tony B was born, she took a job in the system in the base Youth Center. Then, when an equivalent position opened up in the CDC she moved over to that position. The MSP does not guarantee a job when you move, but it does put you on top of the list when a position does open. For more information on spouse preference go to www.sandboxx.us

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) or the Navy Exchange is another place to look for employment on your local base, especially if you want a job in retail. AAFES offers all kinds of jobs from hourly workers all the way through management and corporate positions. They use the Associate Transfer Program to help you find a job at your next duty station if you meet the requirements of PSCing with your sponsor, worked for the Exchange for at least six months, and get a satisfactory or higher rating on your performance review. I’ve known several military spouses who have moved up in this system to become managers. Also, since Exchanges are throughout the world, jobs are available overseas as well. Talk about portability.

The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) employs more than 18,000 civilians in 14 countries. DeCA jobs include baggers (who work for tips), cashiers, stockers (often hired by an outside company to stock shelves), and a variety of other jobs. Again, another source to gain experience in retail if that is what you are looking for. Jobs are listed on USAJOBS.

And don’t forget the Non-appropriated Fund (NAF) jobs on base. NAF jobs are different from civil service or government schedule jobs because they are paid out of funds raised through services on base. For example, money taken in from the clubs on base, Outdoor Recreation, etc. go to pay the salaries of NAF employees. NAF jobs include clerical, administrative support, managerial, laborers, crafts, and trades. Applications for these jobs are accepted on a regular basis through the NAF office on base, so put your application in and then wait.

The Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (CPAC) recruits workers from “every profession imaginable” for jobs in support of the mission of the military. Most, if not all, bases have a CPAC. It acts as the human resources department. For example, when Mrs. Tech Sergeant needs to fill a position, she contacts CPAC and they send her qualified people. She then hires the person she wants for the job. It is a good idea to contact your local CPAC to see what they can do for you.

To search and apply for most of these jobs, you go through USAJOBS. It can take a very long time to hear back from USAJobs, so if you know you are going to a particular location, you might want to search the website in advance of your move. In the meantime, federal jobs are open to anyone from no high school diploma to doctorate degrees and everyone in between. You will fill out a profile, upload a resume, and put down what types of jobs you are interested in. I saw a job on USAJOBS for a job in my hometown in Central Illinois. It truly is the clearing house for jobs on base.

 Local jobs are available for military spouses. You just need to determine what you are looking for, find the necessary resources and go for it.

Until next time,

Vicki

Job or Career: What Military Spouses Should Know

When the Good Chaplain went on active duty with the U.S. Air Force, I had a decision to make. I was the city editor for a local paper. I’d been working on newspapers for the last 10 years, and it was something I loved. But, I also knew our new lifestyle would include frequent moves, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be bogged down working full-time.

Luckily, my job was portable, and I ended up becoming a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines nationwide. Sadly, we did not need my income to survive. His salary as a beginning captain was what the two of us were making combined in the civilian world.

As your spouse enters his military career or continues if you married someone already in the military, chances are you will have to make the same decision. Do you want to work outside of the house, work from home, or not work at all? And the biggest question to ask yourself is, do you want a job or a career?

That question is key to the job search. Some careers lend themselves better to the military lifestyle. Teaching and nursing are two that come to mind. But keep in mind, it can be like starting all over again when you move to a new market. I’ve known many teachers who have to start as a first-year teacher each time they move. That sucks.

Making the decision of whether to pursue a career or a job depends on several factors.

  1. What is the area job market like? Is it saturated in your career field? What kind of professional positions are open? Is the area depressed with a high unemployment rate? Do some research before you even move to the area. I contacted the newspaper in Minot, North Dakota before we even left Alaska, and the editor called me while we were packing out, so I knew I had a job in my career field when I got there.
  2. If you are pursuing a professional position, do you have the necessary certifications? The military just made it a little easier for some professionals to move around with new reciprocal certification rules. Under the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the service branches can reimburse spouses up to $1,000 for any re-licensing or certification costs because of a military move. Check with your branch to see what it does. Also, many states are using license portability for military spouses. This action helps make the licensing and certification go quicker. For more information on state-sponsored reciprocal agreements, click here. The site provides a map of which states are involved in the agreement and finding information on your profession.

Finding the right job is not always easy for military spouses, but using the tools I gave you last week and the information from today, it can be accomplished.

Next week I will talk about whether you want a job on base or off.

Until then,

Vicki

Share your experiences trying to transfer licenses or certificates in the comments below.

8 Sources for a Military Spouse’s Job Hunt

You want a job, or maybe a career, but it is hard to get established as a military spouse because of frequent moves. Don’t get discouraged. Plenty of jobs are out there if you know where to look.

In today’s post, because I am no expert on the military spouse job hunt, I am going to refer you to some other sites that do a good job of helping you land that dream job, or get the training necessary for that job.

Helpful Websites to Read

Military spouses should all have the Military OneSource website saved as the go-to site for everything military. On this website, you can find help with taxes, financial and legal help, of course, education and employment, as well as a wealth of other topics about military life. Make sure you check it out.

Under the tab, Spouse & Family, on Military.com, are links to military spouse jobs, among other topics. Also, on Military.com, you can select the service branch you which you want information. Click the link above to visit this site.

CareerStep has a section on career training for military, veterans, and their spouses with several programs eligible for financial assistance through My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA). CareerStep offers online training to suit the needs of the military lifestyle. A link to MyCAA is available through Military OneSource.

Check out what the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network can do for you during your job hunt. In addition to an impressive array of national corporations that hire military spouses, the network matches you to hiring managers looking for your qualifications. They also provide skills training, readiness training, and resume preparation.

Most of us have heard of Monster.com, but did you know they advise careers and job searches? The link above takes you to an article about the best companies for military spouses. While you are on the site, look at some of the other help it can give you.

Helpful Books to Peruse

The Stars Are Lined Up for Military Spouses: For Federal Careers (Ten Steps to a Federal Job) 

Advancing the Careers of Military Spouses: An Assessment of Education and Employment Goals and Barriers Facing Military Spouses Eligible for MyCaa

Mobile Military Spouse: Make Money From Home with Print on Demand Products Merch by Amazon & Kindle Direct Publishing (Military Spouse Entrepreneurs)

By exploring which companies are most friendly to military spouses and using tools available through these and many more websites and publications, you should begin to decide what kind of work you want to do.

Next week I will discuss whether you are looking for a job or a career.

Until then,

Vicki

Do you have any experience with job hunting as a military spouse? Share them and any tips you have to offer in the comments below.

The Challenges of Raising Military Kids

Raising a family in the military can be a two-edged sword. Yes, your children are still children, but they are also part of a community where they may have to grow up a little faster.

More is expected of military children than most children in the civilian world. Generally, there are always exceptions to the rule; military children are better behaved and more polite than most children. They learn early on how to listen to their elders and interact with all sorts of people.

Changing schools — often

Photo by Arthur Krijgsman on Pexels.com

The girls’ school at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, was run by the Department of Defense. Only one other Air Force Base elementary school in the Continental U.S. was a DOD school. Teaching at such a school was a prime job, and many of the teachers stayed their whole careers at these schools. I think the pay was higher, but parents also played a role in their child’s education.

Many bases we lived at had elementary schools, but they were run by the local school district. Even then, teachers sought out jobs on base. One teacher told me she loved teaching military children because they were nicer than kids in the other district schools.

Moving around the world

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Other aspects of growing up military are not so positive. Our children moved eight times with us, so they went to several different schools. Our girls went to three different elementary schools on the same base.

Moving can be stressful for children who have to leave their friends and possibly extended family. Children are resilient and tend to make new friends faster than their parents, but it is still hard. As a parent, you can help your child through this transition by listening to what they say and don’t say. Pay attention to cues they might not be adjusting. Be encouraging but not pushy. If your child doesn’t want to play soccer, don’t force them. Offer several activities they may enjoy and let them choose.

A good way to transition to a new location is to read up on the location. Find out what the base and the local town, or even state, have to offer. Let each child pick something they want to do to explore their new surroundings. Help them get excited about trying new things that are particular to that area. And be excited about the area yourself. We looked forward to moves because of the adventures each held for us.

Those deployment blues

Deployments are also tricky. Children miss their deployed parent and they react in different ways. Some act out at home and in public, others withdraw and don’t express their sadness. Setting a routine quickly is crucial.

Whenever the Good Chaplain deployed, we had a chick-flick night, where we would put on our pajamas, watch movies, and sleep in the living room on the first Friday he was gone.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Planning special outings, like a drive-in movie or a trip to the swimming pool, help give the kids something to look forward to. Also, having a system to count down the days until the parent comes home is helpful. One friend put Hershey Kisses in a jar to represent the number of days of the deployment. Her son got one Kiss a day, and when the jar was empty, that was the day Daddy would come home. When the return date got pushed back, she simply added more kisses to the jar. I think that only works on younger kids.

Positives of being a military kid

But on a positive note, nuclear military families seem closer to each other in part because of all the moves. We turned moves into vacations and stopped in interesting places. Plus, being twins, our girls always had each other to lean on whenever they experienced something new. But it does seem generally military children are closer to their siblings and their parents.

Military children also get to live in places other kids can only dream about. They meet people from all over the world, and their friends are of all races, colors, and ethnicities. And no one bats an eye.

Kids get to do new things like dogsledding in Alaska, snorkeling in Hawaii, or traveling through three countries to get to school every day, as Tech Sergeant had to do when his family lived in Belgium. Some people never leave their home state.

Mrs. Tech Sergeant dogsledding in Fairbanks, AK

Raising kids in the military opens up more opportunities to shine. It builds confidence. It builds character. It shows the children how adaptable and strong they are in new situations. If they decide to live a different lifestyle in adulthood than a military one, they can. Illinois Girl chose to plant roots. Mrs. Tech Sergeant chose to marry the military and continue to live this particular adventure.

Next up I will be talking about careers for the military spouse.

Until then,

Vicki

What things have worked for you in raising your military kids? Reply in the comments below.

How to Juggle Being a Military Spouse and a Grandparent

I appreciated more what my parents must have gone through when some of their grandchildren, including mine, moved away from them. Being grandparents is amazing. But living far away from those grandkids is hard.

Our first two grandchildren, Tony B and his brother, G (he doesn’t want to be called Gaby Baby anymore.), were born in England while we were stationed in Hawaii and Mississippi, respectively. Tony B. was born the day the Good Chaplain had to report for duty in Hawaii in May 2012. We were in Illinois staying with Illinois Girl and Soccer Stud, waiting for the Good Chaplain to leave for Hawaii. I planned to fly to England in two weeks to be there in plenty of time for the birth. Tony B had other plans. He was three weeks early.

Tony B. and Nonna

A mutual friend of Mrs. Tech Sergeant and I woke us in the middle of the night to tell us Mrs. Tech Sergeant was in labor. The same friend called again in the morning saying our new grandson was here and gave us a phone number to the hospital since our daughter could not call out from the base hospital room. When I saw his cute little face in the pictures they sent, I fell immediately in love.

The Good Chaplain didn’t get to see him until the following November when he was six months old. I can’t say enough about the technology of Skype and now FaceTime. Because of that technology, we saw Tony B most Friday nights as we prepared for bed, and he was getting up and enjoying his breakfast on Saturday morning.

Two years later, when I flew to England after G was born, as I got into the car, Tony B looked at me and said, “Hi, Nonna.” I was impressed. He hadn’t seen me in person since he was six months old, but he knew who I was because of our Skype sessions.

A happy G

As he is wont to do, G messed up our plans by coming into the world two days after we moved to Mississippi in June 2014. He was two days late. I remember we were at our first church service in the officers’ club’s banquet room, followed by a lunch to welcome us. Since lunch was in our honor, we sat at the front table. Normally, my phone would not be on during worship service, but I knew Mrs. Tech Sergeant was in labor, so I placed my phone front and center on the table before me.

Baby G’s heart rate dropped with each contraction, so Mrs. Tech Sergeant had a Cesarean section. This time, the plan was for both the Good Chaplain and me to fly to England to meet our newest grandson at the end of July. But since Mrs. Tech Sergeant had a C-section, I moved up my ticket and left on July 5 to help her out. I stayed for four weeks and held that chubby little child the whole time. His daycare workers were not happy with me because he did not like to be put down after I left.

Little Bitty was teeny tiny.

Two and half years later, our granddaughter was born in December of 2016 in Illinois while we lived in Virginia. Much closer. Illinois Girl and Soccer Stud wanted time to bond with Little Bitty before family descended on them, so we came to town for the New Year. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that little one, so it was a long two weeks before I could hold her.

When they were little and living in England, we only saw Tony B and G about once a year. But, they moved to Delaware in 2019, and I’ve seen them twice since then. They are planning on visiting us in Illinois in October, and we are planning on going to Delaware in December. After seven and a half years, I am so excited they are finally living on the same continent.

When the Good Chaplain retired in 2018, we moved back to Illinois and live just around the corner from Little Bitty, so we get to see her several times a week. And, since Illinois Girl is expecting her second girl any day now, we finally get to be around to help out when our grandchild is born.

Even from far away, I take my grandmother’s prerogative to spoil my grandchildren seriously, and they don’t want for much. This is the life we’ve always dreamed of. The Good Chaplain wanted to be the pesky grandfather, and now he is. Don’t wish for your children to grow up too fast, and enjoy each phase of their lives, but remember, as the Good Chaplain frequently says, “Grandchildren are your reward for not killing your own children.” When the time comes, enjoy it.

Until next time,

Vicki

If you are grandparents on active duty, tell me how you feel about being away from your grandchildren. If you are not grandparents yet, how do your kids feel about living away from their grandparents? Answer in the comment section below.

What Military Spouses Should Know About Being Empty-Nesters

Last week we talked about how hard it was to leave your parents and family when you married into the military. Well, guess what? In a blink of an eye, your children will be leaving you. So, the number one thing you should know is — You will become empty-nesters. No way around it. And that applies whether you are a military spouse or not.

To prepare for this eventuality, it is important to work on your marriage before this happens. Go on date nights. Sometimes, before military days, we only could afford to pay the babysitter and drive around, talking. Do it. You are a couple first, then parents. As the Good Chaplain says, “The best gift you can give your children is a good marriage.”

A second thing to know is — if you are a military spouse when your children are grown up, you may actually leave them.

I didn’t have problems when the girls left home to go to college. Sure, I worried about them being in Illinois while I was in Alabama, but since they went to the same school, roomed together, and lived only hours from family, I wasn’t as concerned as possible.

Of course, I knew I would see them frequently — holidays, summer breaks, etc. But, in fact, I became the “Mom who never leaves.” I visited for various reasons once a month from when I dropped them off in August until February. I had legit reasons, but I also enjoyed seeing my girls and making sure they were safe. After that first year, we didn’t see each other as much, but we talked on the telephone and e-mailed frequently.

The Good Chaplain had a hard time every time the girls would leave to go back to school, either from holiday breaks or summer vacations. He’d get quiet, a little teary-eyed and mopy for a day or two, before getting back into his routine.

The hardest times for me were when we left Illinois Girl in Illinois after college graduation and left Mrs. Tech Sergeant in Alaska when we moved to Oklahoma.

Both girls worked at the Child Development Center at Eielson Air Force Base, AK, during summer breaks. The CDC offered them jobs after graduation, and Mrs. Tech Sergeant accepted that offer. She moved to Alaska. Illinois Girl, having already met Soccer Stud, decided to stay in Illinois. I sobbed when we pulled away from her apartment.

By this time, the Good Chaplain and I had gotten down a routine as empty-nesters that did not include children. We went to the Officers’ Club every Friday night to meet up with a group of friends. We went out to eat when and where we wanted. We went to the movies when we wanted.

Don’t let your kids become like George!

And then, Mrs. Tech Sergeant moved back in. Which brings me to my third point — sometimes they come home again. I felt strange the first time my daughter came to the club with us and ordered a drink. I had to think about what she might want for dinner or if she would want to go out with us. Once, when we were going to the movies, she asked what we were going to see. She said she didn’t want to see that movie. I said, “Good because you aren’t invited.”

A year later, Mrs. Tech Sergeant met Tech Sergeant in Alaska. She moved into an apartment with a friend. She liked her job and her future husband, so she stayed in Alaska. Neither the Good Chaplain nor I were in good shape when we left her. And it didn’t help that a few days later, while we were somewhere in Canada, Mrs. Tech Sergeant contracted the H1N1 virus, and I was not around to help her.

The bottom line is becoming empty-nesters can be tough, but it is also an enriching time to rekindle your relationship with your spouse.

Next time I’ll tell you what it’s like being a grandparent halfway around the world.

Until then,

Vicki

Tell me how you felt leaving home for the first time or having your children leave home in the comments below.

How Military Spouses Cope Away From Family

January 26, 1986, is a day I will always remember. It was the day after the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl. It was also the day the space shuttle Challenger blew up, killing all aboard. But I remember it as the day my in-laws had to rescue us because the Good Chaplain and I both came down with a nasty stomach bug. We couldn’t even get out of bed to feed our three-month-old twin daughters.

The Good Chaplain was not yet in the Air Force Reserves or on active duty. Thankfully, both sets of our parents lived about 20 minutes away and could help. I don’t know what I would have done if we already lived at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

Yes, I do. I would have called on neighbors and friends to help out. This scenario plays itself out all the time in the military world. I received several calls to please watch the children because the parents were sick. And it will happen. You will find yourself as either the caregiver or the person needing care.

As you prepare for life in the military, knowing it means moving away from family, you frequently ask yourself how you are going to cope in a variety of situations without your mom nearby. It’s scary, especially if it is your first move away from home.

As I did when we went on active duty, if you have children, you mourn the loss of weekends away while grandparents watch the kids. You also mourn the loss of family Sunday dinners, birthday parties, and holiday celebrations. It’s hard because you are leaving all the familiar comforts and going into the unknown once again. We actually moved two hours away from family before coming on active duty, so I experienced a few of those feelings before the big move out of state.

Be prepared for traveling during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to celebrate with each side of your family. We never had less than three Christmas celebrations once we got married, and sometimes more. Once we moved away, it was worse because not only were we traveling and lugging all the presents with us, but we had to drive all over the Chicago suburbs from one house to another. Yep, I’m whining about the hardships of being with loved ones over the holidays.

Also, be prepared to visit family for the majority of vacations. Rarely will you go somewhere exotic for a vacation. I remember one summer when we were traveling to the Chicago suburbs, one of the girls said, “We always say we are going to Chicago, can we actually go into Chicago?” Good point. We gave them a day in the city to do whatever they wanted to do. The family was invited but could not make any decisions on what we would see or do. Our nuclear family also discovered a place called Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia, and we made sure we spent some time there every year as our own little getaway.

And family visited us frequently as well. We knew who really wanted to see us and who simply used us to stop en route to other places. For instance, when we lived in Georgia and Alabama, we were the stop on the way to Florida. But when we lived in Minot, North Dakota, we knew they were coming to see us.

Family is important to our life in the military. I think I grew closer to my mom once we moved away. I was more intentional about calling her because I knew I wouldn’t see her for a long while. Plans needed to be made, and schedules coordinated. And money was also a factor since we were traveling further. But you manage to make it all work.

Next time I will shed light on the parents’ perspective on all this.

Until then,

Vicki

What was the worst part of moving away from home for you? Comment in the section below.

And don’t forget to sign-up for my e-mail list and subscribe to this blog.

Making New Friends Needn’t be Hard for Military Spouses

Editor’s note: So I don’t have to keep using the word “spouse” , and since most of my readers are female, I am going to use the word “wife” interchangeably with spouse. No offense is meant to the many male military spouses out there.

You’ve left all your friends behind, either because you just married into the military, or because you’ve just moved to a new duty station. Either way, you are going into new and unknown territory. You are going to need new friends.

Making new friends doesn’t have to be hard or scary. I realize not everyone is an extrovert like I am. They don’t talk to anyone they meet or comment on their observations. My daughters often were mortified when I would speak to someone in the line at the commissary, whether I knew them or not.

Maybe, it has something to do with teaching them not to talk to strangers and then doing that exact thing myself. However, a smile or a friendly hello goes a long way in brightening someone’s day. The Good Chaplain, pre-military days, was a salesman. Sometimes his job took him to the not-nice neighborhoods of Chicago. He found if he said hi to people, it took them off guard. They look up, so if they were planning on mugging you, you’ve seen their face. They either have to kill you so you can’t identify them or leave you alone. Luckily, he was left alone. Plus, he was friendly.

For those of you who are not uber-extroverts, if you want friends, you will have to put yourself out there. Trust me when I say that people will not come knocking on your door, seeking you out. Oh, sure, the next-door neighbor may bring you a plate of cookies and offer to help in any way. And they mean that, but they get busy with their own lives and so you need to make the first step to ask for help, or say hi, or return the plate with more cookies on it.

But how do you make friends? Well, if you are a parent, that is the easiest way. Meet the parents of your children’s friends. Because you know your children are already out on the playground, making friends of their own.

What are your interests? Reading — join a book club. Sewing — take a quilting class. Dancing, cooking, antiquing — find the group that fits your interests.

Whenever we moved, I looked for two groups, the women’s group at the chapel and the spouses’ club. These groups offered smaller clubs to get involved in that suited my interests, such as Bible study, book club, and my favorite, Lunch Bunch. They can also introduce you to new things. I had no idea what Bunko was until I joined a spouse club.

If you work outside the home, most of your new friends may come from the job. They may or may not understand your military lifestyle, but that’s okay. You still have work in common.

The saddest comment I heard was from a colonel’s wife at our first assignment. She said she doesn’t bother to make friends anymore because it hurts too much when they leave.

See this link for more on friends leaving. https://soldierswifecrazylife.com/2015/06/05/the-5-stages-of-watching-your-best-friend-move-away/

My friends don’t be like that. Even if you are only friends for the short time you are together, it is worth it. Every person you meet has the potential to become your BFF. And even if they don’t, they can bring enjoyment to your life for the time you are together.

Make a move. Put yourself out there and reap the benefits of friendship, even if only for a season.

Until next time,

Vicki

How have you met some of your best friends? Share in the comment section below.

All Military Spouses Feel Isolated at Times

Editor’s Note: I need to congratulate Staff Sergeant on becoming a Technical Sergeant. We are so proud of you. From now on, I will call him Tech Sergeant, and his wife, my daughter, will be known as Mrs. Tech Sergeant. Congratulations to both of you on your promotion!

All spouses feel alone at times

Today’s topic deals with isolation. As a new military spouse, I’m sure you are feeling isolated. Even seasoned spouses think that from time to time. It is a normal feeling. First, you know no one. You’ve just moved to a new town (base, post, station,) and you haven’t had time to get your feet wet. You are too busy finding your way around, unpacking boxes and setting up housekeeping to find your niche. So, you find yourself sitting at home by yourself with no one to talk to.

If you are newly married to the military, you are also beginning a new life as a spouse, in a new way of life. Things are different here. The people you have met speak a foreign language with talk of TDYs and deployments, the FRG or the A&FRC. Your base may have an OSC and an ESC. Soon your eyes glaze over, and you stop engaging.

You want to go back to your hometown where people speak plain English, and you can live in your old bedroom with your parents around and go out at night with friends from high school or college, and life will be NORMAL again.

Don’t worry. Your new routine will develop quickly enough. When we first moved to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, we only had one car. We lived nine miles from base, so often, I was home by myself. After about two months of this lifestyle, Mrs. Tech Sergeant called and said she was worried about me.

“Mom,” she said. “You’ve been there for two months.  You don’t talk about things you’ve done with your friends or any friends at all. Are you okay?”

“Well, honey, I don’t get out of the house very often because we only have one car. But don’t worry. I’m going out to lunch tomorrow with some new people,” I said.

I was isolated, and it was starting to wear on me. I am an extreme extrovert, so for me, not making friends by that time was unusual.

When you are alone, it is way too easy to get into the trap of relying on social media to be your friend. It is a great tool, but for beating isolation I see two problems, for all spouses, not just new ones,

  • You stay too connected to the past. You use it to talk to all your old buddies. Which is fine, but can they understand what you are going through? Can they advise you on how to get out and make new friends? Which leads me to my second point.
  • You are less likely to go out into your new world when you can rely on your old pals for socialization.
  • It also makes you feel more isolated when you see pictures of your old gang at a party or a bar or a ballgame without you.

It is okay to use social media to stay connected to friends. I love it for seeing what high school, college, and military friends at different bases are doing. Just don’t use it instead of making new friends.

And making new friends will be easier once you know the rules. There are some rules because of the rank structure. While spouses don’t have any rules about fraternizing with people from other ranks, military members do. So, you may find making friends is more comfortable within your new social stratum, i.e., junior enlisted spouses tend to have more in common with other junior enlisted spouses. The senior officer corps are more likely to hang out with other senior officer corps spouses, etc. Again, let me stress this is NOT a rule for spouses. I have friends at all ranks that I hung out with during the Good Chaplain’s career. But age groups and similar experiences tend to be drawn to each other.

Your social circle may look different than you are used too.

Don’t be intimidated when you join a social circle with the commander’s spouse or spouses of those higher ranking than your spouse. I promise they don’t bite. They were once in your shoes, and, if nothing else, they are an excellent source to turn to when you have questions.

Please don’t stay isolated. Get out and find your group. Use social media to post interests and that you are even looking for friends. And enjoy the military life. It’s not a bad way to go.

Until next time,

Vicki

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