When a Spouse Tags Along for a Year in Korea

Grace and met through a mutual friend when I found out she was starting a military spouse website. I have written a few articles for Spousehood. I asked her to share her story about tagging along with her husband on his remote tour to Korea. Did you know that the military still has bases in South Korea?

During the long, hot days of July in Miami, my husband and I began our preparations. The house that had once been my nesting place — where I created comfort for myself by arranging every room "just so" — became a divided map of the year and a half ahead of us.

During the long, hot days of July in Miami, my husband and I began our preparations. The house that had once been my nesting place — where I created comfort for myself by arranging every room “just so” — became a divided map of the year and a half ahead of us. It was a map with only vague, and certainly insufficient, directions for the journey ahead.

I never expected to accompany my husband on anything akin to a deployment, but there we were, standing in the “Korea Room.” It was in this room that we gathered our supplies for a year at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea. My husband’s supplies were simple to assemble, but the fact that I wasn’t “officially” supposed to accompany him made it difficult to create a useful packing list for myself.

Making a Home

Ordinarily, on our relatively temporary ventures, I packed the items that were essential to creating a “home.” I didn’t need any specialized gear or military uniforms. I wouldn’t be living in a dorm room that might hold a predictable list of essentials when I arrived. Having built a freelance career, my work was portable, so all I needed for that was my laptop and a few books. But unlike my husband, I had never planned to spend a year away from “home.”

I started by filling the room with items from my husband’s list. That was easy — bedding and linens and the like. He gathered his gear and stacked it in a corner. But I felt like a misfit. It seemed like an adventure I would tag along on, but wasn’t meant for me.

The Korea Room

My piles in the Korea room initially towered like the anxiety piling up on my chest. Should I take my KitchenAid stand mixer so that I could (at the very least) make marshmallows for Christmas? How cold would it be there? What clothing did I need to replace after five years of living in warm climates where winter never ventured? Would there be a normal coffee maker in the apartment where I would eventually settle?

I had far more ridiculous thoughts than those every time I set foot in the room. I put things in and took them out again, perpetually debating just what it would take to make a tiny apartment in Kunsan, South Korea “home.”

It didn’t help that each time the question, “Where are y’all headed?” arose, it was followed by, “Are you worried about going there?” It was a knife-like reminder of the worries beyond worries that I simply couldn’t consider all at once. The government wasn’t evacuating any of the command sponsored spouses, so I refused, more and more, to let North Korea scare me away from our plans.

Moving Day

Then, the first moving day arrived — the one where we jammed all our stuff into PODs and hoped for the best. Naturally, anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. With a Red Bull and a prayer, I became a problem-solving, not-taking-no-for-an-answer ninja. I plowed through obstacle after obstacle, because there wasn’t time for anything else. We were leaving one way or another. But the Korea room, which would be packed up and shipped the next day, remained chaotic. I tip-toed around it, compartmentalizing the anxiety it gave me.

Few things in life bring clarity like a final deadline. After the movers left for the day, there was nothing left in our house but an air mattress, everything we planned to pack in our car, and the Korea room. I realized that I was struggling to organize that room because I was so focused on my worries that I had forgotten to consider my purpose. Or perhaps, as a tag-along, I had felt that I had no real purpose in going at all. But suddenly my piles seemed silly.

Following My Husband

I wasn’t going so that I could take my “home” to South Korea. And I didn’t need stuff to prepare me for the days ahead. I was going because that was where my husband was going. And wherever we were, I decided I wanted to be all there. I was going because that was the next stop God had planned for us. He hasn’t led us astray yet. I didn’t know what lessons God had in store, but this felt like the first of many. So, I decided I was all-in, that God would work out the rest, and that He would take care of any discomfort that ensued. I easily slashed my piles in half and packed up my stand mixer just in time to load the excess into our POD before it was picked up the next morning.

I finally realized that my purpose was adventure, and I couldn’t afford to check the extra baggage of my fears and insecurities when I boarded my 12-hour flight.

Grace is the founder and editorial director of Spousehood.com, a Christian lifestyle site for military spouses. After years of experience working for websites and magazines, she wanted to use her skills to serve her military family. Now, in collaboration with a small team, she helps develop free weekly and deployment devotionals for military spouses, as well as articles for the site. You can follow Spousehood on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Today is Day 19 of 31 Days of Deployment Stories. If you missed Day 1 you can start here. Yesterday I shared a lawyer’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, tomorrow I’m sharing a guy’s perspective in Afghanistan. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for my weekly emails here.

10 comments on “When a Spouse Tags Along for a Year in Korea

  1. Wow! That must have been quite an adventure, Grace! We’ve moved a lot during our married years, and it’s never easy or efficient ;). It takes me years to unpack everything (maybe I have too much stuff) and decorate the new place.

    • You get used to redecorating when you are in the military, but somehow it is crazy the stuff you find that moves from place to place.

  2. So good… I especially loved this line: “my purpose was adventure, and I couldn’t afford to check the extra baggage of my fears and insecurities when I boarded” So good –and true for all of us!

    • I talked to Grace, she actually leaves for Korea next week. I’ll be sure to share an update on either my blog or Spousehood.com after she gets settled.

    • It is so nice to see that people see how much work it was. Thanks for the encouragement. I have been so lucky to be able to share these stories. So happy so many people are reading.

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