Military Life involves moving. Often. And the location is not the reason for moves – nope, moving occurs for the best career progression for the service member’s military occupations specialties (MOS) or for “the needs of the service.” That doesn’t mean that we don’t have dream locations to live in. Here are 5 on my wish list. Admittedly, we have made it to a couple of these, and it wasn’t until we actually arrived that I realized that there was a lot to offer to make it a duty station on my wish list.
This island serves as the base for Camp Butler, which is made up of multiple bases of all the service branches – Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Army (I don’t know if they have Space Force yet). While Okinawa is not on everyone’s list for preferred duty stations, it has a lot to offer. For one, most of the DOD service branches are represented on the tiny island. This is a great opportunity for families to socialize outside their military service branch and learn about life as an Air Force family, and for them to learn about life as a Navy family. Living in Asia also affords the opportunity to try local produce – have you heard of bitter melon or goya? While not everyone in your family may enjoy the food – it is a wonderful opportunity to try it, and for relatively affordable prices. The Japanese also have a love for French bakeries, meaning that are many patisseries on the island offering shaped buns with cream or bean fillings. Enjoy French food without the flight cost. Just like amazing food, there are amazing drink offerings in Okinawa – canned coffees or various teas, it’s a treat just to shop at the local grocery store. Oh, did I mention the beach? Crystal clear waters that seem to go for miles. The island is essentially on top of a reef so the beaches are shallow for a fair distance, and drop off drastically when the reef ends. The shallow waters are perfect opportunities to peering at local fish or jellies without visiting an aquarium. The temperate climate is essentially one season, although you will acclimate to the “cold” of the 50s and 60s but may never acclimate to the humidity. One more perk for Okinawa – the local children’s parks. There are themed parks scattered across the island, and sometimes in the most surprising places. Roller slides and zip lines are commonplace in parks, and some are directly on the beach – a dream for active children.
Location, location, location. San Diego is a dream vacation destination for many, and the opportunity to live in a travel destination is pretty incredible. The proximity to the ocean permits for amazingly fresh seafood at the local markets at affordable prices, or get them cooked from the many delectable restaurants in Little Italy or the Gaslamp District. From museums in Balboa Park to the world-renown San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, the ability to explore the great outdoors and learn about the community, the animals and the world are numerous. The aquariums and zoos aren’t just for kids. San Diego allows for another opportunity for learning from another military community as San Diego plays host to the U.S. Navy, USMC, and US Coast Guard. As a vacation destination and melting pot of military branches, many cultures are represented in the coastal city. The variety of cultural influence is easily seen in the bi-annual San Diego Restaurant week featuring cuisines from Argentinean to Greek to Persian, all for affordable prix fixe menu prices. San Diego’s temperate coastal climate is enjoyable for all, not just surfers.
Festivals, food, and history await in Germany. Living overseas as a military family allows for an amazing community. Whether living on base or off, there is a tight-knit community of overseas families. If you live off base in the economy, take the opportunity to get to know the locals who will have the best tips for food, best prices on local items, and travel tips. Forget about what we are told is German food and try the local cuisine. As a country, Germany was established before Europeans were living in America so there is a lot of history to explore. Castles, cathedrals, and churches feed the history-buff and architecture-addict inside and the Christkindlmarket is heavenly for Christmas-enthusiasts. Like other overseas locations, both the Army, Air Force, and USMC military service branches are located in Germany as well as Joint bases where a variety of service members are assigned in addition to NATO and government-service civilians. This wide variety of people brings a wide variety of experiences for learning both on and off work.
Living in the middle of Europe in Germany means not just the amazing opportunity of living in Germany, but also the ease of travel throughout Europe by rail. Don’t worry about driving on the other side of the road, you can hop on a train with a suitcase and passport and head to Belgium, France, or the Netherlands in no time at all.
No specific base within Germany, we’ll take any of them!
Another broad area for military installations because there are many within the area – there is Fort Story, NAS Oceana, Dam Neck, Little Creek within the Virginia Beach area, and broader still there is Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, US Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, and Norfolk Naval Station. While stationed here, history buffs are within an easy drive to Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg to learn about Colonial America’s development. The beaches along Virginia Beach are beautiful. Military families can enjoy beaches on the bases – Dam Neck beach and Fort Story – without large crowds allowing having the resort-feel for a day trip to the beach. The ocean-front location means amazing seafood from the various restaurants or seafood markets along the coast. The local Aquarium and Marine Science Center allow for hands-on nature experiences for all ages. Virginia Beach is another vacation destination for families, and the chance to live there for a few years means beach living 365.
Washington D.C. has a lot to offer, much more than politics. Like other duty stations, all of the DOD military service branches are represented here and at the various military bases in the Northern Virginia and Maryland area, allowing meeting people from different backgrounds and experiences. Also, there are so many FREE museums to check out. The Smithsonian Museums have unprecedented collections of gemstones and historical artifacts from the National Museum of Natural History or the National Air and Space Museum and worth exploring with or without kids. The museums of the National Museum of American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture offer cultural, educational experiences. The United States Holocaust Museum, while emotional, is worth the visit to understand the breadth and depth of the Holocaust beyond what we learned in school. Beyond education, cultural experiences of amazing food options are available on the city’s food delivery apps. From Italian gelato to Japanese sushi to Korean BBQ, local markets featuring the cuisine. Restaurant week in the area allows for trying out different cuisine with affordable pricing. Enjoy the bounty of wine country and enjoy all the seasons in the Shenandoah Valley, a couple hours’ drive from the city.
What are the duty stations on your wish list?