My husband and I are both retired military, him from active duty and me from the Army Reserves. We don’t live near a military post or base. We rarely make the 4-hour drive to the closest commissary and exchange. Despite those facts, I find myself reminded daily of many of the items we list in 1001 Things to Love About Military Life. Here are a few.
The most obvious of course is the fact that we have #966 Retirement Pay (well, Greg has his and I will when I turn 60.) Also crucial is #963, Medical Coverage in Retirement. We’ve had a positive experience with Tricare Prime. Our non-military friends are envious. We know so many people working well into their 70’s and later, not because they love what they do, but simply for medical insurance.
Where we live is a direct result of #995 The chance to explore different parts of this country and world, then decide where we would most want to live, all on Uncle Sam’s dime. I grew up in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, Greg in California (along with some years for both of us overseas on military bases.) In our many moves with the military, the fact that we got to live in so many different areas for a year or more really clarified for us what we like and don’t like. Assignments back in Virginia as well as in Alabama and Florida convinced us both we are not cut out for high heat or high humidity and life with air conditioning. Assignments in the DC area and in Tacoma, Washington convinced us both we are not cut out for congested traffic areas. Three assignments in the Pacific Northwest, an area I had never been to prior to military life, convinced us both that this was the region for us, climate-wise, activity-wise, lifestyle-wise.
I credit our military experience for how quickly we settled into this new town: #996.The ability to create community wherever you move in retirement because you’ve had to do that over and over in this military life. I was a shy child growing up. All the moves with the military both as a civil service brat but more so as a military member and later military spouse forced me outside my comfort zone. I had to learn the skills of quick connection and building community, “finding my tribe” as I like to say. Many months after moving here I heard a woman talk about how hard it had been for her to connect to community here. I thought, “Really? That hasn’t been my experience at all.” Greg and I both know how to connect with people, ask questions, engage in conversations, all skills we honed over the many years of military moves.
Our book includes one item that really should be reworded and expanded: #983 The many retired military and their spouses who volunteer at USO. Yes, I love talking to retirees who volunteer at the USO. I often stop in as I travel to take advantage of the comfortable seats, internet connection, and free tea. I watch how helpful and caring the volunteers are to the young military members and spouses I often see at the USO, in many cases brand new recruits on their way to training, looking as scared as I remember being. However, our item #983 could as easily read: The many retired military and their spouses who volunteer. Period.
As I still travel to do workshops for military spouse groups, I run into so many retirees and spouses of retirees who are volunteering in programs to help make military family lives easier, and in other cases volunteering in civilian community programs, carrying their sense of service over from military to civilian life.
We have great examples in our small town. Our Citizen of the Year this past year was Dave Dillon, retired Navy. He is active in Rotary, helped found and serves on the board of our local arts and culture center, started and continues each year to head up fundraising and management of our 4th of July fireworks on the beach as well as coordinating a military color guard for our small town parade, handles PR for our emergency preparedness committee; the list goes on and on. When I asked him about his deep involvement, Dave mentioned his sense of service from his military time. “Plus,” he said, “all those years with the military taught me how to get things done!”
Of course the item that may well mean the most to me is #959 Friendships in the military that last a lifetime. Recent travels and visits here remind me how strong those friendships are, how we fall easily right back into deep conversation.
And oh yes, just yesterday as I moved furniture in vacuuming, one more reminder. I found myself laughing and smiling and reminiscing, all courtesy of # 372 Finding moving stickers of different colors on your furniture years after retiring from the military! We may have left the military, but the military hasn’t left us.