Living OCONUS

Thank you!

Living OCONUS

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Image: – – Macho Spouse

 

Winegar_2.jpgNot too long ago, a Facebook friend and fellow military spouse posted how much she missed living in the U.S. We had a three year overseas assignment several years ago, and so I could relate to this post. I remember missing “home” too. 

Personally, our family had the opportunity to live in Germany for three years.  We visited many wonderful countries and I would not trade that opportunity for anything, but we also missed Texas, our friends and family.  Since we had a house on the economy, many times I would take our daughter to places like “The Kids Zone” (think “Chuck E. Cheese”) and we enrolled her in activities on post, such as ballet and soccer.  One of the biggest opportunities living overseas offered to us was for our daughter to enroll in German Kindergarten at age three.  She had a great time and quickly picked up the language (but even with proactive efforts and good intentions, maintaining those skills in the US is very difficult).


I would never discourage any military family from an overseas assignment --- in fact, I would encourage them to embrace the opportunity and “seize the day.”  Not only does an overseas assignment offer the military family opportunities to experience all those sites we've seen on tv or read about in school, it also allows us to learn our host country's culture.  Living in a place where the education system, laws, and customs are a little different than what we're used to opens our mind to other ideas and opinions that we may not have ever considered before.


If your family is about to embark on an overseas assignment, I would recommend that you think about the experience as a long journey with many stages.  At least for my family, we went through several stages while living overseas.  First, we were excited as we began our moving preparations.  We wanted to take in all of the attractions and eat at many different restaurants.  But, we were also nervous about settling in.  When we first arrived, on-post housing was unavailable, so we had to find a place on the local economy without a real proficiency in the language.  This also meant we had to drive and find our way around.  But once we found a place, and settled into a routine, our nervousness subsided.  About halfway through the tour, however, we began missing the U.S.  So rather than continuing to explore and try new foods at local restaurants, we began to frequent the on-post TGIFridays or Chili's – reminiscing about the foods we were accustomed to from home.  We began wishing our language proficiency was a little better so we could integrate into the community more.  We also began missing our favorite TV shows and seeing the latest movies at first release.  We spent a little more time on post every day, enjoying “American” stuff.  We actually spent so much time ready to leave, that by the end of our tour, we hated leaving because we realized how little time we spent exploring.  Plus we made many friends over there, and leaving friends is always hard.  But, we really wanted to get back home and when we finally arrived, we were so thankful to be back on American soil.

Every family is different, and so some of these stages might not apply to you.  But, if you're a military spouse or stay at home dad about to head overseas, my advice for you is to find things you can do for you and your children.  Try not to spend all your time on the American base and take advantage of opportunities on the local economy.  You may never have this opportunity again.  Learn the local language, make new friends for you, and especially new friends for your children.  Explore.

What are your thoughts? Have you lived overseas before and, if so, do you agree with these stages?  Did you have a good/bad experience while abroad?  Let me know what you all think!

About the author: Max Winegar is a male military spouse and stay at home dad to a nine year old girl and three year old boy.  Max has been married to an Army officer for nearly 13 years and has recently started his own FaceBook page, "Freedom and Fatherhood."

See also...

image for Sesame Street and USO Tour - Japan and Korea

Sesame Street and USO Tour - Japan and Korea

SesameUSO.jpgYEAH SESAME STREET!  This tour is still going on for those in Japan and Korea.  Could be a great way to spend an afternoon with your family!

 

The tour which begins at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska on May 29 and will visit 42 bases in 8 European and Pacific countries over the next six months.  The organizations hope others will be inspired to learn more and suggest these five simple actions everyone can do to support military families:
 
1.        Volunteer at one of the more than 160 USO locations around the world and discover ways you can take action locally.
2.        Offer to help a military family on the home front who live on or off base.  Whether you see that their lawn needs to be mowed or garbage cans taken in, helping with simple household chores and errands can really relieve some of the stress a family may be feeling.
3.        Teach your child how they can help support military kids in their school by visiting uso.org/get-involved.aspx and or Facebook.com/SesameStreetforMilitaryFamilies.
4.        Lend an ear to listen to a military spouse as sometimes just having someone there to vent to or talk to when you may feel all alone can be the greatest support of all.
5.        Say thank you to a military member and their family for their service, sacrifice and strength.  Our troops and their families make sacrifices so we don't have to and those two simple words say so much.
 
“There is nothing that comes close to the feeling you get when you see the smile on a child's face at our Sesame Street shows.  I knew we had something very special the first time I saw the smiles of our military families, and here we are five years later, celebrating a tour that that has traveled the globe three times over and is about to do it again,” said Sloan Gibson, USO President and CEO.  “The USO is proud to be on Capitol Hill celebrating the tour's fifth birthday and assembling care packages for troops overseas.  There is no better way to commemorate such a momentous occasion than IN our nation's capital and WITH our friends at Sesame Street.” 
 
The longest running tour in USO history, the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families has taken its message to more than 368,000 troops and military families, and performed 631 shows on 145 military installations in 33 states and 11 countries.  In 2011,Sesame Street and the USO introduced a brand new character named Katie – a military child experiencing the stresses of moving as her parents are transferred to a new duty station.  Last year, Katie and her Sesame Street pals visited 67 military bases and performed 204 shows stateside.
 
 “Sesame Street has so much admiration and respect for our military families, we feel privileged to partner with our friends at the USO and be a part of this special USO Care Package event,” said H. Mel Ming, Sesame Workshop President and CEO.  “This is a great way to show our continued support to our service men and women and to celebrate five years of bringing our resources and the Sesame Street/USO Experience to Military Families to installations around the world.”

Operation USO Care Packages contain vital items troops use every day, from prepaid international phone cards and snacks to travel-size toiletries and comfort items.  Designed as a way for America to say 'thank you' to our troops and their families overseas as well as to unite communities, today's Care Packages included a special gratitude card from Cookie Monster as well as a personal note to troops signed by USO Caucus Co-Chairs, Reps. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., Tim Walz, DFL-Minn., Howard (Buck) McKeon, R-Cali., and Adam Smith, D-Wash.
 
Since 2003, the USO has delivered 2.3 million care packages to bring a touch of home and necessities to active duty military serving all over the world.  USO Care Packages are distributed to troops traveling through the USO's more than 160 locations worldwide as well as to troops serving overseas. 
 
Whether on the frontlines, with their loved ones, in recovery or in remembrance, the USO and Sesame Street are adapting to meet the needs of those who need us most.  Operation USO Care Package and The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families are just two of the ways we can help them navigate life's challenges. To learn more Operation USO Care Package visitwww.uso.org/operation-uso-care-package.aspx.  To learn more about the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families or check for the latest tour info visit www.USO.org/Sesame
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30 Ways of Thanks Day #18

30Still.jpgKate Pennington of Blue Star Families shares another way to show your support for military families during November.  Nominate a special someone in your community who has helped military families during a time of need for the Blue Star Neighbor Award!  Click here for more information.

November is Military Families Appreciation Month, and the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Branch Spouses of the Year (Branch SOYs) want to help everyone, everywhere participate in thanking and honoring military families.

Americans love our military, but many people don't quite know how best to express their gratitude. As National Guard Spouse of the Year Dr. Ingrid Herrera-Yee notes, “saying "thanks" to our military families is something that many want to do, but are at a loss as to how to do it –or in the case of Guard and Reserve, how to find us!”

So the Branch SOYs created #30Ways of Thanks to help. Each day in November, the Branch SOYs will release a video with an action item that people around the country can participate in virtually or locally, individually or in groups. Participants can hash tag #30Ways so that their messages, photos, or videos are spread far and wide. Hash tags #GratefulNation and #MilFamsRock can also be added as a short-hand way to say “You are amazing, military families!” Best of all, the entire #30Ways video collection will be stored on the Branch SOYs' YouTube channel so that it can be repeated in Novembers to come, or whenever someone is looking for a way to say “thank you” to military families.



 

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