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My husband got out of the military in 2013 after a total of 10 service years spread between two service branches, three plus duty stations, one OCONUS tour, and two overseas deployments. It’s been several years now since we have been out. Yesterday marks the 5 year anniversary of his ETS date. Each passing year offers clarity as we look back on how far God has brought our family.
While it’s pretty rare that I talk much about military life anymore, being five years removed, it still continues to impact our daily life. Also, thanks to a considerable military spouse presence on Pinterest, I still receive DAILY traffic from milspouses all over the world. I’m slowly working on optimizing my older blogs posts (updating graphics and SEO) to continue to offer support and advice to those spouses. From what I can tell, there isn’t nearly as many resources for military families on their way out of the military as there are for those IN the military. This is my attempt to change that.
The short version is that the year before my husband ETSed and the year after he was out were by far the hardest on our family and our marriage – far harder, yes, than even the two years he was deployed.
Reintegration, unfortunately, got smashed up all together with preparing for ETS. It was kind of all one messy ball of stress as we tried to put our family back together while still preparing for the unknown of life after the military.
We finally moved back “home” to my husband’s hometown in North Carolina. My husband found a $15/hour call center job that he hated and we lived in an 850 square foot apartment with our pre-diagnosis special-needs 3-year-old. Our grocery budget was $400 a month, we were broke, we had no healthcare, and my husband hadn’t yet made the steps to recognize that he needed help in the way of therapy, medication, and disability for the mental struggles he was facing.
A year later, some of those things were starting to fall into place. I got into the Caregiver support program. He got on disability – and started receiving anxiety treatment via therapy and medication.
Money and meds aren’t a magic fix. They sure help though.
During the years following, Russ got a job working at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. As he has started at the bottom and worked his way through promotions and pay-grades, the way has been forged with panic attacks and trying to hold our family together on so many days when it felt like it was falling apart.
Now, it’s been five years. We bought a house last year. While not perfect, our life is reminiscent of the “American dream”: the house, the two kids, the picket fence, the steady paycheck.
But this post-military life we have built for ourselves was not built overnight. Rather – brick by brick, day by day, fight by fight.
Below, I am going to be linking to the blog posts I wrote as we went through this experience. My hope is that by reading our experiences, other military families on the verge of their ETS date will be able to put what they are going through into some sort of perspective of normalcy.
This post contains a lot of links, because I’ve really done the bulk of my processing and writing through these posts. As I said above, our time in the military continues to impact us daily, although now it’s more subtle and less overt. You can see that as you click through these posts. The more recent posts are less overtly military-related; but if you read our experiences, you will see it’s still there. I’m including key dates as a sort of “timeline” so you can pick up wherever you are in the process.
December 31, 2011: Our Final Homecoming
2012: Reintegration and Preparing for ETS
2013: ETSing, job hunting, moving, trying to settle in our new locale
February 22, 2013: Last day of work
April 9, 2013: Our last day in Kentucky
April 15, 2013: Official first day in our apartment AND Russell’s official first day at work
2014: Trying to adjust to life after the Army
March 2014: Enrollment in the Caregiver Support Program and Russell’s VA disability kick in
April 2014: We move into a bigger house (still renting)
October 2014: Our son is diagnosed with special needs, Russ loses his job and goes on medication