Archive for Ask Molly

Pay Grade and BAH – Housing in the Military (Ask Molly)

From the Facebook Page:

New army wife planning for the first PCS not knowing where it is! How can I find what housing looks like or how many rooms you get for a family of 4? (E4) thank you to any help!!

Housing availability and quality varies widely from base to base. The best answer I can give is to look at what BAH is supposed to cover. Base housing should, in theory, be at least equivalent to that.

In any given location, BAH depends on the costs in your area (which is an unknown for this reader), your pay grade, and whether or not you have dependents (although the number of dependents does not matter).

According to About.com, rates are determined based on the costs of these types of housing for each pay grade:

BAH Calculations With Dependents

  • E-1 through E-4 – The midpoint between the average rental cost of a 2 bedroom apartment and a 2 bedroom townhouse.
  • E-5 – Average rental cost of a 2 bedroom townhouse.
  • E-6 – Average rental cost of a 3 bedroom townhouse.
  • E-7 – Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 36 percent of the cost difference between a townhouse and three-bedroom home.
  • E-8 -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 75 percent of the cost difference between a townhouse and a three-bedroom home.
  • E-9 – Average rental cost of a three-bedroom home, plus 16 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom and four-bedroom home.
  • W-1 -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 1 percent of the cost difference between a townhouse and a three-bedroom home.
  • W-2 -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 52 percent of the cost difference between a townhouse and a three-bedroom home.
  • W-3 – Average rental cost for a three-bedroom home.
  • W-4 -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom home plus 22 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom home and a four-bedroom home.
  • W-5 -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom home plus 48 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom home and a four-bedroom home.
  • O-1E -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 44 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom townhouse and a three bedroom home.
  • O-2E -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 93 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom townhouse and a three bedroom home.
  • O-3E -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 26 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom home and a four-bedroom home.
  • O-1 -Average rental cost for a two-bedroom townhouse plus 11 percent of the cost difference between a two-bedroom townhouse and a three-bedroom townhouse.
  • O-2 -Average rental cost for a two-bedroom townhouse plus 98 percent of the cost difference between a two-bedroom townhouse and a three-bedroom townhouse.
  • O-3 -Average rental cost of a three-bedroom townhouse plus 98 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom townhouse and a three-bedroom home.
  • O-4 -Average rental cost of a three-bedroom home plus 58 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom home and a four-bedroom home.
  • O-5 through O-7 – Average rental cost of a 4-bedroom home.

Of course, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

More information:

How about you, dear readers? Has BAH been enough to cover these types of housing? How has on-post housing stacked up compared with this chart?

Employee Rights and Military Spouses

A reader wrote me with a question and I just feel so frustrated for her. Essentially, she inquired about her eligibility for upcoming promotions and was told (via e-mail) that she should clarify whether or not she will be moving to join her husband, who is currently in military training. The Human Resources people got this information about her husband from a co-worker.

I would re-print the maddening e-mail she received here but I am concerned that someone at her office might recognize it.

Worker Mobility versus Employee Loyalty

In this case, she expects to be in the area for at least the next two years.  I really do not think that in today’s world a company can expect more than that.  Even if your spouse is not military, they cannot expect a person will not start a family, move, find a better offer, or change careers for decades anymore.  Given the vast number of layoffs, you also cannot expect that sort of loyalty from a company anymore, either.

In answering her question, there are two things to consider: (1) Her rights; (2) Reality.

Military Spouse Employee Rights

I am not a lawyer and you should not consider this actionable legal advice.

Most states do not specifically grant military spouses protection from employment discrimination.  However, you may not discriminate against someone based on marital status.  An employer making inquiries about your marriage for any purpose is simply inappropriate.  They also cannot ask if you are planning to get pregnant and take maternity leave in the near future.

Some recent decisions have also set a precedent for considering this indirect discrimination against a servicemember.  That would be a more difficult argument to make, in my lay opinion.

Either way, most of the time, this is a “he said / she said” situation but these people actually had the chutzpah to put their idiocy in writing.

Rights versus Reality

The problem with all of this is that most employees generally want to stay at their jobs and progress in their careers.  They do not want to get fired or passed up for promotions and then engage in a lengthy legal battle.

This is where the reality comes in.

My Advice to This Reader

In this case, the cat is already out of the bag and this military spouse has to decide the best way to manage the issue.

My advice was to reassure her office that her “marital status” will not affect her job performance and to clarify that she plans to be in the area for the “foreseeable future” and hopes to build her career with that company.

Chain of Command

If the company were a large, national corporation, I might also recommend investigating corporate policies and possibly taking your concerns up the chain.  However, with a small-to-medium local company, it is likely that would just get you passed over even more and possibly let-go at a later date for either manufactured performance reasons or laid-off due to the economy.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

For those who are just starting at their job or in the military life, I would recommend keeping information about your spouse to yourself.

I know it is lonely when your husband is gone on training or deployment.  I know that you want to share the joy when your husband gets a commendation or passes a difficult exam.  The sad reality is you are probably better off not confiding in your co-workers.  Even if they mean well, they most likely do not understand that casual conversations like this can affect your career.

This may be cynical, and this is not something I would have even considered when I was younger, but seeing things like this happen so many times, I’ve learned that discretion is the better part of covering your own rear.

Even with your best efforts, however, you may find yourself in a position where you are being discriminated against due to your husband’s military status.  In this case, you have to decide whether it is worth burning bridges to pursue the issue.

There’s what is right, and there is what works.  Sometimes you have to sacrifice being right in order to make things work.

What do you think? Am I too cynical? Is a direct discussion about employee rights the way to go?  Or am I not cynical enough?  Should she just start looking for another job since she is unlikely to advance at this company? And should military spouses have more employment rights to protect them? Do you empathize with the businesses who lose employees due to military moves or is it just part of the sacrifice we should all be sharing more equally?

Photo by Miriam Pastor

What to Wear to a Military Ball? (Ask Molly)

I will be attending [my boyfriend’s unit] ball this year for the first time. I asked him what to wear, and his response was, “Well, it’s in April, so that’s the spring, so a short dress right?”

Bless his little heart, you and I both know that’s just not how it works. Still, I’ve spent a great deal of time perusing the internet, and I am having a hard time discerning exactly how formal these military balls are.

The general consensus seems to be that a modest, not overly-prom-ish prom dress is appropriate, but then I also see questions/debates over the the style of gloves to wear. I come from a very traditional Southern family, so I’ve been through Cotillion and had my entrance into society, and I really need to know the specific echelon of formality we’re dealing with here. Otherwise, if my grandmother catches wind of a ball in the works, she will see to it that I show up in her elbow-length white kid gloves.

I don’t want to blindly buy a dress; and I know, whether overdressed or underdressed, if I look like an idiot, it will reflect poorly on him.

Dear Reader,

One of the reasons you have a hard time figuring out the protocol is that the formality of dress will vary widely from post to post and unit to unit.

Gone is the day when everyone knew exactly what to wear, unfortunately. Fortunately, though, that means you need be less concerned about violating an obscure rule.

Ideally, he connects you with a wife in the unit who can let you know what she plans to wear.

Another guide is what he has been instructed to wear, which is somewhat complicated by the military’s recent changes in dress uniform. The idea is that now soldiers will only have to maintain one dress uniform (a blue service uniform), instead of having Dress Blues and Class A’s (green service uniform). If his unit has not yet phased out the multiple dress uniforms, that may provide a clue as to the formality of an event. Mess Uniform or Dress Blues with Bow Tie (or Class A’s with bow tie for enlisted men) is the most formal (full-length or ball gown), then Dress Blues with four-in-hand (simple full-length or cocktail length dress), then Class A’s (a more simple dress may be appropriate).

In general, though, a full-length gown is most appropriate, with a wrap or shawl if there is a chill in the air. No ball gown or gloves required, though in some more formal units you may see a few.

You will most likely also see ladies in tea-length and cocktail-length formal dresses.

The biggest faux pas is not the dress length but showing up in something too revealing. I can tell this will not be an issue with you–but that is really the only thing I have seen go terribly wrong.

I personally also have a granny (who passed last year, may she rest in peace) who I can hear guiding me as I select formal wear. She is not Southern, but rather New York Jewish, but she would turn in her grave if I wore leather shoes to a formal event. So, I understand the anxiety.

Really, though, these finer distinctions are no longer in regular practice, even in the tradition-minded military, unless perhaps if we are talking a West Point or other academy ball.

What do you think, dear readers?  What is proper attire for a military ball? Is a full-length formal gown required? Or is a cocktail dress appropriate? Or do you and your fellow spouses go for the full ball gown and gloves treatment?

Photograph by Michael Oh.

Can a Military Spouse Pursue a Professional Career? (Ask Molly)

Dear Molly,

My boyfriend is currently in an ROTC battalion. He won’t be commissioned until 2013. He has, in the past couple months, begun to talk about getting married. He’s 24 and I’m 20. We currently have a long distance relationship because we go to school about 3 hours apart. With all of my extracurriculers and his work/ROTC we’ve been seeing each other once, maybe twice, a month since we started dating last year. This has forced us to talk a lot more than most couples our age and he is my best friend without a doubt. I love him and agree with him that we will possibly be married in the future. The problem is, I can’t stand the uncertainty of the Army. We are waiting for him to get a waiver so he can go to basic this summer (too many traffic tickets). It’s been over a month since he went to MEPs and they still haven’t contacted him either way. There’s no telling where he will be in 4 years when I graduate from grad school. How do military wives deal with their own careers? After I’m married, I want to live with him. I want to be able to be with him as much as possible and I’m willing to live on base and raise my kids on base. But, are there generally job opportunities for spouses near bases? I plan on getting a Masters of Public Policy and be research oriented, but some of my friends said that the only jobs you could get would be minimum wage type jobs. Eventually, he is going to retire and I will be able to settle into a professorship at a university somewhere. I guess my main problem is the uncertainty the Army brings to MY dreams, plans, and goals. It seems to amplify the normal problem that almost engaged/engaged/newly married couples go through in synthesizing two lives into one. Do you have any advice, other than talking about it because we do, for us?

Thanks!

Dear Reader,

Uncertainty is a fact of military life.

A military spouse may have a career but it may require a certain degree of flexibility and creativity.

Some of the variables that will affect your job prospects are unknowable: where he is posted, at what point he is deployed, and how long it will be before you move again.

There are other considerations that are more under his and your control but may shift over time: what his career goals are in the military, what your short-term and long-term career goals are, and at what point you would like to start a family.

Every post is different. There are some where the job market is abysmal and there are others where there may be opportunities to someone in your field. When I was in Texas, there were many spouses who found various medical and administrative jobs at several nearby hospitals. You might even find a job with the military and will receive some preference in applying for federal jobs as a spouse.

I am not familiar with the types of institutions that hire people to do public policy research. I would imagine most “think tanks” are based out of Washington, DC, but there are probably national charities, public service institutions, school districts, and government offices near most posts. You might not find your ideal job at each location but you can probably find something that makes use of your skill set and education in many places.

Another option is a consulting or freelance position that enables you to telecommute. Although I was able to re-certify as a classroom teacher each time I moved, I decided it made more sense to consult and write curriculum. This way, I had continuity no matter when and where I moved and I had the perfect job for when we started our family. Plus, I maintained my qualifications in my career field and gained experience.

There are career fairs, virtual and face-to-face, online web portals, and state programs in many locations (Texas had a great one) dedicated to helping military spouses further their careers. So, there is help available. I am actually doing some research right now and plan to write a post about some of these resources.  In the meantime, here are some links that may be helpful for military spouses on the job hunt or assessing their career path:

You might also decide if you receive an assignment in an area that makes it difficult to pursue your career that it is a good time to try to publish your own papers, volunteer to keep up your credentials, and/or start your family. In other words, you can pursue a path parallel to your career goals, while fulfilling personal and family goals. Then, once you are in a better position personally and geographically, you are still more or less on-track.

Yes, you can continue to pursue a professional career. However, the path may have a few more twists.

Hope this helped!


“Ask Molly” represents only my opinion and the comments of readers represent their opinions. I draw upon my training as a Family Readiness Group leader, my own experience and that of those I know, and any research I found on the Internet. I am not a trained counselor. Have a question? Send questions to askmolly [at] armywiveslives [dot] com.

Should I Move My High Schooler? (Ask Molly)

questionA reader writes:

I have been married to my husband for 8 yrs (I am 34 he is 36) and we have a 14 yr old daughter. He had been listed in the Reserves & completed that obligation before we were married but now has decided to go full time duty in the Army. I must say at first I went thru all the emotions of being angry & sad at the thought of him going to Iraq and dying there. I must say, with the words of support from this site I am really trying to not let the death consume my thoughts because death is promised to everyone & no one can avoid it. (But it’s so hard– I keep thinking death could come much sooner b/c of the choice to go into the military) but anyway…. I plan on giving my husband full support with his decision but I have NO clue on what to expect as an Army wife. Past posts suggest other wives may not want to move b/c of a career decision-in my case it’s the opposite. I have been laid off now for almost a year so my job isn’t an issue. The only issue I am having is that our daughter will be in the 10th grade this September and my assumption w/ the Army is that you move from place to place & don’t know how that would affect her (she doesn’t know he is going to enlist yet) My biggest fear is that we won’t be allowed to go w/ him & that we will be apart. Can you please give me some idea of what could happen to newly enlisted private who has a wife and child? Any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated & thank you for having this informative site-it means so much!

Bless you all!

Dear Friend,

First, thank you to your husband for his service in the Reserves.

My children are almost four and two, so hopefully other readers with teens will add their thoughts.

Although my children are very young, I have taught high school.  So, I understand how important “senior year” is to many students.

First, there are a lot of details I do not know and I am not a recruiter.  Your husband needs to speak with his recruiter about his enlistment.  If he has college credits or gets any credit for prior service, that may affect what happens.

I’m going to reply under the assumption that he will need to go to Basic training and then AIT.

My understanding is that enlisted men are usually given a choice to influence either their MOS (their job) or their post.  If he chooses to request certain postings, then you may have a better idea of where you would be moving if you choose to accompany him.

You will not be able to see him during Basic training and will not be able to see him very much, if at all, during AIT. 

Once he completes AIT, he will receive his first “Permanent Change of Station” (PCS).  Most PCS moves are accompanied, which means you will be on his orders.  You will have the option at most places of living on post or off-post, this will vary depending on availability of housing at the post.  If you officially choose to stay where you currently live, your husband will most likely be assigned to barracks housing.  This may also have a financial impact as you will be maintaining your civilian housing but he will not have the housing allowance he would ordinarily draw if he lives off post with you.

Some assignments are unaccompanied tours (primarily at this point these are tours in Korea).  Most likely, however, unless he requests otherwise, his first PCS will be an accompanied tour and you and your daughter are welcome to join him.

When he deploys, of course, you would not be accompanying him.  It is impossible for me to say when, if at all, he will deploy during his active duty service.  It could be as soon as he arrives at his first post or it could be years before he deploys.  Once you have more information about his assignment, you can try to find out some information but be aware this could change at any time.

If your daughter was in 9th grade, I would suggest moving.  If she was in 12th grade, I would suggest staying put.  Since she’s in between, I think a lot depends on your wishes, her input, and the options available to your family.  Some teens who are very happy where they are choose to live with relatives or friends during their final years of high school.  Since your daughter will have two and a half years left of high school, you might not feel comfortable with this.

Although “your mileage may vary”, there is a good chance that your husband will be at the same post for at least the next three years, possibly more.  Therefore, it is likely that your daughter will be able to attend most of her time in high school at the same place.  If, for whatever reason, you do need to move to another post before she graduates, you can feel somewhat comforted by the fact that many other teenagers at her school will be in the same situation.  Near a large military base it is likely they have also moved at some point in their lives and will be sympathetic.

One of the hardest things about the military for the family is the uncertainty.  I can’t tell you whether your husband will stay at his first PCS for three years without deploying or if he will deploy immediately following AIT.  So, I cannot really advise you to move or stay put.

Right now, just focus on supporting him through his training.  Wait until you know his first post and his unit.  And then  you will need to weigh the pros and cons.  There are just too many variables undecided right now.

My gut feeling  is that it is easier to support your soldier if you will be near him. 

“Ask Molly” represents only my opinion and the comments of readers represent their opinions. I draw upon my training as a Family Readiness Group leader, my own experience and that of those I know, and any research I found on the Internet. I am not a trained counselor.

Photo Credit: Laura K. Gibbs

Wearing Civilian Honors to a Military Ball (Ask Molly)

molly-pitcher-awardWe military folk, even some of us family members, enjoy a good protocol question. When my husband first joined the military, I recall devouring the details in The Army Wife’s Handbook, only to learn with great disappointment that I really would not be needing those calling cards. But at least we have military balls in all of their tradition and glory.

A reader who has received two civilian honors for her service to her husband’s units asked this question about wearing her awards:

Dear Molly,

My husband and I have an Army ball to attend on Friday and I have a question about wearing two awards that I received at my last post. I received both the Molly Pitcher and Commander’s Award for Civil Service awards at our final ball on our last post. That night I wore both around my neck but remember seeing prior recipients wearing their Molly awards pinned to their dress with a red ribbon behind. First do I have to wear my awards? I would like to wear them but don’t know protocol on wearing awards. Is it proper or acceptable to wear my specific awards on my wrist? I am wearing a strapless dress on Friday and it’s beaded at the top. I am not sure how to affix them to this particular dress. If not on my wrist, can I wear them pinned at the waste? Lastly, the Molly Pitcher came on a thin red ribbon and Commanders award is on a thick blue ribbon. When affixing them to a dress, is the size of the ribbon important?

Huh.  I was stumped!

I knew that civilians never have to wear anything but as to how to wear two awards, I hadn’t a clue.  I know that one usually only wears one honor around one’s neck, that being the higher award.  I also knew that I had both a chain and a brass ribbon-style pin for my Molly Pitcher award, which could be pinned to the bodice of a dress.  As to the rest though, I needed to call in a higher authority.

So, I wrote to the Field Artillery Association and received this response:

Unlike military members, there is not a requirement for civilians to wear awards.

The Commander’s Award for Civilian Service is only affixed to a ribbon to avoid the awkwardness of the presenter attempting to pin it on a lady. If she opts to wear it; the smaller lapel pin (which should have come with the larger medal) may work best.

If it were me, I would forego wearing both awards to the Army Ball (most of us do) with the exception of wearing the Molly Pitcher award to balls/ceremonies wherein the award will be presented to others (e.g., St. Barbara’s Balls.) If she desires to wear both awards, it is certainly appropriate, but not the norm.

I hope this helps. The medal/lapel can be worn anywhere on your dress.

So there you have it!

Ask Molly: Should I Move with My Soldier?

take off

Hi Molly,

My husband hasn’t signed any papers yet but will be enlisting in the Army very soon. I am trying to be the supportive wife because I know this is something he’s always wanted to do, but I am scared for him and myself. Here is the problem: I am not going to be following him to wherever he gets stationed. I would love to be able to lean on the sisterhood of army wives for support and follow him because that would make it soooo much easier, but my career is in a great place and I don’t want to leave my other family members. He is okay with this and says we can make it work. I know we can make it work but I am worried about being alone all the time, especially because we just moved to a new area 2 hours away from our hometowns where our families are and we don’t have too many friends in our new city. So when he goes away, my family will be a 2 hr drive away plus I don’t have many friends nearby to lean on either. Is it common for the wives not to follow their husbands? What advice do you have for us? Thanks so much!! I really need it because neither of us comes from anything close to military families so they don’t know what to tell us.

Thanks!

Dear Reader,

This is a very tough response to write, because I really want to tell you and your husband that you can have everything.

And maybe, possibly, you can and this could work.

You sound from your letter as if you are a very grounded and rational person and from what little I have heard from you, it seems as if you and your husband have very open and honest communication and a solid foundation in your marriage.

But I also have to be honest and tell you that you are in for an uphill battle if he plans a full military career and you plan to stay put at your address indefinitely.

Now, if he only wants to “do his duty” and serve for two years, then it may make sense for you to stay where you are if you are happy in your career.  He will be training for several months and then may be deployed for a year.  In which case, there is no sense in uprooting your household and disrupting your life for the sake of a little more than half a year of cohabitation.

However, if he plans to stay in the military, I urge you to move at some point to join him.

I know some married couples (outside of the military) who lived in separate cities for a year or two–but this was a temporary solution and both couples made well over six figures, giving them the ability to fly back and forth several times a month.  This sort of weekend commuting does not seem like a possibility for you and your husband.

In my personal, anecdotal experience, the vast majority of spouses move with the servicemember eventually.  They may temporarily stay where they are to finish up classes as a teacher or student but they have plans to move in the near future.

There are also dual military families that find themselves stationed apart or with deployments that do not overlap.  Maybe some of these families could chime in and let us know about how they make it work.

During World War II, servicemembers sometimes deployed for several years.  However, there was a larger base of patriotic community support for the spouses who kept those homefires burning and the partners persevered because there was no other choice but to stay the course during the deployment.

If he is garrisoned stateside and you are hundreds or thousands of miles away, that will have a very different feeling because you are separated by choice, rather than by deployment.

You also bring up the issue of the “sisterhood” of military spouses and your lack of a support system at your current location.

During the year my husband was training, I remained at my job as a classroom teacher.  I was living about a half an hour from my parents and about the same distance from New York City, where many of my friends lived.  For support from other military spouses, I turned to a military spouse discussion board.

There are definitely ways to find support, especially with today’s technology, away from post. You may want to check out this post (and the comments) about staying near post or moving back home during a deployment, which touches on some of these issues.

Sit down with your husband, draw up a list of pros and cons and consider your personal and career goals and ask him about his own. Consider your own personal relationship styles.  Do you need to be geographically and physically close to the person you love?  Or does conducting a relationship mostly via e-mail and telephone sound romantic to you?  Do the two of you do most things together or do you already keep your lives fairly separate?

If you do decide to stay where you live, the military spouse community will be able to provide lots of advice and support on keeping long distance relationships going.

Personally, it would be very hard for me to be voluntarily separated from my husband for any substantial length of time but perhaps you and your husband would be able to happily make this work.

And I may be totally off-base here.  If so, I’m sure my other readers will be the voice of reason in the comments section!

Please keep us updated on what you decide and best of luck to you both!

“Ask Molly” represents only my opinion and the comments of readers represent their opinions. I draw upon my training as a Family Readiness Group leader, my own experience and that of those I know, and any research I found on the Internet. I am not a trained counselor.

Photo Credit: Take Off by realSMILEY

Grow Where You Are Planted (Ask Molly)

seedlingI’ve been asked this question so many times that I cannot believe I have never written a post. In the comments, reader Desirae asks:

I need some help from all you other army wives out there… When I got told that being an army wife was one of the hardest jobs in the military, I didn’t really believe it. That is until I married my husband! I now have a new respect for all the women that have been doing this for years. I myself am a newly wed. Yep, as of October 2nd this year! But being away from him for these long periods of time is KILLING me. So can anyone make a few suggestions as to how I can start to deal with this a little bit better? I’m pretty lost. I think I’d really love an answer from anybody willing to give me ANY kind of suggestion! THANX!!!

Whether you are moving to a new country, an isolated posting, or your service member is deploying, I advise you to “grow where you are planted“.

Get involved, get busy.  Or, as Tim Gunn says, “make it work“.

Reach out to other military spouses. Find deployment support groups, try the FRG, volunteer on post.  Most posts have a community center where you will find postings for groups, classes, seminars and events.

You can also find other spouses online on military spouse community sites and bulletin boards.  And head online to meet people locally, too.  I’ve used meet-up to find kindred spirits.

Get involved in the community off post, too. Find things that interest you. Join clubs, take classes, get a job (if you don’t already have one), volunteer, go to concerts, etc.  Whatever your hobby or passion, you can find kindred spirits. Even in the smallest, most isolated post, you will find people making art, playing music, enjoying conversation, learning and living.

Consider your spiritual life.  If you are religious, this may be a good time to deepen your connection with your faith-based community.  If you are not religious, seek out other sources of positive energy for you.  This can be as simple as keeping a 10 minute “tea time” for yourself every day.

Stay away from negative people and drama that saps your energy. Focus on activities that give you strength and enjoyment.

This helps the days pass quicker and also gives you things to talk about with your spouse.  When you reunite, you will be glad that you also had new experiences that challenged you and helped you grow as a person.

At home, alone, at night, though, I find can be particularly lonely. I would use this time to write letters to my husband and put together care packages. This way I was doing something positive for him and our relationship.

I’d never say it is easy, but if you approach deployment with a positive attitude, you’ll find it goes quicker and easier!

What are your tips for making the time apart pass more quickly?

Photo credit: Seedling

HELP! My Husband is Joining the Army and I Don’t Like It!

milspouseAn anonymous reader comments:

Hey Molly my husband is looking into a career In the army, I don’t like the idea because he will never be home and could always be deployed and could die. I am 19 he is 26 years old and we have a 5 month old daughter I didn’t not sign up to be a military wife I don’t like the idea of moving every other year and not being able to see him everyday and then spending long time periods away from him I guess my question is what is being a military spouse really like. He will be entering as a E3 but I don’t want to hear the lie from the recruiter I want to ask some one who is there.

Dear reader,

Thank you for writing. Although you are already married, you may want to check out my post, “Should I Marry a Soldier?” I cover some of the questions you ask here but the long and the short of it is that no one can really give you the answers you are seeking.

Your family’s experience in the military will vary depending on your husband’s MOS (his specialty), the post, the unit, and even down to his Commanding Officer and NCOs. And it will also depend on both of you.

As someone who has been there I will not downplay the challenges of military life. At the same time, it can be a wonderful lifestyle for those who are able to “bloom where they are planted.” One of the lessons I have learned in life is that happy people are generally happy wherever they are and miserable people are miserable wherever they go. That said, military life can be intense and can bring out the strengths and weaknesses in people and in relationships.

What I will say is that no one is never home or deployed all of the time. And it seems as if the “operational tempo” may slow in the near future. God willing.

And very few people’s lives happen exactly as they plan. A lot of families find themselves moving frequently.

While the risk of being killed in combat is very real, it is statistically not great. It is the possibility, and the constant threat of this danger, that can be very difficult for both the soldier and his family.

Your question is really a marital issue than a military one. You had a picture of your future for you and your family and you married a man who you believed shared that plan. Now, he has brought something new and you do not like the idea. How you deal with this challenge will shape your future regardless of the decision made.

I am not a marriage counselor but here are my suggestions:

1. Do some research into his proposed MOS. Are there limited posts where he might be stationed?

2. Read up. Go to your library and take out some non-fiction books for new military spouses. You’ll find an honest but upbeat take on what to expect in general. Keep in mind that your mileage will vary.

3. Have him do the same. He needs to come to you with an honest assessment of why he would like to enlist, what he hopes to accomplish in the military, and how this will shape the family’s future. Has he always dreamed of being a soldier? Does he believe it is his duty to serve? Perhaps he sees the military as his best hope for career advancement? Or maybe he wants to provide for his family with the job security and benefits of the military?

4. Make a decision together. This is very difficult because you do not want him to resent you for telling him not to enlist. At the same time, it will be a very unpleasant career and possibly unsuccessful marriage if you are not at least a willing partner in this decision. Just like any other major decision in a marriage, you both need to reach some sort of agreement, even if one person will have to make more sacrifices than the other.

If you cannot do this on your own, you may wish to speak with a clergyman if you are at all religious or perhaps go to a couples’ counselor who can help you talk through these issues in a non-confrontational way.

Whether or not he joins the military, this will hopefully help you understand each other and your marriage better and you’ll come through it stronger.

Best of luck and please update us!

Ask Molly: Deployment Checklists

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todoA Reader Asks:

Happy Veterans’ Day! I just found your blog and I was wondering if there are directions to making a military family binder, something that would include military records, important numbers, deployments, LES, or anything you can think of. My husband is an Army Reservist and I think this could be very helpful.

First of all, Happy Veterans’ Day to you, too! Thank you and your husband for serving!

You did not mention if your husband has been activated in anticipation of a deployment. Regardless, there are some things that every military family should have in a binder. And, really, with a few modifications, this is something that would be useful to any family, military or not.

When my husband deployed, we distributed a deployment checklist of documents and other information that the spouses should have at hand. I googled “deployment checklist” and found a few that may prove helpful. You should of course modify to suit your own situation:

In general, USAA and MilitaryOneSource are great sources for all sorts of military-friendly planning.

You should always know your husband’s unit and have the Red Cross contact information available should you need to contact him in an emergency. I would also like to highlight the Power of Attorney. A general POA (one that enumerates several areas in which your spouse may act for you, such as finances, health decisions, etc.) can be useful, but you need to remember that there is no obligation to accept a power of attorney–if you anticipate needing one, you should contact the relevant bank or other company or military office to make sure you have the correct form.

Couples with children should also be aware of laws that apply to getting passports, enrolling in schools, etc. In some cases, you may need permission from both parents to travel out of country with children.

Hope this helps!

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