When your spouse finally decides to hit the button and retire from the military, there are a mix of emotions. I tell everyone I know that I am leery about a retirement ceremony because I am an emotional woman who cries at the drop of a hat. And employment is a worry too. Will we be able to find a job to support ourselves? There’s also joy thinking about the vacation we will take once our commitment is over. But many spouses will tell you that they are super-excited about two things.
First, they cannot wait to decide where to live.
While in the service, Uncle Sam orders you to live in each location. You could have your heart set on your next possible assignment to exotic locale A but the reality is that you are headed to the middle-of-nowhere location B. Now, in all fairness, the truth is somewhere in between but the bottom line is that you don’t get to choose. But once you are a retiree, the world is your oyster. See Top 10 Places to Lives After the Military.
Do you live stateside? Is your favorite assignment your choice? Or do you go somewhere you’ve only dreamed about? Maybe, just maybe, you decide to become an ex-pat and live la bella vita overseas. While those options are varied and wide, the best part is that no one can tell you “no.”
The second decision that spouses are thrilled to make has to do with length of time.
It is up to you to choose how long you stay in one place. There are some military assignments that last a specific amount of time: command or overseas tours. At least with your OCONUS tours, you can try to get an extension for an additional year but that is the maximum you can do. There are also times when you really want to leave a base but you aren’t released to do so. At our first Ops Base, we were ready to move after three years. All of our friends had PCS’d but we stayed behind and I couldn’t understand why. I had the itch to move on. That’s when that sour taste sets in.
If you really like a location, you can ask to be reassigned there again. The military gods may have different ideas, but you can ask. But maybe you have a career path like my spouse where there are only a few bases where they can do their job. We have returned to our “home base” four times throughout our career. I have actually enjoyed the city where we keep returning, but that doesn’t mean that it was top of my list.
While those two decisions are high on my list, they aren’t at the apex. I’m of a different ilk;
I can’t wait to be consistent with my health care.
You read that right: I am psyched about going to the doctors. That may seem like an odd thing to get excited about but I think you’ll soon understand why.
Whenever we PCS, I inevitably find myself doing everything BUT taking care of my health. First, the house needs unpacking. Even though I work quickly, it fills up my days. After that, I have to wait for my spouse so he can hang the pictures and the curtains. Then there are stores to find, Starbucks to locate, and groceries to buy. And once the kids are taken care of with their new school and activities, I can focus on myself. Do I do that? Of course not.
If you are like me, daily life gets in the way. There are chores to complete and people to meet. This is especially true for me these last few years when our moves have been for command tours. Our Airmen and their families are the priority. And if you work outside the home, there is little time for “time off.”
Once I’m in a place where I can breathe, I MAY remember to place those phone calls. Inevitably the dentist appointments that are available for first-time patients are three months out. Oops! Stupid PSC! So what if you had the reminder card mailed to you? There was no time before you moved.
And the same thing happens when I schedule a doctor’s appointment, it turns out that I am a year and a half overdue! I should know better. Even though we carry our records from one base to the other, do you think we look at them? Of course not! Even worse is that the AMA now recommends that women only have their pap smears every three years. How am I supposed to remember that?
It’s not that I don’t want to take care of myself. Thank goodness the military makes sure that my spouse is regularly scheduled for exams. That is one less thing for me to worry about. I still bug my husband to go to the doctor for all of his ailments but as we all know, moms don’t get sick days. We make sure everyone else stays well first. And because we don’t get sick, there is no need to call the doctor.
At least once we retire, I will remain in one location long enough to receive reminders from my doctor about my health care. I am envious of my parents who know that every year during X month, they go in for their yearly physicals. Or that their optometrist will notify them when they are due for an eye exam. Right now, I judge that by noticing when my contacts run out.
Someday, someday soon, my fantasy will become reality. Then my only road block will be navigating Tricare as a retiree.