Whether you marry someone already in the military or they join after you have been married a while, it can be daunting. Fear of the unknown is real, even for seasoned spouses moving to a new base or post.
The Good Chaplain came on active duty after we’d been married 10 years and had two children. If someone said to me, “Well, you knew what you were getting into when you married him.” (That frequently happens, by the way.) I always answered I did not. When we married in 1982, the Good Chaplain was not a minister, let alone a military man. He was a salesman. Ministry and Air Force were not even on our radar.
Briefly, when our twin daughters were six weeks old, he felt the call to ministry. He attended seminary, where he met an Air Force chaplain recruiter and felt called to that as well. That’s how it came about. It turned out to be the right move for our family, but I still feared the future.
The fear of the unknown came to me in three areas.
Fear of moving to a new place
Obviously, in the military, we move — a lot. While I looked forward to what the new place offered, I feared whether I would fit in or like the place. I’m talking about the base and the community. As soon as we found out where we were going, I would study the area to see what it was known for.
Our first move was Warner Robins Air Force Base. First, at this point, I knew nothing about the military, so my learning curve was high. But, also, I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. What did I know about the Deep South? My knowledge was limited to it being hot and had lots of bugs.
With every move, I acclimated myself to the base first. Once I found the medical facilities, the commissary and Exchange, and the chapel, I broadened my horizons to explore other areas of the station. Then, I would move onto the community and what it had to offer. Joining groups like a lunch bunch or antiquing group help find places to go off the base.
Fear of meeting new people
Whenever you are uprooted and move to a new place, even just across town, you leave friends and loved ones behind. You need to make new friends. And that can be downright scary. I felt lucky to be married to a chaplain because I felt like I had the congregation to rely on until I got my bearings. Hopefully, your spouses’ workplace is equally helpful and welcoming as the chapel is.
I found neighbors are always the right place to start. On most bases, neighbors will stop in to welcome you. If you have children, meeting neighbors is a snap as the children meet each other.
When we lived off base in Oklahoma, we took it upon ourselves to go around and introduce ourselves to the neighbors. We brought them cookies. Often, people off base don’t get to know military families in their midst because they know we won’t be around longterm.
Other ways to meet and make new friends is to join a club or a group on the base such as the spouses’ club, a Bible study at the chapel, or other things that interest you. But do make an effort, because you never know when you will run into your bestie for life.
Fear of a new lifestyle
When we moved to Georgia, my picture of southern women was straight out of “Gone With the Wind.” You know — genteel, unassuming, polite, and immaculately dressed at all times. I’m not like that. I’m gregarious, outgoing, respectful, and dress up infrequently.
Or moving to Alaska. As much as I want to think of myself as adventurous, I’m not a huge nature lover. I’m more of a sit indoors in the warmth or air conditioning kind of person. I don’t like bugs. And my idea of camping is our 27-foot travel trailer complete with a stove, refrigerator, microwave, bathroom and shower, and a queen-size bed. We used to joke that we were roughing it if we didn’t bring the television. This particular unit has two built-in TVs.
Not to say I didn’t hike, or fish, or cross-country ski, or other outdoor activities in various places. It’s just that I like my creature comforts.
The military itself is a different lifestyle with its ins and outs of protocol, expectations, and the reality that the mission comes first. My best advice to deal with the fear is to embrace it and make the most of where you are when you are there. And have fun.
Until next time,