As a 22-year member of the military community, I have been a Active Duty Military Spouse, as well as a staff member for both Air Force Family Support (before the name changed to A&FRC) and Army Community Service. Now in this chapter of life, I am a DOD Civilian Spouse (same husband, different phase of career) and an active community member and volunteer at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado.
I was commiserating with a Marine Corps spouse the other day as she realized the orders she wanted had just been changed to the ones she did not want. All of her planning and preparation for “what the next chapter would bring” had just flown out the window. As a been there, done that, vintage spouse I remarked that is seems to me that the three truths of military life can be distilled down to “Hurry Up & Wait,” “Have Backup Plans,” and “Bloom Where You are Planted.”
We all know “Hurry Up & Wait,” two years into a three year tour you start thinking about when orders will drop, asking your poor spouse (who has no idea either), “Where do you think we’ll be stationed next?” You may find yourself already withdrawing a little from your current circle, talking to your kids about upcoming change, and selling/donating everything you do not want to travel with. Depending on career field, we all know which installations are most likely and of course in theory there is a dream sheet – in practice, none of us know how much that counts.
“Have Backup Plans.” Or as I like to say (with apologies to Dr. Seuss & The Cat In the Hat) “Make Big Plans A and B, don’t forget Little Plans c, d & e.” Some of us start researching schools, housing and neighborhoods near multiple installations and already know the BAH rates of the three most likely places we will go next. Long before ever living in Colorado I had done research on communities, schools, and housing twice while Mr. Z was in uniform! Ditto for San Antonio and Augusta (even though we were never stationed either location). Waiting for orders can be exhausting and stressful, frozen like a bug in amber, not sure what to do next. Even better are those verbal orders – which are “Worth the Paper They are Printed On.” Sure, you THINK you know where you are headed, but not exactly sure when and of course, we all know orders can change. Still frozen, unable to schedule temporary lodging or household goods, still “pulling up roots” in your current community and trying to focus on everything that needs to be done day-to-day while the over-riding questions loom, “Where to & When?” This is a good time to make sure you are still “Blooming Where You Are (Currently) Planted.” Make the most of your current location, gather with friends you have made, create memories. Take the time to visit all the touristy places you’ve been meaning to go your whole tour.
At the same time, now is a good time to start making connections where you think you are headed. Who do you know already at your potential new duty stations (stations)? Reach out, join online groups for those locations. Do some research on new potential churches if that is a priority. Do kids play sports/instruments? Ask for advice from spouses currently in that area. Research all the area has to offer. Use the internet and social media for connection/information. Once you finally arrive at your new duty station…jump in! Use your family’s interests/children’s hobbies to make connections. Check out the Spouses’ Club – yes, I mean this. They vary greatly by installation and at a minimum, you can meet a couple spouses with something in common to exchange phone numbers. The Buckley Spouses’ Group has a number of offshoot activities; a Play Group, a Book Club, a Craft Group, and Operation Ball Gown among others. Volunteering at your new location can also help you make connections quickly.
Remember to nurture yourself at this time…what makes a place home to you? For me, oddly enough, it is Family Movie Night. I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that I voluntold my family to watch The Blues Brothers with me in EVERY SINGLE PLACE we have ever lived; 3 in Maryland, 1 in Korea, 3 in England, 1 in Washington, and 3 in Colorado. Once we have laughed at the same cheesy lines and enjoyed the same great music in a place, that’s when it feels like home to me!
Written by: Amy Zukowski, Realtor, ABR, CMRS, CNE, CRS, GRI, MRP
Amy Zukowski (better known as “Amy Z”) is a full-time dedicated Realtor and Military Relocation Professional serving the Aurora/Denver Metro Area. She is also a long-time Buckley community resource and (repeatedly) serves as Scholarship Chair for the Buckley Spouses’ Group. During her time as a Financial Counselor and Educator she received both the Air Force Honorary First Sergeants Award and the Army Medal for Civilian Service. As a Realtor, she has received numerous Top Producer awards. She is passionate about her community and helping “reduce the stress of PCS.”