Living OCONUS

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."

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2015 'Thank You' and Year In Review

malemilitaryspouse_2015_YIRIt's the holiday season and to me that means spending time with family and friends while reflecting on the year that was. How many had a good year? How many of you feel as if you've accomplished, overcome, loved and laughed as much as possible? There have been a few bad years in my life where I just wanted the damn thing to finish so I could start fresh with a clean slate, it's a mindset, but we all know that reality doesn't work that way. I usually judge my life in a similar way as to how we judge football coaches, “what have you done for me lately.” My year was a good one, a net-positive. So congratulations, you get “happy Chris,” or at least “less grumpy and sarcastic Chris.”

The tremendous amount of progress within the male military spouse community is one reason why 2015 was a good year. Guys, we're finally starting to get some recognition. People, businesses, and other organizations are starting to approach us and ask for our input, insight, and yes, our business. Marketers are finally recognizing that we are a demographic worth pursuing; just check out this holiday spot from Toys R Us. (I just bought 4 gift cards for my nieces from them because of this commercial.)

In 2015, Macho Spouse was approached by the Sonoran Desert Institute's School of Firearms Technology to hold the first ever “Male Military Spouse Appreciation Day” where SDI donated a full-tuition scholarship to their popular Gunsmithing certificate course. (Male military spouses are a large demographic for them.) USAA asked for our participation to help raise awareness on the importance of life insurance during “Life Insurance Awareness Month.” Yeah, I didn't know that month existed before this opportunity either, but USAA sure knows that we exist! And Marriott really knocked us off our feet when they offered several nights worth of hotel stays in return for a few reviews on their TownePlace Suites properties. TownePlace Suites made it very clear that they are interested in helping military families who are on the road, from PCSing to family vacations, TownePlace Suites wants our business!  And it's not like this is some shabby hotel chain guys, their rooms are usually very spacious, clean, come with fully equiped kitchens, and hot breakfasts.  I was surprised to learn how many were actuallyl located near military installations, which makes them a great temporary housing option, or vacation get-a-way. In full disclosure, I dispersed their generous offering quietly among those guys who have helped keep Macho Spouse up and running over the last few years. We don't make any money here, so when a top-notch organization such as Marriott offers us some swag, I like to spread it out amongst our volunteers first. If you want access to some of this cool stuff, contact me and be prepared to help build our community. But while I'm speaking of TownePlace Suites, you guys should check them out because they're really showing their appreciation and commitment to our military community! That goes for USAA and Sonoran Desert Institute as well, these organizations aren't just talking about supporting male military spouses, they're actually doing it. So let's not forget to return this generosity in 2016.

While I'm patting others on the back, I can't forget the amazing content NextGen Military Spouse, Military.com/SpouseBuzz, and Military Spouse delivered on behalf of male military spouses in 2015. When I started Macho Spouse in late 2011/early 2012, there was nearly nothing…nothing, written for or about us male military spouses. No blogs, no websites, no Facebook pages, no nothing. Now look at us, male spouses are popping up everywhere! (We've probably had absolutely nothing to do with this trend, but I will take full credit.) So despite terrorism, politics, war, and racial unrest, life hasn't been all bad this year. It's been good enough for me to crack a cold one, light a cigar, sit back and reflect on how far we've come and how many goals are still left to accomplish. Don't worry, I won't be consuming and driving while reflecting, Dana and I have already booked our New Year's Eve room at the San Antonio Riverwalk TownePlace Suites. Happy 2015 everyone, have a safe holiday season!

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MOAA's Making it in the MilLife Blog Features Macho Spouse

We thank the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) for featuring Macho Spouse in their "Making it in the MilLife" blog.



 

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