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Life as a military wife

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Meeting my husband

A guest post by Tammy Sue Linehan

It all began thirteen years ago when I met my husband at a McDonalds in April. He’s a United States marine and he had just gotten back from Okinawa after his second time being stationed there. I only spent a short time with him before he had to go to Arizona. I knew as soon as he left that he was the one I wanted to spend my life with. I got a one-way ticket and went with him!

 I got a one-way ticket and went with him!


Me and my husband in Okinawa after 13 years of marrige


That was the start of my life as a military wife Things moved quickly between us, two weeks after I moved in with him in Arizona we went to pick up my things. Four months later, we were married and a year after we met we had our first baby girl!

It’s difficult to stay together if your husband gets stationed overseas for an unknown period of time. It’s very common for couples to marry young so that they can stay together. My husband’s been in the military for 24 years now. There are different retirement plans, so it’s hard to say when you can retire from the military.

We don’t know what the future holds, my husband may retire next year, or he could be selected for the E9. E9 as a Master Gunnery Sergeant is the highest rank on the enlisted side. If he gets selected, we can stay in Okinawa for up to 30 years! Otherwise, we’ll go back to Massachusetts and buy our first house, so the girls can be closer to family.


 That was the start of my life as a military wife.


Getting stationed overseas for the first time

Me and my husband, we wanted to be stationed overseas. We kept asking to move back to Okinawa, but the military sent us everywhere else, Arizona, Georgia and California. We watched as our friends that didn’t want to move to Okinawa got orders there.  Finally, after 13 years we got the call and the OK!


Family portrait taken in Okinawa


You are normally given three options by the military, for us it was Okinawa, the West coast or Massachusetts. If you get stationed overseas with your family it is normally for at least 3 years, if you are single it’s an automated 2 or 4 years. Extension is an option, but it depends on rank and what the monitor decides.

We got 6 months of notice before we were scheduled to be moved. It took up about 2 months to get everything prepared. I didn’t realize how much work it is to prepare for being stationed overseas.  You must get cleared through a medical and a dental check-up, as well as doing a background check and get a special no-fee passport. This is a passport that is only valid in the country you are stationed in, and all other travel must be on a tourist visa.

There’s are limits for how much luggage you can bring with you as you are moved. I don’t own a lot of ‘forever’ furniture because a lot of things get ruined when we’re moving. Through the years I have gotten less attached to stuff too, but mostly with this move to Okinawa we were only allowed 3,000 lbs (1,360 kg).

If you are bringing pets, it’s a whole other set of vaccinations, paperwork and airfare issues. There are rules for what kind of pets and how many of them you can take with you. We used to have a dog when we thought we were doing our last move, but we had to find a new home for her.


Moving the whole family

We have two girls today; they’ll be 13 and 9 years old this year. Our children grew up moving around so they are used to it. They keep in touch with friends and family through Facebook and facetime. They’re always emotional when we’re leaving, but after a few weeks they’ve settled in. They enjoy themselves and get to meet new friends, but they do miss having family close by.


Our two beautiful girls on the beach


Changing schools has not been an issue for us since our children are used to the process.As an on the move military wife enrolling your children into school is easy.  When you enroll you have two choices. Either your kids will go to DODEA, which is a government school located on base, or they can join a regular school in the city.

For me personally, I love to travel. This lifestyle is not for everyone but it has given me the opportunity to explore some amazing places within the US and now I’m finally in Okinawa.


Settling into a new home in Japan

The first few nights are difficult, before you are placed into a home and settle in. We were stuck in a hotel room for the first 11 days, with basically only the clothes on our backs. We’d done a cross country US road trip before leaving and we were all in jeans and t-shirts.


Our girls in front of Mt Rushmore on our cross-country road trip before leaving for Japan


Within the first few days we were taken around by our sponsor, a military staff that helps you get set up in a new place. He took us car shopping, and we could buy two second hand cars for less than half of what it would have cost us back in the States.

We weren’t able to drive our cars home that day. We still needed to get our SOFA licenses and attend some briefings. At these briefings, you find out where you will be living, and you also learn some basic cultural differences so as not to get in trouble with the locals.

It was a bumpy start but as soon as I looked out the window from out apartment and saw the ocean, I was sold! The water in the East China Sea is so warm compared to Southern California.  As we walked around we noticed that everything was a much slower pace here than what we were used to in Boston.


Making friends and meeting the locals

The locals try to talk to us and their English is pretty good here. And I was thinking I needed to learn Japanese if I ever wanted to leave the base. The locals are so kind; greeting you, thanking you and even small talking, depending on how much English they know.


Okinawan Sunset, one of the many things I about this island


I have now joined a military spouse group and started going out to explore.  I have been to several castles, hiked waterfalls, explored villages and met lots of different people. My best investment in Okinawa was my Scuba Certification because diving here is amazing. I have checked quite a few places off my diving list, I have even been diving on some of the surrounding islands. I love it here in Okinawa and I would like to stay forever. The fifty shades of blue in the ocean has my heart.


 The fifty shades of blue in the ocean has my heart.


The best and the worst

I try to see the positive in everything. The best thing about being a military wife is that you get these rare chances to explore new places that you might not have been able to see otherwise. You also meet new amazing people, and some of them end up being forever-friends.


I got the amazing chance to hold a baby sea turtle in Okinawa


The constant change is both the best and the worst with moving around. If you dislike your job or your co-workers, it’s okay because you’re not stuck with them forever! However, you also never find complete stability because of changing jobs and leaving friends behind. Changing jobs is difficult because when you finally get good at something and make a good wage, it’s time to change it again. It’s also tough to not know where and when you’re going somewhere next.

The good outweighs the bad, and I’m in love with Okinawa. When we retire, I’m sure I’ll miss the traveling but it will be nice to have our own house.


 The good outweighs the bad, and I’m in love with Okinawa


Guest Post - Life as a military wife
By Tammy Sue Linehan
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