When a military member gets their DD214 there is a block on it that asks for home of record. It asks where a service member enlisted and shipped out of. For many people this is where they grew up. This is where parents, siblings, and friends still live. It’s where you fly to spend holidays and the state you say you’re from after you explain that the military may have changed your geography but that’s still home.
If you had asked my father where home was while he was in the Navy, he would have told you Bethlehem, PA. Yet when he retired he didn’t go back there. He stayed in Virginia near my sister and me. Then he eventually moved to Louisiana to be closer to his wife’s family and now if you ask him he’d tell you home is in the bayou.
If you asked me where home was, I’d tell you it was with the Navy. Moving so much growing up I never knew how to answer that question with just one place. Ironically, now that I’m enlisted and stationed in the last place I thought I wanted to go I realize that Virginia is my home and I am having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I’ll have to PCS away from here eventually.
If you ask my husband where home is, he will tell you it’s anywhere with me. Then he’ll tell you it’s in Idaho and that he is very homesick living in South Carolina away from me and away from his family. He can’t see making South Carolina home no matter how long he’s there if he’s alone.
It’s amazing how we see home after being in the military isn’t it? So what happens when our version of home becomes something so different from what we expected it to be? Some military families decide to set down roots in their new cities after retirement or separation. So how do you break the news to your family that you’re not coming back?
Explain to them why you and your family have made that choice. Maybe it’s because of a job. The job market isn’t exactly thriving still these days. Even with preferential hiring for veterans at certain companies, there could still be a struggle to find the job we want in the old hometown. Active duty members have to take TAPS classes before we separate to help us gain the skills we need to be successful in job hunting, resume writing, college applications, etc. but none of that can guarantee we will find a job quickly or geographically pleasing. So if you’re staying somewhere for a job that is too good to pass up let your family know. They will understand! And if they don’t you can always threaten to move into their basement and drive them crazy enough that they will be wishing you’d stayed away!
Maybe it’s your kids you’re staying for. Often times the last duty station for a military couple hits about the same time that kids are in middle and high school. It’s been discussed often how hard it is to tear a kid away from friends and schools they love during this time. If you want to stay for the kids, that is wonderful. Let Grandma and Grandpa know that while they see their town as home for you because of all the memories you made there, you want your child to have the same chance to make memories like that with the friends they have now. After uprooting children through a military career they will be thankful to be allowed to stay in the same school from start to finish. I know that I was! Even with how much I loved moving around, when I got to go to high school for 4 years in the same school it was amazing. Maybe that’s why I’m so reluctant to leave here now.
And after you explain to the family just why it is you’re staying put or moving to a new town that isn’t where they expected, remind them of one thing: no matter where you might be, they are still your family and you still love them. Your family loves you. They just want what’s best for you and they will be thrilled to know that you aren’t calling to tell them it’s PCS time again. Your roots might not be as close to the family tree as they hoped but at least you’re going to have the chance to feel settled. You can remind that that they survived a military career’s worth of time apart and you didn’t disappear between all the moves and you won’t now either. Your family just wants to know that they aren’t losing you. Remind them you’re still a branch of the family tree…just transplanted somewhere that is worth visiting!
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