Author: Leah Love
Four years ago, my husband and I celebrated as we’d just found out a dream of ours had come true- we were going to be stationed in our hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan- we were coming home! Now most of you may think this is an odd place for an active duty sailor to be stationed, and it is. But for us it was a dream in the making as we had both spent our entire childhoods as well as college years here. Never in our wildest dreams did we think, as an active duty Navy family, we’d be able to live here- at home!
The following months were filled with house-hunting, preparations for our PCS and tear-full goodbyes to our San Diego friends, who had really become our family. We left San Diego with our two toddlers, dog and cat, finally arriving in Ann Arbor almost four days later. The first month was hard as my husband was finishing out his duties on board his ship in San Diego and the kids and I were trying to move in to our house, reconnect with family and friends, and figure out our new life here, all while acclimating to a daily average high of 30 degrees- and no palm trees!
We were so excited to be here- and still are- but there are some things that have definitely required a bit of an adjustment. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been asked to present my military ID- not including our all-too-frequent trips to Lowe’s where we always take advantage of their great military discount! Since moving here, both my husband and I have bought different cars- neither of them have base stickers on them which at first made them feel a bit “naked,” although now I hear that’s common even on bases- have we really been away that long??
We’ve started to feel quite “civilian” living here. Maybe it’s due to never showing your ID to get on a base, or visiting a commissary, or hearing about which battle groups are heading out or coming home from a deployment on the local news. Really the only time I see anyone in uniform is when we attend events with my husband’s command or as the flag detail at football games in the fall. There just isn’t a military presence here like there is when you live close to base. While there are lots of ways in which it has felt like a break from normal military life, I also find myself missing some of the camaraderie, community and sense of belonging you feel when living closer to a base.
I remember someone telling me once that “shore duty is how they keep folks in the Navy”. I wouldn’t disagree. We all need a breather now and again from the rigors of Navy life. But it’s funny what you miss when you’re removed from it as well.
Being a military family, you are part of a pretty special club. The last time my husband deployed I had a 5-month-old and an almost 2-year-old at home. I lived in a military housing community and had wonderful friends that got me through that deployment not just surviving, but thriving. My neighbors next door had us for Thanksgiving and over for regular playdates, my neighbors across the street helped string my Christmas lights and their sons brought in my trash cans almost every week after they were emptied. I was invited to happy hours, birthday parties, holidays and even simple outings to the zoo. While these fellow military families may not have realized it at the time, their compassion and sympathy saved me. They got it. They didn’t wait for me to ask for help, they simply extended the invitation. And for that I will be forever grateful.
We are really trying to soak in this time we have at home. My sons have gotten to know aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and even 3 great grandparents whom they would never have known in this way if not for us being here, right now. As many of you know, that time together is worth more than gold. I am so thankful, and yet know that, as with every duty station, this too shall come to an end. And at that point, I will again look to my fellow military families as to how to make the transition back to base life once again as we reconnect with other members of this very special club.