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Friday, January 23, 2015

10 Things I Miss About the Military

Or a more accurate title would be "10 Things I Miss About My Husband Being Active Duty" because we are still military-connected, and he's the one no longer active duty, but that just seemed too long of a title.

In no particular order here are 10 things I miss about being an active duty family:

10. Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, in his paycheck. This allowance is based on where you live, pay grade, and dependents so it's highly variable from member to member. It is a nice addition to your pay (helps to offset the cost of rent/mortgage). When looking for a civilian job remember to include BAH in looking for comparable wages.

9. Along with BAH military members also receive Basic Allowance for Subsistence. This is meant to offset the cost of meals for the military member only. A few hundred dollars a month added to the paycheck is always nice. Just another thing to remember when calculating civilian pay to make up for that loss of BAH & BAS.

8. Being able to claim your Home of Record state no matter where you are stationed can be a big benefit. Joe's HOR does not tax active duty pay.

7. There is an active duty military exemption on personal property taxes in SC (I don't know how every state works). When our vehicle taxes (well over $500 on our van alone) were due each year, I filed for the exemption and we didn't have to pay those taxes. There will be no more exemption when the bill comes this year and that is an adjustment!

6. Some military discounts are only available to active duty military and not retirees. One example is the Waves of Honor (formerly Here's to the Heroes.). Waves of Honor is for the active duty member and up to 3 dependents to get complimentary tickets to any one of the Sea World Parks & Entertainment park once a year. Another example is a local private Catholic school has a reduced tuition rate for active duty military families.

5. Annual Leave. This will be one of our biggest adjustments to retired military life and being in the civilian workforce. Military members get 30 days of annual leave which can be carried over; Joe has always had his 30 days of annual leave each year plus up to 30 days of 'use or lose.' We've never had to carefully plan out vacations or days off - he's just always had plenty of leave for any trips we took. Then there is the time off around the holidays. Not every military branch is the same, nor is every duty location the same, but overall commanders typically have "4 day holiday weekends" so Joe's been off on some Fridays before a Monday holiday. Time off around Christmas usually goes to minimal manning. Joe has usually had the week of Christmas off (unless we traveled out of area then he would take leave). I'm well aware this is not how it works in the 'real world' and that he will not have over 30 days of leave each year. It was just something we had become accustomed to that I am going to miss.

When he was active duty he didn't have to take leave to go to an IEP meeting, or if I needed him to come home earlier to get the kids off the bus because I had to be somewhere else. There was a lot more leeway because they aren't paid based off an 8 hour clock in and out schedule.

4. The Air Force Respite Program. This respite program is for active duty families who are enrolled in The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). While we didn't use respite as often as we could have/should have, it was nice to know it was available to us.

3. We still have our Tricare Prime health benefits, but retirees pay a medical premium and have co-pays for appointments with civilian providers. There are no co-pays for Tricare Prime while active duty - even for civilian doctors, surgeries, procedures, etc. The only times I've paid out-of-pocket were for prescriptions (when filled at an off-base pharmacy), chiropractic appointments (aren't covered by Tricare), and some dental work. Yes, I know, welcome to the real world! I understand having co-pays is part of the civilian life. See above ref: Leave. Not having any co-pays for pretty much all my life will now take a little adjusting to and is something I miss about being an active duty family, that's all.

2. Permanent Change of Station, otherwise knows as PCS. Yes, in some ways I will miss not having any more PCS orders. I will miss not seeing a new base, or living in a new state. Not all assignments are desirable, but that cliche of "every assignment is what you make of it" is true. The first time I drove to Holloman AFB in Alamogordo to visit Joe after his return from Korea, I cried. I cried thinking about moving from beautiful Colorado and my view of Pikes Peak from my apartment balcony, and my job at the Center for Character Development overlooking the Cadet Chapel - and I cried. I didn't want to leave that area and move to Alamogordo - to a desert landscape where everything was brown and drab looking. Holloman couldn't compare to the Air Force Academy (I felt no assignment would compare to the AFA though; it's simply a beautiful base to be stationed at), but Holloman has White Sands. Where else can you go sledding in the summer? I also met a great group of friends at Holloman. The assignment is about the people and experiences, not the location.

In some ways having the military tell you where you're going to live next is just easier, because you have no choice. Being retired and having no hometown to move back to and being able to live wherever we want is stressful in its own way. It's overwhelming to think we can pick anywhere in the country and just move there, but there is so much research: employment, housing, school, services, adult services etc etc and I just don't know where to begin that research. So we're staying in SC for the time being, mainly because Joe got a job (yay!) but it would be so much easier if the military said "You're moving here now."

1. The uniform. All of my life the man of the house has worn the United States Air Force uniform (even though the look of that uniform has changed over the years) and it's odd not seeing Joe wear that uniform anymore. (Now he's faced with the dilemma of what color shirt to wear each morning!) I miss being that active duty family. I miss belonging to that ... even though we are still a military family, we are now a retired military family and there is a subtle difference in that.

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Kerri Ames said...

Oh there must be so many things you are adjusting to...I think it is wonderful how you expressed them. The things you will miss but you did it with such an appreciation for what you had....and now you have to worry about him screwing up your laundry with a red shirt. Kind of unfair really

Cindy said...

My dad was in the Navy, but left when I was very young. I had no idea there would be so many adjustments for your family! I pray the transition continues to go smoothly.

Anonymous said...

oh michelle yes it is a HUGE ADJUSTMENT.one be cause it is alot about who you are and etc. I feel for you the transition you are now experiencing. love mom

Mom24 said...

I really enjoyed this post, very informative. Good luck, I'm sure it's going to be a huge adjustment for you and for Joe.

Ginger Boice said...

Your post couldn't be more timely. Steve retires May 1 and we are experiencing this all for the first time. I just spent my evening reading Tricare Benefits and planning what I need to get done prior to the big day.