By Carla Olivo, PCSgrades.com Strategic Communications Director
Looking back on my family’s PCS history, I am reminded of all the wonderful people, both military and civilian, we have met along the way.
When you move every couple of years, you quickly realize that it is memories of the people and not necessarily the places that will stick with you through the years. Our busiest PCS years sent us to four joint duty stations in eight years, and only one had base housing available, which we didn’t take. So with two small kids and a husband who was traveled a lot and ended up deploying, I came to depend on my civilian neighbors in ways I never imagined.
Two instances stand out from many that occurred over those years. We had only been in our South Florida home for a few weeks when my brother-in-law informed us three days before Thanksgiving that he, his daughter, girlfriend and her two kids would be visiting for the holiday. Now, I probably should have put my foot down, but that is another blog!
I was in a panic! We were not fully unpacked, and our one and only guest room was being used as storage! My new neighbor, a Chinese immigrant who while had been here for almost a decade, didn’t really celebrate an American Thanksgiving, offered to take my three-year-old for an entire day so that I could get my guest room ready and prepare a turkey with all the trimmings. It doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but at that moment, it was HUGE to me!
Another civilian neighbor came to my rescue when my youngest needed to receive daily B-12 shots. My husband administered the shots each night while my son slept in his crib. When my Marine needed to travel for three weeks, I was in a panic! I just couldn’t bring myself to put a needle into his little backside even though he barely stirred when my husband did it each night. I’m not really squeamish, but just the idea of it would make my blood pressure rise.
Enter my neighbor Paulette, a full of life, transplanted New Yorker who worked in the local hospital as a nurse. She showed up at my house every night, often after working a double shift. It didn’t matter how tired she was or if she worked late, she would show up, even if it was after midnight. Some nights, we shared a beer after she gave my son this essential vitamin. A small thank you for saving me a nightly panic attack! My husband traveled a lot back then, and Paulette was always there to take over my son’s medical care.
These two civilian women came to my rescue in very different but important ways. And while my military family spent over a decade with very few military neighbors, I always felt my civilian neighbors had my back which is why the Blue Star Families’ annual Blue Star Neighbor Award is such a great idea! In celebration of all of our extraordinary civilian neighbors, take a moment to nominate someone who made a true difference in your military family’s journey. Recognizing these big and small gestures goes a long way in building a better relationship between military families and our civilian counterparts, which in the end, is great for all of us!
Carla Olivo is the Strategic Communications Director for PCSgrades.com, a review based website aimed at assisting military and veteran families with the issues that frequently come up during a PCS. She lives outside of Washington D.C. with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, and two teenage children.