Father and son walking through a forest

Making the Best of a Duty Station

My favorite biblical scripture has always been Ecclesiastes 3. In this chapter, Solomon shares how there is time for everything under the sun. He emphasizes the reality that we are here for only a short period, and there is a time and a place to experience it all, both the good and bad.

I have found it helpful to adopt this mindset in the military lifestyle as well, for there is also a time for everything as a military spouse.

A time to feel at home,

And a time to feel displaced.

A time to be in good company,

and a time to be lonely.

A time to be close to loved ones,

And a time to be painfully far.

A time to serve others,

And a time to be served.

A time to find a tight knit circle,

And a time to feel like an outsider.

A time to say hello,

And a time to say goodbye.

A time for endless sunshine,

And a time for relentless rain.

A time for the crisp mountain air,

And a time for the sticky beach breeze.

A time for easier than you expected,

And a time for harder than you ever could have imagined.

A time to go where you want,

And a time to go where you’re told.

A time to wallow,

And a time to make the best of it.

One skill I would suggest a military spouse learn quickly is making the best of it. Sure, there are other important things to be good at like arranging furniture in a home, matching green wool socks, making friends quickly, or building resiliency in your home. Nothing will benefit you more than learning to grow wherever you’re planted. While I know too well from experience that some duty stations are easier to make the best of than others, I promise you that it is possible to do so anywhere.

When we moved to Texas – our first duty station – it was as if I was finally home for the first time in my 23 years of life. I didn’t need to make the best of it, because I found it glorious from the minute we arrived. I loved the hot wind, the big sky, the small trees, and the April bluebonnets along the freeways. I loved the small towns, the accents, and the way that I could run outside barefoot at any time of the year. I loved the sweet season of life we found ourselves in, newly married life, the birth of our first child and all the precious memories that came in those next couple of years. I made the best of friends and found the best church.  We didn’t need to make the best of it, because the best fell right into our lap.

This is not always the case. We find ourselves now in the Carolinas. To me, it feels like a lame version of Texas. The same humid summers and southern culture but lacking the bold personality of the Lonestar state. We haven’t found the best of anything here, but we’ve tried to take advantage of the few blessings we have found, like our church and my son’s preschool. We are also a five-hour drive from family and a two-hour drive to beautiful beaches, which have both been frequent luxuries. While we’ll never say we loved it here; we will always know that we made the best of it.

Sometimes you find yourself being sent to what you think might be your worst nightmare. For us, this reality came true last spring when we were told we would be moving across the country to Washington State in 2024. This was the last place we ever wanted to take our family. I’ve cried a lot of tears since finding out that news. We were going to be moving from a place we didn’t love to a place I feared I’d hate.

As we anticipate this move, I refuse to live in fear and dread. I know I am going to have to try my hardest to make the best of this duty station. Here is the guide I have set for myself to do my best to fall in love with a place I never wanted to go.

  • Give yourself a wallowing period. Allow yourself to feel all of the negative emotions that come with an assignment you don’t want: dread, disappointment, resentment, fear, anger and bitterness. Feel it all to your core, knowing you won’t stand behind the storm clouds for long. Even if you worry, you’ll never adapt. Strive with all your heart to be that lone daisy growing in Alaska. Make it your goal to step out of those clouds and live in the silver lining, and then explore every nook and cranny of it.
  • Embrace the lifestyle. As we prepare to acclimate to a new region, a new climate, and a new culture, we know we will need to embrace a new lifestyle. The months of water activities and popsicles in the backyard will be replaced with rainy day adventures in bibs and boots, and glitter and flour-covered surfaces indoors from crafting the gray away. My husband is reading up on salmon fishing. I plan to start my first garden because they say you can grow anything there. I imagine our weekends filled with exploring pebble beaches, flying kites, and exploring endless forests.
  • Make a bucket list. If there is one good way to hype yourself up about a new place, it’s doing your research and collecting ideas of experiences you hope to have there. I have both a bucket list started, as well as an album on my phone where I collect screenshots of helpful or exciting things about this new and foreign land we are headed to. For example, if I see someone share about a good restaurant or a fun hike on social media, I will screenshot it and save it in this album, so that I can remember it in months when I am finally in a place to get out and explore our new surrounding town.
  • Build a new wardrobe. Someone once said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” Study the climate of the place you’re going, and adapt accordingly, so you are fully prepared to be outdoors. As we anticipate our move to the Pacific Northwest, I’ll be acquiring all the cute duck boots and raincoats, hiking gear, and wool layers. The jeans and pullovers will be coming from the back of my closet to the front, pushing aside the 15 pairs of shorts and tanks I was used to rotating for eight months out of every year. We aren’t moving until next summer, but my Christmas list was filled with the clothing items and gear I know I’ll want soon.
  • Find friends who love it there. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received as a military spouse is to surround yourself with people who love the duty station and to distance yourself from those who don’t. Naturally, if you spend your time with people who enjoy the area, they will teach you to enjoy it too. My goal is always to be that person who loves a place, so I can take others on our adventures with us, and we can fall in love with it together. I prefer these friendships over the ones that are made in commiseration and negativity.
  • Remind yourself this is not forever. It’s the bittersweet reality of the military lifestyle, that nothing lasts forever. Unfortunately, the good times don’t last, but the bad times don’t either. If you find yourself in a place that you’re not fond of, remind yourself this is not your new forever. While a few years can sound like forever, force yourself to see things in perspective. A few years is a tiny portion of your life. Even if it’s a few years of misery, at the end of the day it is a place that will give your family new memories and stories. Sometimes I grieve over the fact I won’t get to raise our babies in the South their whole lives as I’d always envisioned. I remind myself that we are giving them new experiences filled with so many memories they will have someday. Civilian children don’t get to see the world like ours do, and I try to remember it’s a blessing for our kids, even among the hardships that come with it. Allow each PCS to shatter your heart just a little bit, but don’t stand in the rubble for too long. Pick yourself up, and remember you are here for a reason. Look at it as a short adventure, not your new forever.

Strive to embrace wherever you find yourselves. As a military family, you cannot choose where you go, but you can choose what you make of it.


Written By Sydney Smith
Army Spouse

Sydney has been an Army wife for four years and has two children. She often writes on the raw experiences military spouses face during challenging times, striving to be a voice of encouragement and validation among the military spouse community.

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