Salute to Spouses Blog

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Retirement: When PCS season ends, forever

PCS season is here. Time to start purging, packing and planning. Time to start looking at houses and school districts and things to do in the new place. Time to start convincing the kids how great the new place is going to be. Time to start saying goodbye to friends and neighbors and get ready to reinvent yourself all over again for the umpteenth time.

Oh, wait.

Not me.

Not this year.

I don’t have to do that anymore. We’re retirees now.

Looking back on my husband’s 26-year Army career, it’s amazing that we spent 17 years OCONUS. We PCS’d 13 times. Here’s all the places we were stationed, in order:

Hawaii (Schofield Barracks), Georgia (Ft. Benning), North Carolina (Ft. Bragg), Okinawa, Korea (Yongsan Garrison), Florida (MacDill Air Force Base), Germany (Stuttgart), MacDill AFB again, Kansas (Ft. Riley), Stuttgart again, Canada (Toronto), Stuttgart a third time, and back to the U.S.

We weren’t on the typical summer PCS cycle until later in my husband’s career. Once we were, it was like clockwork. We moved five of the last seven summers. And now, it seems, nearly everyone moves between May and September. It has become the official season of goodbyes and starting over.

PCS’ing always brings a mixed of emotions. Marriages are stressed, kids are heartbroken, pets are confused, household goods are lost, finances are stretched.

But it’s exciting, too. One of my favorite things about Army life was the first few weeks at a new duty station – getting to know the area, checking out restaurants and shopping, meeting new neighbors. And if we got really lucky, my husband might have a little free time to enjoy the new place, too, before starting what always seemed like a 24/7 work cycle, or going TDY, or to the field, or getting deployed, or whatever else might come up.

Of course there was all the stress of deciding where to live, signing up for utilities, getting the kids registered for school, living in a hotel.

Our moves usually had a few extra unknowns, too. Since we did so many OCONUS transitions, we were always waiting for a car to arrive, waiting longer for our household goods, and trying to get settled while adjusting to new languages and a new culture.

But that part was kind of exciting, too.

Our last address change was in August, when we bought a house in Florida.

The other day my husband commented that, almost eight months after moving in, we were finally, completely, unpacked and set up.

 “It feels like we’re really here,” he said.

Our next door neighbor made a similar observation while commenting on the long list of home improvement projects we’ve been doing.

He said: “So I guess you’re here to stay.”

And now, with PCS season upon us, the realization has hit me that we will never again get a set of military orders. Never again will we anxiously wait to find out where the next duty station is, and as soon as we get there start to wonder when and where the next move will be.

I don’t know that we’ll live in this house or this place forever, but we’re parked here for at least the foreseeable future. And, if and when we do move again, it will be on our own terms.

So, for all of you going through the PCS craziness this summer, I salute you. I wish you good packers and no damage, healthy kids, healthy pets, the strength of a superhero and the patience of a saint.

I wish you a smooth transition to your new place and, most of all, a great start to your new adventure.

I feel your pain, but I don’t feel bad for you. I’m envious.

Enjoy it while you can.

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