After growing up with a mom and dad who both served in the military, Alyssa Hill figured she was ready for the rigors of Army life when she and her high school sweetheart officer-in-training got married.
“I really thought I knew what I was getting myself into,” the 29-year-old Fort Hood resident said. “My mom and my dad were both enlisted, and then my mom’s second husband was an officer in the Army, so I feel like I had a different perspective, and that I really knew what Army life was like.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world, at all, but it was definitely an eye-opening experience.”
Alyssa was born at Fort Lewis, Wash., and lived there for about two years. She lived with her grandparents in Florida and in Wisconsin for a while, and a total of eight states overall before the family settled in Georgia, where she graduated high school in 2012 in Cummings, near Atlanta.
A standout athlete, she was offered a track scholarship to Brenau University, an all-girls school in Gainesville, Ga., where she spent one year before transferring to the University of North Georgia to finish her academic and athletic career.
“Brenau was great, but I needed a little more in my college experience,” Alyssa said. “I wanted to be challenged more. I actually won a national championship in steeplechase (but) it was an NAIA school (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics; competition level similar to NCAA Division II) and I wanted to go into the NCAA world a little bit.”
Her boyfriend since eighth grade, Josh, was also away at college that first year and both wound up transferring to North Georgia and graduating from there — Alyssa with a degree in kinesiology and exercise science in 2016, and Josh a year later from the school’s military program.
“I graduated on May 7 and we got married on May 14,” Alyssa said. “I was, like, OK, I’m graduating and we’ve got to figure out — because we didn’t live together or anything — if we’re going to get married and do the Army life, or I’m going to go out and get a job and we’ll figure it out from there.
“We said, ‘Let’s get married,’ so he finished his last year of school, and I started working.”
Things went smoothly for a while, as Alyssa worked in medical sales and Josh finished school, got commissioned and headed to officer training at Fort Benning. When he got orders for Fort Carson, Colo., things got a little more complicated.
“We were living at his parents’ lake house, and he was driving almost an hour north to go to North Georgia and finish his last year of school, and I was driving an hour south to Atlanta for work,” Alyssa said. “I did that for a year, year-and-a-half, and then he graduated. He was going to school down at Fort Benning and the company I was working for said, ‘You know what, we really like you, so we’re going to keep you on.’
“So I commuted between Fort Benning and Atlanta, which was about a two-and-a-half hour drive. I did that and I also kind of worked part-time remote. I worked with them almost four years. Then he got orders to Fort Carson, and my company said they would keep me on full-time remote from Colorado.
“We got there and the first week — I think it was Monday — I got laid off from my job because they got bought out and decided they didn’t want any remote employees. Wednesday, we found out we were pregnant, and Friday we found out he was deploying.
“I was, like, ‘OK, this is our life.’”
With a baby on the way, Alyssa was on her own for seven months while Josh served in Afghanistan during 2018-19. It was a fairly difficult time, but she soon found a job and before too long, the family was reunited — for a while.
“It was definitely a challenge,” she said. “I got laid off my job, and just moving to a new state and not knowing anyone … being 23 or 24 years old, no family anywhere close, we had just bought a house. We had only been married a few years at that point. Being pregnant and not knowing if he was going to make it home. You kind of always have those thoughts when they’re deployed. Of course, it was a different time in 2018-19 versus 2010, 2011.
“We made an agreement that he wasn’t going to tell me everything that was happening in the moment. I was going through a high-risk pregnancy, so I was, like, ‘You know what? We don’t need all that stress.’
“Then, him coming home and explaining some things that happened, and having a little bit of PTSD with certain sounds and noises. You’re just, like, ‘How can I help him? How can we reintegrate and bring our household back together before we have a baby?’ That’s definitely challenging.
“It wasn’t really that big a transition, because it was only the two of us at that time. But when he was gone to Ranger School, we had two kids and then I had a baby while he was at Ranger School. So that was definitely a big transition, not only for myself but also for him coming home to a new baby.
“My kids were only 2 and 1 then, and so they didn’t really understand. Trying to tell them daddy is coming home soon, but not right now, is definitely a challenge. They don’t understand field time: ‘Where is he? He’s supposed to tuck me in.’ My daughter is almost four now, and I can reason with her a little better. My 2-year-old will ask me (about daddy) and then he’ll wait a couple minutes and ask me again, and I’m, like, ‘Dude, I just told you, he’s not coming home tonight.’
“You definitely grow up, regardless of what age you are.”
The Hills have been stationed at Fort Hood since last May, and Alyssa has been a military spouse for six years now. There have been tough times here and there, but overall, the Army lifestyle has been good to them, she says, and she has no regrets whatsoever.
“When I lost my job, I got a little bit frustrated. Just letting it sink in that, ‘Look, it’s going to be hard to have a job, especially when you’re living in military communities. Whether you come out and say you’re a military spouse or not, they’re going to look into your LinkedIn profile. They’re going to look to see which cities you’ve lived in. They’re going to see you’ve been at Fort Benning, Fort Carson, and now here. She’s obviously military and do we really want to invest in hiring her when she’s probably going to be moving in three or four years.
“I think that has been my biggest challenge as a military spouse. Getting a degree and then having a good, successful job, and then getting laid off and us constantly moving. I feel like every time we have moved, I’ve gotten to the point where I have to decide I’ll just take what I can get.
“It’s definitely hard to have a career as a military spouse. So I’ve gotten into a lot of different things, trying to find what fits, and I think sometimes I just fall short.”
Right now, Alyssa works as a virtual assistant, helping other military spouses with business marketing, social media management, website design, website building. As a lifelong athlete, she enjoys physical fitness — “I usually have to get up at 5 a.m. to work out.” — and once owned an iStroll exercise franchise back at Fort Benning. She is enjoying central Texas and living on the military post, which is something she highly recommends for young Army families.
“I definitely would recommend new military spouses to be on post, because that’s the community that’s going to understand you the most. You’re surrounded by a community that definitely knows what you’re going through and are there to help. When someone offers help, take them up on it, regardless of whether you know them very well or not. I think that’s huge. It’s a community that I don’t think is beatable at all.
“We really like it here. There’s a lot to do. I have three children, age 4, 2 and 1, so we have our hands full, and we think there’s so much to go and do with them, which is really nice. We enjoy it.
“We like to be outside (and) we like to go to indoor play places. We like to go check out the area, so once or twice a week, the kids and I are driving over to Temple and exploring the Children’s Museum or the train park, things like that.
“I feel like our kids are definitely very well-rounded. They like to meet new people and friends. I think it’s an awesome lifestyle for kids to grow up in the Army world.
“We have been so blessed with the Army life. My husband enjoys his work and the opportunities that he’s had. We’ve had one deployment, and that was before (we had) kids. And then he went to Ranger School last year, which I kind of associate with a deployment because he wound up being there way longer (six months) than it usually takes.
“My husband is my best friend, and I truly believe the Army has opened up so many doors for us. Moving around and kind of forcing us to move to new locations. We watch our peers who graduated high school and college with us, and they just stay put. They don’t really go anywhere.
“The benefits of being in the Army has definitely been in our favor.”
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