Kristi’s daughter looking at a moving truck

The Last Order

Even a salty Marine Corps spouse can still be a little naïve. I thought writing a blog on accepting our last orders a few months before our upcoming PCS would not only be a good idea, but a developed idea — a plan, a gateway to a five-year plan, even a “retirement-from-retirement” plan.

You may see where this is headed.

One, we don’t have orders at the moment (granted this is being typed in mid-December 2022, so that one’s on me — I know better). Two, even when we do have orders for the summer 2023 PCS, I have absolutely no way of knowing if they will be our last. Though it may be more probable than ever before because my Marine will hit that magical 20-year mark prior to a 2026 set of orders, we still can’t predict what the job prospects will be for a retiring Marine in three more years. We don’t know how enticing another set of orders could be. Then there are the unknowns of promotion boards, school, bonuses and any other opportunities that might come with a payback commitment. Essentially, we aren’t currently close enough to the finish line to see how many steps stand between us and the end of the Marine Corps road.

All that considered the elusive “last orders” are more of a hypothetical than a known for our family at this time. But whether they be our last orders or not, I can safely confess that this upcoming move — the move that will get us to 20 — has brought the future into more focus than ever before. So, while I can’t explain to you what that last-order view looks like from here, I can report that the closer you get to the end of your active-duty journey, hypotheticals start to grow legs or land in the trash can.

Kristi and her family posing for a photo

Kristi and her family on the National Mall

Realizations on the Road to 20:

  • We won’t know they’re the last orders. I know now that we won’t go into our last tour knowing it’s the last. It will be learned along the way. So, it’s worth reminding everyone (mostly myself) to live in the moment. Treasure the adventure, the camaraderie, the community, and yes, even the mandatory fun and the smell of cardboard in the summer. One day it will be our last, and as the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
  • The forever home gets a price tag. All of the daydreaming about what life will look like after the military suddenly gets a dose of reality. The vision of the waterfront home that has made all the base housing and subpar rentals throughout the years bearable starts to look out of reach. It may be more of a landlocked house in a seaside town within driving distance of a base with a healthy amount of employed government contractors.

Kristi and her family hiking

  • The military’s timeline isn’t the only timeline. For the first time in forever, our kids have opinions on moving. Our otherwise adaptable and resilient son recently voiced that he doesn’t want to move while in high school. He will finish his freshman year wherever we land next, which adds a point to the “staying in place” column.
  • The compromises continue. If we end up where I think we will next summer, then consider me thrown for a loop — returning somewhere that I never expected to return to and somewhere that wasn’t on my shortlist for retirement locales. But given numbers one through three, that compromise may have to stay on the table. Just because it wasn’t in my plan, doesn’t mean it won’t be good for our family, and I will continue to remind myself of this.
  • I still don’t know what’s going on half the time, and I can’t believe we’re closer to military retirement than commissioning. Based on some very unofficial polling, it seems there are two camps of military spouses as retirement or separation nears: can’t wait or can’t believe it. I personally can’t believe it, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m not ready for the ride to be over. Despite all the heartbreaks, great and small, this life has been good to us, given us friends that feel like family, and given each member of my family experiences that would never have been possible without the Marine Corps. It hasn’t just been part of our life, it has been at the center of our life, and going on without it seems much harder than anything it has ever asked of us before.

Kristi and her family on the steps of a beach house

Time will tell if this next set of orders really becomes the last; if we stay put upon retirement or make another move; if I will feel more ready for the next chapter as it gets closer. Until that day comes, I will try my best not to sweat the small stuff and hurry things along. I will fail miserably on both of those fronts, but at least it’s now in writing that the intention was there. And on that note, I now return to my regularly scheduled anticipation of the next set of orders.

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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  • Crissy Dalphone says:

    I was so proud to be a Milspouse, the family day events, the fancy Marine Corp Balls with the youngest Marine passing cake to the oldest was by far my favorite part of the ceremonial banquet celebration. My husband in Dress Blues and getting to wear elegant silk gloves up to my elbows felt as if I was apart of something bigger than my marriage because it was. I was proud to stand behind my Marine. we had 4 years together before starting our family and 2014 came our daughter then 2016, our son. I gave birth to our son while my husband stood on foreign soil, driving myself to and from the hospital didn’t feel like a sacrifice but instead more like a responsibility to my husband and to my family. I was terrified to drive to the hospital but as soon as our son was here, all fears were gone and all I felt was peace. We had our perfect family, my husband had his desired position and he’d be home in just 8 months. He did another year mission in Japan and that’s when his behavior went from loving father and caring husband to, something else. He disconnected and was unavailable for any phone or face time. He stopped calling and texting and when I would try to call, he would get angry and wonder why the other team mates didn’t have to take calls from there wives. It was painful and it only got worse. If I gave him space, he would accuse me of not being available for him, if he called he’d be drunk leaving the bar because thats what he was doing when we were waking up for the day, he’d be moments from passing out and eventually the calls stopped all together. He began to show me that he was in control, all the way across the pacific. He was canceling rent checks that I was writing to the landlord, suspending my cellphone service, stopping payments to the electricity company and threatening to call and report my car stolen. I made reports of abuse and neglect that never were acknowledged or addressed back to me. I was assured that the files would reach his CO once his mission was complete but I was ignored by his unit. The same Unit where I spent all those great moments with him and his peers and leaders. After he returned from Japan, he wasn’t home 3 months before he completely abandoned us. He disappeared in my car, without a not or an explanation. No goodbyes or anything, just gone. That was 2 years ago, we don’t know where he is and we were married for 11 years. The Military won’t acknowledge my kids and we’ve been denied for assistance even though he left is penniless and no car. What do you think I should do? thank you for your time.

  • Social Media Admins says:

    Hi, Crissy – we are very sorry to hear about your experience and would like to help if we can. Our non-medical counseling services are always available when you feel like you need assistance. Give us a call at 800-342-9647, or go to our website: