From First Slap to Last Pinch: Military Spouse Life Shaped My Global Adventures!

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Behind Every Uniform: The Story of Military Spouses

Born into a world where traveling and the military are intertwined, the essence of service courses through my veins. From the tender moments of my infancy at Ft. Meade’s Kimbrough Army Hospital, where I received my very first slap on the rear, to the bustling streets of Rome, where I experienced the last pinch on my much larger backside many years later, the military lifestyle has been my constant companion. Yet, my journey doesn’t end there. As a military spouse, I continue to serve, proud of my role in supporting our nation’s defenders and navigating the unique challenges and triumphs that come with this extraordinary life.

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I Serve Too Because I’m A Military Spouse

Home is Where the Army Sends Us

I was born on that military base, and I’ve been traveling more or less every three years since—a hallmark of military spouse life. Nothing highlighted this passion more than when my husband brushed his hand across my cheek, looked into my eyes, and said it was time to buy our forever home. He matter-of-factly stated that the nomad life I had lived for the last 40+ years would soon end and that we needed to put down roots in a place of our own.

The shock must have been noticeable because he quickly added, “relax, every traveler needs a home base.” For most people, that wouldn’t have been so alarming, but I’m not most people. Forever home sounds like a prison without bars.

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It Goes By Quickly

The Longest Temp Job Ever

I joined the military to jumpstart a career. And I got that and more– training as a systems analyst and my future husband. My career as a soldier was short because I admit I wasn’t a great soldier. Hell, I wasn’t a good one either. I should have heeded my father’s advice. I don’t like to take orders from anyone. And I spent the majority of my short military career bouncing from counseling statements to extra duty.

It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but I’ve been married to this man for almost 20 years. And over that time, we’ve traveled all over the world– north, south, east, west, Europe, and soon to the Far East. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed each move for entirely different reasons. I love my life as a military spouse.
 
 

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Colorado

Fort Carson

I loved the fresh mountain air and laid-back attitude of Colorado, where on my first day of work, my boss said, “If you don’t have anything to do, don’t do it here.” Essentially, finish your work and head home—that was the vibe. I embraced that fully. Yet, Colorado’s chill was too much. Personally, the cold didn’t bother me; I found it invigorating. I’d often dash from my front door to the car, enjoying the brisk air. While I was acclimated to the cold, having spent the last three years enduring the lake effect snow off Lake Erie, my husband, a Mississippi native, found Colorado unbearably cold and too far from his family.

Georgia

Fort Benning

I made pretty good money, and the job was loads of fun. I enjoyed the freedom from being chained to a desk, a phone, or a set routine. The title indicated much more than the job entailed— I was more or less a glorified computer technician. I was the person you called when your computer didn’t want to act right, or your laptop was excellent, but you didn’t know how to use it. You couldn’t access the network, email, or power up the darn thing. I can’t tell you how many times I arrived at someone’s desk after I told them to reboot their computer, only to find out they switched off the monitor or pulled it too far from the outlet instead.

A Jack of All Trades

I worked for the insurance company with the irritating duck for a spokesperson. Yeah, that’s the one. I worked there for almost three years— one of the most extended stints on my resume to this day. I was pretty good at that job if I say so myself. So good that I applied for a supervisor position I was sure I’d get. The area, however, required a college degree, which I did not possess. My boss was candid.

“Why don’t you have a degree, he asked?”

I moved around a lot, but that wasn’t an excuse not to have finished my degree— any degree. I majored in Engineering for more than three years, and when I landed in Columbus, there wasn’t an Engineering school closer than Atlanta, which was more than an hour away. So I did nothing. I didn’t have an answer that made sense to him or me.

You Need to Get a Degree

Army Wife

“You need to get a degree; you are way too smart not to have one,” he said in an almost pleading tone. I’ll do what I can to help, he added.

Up until that moment, I hadn’t had a lot of respect for Douglas. He sat in an office at the end of all our cubicles. His desk faced the door. He didn’t appear to do anything all day except “supervise” the other analysts on his team, talk about the big ass truck his rich wife just bought him, and play video games which, I guess, he didn’t realize were being reflected in the big picture window behind him.

We Work Outside the Home

True to his word, I applied for school a few weeks later. With his support, I secured a company scholarship every semester. My work schedule lightened from 40 to 30 hours weekly, yet my pay and full-time status remained unchanged. My boss provided the flexibility to attend any class at any time, as long as my tasks were completed. Balancing everything was tough, yet I discovered a thrilling excitement in not only finishing what I had started years ago but also opening up new career possibilities for myself. It was an exciting prospect that eventually got the better of me.

I’ve never been one to tiptoe into new adventures; I generally dive in feet first but entirely over my head, ready to float, tread water, or nearly drown. I say almost drown because, in my military spouse life, adapting quickly and boldly has always been part of the journey.

1. I’m still here, and

2. I get bored fast.

Finally– I’m a College Graduate

I Serve at Home

I would eventually leave that job to pursue my studies full time. Shortly afterward, I changed my primary one more time to Political Science— something that I have both an interest and sincere passion for. Unfortunately, that came with a cut in pay. The plan was to go to law school.

However, fate (or the United States government) had something else planned for me. Because they sent my husband to Iraq, leaving me to care for two little boys. I took a year-long deferral, hoping to try the following year again. However, that didn’t happen either.

Nicoles-wedding-exit-Baumholder-Germany From First Slap to Last Pinch: Military Spouse Life Shaped My Global Adventures!

Virginia

Fort Eustis

But it’s the latest two moves to Virginia that sparked this new conversation about settling down. We’ll probably end up living in Virginia when this whole military thing is over. And although it didn’t happen immediately, I look back on our time; both times, we were stationed there, with a lot of affection. Those assignments sandwiched the move to Germany. We bought our first house during our first duty station in the Hampton Roads area. It was a beautiful house that sat on a cul de sac and faced the James River— water views without the hassles of waterfront.

First Time Home Owners

When we first purchased it, it lacked color and imagination. The house hid behind four hideously overgrown hollies that flanked the large porch and ate into the foundation of the house. The shutters and matching garage door were an ugly powder blue color that could only improve with another paint job or fire. The grass, or should I say, weed lawn sat on a foundation of seashells. That whole area used to be underwater, so it was surprising that the yard looked like a scene from Mad Max.

Our first order of business was to rent a chainsaw and mow those hollies down. My husband handed me the chainsaw, and I braced myself against the power it wielded. The porch railings were desperately in need of a coat of paint. And now, whenever we sat on the porch swing, we could gently rock and watch the sailboats float down the river. We did this without fear of the porch collapsing on us while we did it.

Getting to a DIY Expert

That small renovation was more fun than I anticipated and the beginning of a significant overhaul to inject some much-needed personality into that house. We touched every inch of it in the four years that we lived in it. We ripped up the floors, tore out the countertops, installed a new lawn, new stainless steel appliances, crown, and panel molding and painted almost every room of the house— the kitchen I painted twice.

My husband hated the first shade of green I picked. It was I had to admit later, a little bold unless the look you were going for was Mexican Cantina. In my defense, those small swatches at Home Depot are hard to discern the exact paint color, and I was just too lazy (and cheap) to buy and paint from a sample can. Little did he know, and unless the new owners haven’t repainted, I purposely left a small rectangular patch of fiesta green paint under the cabinets nearest the refrigerator. Ole!!

Back to Virginia, We Go

Fort Lee

The second time, we were stationed in central Virginia, outside of Richmond. It took me a little longer to acclimate to that duty station because it followed our three years in Germany, but once I did, I enjoyed myself.

Central Virginia is a wine and craft beer country. And with over 300 vineyards and 30+ craft beer breweries, we had found a little piece of heaven on Earth. When I arrived, I had a hard time finding a job. So in the meantime, I endeavored to visit them all. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I Still Serve

Because Military Spouses Serve Too

I still serve, but the military, like most things, isn’t for everybody. And I should know. However, I am a much better military spouse than a soldier. I love the military more than just about anything else I know but from afar. I was born on an Army base and have traveled from one to another for my entire life. The people you meet are outstanding and come from every walk of life imaginable. You find yourself drawn into their lives, watching their kids grow up like magic before your eyes. You revel in the good times and mourn alongside them in the bad. Tears and wine flow almost simultaneously, and bonds are strengthened, not weakened, over the miles and time spent apart.

Our way of life is all-encompassing at times, often trying, but most of all, it’s advantageous. There are times I have to fight back the tears that well up uncontrollably in the corners of my eyes.

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