Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Six Years

Six years ago, I never would have thought that I'd be using the word "civilian" to describe every day Americans. Today marks our sixth anniversary from the day Joel joined the Air Force! A lot has gone on in those years.

graduation day!

Growing up, and even when I got married, I never ever thought about being a military spouse. It was just something that was never on my radar. Joel and I met, got married, and had a lot of plans, but again, the military was never one of the things we considered. Then Sam came along,  I quit my job, and we decided to really gain our independence by leaving Colorado and moving to Indiana when he was 4 months old. We had some money in savings, and after a month or two of searching, Joel found a job at a paper factory.  The next few months were pretty rough. Joel was working 10+ hours six days a week, and going to school full time. It was lonely for sure! It got so bad, I convinced Joel to buy me a cat so I'd have a friend. :P Obviously it was hard for Joel, but the knowledge that it would be at least 4 years before he'd have a degree and any better job opportunities is what made him look into the military. I told him "absolutely not" for the army and the marines.  At that time soldiers routinely deployed 12-18 months.  I'm glad for sure he didn't go that route for so many reasons now!  Anyways, Joel enlisted and six months later he was headed for basic. Funny thing is, about a month before he left, he got a much better job as an assistant for a law firm, and we had a lot of "did we do the right thing??" but I have never once regretted our decision!

His 8 weeks at basic also turned out to be very good for me. I've never been very confident, and after we got married I fell into the habit of having him confirm every single decision I was making. When he was gone, I had to make those all on my own. I think it helped teach me that I can do things on my own.

We've gotten to live in some amazing places. The shorter moves (like our last one) are pretty hard-six months is both a long and short time, but overall, the military has opened up so many opportunities that we would never have had before! I love the experience of moving to new places.
Second, and I'm really appreciating this one, as long as Joel stays in for ten years (which he's committed to now), he can pass on a good chunk of his GI Bill to our kids. That means that Sam, Allie, and Owen's first year of college is already completely paid for. That is BIG. Like really big!!
There is obviously job security (and even with the military downsizing, I don't think that Joel will ever be in danger of losing his job), medical benefits, and retirement (although I wouldn't be surprised if those change at some point). I love the fact that our family is part of something important.
We've got another four years before a decision has to be made, but at this point it's looking like we'll be in the full 20 it takes to get to retirement. Joel has taken an officer's qualifying exam, and scored well, so at some point in the future he may put in an application for that  that will take some thought though...the pay & position would be a huge increase, but so would the deployments/moves/stress. There are some things money can't buy!).
There are some things we haven't been through yet. The big one being a deployment. Joel is at the top of the list for going now though. Within a year, he'll most likely be sent somewhere, but I feel like I'm at a stage now where I'll (probably) survive.
Being a military wife becomes part of your identity. They have coffee cups, sweaters, and bumper stickers just for us!
And finally, just to be honest, the uniform is hot. I don't know that you can beat a man in uniform(besides the possibility of a man in a tux, but I can't think of a job where he'd wear a tuxedo every day...)
That just might be my favorite part about this all. ;) 

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