Military spouses and families with a pending move overseas can look forward to exploring different cultures and landmarks, perhaps even the chance to celebrating the next wedding anniversary atop the Eifel Tower. Whichever international destination you are headed to, you can certainly look forward to new and exciting adventures!
Once the euphoria of the news subsides, you will most likely start to ponder questions that will naturally come to mind prior to living in unfamiliar territory. Where will you live? Where will the kids attend school? Since these types of questions will likely keep coming, gather as much information before the big move. This will make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible for you and your loved ones.
First Things First! Once you know you will be stationed abroad, contact the Transportation Management Office (TMO) nearest you to get all the details about your move. By asking good questions, you will be rewarded with clear answers. By gathering as much information as you can before you board the plane, you’ll minimize the chance of any unexpected “surprises.”
Keep these finer points in mind as you get ready to depart for your overseas adventure:
1) You must be named on your service member’s military orders to relocate with them. If your loved one is being stationed someplace where you and your children can go along, make sure your names are listed on the orders. This allows you to use the installation resources while living abroad. If your names are not on the orders, this means that the military doesn’t want you to go along for whatever reason. Maybe it’s not a safe environment or just too costly to move the entire family for one year.
2) Having a good sponsor is invaluable. When transferred overseas, most branches of the military will assign you a sponsor who lives there. This person will be your family’s point of contact and will be able to provide a wealth of useful information to you, from childcare options to the location of the closest shopping center.
3) Less is more when shipping household goods. Most likely, you will send your things in two separate loads. One will be “unaccompanied baggage,” such as extra clothes, kitchen utensils and the like, which will usually arrives three to six weeks ahead of your actual “household goods” shipment which includes everything else.
4) Some things can not be shipped. Check with the Customs Office to find out exactly what items can and can not be shipped. You may have to arrange to store some items before you go. The military typically allows for the shipping of one car, although you opt to buy a vehicle after you arrive since it will be well-suited to local conditions.
5) Fido and Fluffy can go too. Unless you are told otherwise, you are generally permitted to bring up to two animals (dogs and cats only). Your pet will need a rabies vaccination form and a Veterinary Health Certificate before making the trip overseas. So, there you have it! Bon Voyage!
Even if you are one of those military spouses who has grown accustomed to the deployment of your mate, it never hurts to get some additional ideas to help make the time apart more bearable.
The following “tried and true” suggestions may help you keep your sanity as well as maintain closeness in your relationship despite the distance between you.
- Get involved in a Family Readiness Group. In addition to receiving emotional support and forming new friendships, you will be among the first to be informed of any newsworthy details from your spouse’s unit.
- Reach out to someone who is new to the unit. They will certainly appreciate it.
- Pursue that new hobby you’ve always wanted to take up.
- Start a journal to record your feelings, fears, thoughts and joys on a regular basis.
- Remember to breathe! Taking deep breaths in and out will lower your heart rate and keep your stress level in tact. Just say to yourself, “this to shall pass.”
- Rent every “chick flick” you have always wanted to watch.
- Send your spouse a spicy letter and include a redeemable coupon for a massage, romantic date night, or whatever he might look forward to upon returning home.
- If you need help, ask. We all need a helping hand from time to time.
- Plan a “girls’ night out with friends.
- Send a care package to your loved one. In addition to gifts and letters, you might include photos and artwork from the kids.
- Get a new job or seek a promotion in your current one.
- Save money to put towards the purchase of something special for your family, or perhaps just for the two of you to enjoy.
- Try a new hair style or color for a fun change.
- Feel good about giving back to the community through volunteer work.
- Enroll in a program to obtain a certificate or degree relative to your interests. Besides keeping you occupied, you will enhance your marketability to employers. Explore scholarships and grants available to military spouses.
- If you like to run, train to participate in an upcoming race or marathon.
- Travel to a place you’ve always wanted to see.
- If possible, e-mail your spouse on a daily basis. Be sure to tell him how much you miss him, how much you love him, and that you can’t wait for him to come home!
- Accept the fact that some days will be better than others, and carry on.
- Create a countdown calendar and mark off the days until your loved one will return. This is especially helpful if you have young children who may lack an understanding of the concept of time.
- Focus on the kids, if you have them. In the absence of the deployed parent, they need you now more than ever.
- Make it a point to pamper yourself once a week, whether it be a manicure, massage, or dining out at a favorite restaurant. You deserve it!