Tis the season for military families to move
Moving: the good, the bad and the ugly
Old Army Wife Saying: War is Hell. Moving is a close second.
After seven years as a soldier's girlfriend, 19 years as an Army Wife, and 15 years as the wife of a retiree military contractor, I can vouch for the truth of that saying.
I'm amazed now when friends and especially grown children expect me to pack boxes, trudge said boxes up and down sets of stairs, then load and unload trucks. I only do that sort of thing when orders have come down compelling me with treats of imprisonment or deportation. Moving is hard enough when six packers show up to do the work and three days are set aside to do nothing else.
Besides when you help someone else move you don't get the benefit of the best kept secret in the military that makes it worth the trouble. It is a benefit hard to duplicate in any other walk of life. It is that overwhelming feeling of freedom you get when the moving truck has finally pulled away from your quarters, your family and suitcases are settled in the POV, and you pull out of the driveway with absolutely nothing to do but enjoy traveling to the new post. No PT at five in the morning. No job for either you or your spouse to report to. No house to clean. No meals to prepare. No dog to walk – might not want to dwell on that one if you just had to give the family pet away. But all in all, a unique feeling that only comes along in the case of a PCS. I've never heard one of my civilian friends express this sensation when relocating. No responsibilities for days or weeks – just a paycheck. They should put that on the recruitment posters.
That's the good part. The bad part is starting over. Again. For the “who knows how many” time.
For the service member there will be a new job waiting, a set of comrades to be welcomed by, a routine to slip into. For the family there will be an unfamiliar house to turn into a home, a new neighborhood or post to scout out for grocery stores, gas stations, schools, soccer fields, churches, an employer who knows how to judge a military spouse's resume, oh yes, and friends.
You've just said good-bye to most of those. In all honesty, some marginal ones you are always glad to leave. When they implore you to write, call and/or stay in touch, you already know you never will. There are just too many people over the years to keep up with all of them, and you pretty much know by your Hail and Farewell who will and will not make the cut. Your Christmas Card List stays at over 100 and you rarely drop anyone. If you meant enough to our family to get on the list, you stay there forever. For about two thirds of those, it is the only contact we will have through our kids getting accepted to colleges, getting married, and giving us the grandchildren whose pictures will grace those cards for years to come.
Those war buddies are hard to leave. But even through the hugs and tears, you know you'll be getting pictures of their grand kids one day. They are the ones you called in the middle of the night, when your soldier was deployed, and your youngest had a rash and a fever of 103. They are the ones you took pot roast to when the call came that their grandmother had finally passed. They are the ones you walked the neighborhood with every morning until you both finally fit into those bathing suits for the trip to Destin or the Hole Koa. You'll be sending and getting cards from them during the holidays forever.
So, down to brass tacks.
PCS Best Practices:
Take out all the trash and put your filled suitcases in the car before you let the packers in the house. They've been known to pack them (dirty laundry too).
Let your kids pack their own backpacks. They know better than you what matters most to them when everything else is in a box you might not see for months. Just make sure they can carry the weight all the way through the Atlanta airport.
Always let the youngest know where he or she will be sleeping the next night. They seem to worry about such things.
Don't stay with your own or your spouse's family more than a week during a PCS. The reasons will become only too evident if you do.
And believe it or not, you really will look back on these memories fondly one day. I used to hate to hear old timers say things like that. Didn't make them any less true.