By Marguerite Cleveland
Now that my husband and I are facing retirement from the military, I’d like to share some things I wished I knew or would have done differently.
- Buy or make the measuring board that tracks your children’s growth. This cool idea wasn’t invented when I started out and it was so sad to paint over those measurements over the years. This way you can take it with you from duty station to duty station.
- Buy the Trailer or RV. I really wished we had done this our first big move all the way across the country as the travel pay would have almost paid for it. It would have been nice to have our own place to stay and carry a little more stuff when we have had to wait for housing or a place to live.
- Always take advantage of Temporary Lodging Expense(TLE). When you PCS you get a certain amount and days for travel and you don’t need receipts but to take TLE you must have a zeroed out lodging receipt which shows you have paid for the lodging. I’ve met so many people who have camped out in their house while waiting for the movers when they could have had a bed to sleep in each night. In addition to lodging it includes a meal allowance based on the number of dependents based on their age. You don’t get this at all if you don’t use it. It is good for 10 days, five at either end of a PCS move or you can break it up how you like up to 10 days. This is for CONUS moves; there are different rules for moving overseas.
- Keep a ledger with every address you live at. Bonus points for keeping the names and phone numbers of people you knew when living there. You will need this for security clearance updates, some job applications, if your child goes into the military and many more. It is nice to have it listed in one convenient place.
- Always travel with the bolts, screws and other small parts to put your furniture back together. Nothing is worse than trying to find which box those parts are in when trying to set up a bed when everyone is tired and ready for bed. I know people who have elaborate systems for color coding the moving boxes. I have never been that organized but I can see how useful that could be.
- Save every piece of military paper work EVERY PIECE. You cannot imagine how many times we’ve had to reference obscure paperwork over the years. My husband has a big binder for orders, awards, school certificates and then everything else goes in a box. He has had to verify he has attended a school and now facing retirement he has had to dig up quite a few things from his service.
- Always embrace your new duty station. I can remember a move to Fort Leavenworth when we were put in extremely small, substandard housing. At first glance it would appear to be a terrible assignment. It turned out to be one of my favorite. Everyone in the neighborhood had young kids the same age as mine and families would often do impromptu potlucks and we’d all eat outside to get out of our small spaces. There will always be a silver lining if you are willing to look for it.
What are some things you wished you had known about military life that could have made it easier?
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.WanderWordsWine.com