Just about six months ago, my husband — an active-duty Marine with two combat deployments behind him —voluntarily separated from the military. After nearly a decade, he was ready to explore his career options outside of the Marine Corps. He had spent the last few years of his service as a combat instructor at various duty stations and had a great resume for transitioning into the civilian workforce.
Of course, many of our friends that were already “out” tried to warn us (both of us) that the transition would be challenging, and that it would take a long time to find our new “normal.” We understood and felt ready for this next challenge, even with baby number two on the way and due right around the time of his End of Active Service date.
But man oh man, what a transition it’s been. Well before his End of Active Service date, my husband had lined up a very good job in management at a highly reputable company. The position came with a full relocation package (a.k.a. a civilian PCS) and a really nice bonus. As I mentioned, I was pregnant with our second son, but we were feeling prepared for his arrival and generally excited about all of the new adventures the future held for us.
In three months’ time, we moved six states away, had our baby and my husband started his new job. With all the crazy going on in our lives, the transition out of the military community and away from our friends and second family was very difficult. It was a bit easier for me since I was not in the service and have always worked civilian jobs. It was a lot harder on my husband, who spent a third of his life in the Marine Corps. The culture at his new job is so different than the military. It’s almost like he’s had to learn a whole new language of civilian terms, mannerisms and what is socially acceptable at work.
In hindsight, I don’t think anyone could have prepared us for what was ahead, because every family’s transition out of the military is unique. There are, however, some universal things to mentally prepare for if you have a similar transition ahead of you.
- Set yourself up with a good community. We moved to a place where I only knew one person, but fortunately military life had prepared me for this scenario. I no longer share the commonality of being a military spouse with other women, but I’m still a wife and mother. I found activities for my kids, which led to meeting fellow moms and making some new friends. My husband is learning to connect with his new co-workers in a different way than he did with his military friends. We’re six months in and getting into the swing of things.
- Say goodbye to your favorite military benefits. For us, it was the commissary and TRICARE. They were really awesome benefits! We are lucky to have new health insurance through my husband’s job, but I have to be honest — I’m still searching for my new favorite grocery store!
- Take advantage of resources to help with your family’s transition. Military OneSource is the hub for it all. There’s a little something for everyone there, including all the technicalities and important info you need for deployment, transition and separating from the military.
No matter what your spouse’s reason for separating from the military, voluntary or involuntary, the transition to civilian life is a big one that will take time and patience. While it’s a huge change for your spouse and his or her career, it’s also an enormous change for your family and way of life. But take it from me, somehow it all falls into place and a bright, new future is right around the corner waiting for you.