One of the most common questions people ask me when they find out I served in the military is why did you leave? Why didn’t you stay until retirement?
And while the retirement package is desirable. There is a lot of hard work and sacrifice required to get to that point. Military members who are married to people who are serving in the military, often referred to as mil to mil, make countless sacrifices.
In the six years of mil to mil service, my husband and I spend a lot of time apart. Both of us attended various training events and work travel. Along with the fact my husband sometimes had to work nights for various missions. And then there were the base exercises causing my schedule to go a little sideways. That doesn’t even touch on the deployment. A deployment that ended with me coming home to a pile of stuff left behind at a friend’s house. My husband had already moved due to a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Eventually, we were reunited. But with a year combined of training and being deployed apart. Those last two and a half months of separation while we were both stateside was added salt to a wound.
Did I mention we never PCSed to the next assignment at the same time?
And these things, although not desirable were pretty easy to navigate as a military couple without children. It was easy for us each to chase our career dreams and go where the military needed us to go. But we were beginning to feel the pinch of our career field differences and knew with each assignment the likelihood that we would actually be stationed together would continue to decrease.
There are a lot of advantages to both being in the military. When you do get to move to the next assignment (hopefully together) you have a job right away. You are even paid for your current job as you move from one location to the other. The military pay for both of us combined was a great plus. It also helped us prepare for the next life phase. Life with kids. And we both got a chance to see the world. But…
How long would the sacrifices required by the military be worth it?
When I found out I was pregnant it was a hard and easy choice to leave the military behind. When you put the pros and cons on paper it was a simple choice. And at the time was the best choice for our family. It is easy to look back at the choice and think it might have been the wrong one to make. But it doesn’t take a lot of reflection to realize that my ideal form of military life wouldn’t have been a reality.
The one deployment to Afghanistan was a quick reminder of how hard it was to be away from my husband, family, and friends. Add kids to the mix and it would have been a lot harder, not only on me but my husband as well.
Mil to mil life was actually a lot harder to walk away from than I ever expected.
The good parts of the military are truly hard to say goodbye to. And I guess that is why in some families it makes the most sense for both parents to continue to serve in the military. There is no one quick answer to help you decide what is best for you and for your life situation.
Have you served as a mil to mil couple? What was your experience like? What was the biggest challenge you faced while serving? Or What was the thing that made you decide it was time to walk away?
Want to hear more about mil to mil life check out my podcast interview with Dear MilFamily Podcast: Here!