It has been almost 16 years since Husband and I found ourselves at the first fork in married life. We were newlyweds, hoping desperately to find employment that didn’t require two jobs, temp jobs, or resorting to favors from friends or family. As we were discussing about our relatively bleak options, Husband asked me what I thought of the military. Because I hadn’t grown up in the military community, I really didn’t have any thought about it. All I knew was what I saw on TV or read in books. I’d heard Husband’s dad recount his stories with a proud fondness. I told him if he wanted to do it, I would support him 100 percent. He hemmed and hawed for weeks — and rightfully so. It isn’t a decision for the faint at heart, nor one that should be made without some serious consideration. It wasn’t an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination. There would be repercussions and ramifications that wouldn’t affect just us, but our loved ones as well. I had grown up in the vicinity of family pretty much all of my life. My extended family was just a few hours drive away. If we made the choice to jump, life as we knew it would change.
In the end, Husband and I chose to jump. It was the riskiest decision (aside from having kids) we have ever made. If he didn’t make it through training, then we would be starting completely back at square one, with nothing to really help cushion the fall. If he did make it through, then we’d have some sense of financial stability, health insurance, and a place to call our own. But it came with a huge caveat: we would have to leave. Husband made it through his training and we were off to our first assignment — San Antonio, Texas. As a native Californian, it may as well have been Mars.
Over the years, we have traversed the globe. We have moved more than 35,000 miles since choosing our path. It has been a life I never would have imagined. We have met amazing people, experienced things that many people will only see from afar, and lived in places I had only seen on maps. We are incredibly grateful and blessed. You see, this choice gave us, well…us.
It’s hard to understand military life when you’re on the outside looking in, and even sometimes when you’re on the inside. The truth is, we really have no say in where we go or when we go. Sometimes you get lucky, and the desired job and desired location match up. Other times you get the desired job or location, but not the other. Once in a blue moon, the higher-ups may ask you a little input for a plan B, if the current path for you doesn’t come to fruition. That’s when we have to look at our little family and decide what is best, not necessarily us, but for Girl and Boy Child. But most of the time, it’s a crap shoot and they send you where you’re needed most. The reality is that we have no control of the situation. For many years, it was really hard for me to accept this. I would get angry and frustrated. Don’t they know that we *need* to know where we’re going?? Don’t they understand that it is driving me batshit crazy that I can’t plan anything?? Yes, they know. But that’s the thing about the military — it isn’t about just me, you, or any one person. It’s about something so much bigger than ourselves. I still get antsy and a bit flustered, but in the end, I know it’ll work out.
To our family and friends, we owe you an apology. We’re sorry for all of the birthdays, weddings, funerals, graduations and holidays we’ve missed on account of this one singular decision. Believe me, we know each and every one that we’ve missed. Every time we have to decline, it isn’t done lightly or automatically. We aren’t trying to play keep away, and if we had unlimited resources and time off, we would have been there. With the impending holidays, it reopens the wounds. Every. Year. We know, because it reopens ours too. None of this is easy on you. It isn’t easy for us either. We could have left this life and attempted to try it on “the outside.” But it wasn’t the right choice for our family. We have stability and security (or at least a sense of it); we just happen to move a lot. We wish we could be closer, but it truly isn’t up to us to decide. We can list as many places as we want, but when it comes down to it, it’s about who they need and where they’re needed. The only choice we have is to accept the assignment or get out. Getting out isn’t an option. So we accept whatever fate has in store for us. We don’t know what the future holds for us, or where we’re headed next. But I can promise you that wherever it is, you’re always with us, just as we’re with you. Let the dice roll!