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By Allyson Miller
I am a Virgo who is married to a Logistics officer, so it should come as no surprise that we own a label maker, all of my spices are in alphabetical order and we have a moving checklist. Although we add to our checklist with each military move, somehow, we always end up forgetting something.
Halfway between Fort Lee and Fort Knox, I realized I had forgotten our son's medical records. I accidentally left my glasses prescription at Fort Leavenworth. And I can't tell you how many times we've ordered items from Amazon, only to have them ship to our old address.
There's a reason most civilians don't move every few years – it's a lot of work! Even if you remembered to pick up the kids' immunization and medical records, got the cat vaccinated, filled out the change of address form and made an inventory of your high-value items, did you retrieve everything you've loaned out? Check to make sure none of your credit cards will expire while you're traveling? Pick up all the dry cleaning?
DON'T CRY UNCLE!
I am currently one week out from the packers arriving and if it wasn't for the PCSgrades moving checklist, I probably would have thrown my hands in the air and gone out for margaritas.
Additionally, with every prior military move we've had at least 3 months between receiving our orders and moving. This time we had less than 30 days. So, when I saw the moving checklist, I printed it and immediately stuck it in my PCS binder.
After first glance, I felt a little faint as I realized we had bypassed most of the bold-faced categories: 3-6 months before your move, 2 months, 1 month. We were 3 weeks out and there were a lot of boxes to check off! It helped that this is a CONUS move, although we are literally moving from sea to shining sea.
USE A MOVING CHECKLIST
I had to start somewhere. So, I flipped to page one, 3-6 months before your move, and started working my way down. We didn't have 3-6 months, but if we were about to forget something, it was better to know now.
YA GOTTA LOVE MILITARY MOVING!
As it turned out, I had already done most of the 6 month, 3 month and 2 month tasks. But I always panic in the last few weeks. In the mad rush of picking up records, getting the oil changed and dropping off another pile of donations, I forget the other details. Put a checkbook in the PCS binder. Assemble the first night box so we aren't ripping into boxes in search of the paper towels. And now I'll download a Mover's Notice. This lets our moving company know up front we'll be reviewing their performance on PCSgrades after the move is complete.
The PCSgrades moving checklist addresses CONUS and OCONUS moves. Additionally, it is thorough without being overwhelming. It has helped keep me on track and calm. I know that if I feel like I'm forgetting something, I can just refer to the list. PCS moves are barely controlled chaos but at least now it's organized, barely controlled chaos. And that's good for everyone, even a Virgo and a Logistics Officer.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
"RESILIENT" "FLEXIBLE" "MATURE"
Words often used to describe Military Brats. We talk about how moving around builds their character. We like their ability to make friends wherever they go. Do we do this so we don't have any guilt when we rip them from their lives and plant them to "blossom" at a new duty station? Maybe.
For sure, I can look at my two kids and see all the positives they've experienced from five PCSes in 10 years. My college-age daughter has written about how growing up as a military brat has served her well. Read her story here.
But there are instances which come to my mind where her life was not a bed of roses and those character-building moments were hard fought.
HOME IS WHERE THEY SEND US….
One moment that comes to mind is our move from the Army War College in Carlisle, PA to the Pentagon in northern Virginia. It was the summer between her fifth and sixth-grade year, a growing year for sure for a tween. She loved Carlisle. We all did. None of us wanted to leave and certainly not to return to the rat race of the Pentagon. But it is where the Marine Corps sent us.
She cried for weeks. We were "ruining her life." "Why couldn't Daddy commute to the Pentagon from Pennsylvania?" And the real kicker here was that I, the mil-spouse, with absolutely no say in where we were stationed got the brunt of her anger and despair. It wasn't my husband, the active duty spouse. Although, he didn't really have much of a say in where we were sent either. Sound familiar?
MILITARY BRAT UNICORNS AND RAINBOWS
There are definitely some downsides to living this nomadic military life. And certainly not every child 'blossoms' under all the adversity. I would say both of my kids benefited overall from all the moving, but like the experience detailed above, it wasn't always easy.
"I'm honestly tired of the unicorns and rainbows and portrayal of how 'wonderful and amazing' it all is," says a military spouse who answered our very unscientific poll on Facebook.
We asked people to define a military brat and describe the experience of living a military life. While some wrote how amazing they felt it has been for their kids. Others told of another side to military life.
"There have been many positive personality traits such as a great sense of adventure and worldliness, but also introversion, depression, lack of consistency in education, and lack of consistency in medical care," says another mil-spouse whose oldest has experienced 15 moves and three high schools over 24 years.What is a Military Brat Exactly?
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
Mil-spouse Carrie says moving every couple of years was hard on her kids. "I have a couple that are adaptable and resilient and two that are not. They don't like moving and want to go 'home'- stateside." She says every PCS is a struggle. "Eventually all the kids adjust, but it takes a lot of work from us and hopefully a good school and community."
A veteran says her children have suffered from depression at times. There was "physical abuse by a Family Care Provider while I was deployed the second time to Iraq. One was suicidal at age ten when I was deployed for a third time to Iraq, and then again while I was on my fourth deployment." This mom remembers her youngest "hated me after I returned from Afghanistan."
"I've got one in college and one in high school," says another mil-spouse. "My college kid would certainly tell you that while she is everything we've mentioned above, she traded it for not having 'roots' anywhere. She has lived a life of always having to reestablish herself." Her mom goes on to say she went through an introverted spell which eased a bit when she went off to college.
WOULD YOU DO IT DIFFERENTLY?
Dolli describes her daughter as adaptable and more mature than her peers. "She has a big worldview, but she's also an introvert so making and saying goodbye to friends has taken its toll."
"If I had known just how much it cost, I think we would have done things differently."
Susan, a mil-spouse and a military brat herself, says mil-kids are adventuresome, independent and fierce! "These kids understand what it means to follow something bigger than themselves and our family. They understand sacrifice." But she goes on to point out growing up military isn't a paradise. "Military kids are by and large awesome and yes, often gain wonderful strengths from their upbringing. However, these are hard-won gifts."
Many of those who commented on social media thanked us for posing the question but asked us not to whitewash the hardships while glorifying the benefits.
As some pointed out, these kids have sacrificed so very much through no choice of their own. But, we all know, they are not perfect. They can, in many ways, be hurt as well as improved by their experiences.
Military life can be incredibly hard, and our mil-kids often feel the effects of the separations and the relocations. "I'm not saying it was all terrible because we had some wonderful experiences too, but we were exhausted by the time my DH retired," says one veteran military spouse.
Overcoming adversity seems to be a central theme for military brats. However, one mil-spouse questions whether the adversity is necessary. Referring to the military bureaucracy we've all had to face, this spouse says, "There was this emphasis on being tough which I thought sometimes became an excuse for not trying to make things better."
Perhaps one mil-spouse says it best about mil-kids, "Your roots are shallow and you are hardy, easily transplanted wherever the wind blows. There's a reason the dandelion is the flower of the military child."
We can only hope in the end, all the struggles and hardships they've had to face along the way give our military brats character traits which will help them thrive as they move into adulthood.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
It's been a doozy of a PCS season so far, with no end in sight. And while companies are responding in a variety of ways, ranging from blaming the trucking shortage and installation procedures, to apologizing for the delay, we really just want our stuff now. So as you are waiting on your stuff, or unpacking a hot mess, or even hanging out on your new neighbor's couch, here's a giggle for you.
1. AND THAT TIME THE PACKERS JUST DIDN'T SHOW UP…
2. WHEN YOU'RE WAITING FOR YOUR STUFF…
3. OR FOR ANYONE TO CALL YOU BACK…
4. WHEN YOU FIND OUT A FORKLIFT WENT THROUGH YOUR COUCH…
5. OR IT RAINED INSIDE YOUR SEALED CRATE…
6. AND YOUR MOVERS DROPPED THE PIANO…
7. WHEN YOU FIND SOMEONE ELSE'S CLOTHES IN YOUR BOX…
8. AND YOUR DOG RUNS AWAY WHEN THE MOVERS LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN…
9. OR YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW SUGGESTS YOU STAY WITH HER WHILE WAITING FOR YOUR THINGS…
10. WHEN THINGS GET DELIVERED! …THE DAY YOUR SPOUSE IS SIGNING IN…
11. WHEN THE MOVERS ROLL THEIR EYES AT PIZZA FOR LUNCH…
12. AND WHEN YOU LEISURELY DRIVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND YOU STILL BEAT THE TRUCK….
13. THE FIRST NIGHT IN YOUR BED…
Have you had a humdinger of a move this year? Tells us about it on PCSgrades.com and let other military families know what to expect. And, go ahead, share your favorite GIF with us as well.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
By: D'antrese McNeil
It's the infamous PCS, and that means preparing your home for the movers to come and invade. I'm kidding! If you're not brave enough to tackle and conquer doing a DITY (Do It Yourself) move, (I am NOT btw) then the military will send one of their contracted companies your way for a full on military move.
I know for us, we've always provided some form of nutrition for our movers. The way we see it, if we take care of them, they take care of our stuff, right? I know, I know, that's not ALWAYS the case, but we'd rather play it safe. I crowd-sourced a few Facebook groups to see how others responded to this topic.
DO YOU OFFER LUNCH OR SNACKS TO YOUR MOVERS?
Dave Etter: "Yes, and I always insist on a group pose with the truck. Evidence."
Alexandra Eva: "I always buy whatever meals they are there for, snacks and bottled water. Last time I made cookies and they asked for the recipe…ha-ha tollhouse. Lol."
Cassandra Bratcher: "Gift cards to a local liquor store and snacks Nothing broke when it arrived lol."
Elizabeth Strong: "We pay for lunch and tip at the end"
Alaska Amber: "Always! Snacks, water, lunch, whatever they need. And I always end up giving them a bunch of stuff. Before we moved to Alaska, I gave them my bedroom set, dining table, a TV, and even a sewing machine for one of their wives. "
MORE THOUGHTS ON FEEDING MOVERS/PACKERS DURING A MILITARY MOVE
Anna Blanch Rabe: "We do water and Gatorade on ice for all the days and then depending on the crew lunch (usually Pizza) on the loading/unloading day. We have tipped when they've done an awesome job, and we've also sent them off with a case of beer on occasion."
Jenah Wieczorek: "We buy lunch, snacks, and drinks but not breakfast. I'm assuming they eat before they come."
Sybil Jones: "It depends on their attitude. I'm serious. One set of movers that packed us (this move) were great. I offered lunch and drinks and tipped at the end. Our long-term storage items. Attitude from the jump. They got nothing. The delivery on this end, same thing. They took more breaks and had a 'tude from jump street."
Elishaba George: "I've always waited to see how they are doing their job… no rewards for a bad job. I've experienced two bad packers in 8 moves."
Michelle Suk Richardson: "I buy lunch and provide a variety of drinks-water, Gatorade, and some granola bars."
As you can see, the responses are mixed. I know for us when we made a military move to Korea, I'd bought the movers snacks and water. I had asked beforehand if they wanted anything and they didn't take any of it. Yet, when we PCS'ed out of Korea, the Korean movers expected it. Luckily, we had already planned on buying their lunch and snacks. When we arrived back stateside, we bought our movers lunch and snacks and gave them a little booze too.
So, I vote YES, feed your movers. It may help with them protecting your items a little better or it may not, but it can't hurt. However, I also do like the notion of being cautious first, as one person noted. People have so many allergies these days, it's kind of hard to buy something or cook something without the risk of potentially killing them or giving them an allergic reaction. Noted. Use your best judgment. Go with your gut when it comes to preparing snacks for the movers. What are your thoughts?
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
For anyone dating or married to a military service member, "unaccompanied orders" can be a complicated and frustrating situation. I often see questions from people wanting to know whether or not their family should request unaccompanied orders, or whether they can follow their service member overseas with unaccompanied orders. As someone who has lived overseas with accompanied orders, I can tell you the challenges you will face if you are not listed on them.
WHAT ARE UNACCOMPANIED ORDERS?
When a service member receives unaccompanied orders, it means that his or her family members are not listed on the orders and are not expected to accompany them to the next duty station. This can happen for a variety of reasons.
If a service member leaves their current base for a school or training that is less than 9 months, the military may not relocate the family to accompany the service member. The service member is often expected to stay in barracks or bachelor quarters during their class, while the family continues to stay in their current housing situation on or off base.
If the military wants to send a service member to a smaller duty station that does not have convenient access to local hospitals, the location may not meet the needs of family members with specific health conditions or special needs. That is why there is an EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program) on base to articulate those needs. When a service member receives orders overseas, the entire family must pass a medical screening process to ensure their needs will be met at the foreign duty station. Depending on the service member's job, family member health can either make them ineligible for those orders, or it can turn the orders into an unaccompanied tour.
SAFETY AND STABILITY
Some locations do not allow service members to bring their families because they are located in a somewhat volatile or dangerous part of the world. Service members can be assigned for one to two years overseas without family members.
CAN I MOVE WITH MY SERVICE MEMBER'S UNACCOMPANIED ORDERS IF I PAY OUT OF POCKET?
This answer is more complex because it depends on the location and the reason the orders are unaccompanied. If the service member is sent to a short-term school assignment, for example, then a family could choose to pay for their own move, look for housing in the area, and move their Tricare coverage to the new location. This option can be expensive and relocating can be frustrating, but many families decide it is worth it to have more time together. In this case, be sure to research your service member's BAH rates to determine if it is still calculated at the former duty station and whether it will cover housing at the new location.
However, if the family receives unaccompanied orders because of medical or safety concerns, then I strongly caution you to carefully consider whether to follow the service member, especially overseas. You may be allowed to visit for extended periods; however, living and working overseas without being listed on military orders can be extremely expensive and challenging. Here are some of the issues:
NO HEALTH CARE
If you are not listed on orders, Tricare may not cover your need for specialists or certain prescriptions in your area, especially if that is what caused your family to be medically rejected from the orders. Even if you are relatively healthy, you may not have access to the base hospital for appointments or emergencies.
Without command sponsorship, you can get your own passport, but you will not automatically have a Visa to enter a foreign country. In some locations, this means you cannot enter the country at all. In most nations, it means you are not allowed to visit for longer than one month.
NO BASE ACCESS
Without an ID card issued by the foreign government, you cannot get on base without your sponsor. This means you will have to live off base and use local stores instead of the Commissary or PX/BX/NEX. However, your service member will be given housing on base and will NOT receive any additional housing allowance such as BAH or OHA (Overseas Housing Allowance.)
Getting a job overseas is difficult even for a family member listed on orders. Many host nations with Americans on base have a SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) that guarantees most base jobs will go to local nationals. Without a Visa, you are not allowed to work on the local economy, even if you speak the language.
Not only will you be paying for your own plane tickets and moving expenses, but you will also be paying out-of-pocket for housing, utilities, transportation, medical care, and daily expenses.
No one can stop you from following your service member overseas on unaccompanied orders, but it is a decision that will require a lot of thought and research, along with a strong savings account.
PCSgrades.com is a review platform by and for military and veteran families. Leave a review of your prior duty station or neighborhood and read the reviews of your next duty station.
This post was sponsored by PCSgrades.
Famed psychologist Elizabeth Kubler Ross established five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We're pretty confident she was talking about the loss of a loved one or dealing with your own mortality, but we're also pretty sure the stages can be applied to PCSing.
Moving is definitely traumatic. Especially when you actually like where you're stationed… Here are the five stages of grief as applied to PCSing.