We just had a wonderful time with family members who flew to Texas for a quick weekend visit. We love it when family visits us, no matter where we’re living. More often we are the ones to drive or fly back to see them in New Jersey or Wisconsin, which is always nice, too.
As often as we have moved around through the decades, it can be difficult to slip back into the family’s patterns and rhythms. Although our families are very supportive of Jim and his service, we often feel like outsiders when spending time with our family and friends from back home.
When together with family, we catch up on how work is going for them, and how children are doing in school. We hear about their travels and celebrations together; the ones we miss because we live so far away.
Once again, I’m thankful for technology, because it’s fun to see photos of family and friends back home. It’s easier to see and understand how the nieces and nephews are growing and changing, when we can’t see them in person.
While it’s nice to keep up with family and friends back home, I’ve become more thankful for our extended Army family who have wrapped their arms and taken us in to their lives, too. We have a wonderful support system of roots back home, but we also have Army family support, which has helped us branch out and grow.
I have civilian friends with special-needs children, but who have not been a part of 20 different education teams regarding their children’s educational needs. When I was sharing my experiences with one friend, looking to her for support, she asked, “Didn’t you just go through this two years ago? I thought you all had worked out a solution.” Yes, but that was with a different school team over 2,000 miles away.
When feeling especially worn out and tired in the face of yet one more move, one family member said something like, “You chose to be in the military. That’s your problem.” I thought to respond but didn’t, “Thank you for your caring support…not.” Some people are incapable of putting themselves in my shoes, or my husband’s combat boots, for that matter, and finding a modicum of empathy for what we were facing.
One of our real estate agents, who has since become my friend, was blown away when I told her my husband had to spend the summer on the other side of the United States, training ROTC cadets at a camp. She told me that when her boyfriend was gone for two weeks that her world practically stood still, until he returned. She couldn’t comprehend him being gone almost three months. I told her not to worry, that we would be fine, and that the house would actually be quieter, with less dirty laundry and dishes to clean. She laughed.
My realtor friend wasn’t laughing as much when we had to relist our house on the market six months later, less than two years after we had purchased it with her help. We had moved in, and were moving out of a neighborhood that held generations of families only blocks from each other. Many of my friends from that town had only lived away from the area when they attended their colleges.
I am very appreciative of our family and friends “back home.” It’s OK that they don’t or can’t comprehend the challenges we face in our day-to-day military lives.
I remember what it felt like to live in the same town for 17 years, to grow up in the same house. This is something my boys will never understand, unless it’s a lifestyle they choose once they leave home and build lives of their own.
Our life with the Army has made us much stronger in many ways, though. We have a pool of wonderful friends from all walks of life, living all across the globe. We’ve learned to make friends quickly, and to reach out quickly to others who may be struggling around us. We’ve learned how to face challenges and work hard and fast to find solutions to them. We’ve learned to appreciate different parts of the country, their communities and history.
Through the challenges and struggles, we have been blessed and are thankful.
Karin Markert is an Army spouse and Herald photo and writing correspondent. She and her family live at Fort Hood.