Thank you Operation In Touch for sponsoring today’s post!
Jamie and I were talking recently about all of the excitement that went on at West Point last month surrounding graduation and commissioning activities. Jamie and my brother-in-law Josh are members of the class of 2010, and being in New York to celebrate the end of their college experience and the very beginning of their Army careers was a whirlwind like no other.
Though we weren’t engaged yet during “grad week”, we’d had enough conversations about the future to clue me in that he wanted me along as his co-passenger to his Army career. (Unbeknownst to me, he’d be down on one knee five weeks later and we’d be exchanging vows just seven months after that!)
I vividly remember the pomp and circumstance dying down and being able to barely breathe as he raised his right hand and said his oath along with the rest of his class as they officially transitioned from cadets to 2nd lieutenants in the U.S. Army.
It was in that moment that all of the dreaming, wondering, and discussing life after West Point became real. College was over for both of us that year, and we’d drive away from campus just a few hours later hand in hand, ready to take on day #1 of what “real” military life had in store.
I think about military members around the nation graduating this summer from various enlisted programs and universities, and the special significant others who are quietly waiting on the sidelines, ready for an adventure like no other. I can feel their excitement, their pride, their nervousness, all of it. Oh, how I wish I could just bear hug all of them! If the love of your life is a brand new service member, here are some practical tips I would share with you about how to better tackle the first year or two of life in the “real” military.
Be social even when it’s uncomfortable.
You will likely be invited to official and non-official events with your military member. Some will be formally associated with the unit, and others will be less formal and simply more social. It’s likely that it will take a while to feel comfortable and make real friends. Keep attending. Keep putting yourself out there, and don’t be intimated by rank. Developing these social skills and being comfortable with the “uncomfortable” will serve you extremely well throughout your time in the military. My favorite quote regarding social events is “You will never regret going, but you very well may regret not going.”
Story: During our first few weeks at our second duty station, we were invited to a Kentucky Derby party at one of Jamie’s new classmates houses. I had run a 10k that morning and pushed it way too hard, so I was feeling quite sick and achy that afternoon. I didn’t know anyone who would be at the party and didn’t have any motivation to go since we’d also have our five month old in tow. I later regretted the decision to stay home because not only did Jamie have the best time, but that’s where a big group of spouses all met each other and became friendly. Though I got to know them later in the course, I missed out on months of “hang time” with these wonderful women simply because we all didn’t know each other.
Learn the basic lingo.
Set aside a night with your military member to discuss not only rankings in the military but also what terms like company, battalion, brigade, etc. mean. Learn how to read and write these terms. Understanding these as early as possible will help you feel more “clued in” and interested when these terms are being used in formal and non-formal settings.
Be the host.
The military is social simply because community is essential. When you don’t have any of your family or friends in your city (or often even your spouse), it’s crucial to build a circle of people who will be there for you (and who you can be there for) when life inevitably happens. Plus, life is just better when you are surrounded by people who make you smile.
With that being said, these groups of people likely won’t flock to you at each duty station because they won’t know you’re the “new kid”. So, don’t wait on the invitations to come to you, and instead give the invitations to others! Meet someone around the corner or at an official military event who you seemed to hit it off with? It might feel weird, but grab her name, friend her on Facebook, and invite her family to come over for pizza or burgers.
Personal tip: Go pick up a half dozen affordable, assorted white platters so that you’re ready to host a BBQ or a baby shower in a flash. Buy disposable silverware in bulk so that you always have some on hand. Buy a napkin caddy and a water dispenser. Open up your home, be confident, and host new friends for dinner. No one cares what your home looks like or how big or small it is. They just want to sit comfortably and hang with you! They are likely seeking authentic community as much as you are. I pinky swear to you that friendships and community can and will be the most incredible part of being in the military when you look back.
Seek a financial advisor.
Many financial advisors are free, and there are so many right under your nose who are experts in military finances. However, so many new service members do not seek professional council about how to handle their money wisely.
Seek one out immediately, make an appointment that you can both attend, and get your finances in order. Be on the exact same page. Doing this when you are just starting your career is beyond a smart idea. You don’t know what you don’t know, so let a professional evaluate your finances, your typical spending, and your goals, and then help you achieve and maintain fantastic financial standing.
Personal note: We didn’t seek out a financial advisor until we were 28 years old, which is one of our biggest regrets from our 20s. We thought we were doing everything “right” on our own, but our financial advisor (someone we thankfully but randomly happened to meet at church) had short-term and long-term ideas that were way better than our own.
Take advantage of discounts.
Don’t be shy about seeking out active duty military discounts. Businesses and brands offer them as a genuine thank you for the role you play in your military family. As a military family, you sacrifice so much. You really do. Deployments, trainings, constantly moving, the list goes on and on. There are so many things that are just more “pesky” when you’re military. So when you’re out and about, kindly ask if they offer a military discount. If not, no big deal. If they do, wonderful!
There are also brands like Unilever that have programs such as Operation in Touch that are designed to make life just a little bit easier for you via the resources they’ve gathered on their sites for military families.
Operation In Touch has the inside on offers at the Commissary and Exchanges, etc. They also feature beauty tips, recipes, and editorial content designed specifically for the lives of active duty military families.
From the Field to Your Family Sweepstakes
They also frequently offer sweepstakes for gift cards to commissaries and exchanges! Right now they are hosting their “From the Field to Your Family” sweepstakes where 100 people will win a $100 commissary or exchange gift card.
There are 200 (!!) chances to win, and entering can be done now through July 15th, 2019.
You can find out more information and enter on OperationInTouch.com. You are eligible to enter one time per day, per email address. Winners will be drawn July 19, 2019.
What are one or two reasons you shop at the commissary?
What other advice would you give to a brand new military spouse?
More: Five reasons I’m glad my husband joined the Army Reserve and a recap of Jamie’s graduation weekend nine years ago (I’m so glad I blogged back then and wrote it all down!)
*No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. From the Field To Your Family – DeCA is sponsored by Conopco, Inc., d/b/a Unilever. Open to legal United States citizens, regardless of where they reside, 18 or older who are authorized DeCA commissary store shoppers. Begins 12:00 a.m. ET on 5/6/19 & ends 11:59 p.m. ET on 7/15/19. For official rules, visit OperationInTouch.com.
Hi! I’m Erica, and I absolutely adore sharing my life on this website with you! I come here almost daily to blab about all of the things related to being a regular wife and mother in today’s ever-evolving society. I share about our new home, what’s on our kitchen table, what we’re hanging in our closets, where we’re traveling to next, my crazy 5 a.m. work outs, how I make time for girlfriends, our faith, and much more. We always have a lot of balls in the air and somewhat thrive on the chaos. I believe in the power of story-telling as a form of inspiration and entertainment, so I’m here to do both! I was born and raised in north Alabama and recently re-planted roots here again after my husband transitioned out of the Army (he is now in the Reserve and it’s going so well!) I’m a super proud mom to two little girls (ages 5 and 2) who seem to be the stars of the show around here (for good reason – they’re pretty great!) I’m so glad you found me and are here reading! I hope we can get to know each other here on the blog as well as Facebook and/or Instagram. xoxo