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Your Camp Lejeune Area Guide

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Is Eastern North Carolina your next destination in this fabulous adventure we love to call military life? Well, welcome to the Crystal Coast! Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is located so close to the beach that we actually have one on the base! Let's dive into what you need to know about living in the heart of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.

WHERE IS CAMP LEJEUNE LOCATED?

In 1941, the need for a strong logistical location for the Marine Corps brought about the establishment of Camp Lejeune. For the past 77 years, the base itself has grown tremendously, as have the areas surrounding it.

The base is located right in the heart of Jacksonville, North Carolina, and within an hour's drive of Wilmington and a little over 2 hours from Raleigh. The eastern coast of North Carolina is a veritable treasure trove of day trips and activities that will keep your weekends full if you're willing to dive into the local culture and drive a little bit. For Marine Corps History buffs, you'll find some points of interest dotted around the 4 larger bases here.


BASE LIFE

Camp LeJeune is the second largest Marine Corps installation in the world. Home to a diverse range of units, it counts MARSOC, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Intelligence Battalion, Marine Corps Installations East, The School of Infantry, Marine Corps Combat Support Schools and Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital among its many resident commands.

The base itself has undergone many upgrades in recent years, to include the construction of the new Wilson Gate, a hospital renovation and addition, construction of new housing areas and the Wallace Creek Fitness Center.

There are many pools, walking/biking trails, parks, and recreation areas to choose from to enjoy the outdoors. Kayaking and boating are accessible from the base. Fishing is popular. A round of golf is always available, and the base's stables are also quite active. We even have archery! The well-stocked library provides many programs for all ages. MCCS activities are well staffed. The Camp Lejeune base theater and bowling alley are extremely well run, always offering an affordable option for fun.

CAMP LEJEUNE ON-BASE HOUSING

New construction or well renovated existing base housing make up much of the housing available. With 16 communities to provide housing, there seems to be a home that will fit the needs of just about everyone. From small 2 bedroom duplexes to single family 4 bedroom homes, the offerings are diverse. All homes are administered by either Atlantic Marine Corps Communities or Lincoln Military Housing. Check out their websites for floor plans, photos, community information, and to apply.

E1 To E5 Tarawa Terrace

LIVING OUT IN TOWN

With so many military personnel in the area, as well as a growing population of retirees who choose to stay in the area, the housing market has boomed tremendously in the past 10 years. The rental market is vast and diverse, so most families don't have any trouble finding a place to call home. If buying is more your speed, there are several "A-Graded" REALTORS® reviewed on PCSgrades.com who specialize in finding a home in your price point and desired area. Let them help you find a place where you can hang your hat.


THE JACKSONVILLE COMMUNITY

Jacksonville is the closest "city" to the base. Incorporated in 1842 and named after President Andrew Jackson, Jacksonville has been constantly and consistently morphing and growing to meet the needs of its ever-expanding population. There is a nice variety of grocery options and restaurants, a reasonable amount of shopping options, 2 movie theaters, local parks, splash pads, a roller rink, a trampoline park, an indoor bounce arena and soon, a YMCA! The area also hosts a diverse faith community with a myriad of types of worship available. Surrounding Jacksonville are many quiet and comfortable communities. To the south, as you head towards Wilmington, you'll find Sneads Ferry, Holly Ridge, Topsail Beach, and Hampstead.

THE SURROUNDING AREA

Sneads Ferry is a popular place for many families to live, as it's easily accessed out a dedicated gate that's close to Stone Bay. It's a quiet fishing village, but you can reach Jacksonville proper in about 25 minutes for shopping and other activities. It's also quite close to the community of Topsail Beach, which is a sweet tourist spot with many local restaurants and a bit of neat shopping.

Holly Ridge is a quiet community situated about 30 minutes from the main gate of Camp Lejeune and 20 or so from MCAS New River. There are many new neighborhoods coming up in the community and families find it a convenient spot if they desire to live partway between Jacksonville and Wilmington.

Hampstead is a suburb of Wilmington located approximately 45 minutes from Camp Lejeune. Many families who wish to live closer to Wilmington and take advantage of the larger "city" offerings choose to reside there.

TO THE EAST

To the east, heading toward the coast, you'll find Hubert, Swansboro, Cedar Point, Cape Carteret, Emerald Isle, and Newport. Each of these communities has its own unique feel with a diverse mix of both military and local populations.

Swansboro is known as the "Friendly City by the Sea," and is home to many local festivals, music nights, local eateries and shops. The commute from Swansboro is an easy 25 minutes to mainside. And once you are home, it's nice to settle right into the laid-back feel of this sweet town.

Cedar Point is home to lots of local businesses, a few restaurants specializing in local cuisine, an open-air market and wonderful organic market. There are also several local watersports businesses, fishing charters and a diverse array of neighborhoods.

Cape Carteret and Emerald Isle are both home to a few chain eateries mixed in with many local restaurants, lots of lovely neighborhoods, boutiques, art galleries, coffee shops, and much more.

HEADING NORTH

To the North, heading towards Kinston and Goldsboro, you'll find the community of Richlands. Long established with many local residents, Richlands was historically a farming community so named for its rich local soil. Spread over a large geographic area, the commute is generally anywhere between 30 and 35 minutes in from most homes. It is also home to the local airport and tourist attraction Mike's Farm. The feel of Richlands is certainly much more agrarian and rural. Many farm oriented and horse-loving families find themselves laying down roots there.

CAMP LEJEUNE WEATHER

We have a saying here in Eastern North Carolina – "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes…it'll change!" And that's the truth! While the area is defined by 4 seasons, they tend to shift and change quite often during the fall/winter and spring. We can have summer-like temps in December, followed by freezing rain and icy roads just a few days later. We tend to have some rockin' thunderstorms, so keep your eyes peeled for the blaze of lightning our skies can often display. Summer here, however, is almost always guaranteed to be relatively hot and very humid.

INTERESTING POINTS AND PLACE TO GO

Wild Horses, take me away! The Eastern seaboard of North Carolina is a veritable treasure trove of unique day trips and weekend getaways.

Visit Shackleford Banks by boat or ferry and gaze upon the grace and beauty of a herd of over 100 wild horses that roam the island and exist in their own community unfettered by the aid of man.

Check out the many lighthouses that dot both the Outer Banks and the seaside communities on the coast.

Hike in one of many state parks and explore natural waterslides and waterfalls carved into the hills and mountains.

Also. check out New Bern, the birthplace of Pepsi Cola and home to many historic homes and buildings, including North Carolina's first capitol, Tryon Palace.

Birdwatching is also a favored pastime here and there are many waterfowl museums to choose from. Trains and planes are a unique part of these communities as well.

The Outer Banks are home to the birthplace of modern flight as discovered by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, Tweetsie Railroad is a family friendly Train theme park founded in Boone, NC to celebrate the history of rail in North Carolina.

And we can't round out the list without mentioning the North Carolina Aquariums-kids absolutely love them and there are several to choose from. The list of possibilities here is endless. So you'll never run out of things to see and do here!

NORTH CAROLINA EATS

Of the varied types of cuisine that you can find here, North Carolina is really most famous for its seafood and barbecue. While there are lots of popular local and national chain restaurants to choose from, many wonderful local eateries abound. Also, Food trucks are also immensely popular. You can find them parked on-base and off at the local farmer's and open-air markets that stretch from Wilmington to Richlands, through Jacksonville, Swansboro, and out to Beaufort. Bakeries, sweet shops, yogurts bars, and even a Willy Wonka-esque candy store are dotted all over the area. So you'll never lack a place to satisfy your sweet tooth…or your kids!

LOCAL SCHOOLS, ARTS, SPORTS AND ACTIVITIES

Families headed to the area will find many opportunities for activities for kiddos. Rec leagues and Travel teams are fairly abundant in the area for many sports. Also, dance studios, gymnastics, art, music, and many other interests are spread across the counties. So continuing or fueling your child's interests is absolutely possible! The counties that most families find themselves in for schooling are Onslow, Carteret, and Pender. There are some private schools in the area to choose from, as well as several DOD schools for base residents.

This post sponsored by PCSgrades.

Yeah! You got orders to (insert foreign country overseas)! You can already picture your kids in the international school, speaking with cute little accents and wearing local garments. Adorbs. You've got your housing picked out, adventures planned and passport photos taken. You're ready for your epic move ... except for that 13 hour plane ride. Have you wrapped your head around that yet? Before you grab for a paper bag and start hyperventilating, use our travel hacks to help make the emotional turbulence you're experiencing a little lighter.

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We've all said it: "We'll drive. It won't be that bad." We picture the adventure, the memories, the nostalgia of car trips when we were younger.

But if we're really being honest with ourselves, think back to those car trips. Someone was crying. Someone was puking. Someone was whining. That person very well may have been your poor mother. True story, my mom once got out and walked along the highway when all six of us kids wouldn't stop fighting. A long car trip can be daunting, but with our tips and tricks they don't need to be.

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Nordwood theme, Unsplash

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!

LESSONS LEARNED

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.

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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.
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While retired military Space A travel is a privilege, there are some retirees that do not have this privilege. There are different categories of retirees, some are eligible for Space A and some are not. But there are efforts to change the eligibility requirements.

For a retiree to be eligible for Space A travel they must possess a 'Blue' DD Form 2 (Military ID card). This includes those that are medically retired. Their dependents are also allowed to travel with them and must bring along their ID cards. All dependents should be enrolled in DEERS.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR RETIRED MILITARY SPACE A TRAVEL?

There are plenty of rumors out there saying that ALL retirees are eligible. This is not true. If you are 100% disabled and you only possess a DD Form 1173, or the new DD Form 2765 ID cards, you are not entitled to travel on Space A. Also, if you possess the brown ID card with DAVPRM (Disabled Veteran Permanent) in the bottom right, then you too are not entitled to retired military space a travel Space A travel privileges.

Dependents of retirees are not allowed to travel without the retiree. If the retiree dies, then the dependents no longer have Space A privileges.

If you are a member of the Guard or Reserves with a 'Red" DD Form 2 you can travel through CONUS (Continental United States), to, from, and between Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico. Also, if you are active duty for more than 30 consecutive days, Guardsmen and Reservists may fly anywhere that Space A flies.

Dependents of the Guard and Reserves are not authorized to fly on Space A until the member reaches the age of 60. At that time, they will be in the same category as a regular retiree, Category 6. Retired Guardsmen and Reservists who have completed their 20 years but are not old enough to collect their retired pay are considered to be in a "gray area".

AN ACT OF CONGRESS

There have been attempts to change the eligibility of all of the above retirees and dependents.

The first Bill to be submitted to the House of Representatives was House Bill 4164 aka Space-Available Act of 2012. This bill sought to authorize the Secretary of Defense to establish a program to provide transportation on Department of Defense (DOD) aircraft on a space-available basis for (1) active duty and reserve members holding a valid Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card; (2) retired members who, but for not attaining age 60, would be eligible for military retired pay; (3) an un-remarried widow or widower of an active or reserve member; and (3) certain dependents of members described above. Allows the Secretary to establish an order of priority based on considerations of military needs and readiness.

This Bill was sent to the Subcommittee on Readiness in March of 2012 where it has sat with no action.

Earlier this year, a measure to establish a space-available transportation priority for veterans of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as total was introduced in the house. That bill HR 936 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Readiness.

HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD

How can you help? Write your Congressman. Make your voice known.

The Gray Area Retirees Facebook group was created to talk about these problems and to try to get the changes implemented.

Space-A eligibility is sometimes confusing and false information is passed around often. Check out the resources in this article for any updates.

PCSgrades.com is a review platform for military and veteran families. Leave a review of your prior duty station and read the reviews of where you are PCSing to. Home is where the military sends us and together we can make a difference!

This post sponsored by PCSgrades.