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I always said I would never willingly be separated from my husband. Luckily for us, most circumstances allowed us to make a choice to be together. The closest we came to even considering being separated, aside from mandatory deployments, was when he was assigned at the last minute to a seat at the Army War College. We had been expecting another year at his current duty station, so the assignment caught us by surprise. Additionally, it was not a convenient time to move for me professionally, and it was a horrible time for us to leave the home we had purchased two years prior. The housing market was at its lowest in almost two decades, and our house was under water.
But in the end, we decided it was more important to keep our family together, so we rolled the landlord dice and later ended up on the losing end (that is an article for another day!). Carlisle ended up being one of our favorite tours! We loved everything about those short ten months from the newly built house we found to rent, to the kids' school, to the mil spouses who have become lifelong friends. In looking back, it was the perfect decision for us, especially since my husband ended up deploying for 13 months a year later.
Not everyone is as fortunate in being able to avoid the dreaded unaccompanied tour. A service member doesn't always have the option to bring the family along because of where the assignment is located. Korea and Turkey are two locations where unaccompanied orders are frequent. In 2016, more than 600 family members of U.S. military and civilian personnel were forced to leave Incirlik Air Base and several smaller bases in Turkey because of worsening security conditions there. The Pentagon has since changed the status of permanent duty assignments there to one-year, unaccompanied tours.
TO STAY OR GO?
Whether unaccompanied by choice or not, there are decisions to be made. Where should the family live and will a move be paid for? The answer is, it depends. There are a number of reasons why a family will choose to stay behind. Spouse employment, a special needs family member, real estate obligations, elderly parents, or a high school senior are just a few. I've known many families personally that have decided not to follow their service member so that their high school age student could graduate from a particular school.
I had another friend who stayed behind in Florida when her husband was sent to Japan for a year. She had little kids, and it wasn't a good time for her professionally to move. At the end of that year, he was offered a three-year follow-on assignment there, and the family joined him.
When the decision is made not to PCS with the service member, or when unaccompanied orders leave you no choice, there are several options to be considered. The simplest might be to stay at your current duty station. If selling the house is a concern or you have older children who do not want to change schools, this might be what is best for your family at the time.
Another option is to move back "home." Some choose to be surrounded by friends and family in a familiar environment. With a spouse halfway around the world, the comforts of home might be exactly what you need.
Others might choose to move ahead to the next duty station if you know where you are headed. This option allows you and the kids to get settled while your service member is away. The one downside is that the powers that be may change your spouse's orders and you end up moving unnecessarily. This happened to a friend of mine. She left Duty Station A and moved to Duty Station B while her husband deployed. Not only did she spend the year away from him, but she was starting over in a new area. At the end of the year, his orders were changed, and the entire family ended up back at Duty Station A!
WHAT ABOUT BAH?
As for how Basic Allowance for Housing or BAH is calculated, it can get tricky. If a family is not allowed to accompany their service member because of the location of the tour, the BAH the family receives is based on their location which could be their current duty station, the follow-on duty station or their hometown if they choose to go home.
If a move home is not authorized for an assignment, the BAH would be based on the duty station where the service member is stationed, no matter where the family lives.
NO RIGHT OR WRONG
Do your homework and ask questions to find out what your situation warrants.
Deciding whether to go or stay is not easy, and there is no "right" or "wrong" answer. Your family's particular circumstances will dictate the final decision. You may want to be surrounded by family and friends while your spouse is away. You may choose to stay put if your spouse's follow on tour is where you are currently stationed. Or you may want to move ahead to the next duty station to give the kids a chance to settle in, giving them one more year to call a place home.
Want real information on your next duty station from real Mil-families just like yours? Join our community and read and submit reviews on moving companies, on-base housing, neighborhoods, and more!
The post was sponsored by PCSgrades.com.
"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.
WE ALL HAVE OUR SHARE OF HORROR STORIES WHEN IT COMES TO MILITARY MOVING!
Name the most disgusting item erroneously packed by your movers… for me it was used coffee grounds and of course, trash. For others, I've heard everything from wet towels to dirty diapers. I've caught movers raiding my fridge, lounging on my mattress in my front yard, and throwing out items that they've broken. Raise your hand (or have a drink) if you ever had packers show up late (or not at all). Ever had packers get into a shouting match among themselves as they were packing your china? Or have you caught your movers throwing boxes down the stairs to the basement? That would be me!
With each military move, there are "lessons learned". For instance, I won't go into great detail but let's just say after watching one packer go directly from using the restroom back to packing my kitchen without washing his hands, we now use gigantic ziplock bags to "pre-pack" all my kitchen utensils. A packers' bare flesh has never again touched one of my kitchen utensils.
My family's last military move was by far the shortest, only 1½ miles up the road. We were moving from a rental to a home we purchased. It was by far the worst in terms of damage and overall angst. I think because we were only "moving up the road" the pack job left a lot to be desired. I found one box of dishes which had not one piece of wrapping paper! Instead two throw pillows from my family room were used as a buffer! Amazingly, nothing was broken! Go figure!
When I heard glass shatter in the moving truck, I asked one of the guys what shattered.
There are any number of reasons why in a given situation renting might be better than buying or vice versa. For military families, it might make more sense to buy at one duty station and then rent at the next. Up for consideration with each PCS is whether to buy or rent, to stay on-base or off. In making these decisions, there are numerous pros and cons to consider.
PROS TO BUYING
- Purchasing the right home can be a great financial investment that can grow in value over time.
- Tax deductions such as mortgage interest and property taxes can greatly reduce your overall income tax burden if you itemize.
- Being a homeowner can give you pride of ownership and a sense of stability, rare in the military life which can seem nomadic at times.
- A mortgage payment that is lower than your BAH can result in a boost to your savings.
- You can decorate however you want! Goodbye white walls! Hello, Color!
- Anyone can stay with you at any time. So it is not a problem when your Mom or sister comes for an extended stay during a deployment or following a PCS.
- You can do (almost) whatever you want….host a late night party, plant a garden, knock a wall down!
- There are no security or pet deposits when you buy a home.
- You have the opportunity to become a landlord when military orders arrive and you have to move. Your home can become an investment property, providing a source of income which can partially or totally offset your mortgage, taxes, and insurance payments.
In a nutshell, a military brat is the child of an active duty service member. Regardless of their parent's change in status, once a military brat, always a military brat. They are also described as "resilient," "not having a hometown," and :able to call anywhere home."
We took a very unscientific poll on social media and here are the top answers to the question:
WHAT IS A MILITARY BRAT?
FLEXIBLE & ADAPTABLE
Moving every couple of years, learning a new culture or new routines, adapting to new schools, military life does lend itself to adaptability for sure.
"My kids know how to just roll with whatever gets thrown at us."
"Resiliency and adaptability! And a strong sense of appreciation."
Your orders say Lackland AFB. And you are excited to be moving near the seventh-most populated city in the United States, San Antonio! This southwestern corner of an urban region known as the Texas Triangle is comprised of Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. Read below for all of your must know information and visit our website PCSgrades.com today to start your housing research and find a REALTOR!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Lackland AFB is home to the Air Force Cyber Command and Basic Military Training and is one of several military installations housed under the name Joint Base San Antonio. Nearby Randolph AFB is headquarters for Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Personnel Center, and Pilot Instructor Training. Fort Sam Houston is home to the command headquarters of the United States Army North, the United States Army South, the Army Medical Command headquarters and the Navy Regional Recruiting. It is commonly referred to as the "Home of Army Medicine."