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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Just Married a Soldier...Now What?

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just Married a Soldier...Now What?


I just received an email from a young lady about to get married to a soldier. You know.... there aren't a lot of resources out there on what to do next. What paperwork needs to be done? How do I go about moving in with my hubby? Where do I go? What do I do when I get there? Being an Army brat and being in the military myself, I honestly never thought about these lingering questions...and lingering questions cause stress...a state of mind we would all rather not be in. Let's go over some of the things you should be thinking about.

You've got your marriage certificate in hand and are wondering what to do next? If you haven't gotten that far yet, read here about military weddings and the steps you need to take beforehand. The first step after tying the knot, should be for your new soldier husband to get MANY copies of that certified marriage certificate. He is going to bring it to his personnel office on post and do the required paperwork. Until that is done, frankly, the military unfortunately views you as a nobody. I don't like it either, but that's the honest truth, and I'm all for being honest here. Your husband is going to enroll you in something called DEERS (basically a computer database) and get you an ID card, which becomes your magic ticket. This will give you access to all military programs and benefits, not to mention access getting on post.

If you are in another location, your soldier hubby is going to have to pay for your move out of pocket. If you get married BEFORE he is due to move to his next duty station, the military will pay to move you there too.

This New Military Spouse Checklist does a good job of detailing the paperwork steps you need to take to integrate yourself into military life. The article does say to update your will and power of attorney. I know at a young age, I didn't have either of those. So, don't fret. When you get on post, you'll be able to make an appointment at the post legal office and get all that done for free.

Here are some of the links mentioned in the article:

Social Security Administration Name Changes

SGLI Insurance (every soldier is required to sign up or decline in writing this life insurance; cheap insurance and highly recommended as peace of mind); also read my article on more insurance options

Tricare (the military healthcare system; your husband will take you to the Tricare office on post, but you can read more about the benefits and how the system works at this site)

United Concordia (your dental care provider; again your husband will sign you up for this when he signs you up for your health insurance)

Read the quick blurb, A New Military Spouse's Orientation Guide to the Military Way of Life. One of the first things you'll notice, is that this not civilian life! There is a certain sense of order, tradition and way of doing things in the military...not to mention all the acronyms! It is possible to speak a whole sentence without using a single word out of the English dictionary. Honestly, you may be overwhelmed at first, but it helps to know that every General or Colonel's wife started out right where you are...clueless to how things are done in the military. They didn't just wake up one morning knowing all this stuff! So keep that in mind as you go along.

With that being said, when you first get to your military post, visit your Army Community Service (ACS) office. Not only will they have newcomer classes, they even have resources for working spouses, classes on everything from being a new mom to learning about military lingo and procedures through their Army Family Team Building (AFTB) classes...see, I told you about the acronyms.

The National Army Community Service website, has TONS of information for family members and spouses. It also has links to all the other important resource websites you should become familiar with. Military One Source is one you should visit and also Family Readiness Group.

Okay, your are probably thoroughly overwhelmed at this point! Since I was a company commander's wife back in the day, I knew a lot of new Army wives. The best way to get a feel of Army life, to understand what your husband goes through every day and to meet others just like you, you have to have faith and just jump in! Visit your local Army Community Service. Go to the monthly meetings of your husband's family readiness group. Being a single soldier, he probably didn't have much contact with that organization. This group is just a way for your husband's boss to keep you, the spouse informed, plus it's a great way to meet the other wives and children of your husband's coworkers. Some of the meetings will be informative, others will be fun with potlucks, classes, crafts and outings. It's important to make connections with others in your shoes, as well as with the seasoned veteran wives who are mostly happy to help.

Sign up for the latest round of Army Family Team Building (AFTB) classes at your Army Community Service (ACS). You'll feel more comfortable knowing what all those acronyms are, plus the classes can be fun finding out why the Army does things the way it does. Again, another chance to connect with others.

If you have kids, go by Child Youth Services (CYS). Not only do they have low-cost after school programs and services, but they have tons of activities, sports and other events for kids! I have fond memories of taking my little ones to play soccer there and to do the annual Easter Egg Hunt.

In talking with other wives, there is one book that always comes recommended. It's called The Homefront Club by Jacey Eckhardt. She talks about living the "happy military life". It's not so much a "how to" book, and it does give the viewpoint of an officer's wife rather than an enlisted wife, but it's more of a "what to expect as a spouse" type of read. Good reading and worth a look.

Oh, the young lady who wrote me the nice email did ask about her medical and dental records and mentioned she had just had all her check-ups done. Just bring those records with you. You won't need to have exams right away that I know of, but I would hang onto your civilian records for future reference. Don't turn them into the military healthcare system or they will become property of the military, and you'll have a hassle getting them back if you should need them somewhere down the road. Or, you can always make copies for your records if they're not too thick and you still want to hand them over. Again, as far as I know, there is no requirement to get any health check ups before or after getting married to a soldier.

In the military healthcare system, you schedule a yearly PAP and if you are over a certain age (I believe 40 or if you are high risk), a mammogram. Eye exams are yearly. You also get a physical every five years, where they do bloodwork and a general "once over". I know I get reminders in the mail when I am due to make an appointment. As for dentalwork, you are authorized cleanings and check ups every six months. You track that on your own. I have never gotten a reminder, and I unfortunately do have Army wife friends who only go to the dentist if there is a problem. Hey, if it's not costing you anything and preventative medicine is the way to go, then just go and get it done. You'll be a happier person for it!

If you have any tips you could pass on to new Army or military wives, please do share them! I know I mentioned mostly Army resources above, but each service has similar resources. I believe the Navy calls their family readiness office the Fleet and Family Support Center (here's an office in Hampton Roads, VA). The Air Force calls theirs Airman and Family Readiness Flight (Randolph AFB in Texas). The Force Health Protection and Readiness site has grouped all the websites together for all the services, so take a look there if you are not finding what you are looking for.

Added 3/7/2008, thanks Spousebuzz: Be sure to register for Military One Source. Once on the site, do a search for "army spouse guide", click on the guide. It is a wonderful resource for ALL new military wives, not just Army. It also comes in a handy PDF file for you to download and print. The guide goes over many of the things I mentioned here in this post, just in more detail and with pretty pictures!

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17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for that information!!!! You have NO idea how much that helped me and put my mind at ease! Weddings are stressful enough, not to mention having to pick and move across the good 'ol US of A, and then move out of the country. But then to go in blind, and not really know what to expect just adds to it! I have learned one thing on my own however. Being with a soldier definately isn't for everyone. It requires you to be an independant "dependant", to be strong for him when you want to break down and cry, to leave everything you have known for the past 20 some years to be with the man you love for maybe 6 months before his second or third or sometimes fourth tour, etc. I could go on and on and on here, and all the military wives know that. But that is what makes us special and unique. All those things make us proud, because our husbands, in my eyes, have the most important job in the world! And I can't imagine my life any different than it is right now. It's perfect! Chaos and all!

Thank you again for the wonderful tips you gave me! I'm sure you will be hearing from me again soon! ha ha!

-Sam

September 18, 2007 at 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! Your post was very helpful. I had no idea.

January 19, 2008 at 3:34 AM  
Blogger Joebelle said...

Great site, will be sending to my nephews who both married civilian women and are asking me what to do next? Thanks, Joebelle

March 6, 2008 at 2:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an Army wife of almost 5 years, I wanted to say that I agree with most everything you blogged about. The only exception would be the yearly reminders for eye exams and Paps! I have never received a reminder. So make sure you keep track of those yourself as well. Depending on the duty station, a spouse may not be able to get eye exams on base as well. Dental is great and free as long as you don't need work done and then it can be costly!

March 9, 2008 at 3:09 AM  
Anonymous Penelope said...

A wonderful article! I am also a (new) military spouse and a foreign national. Unfortunately there is not a lot of information available focusing on U.S. military and foreign spouses (Fiancee Visa, Green Card etc). My husband and I had a tough time understanding the immigration policy, and we did not get a lot of support. Luckily in the end everything worked out well. I learned so much during the past few years, I felt the need to share my experiences (both the good and the bad). Recently I designed a website and blog for new immigrants, new military spouses and new moms.

Website: www.trialsofpenelope.com
blog: www.trialsofpenelope.blogspot.com

September 30, 2008 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger Krystie said...

I am about to become an Army Wife, and this has been the most informative article I have found to date. But my fiancee is stationed in NC, and I live in NY. I will be staying here, because I have one year left to get my BA.

Does any one know, what is the procedure for circumstances like that?

December 17, 2008 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Congrats to you on your marriage and your BA! To answer your question, your husband will be what is known as a "geographical bachelor" or an unaccompanied soldier.

If you are not moving with him, then your husband's orders to his assignment will say unaccompanied (rather than accompanied, which means with dependents). This will allow him to get BAH, your housing allowance, at the rate of the zipcode where YOU are residing (which will obviously be more for NY than NC). He will have to work with his command to get approval to live in the barracks. Typically, soldiers in the rank of E5 and below, live in the barracks or "single soldier quarters". The Army used to have an official geographical bachelor program where it was automatically allowed but now it is only automatic overseas...each command handles it now at its level, case by case. It supposedly takes away from the quality of life from the lower ranking single soldiers if you have too many higher ranking soldiers in the barracks.

If he is authorized to live off post (ie, his rank is high enough and his command allows it), he will be paying his rent or whatever "out of pocket"...that will be on his own...so there will obviously be extra expenses involved with maintaining two households which the Army will not reimburse him for.

I believe you also will be eligible for separation pay....soldiers get this on the 31st day (and beyond) separation from their family...it isn't much, but it is something. I don't think this is just for deployed or soldiers on temporary duty.

When you are ready to move, your husband will have to petition his command to get you "on his orders", so that he will be accompanied. As far as I know, if you get married AFTER he joined the Army, your move is on your own dime as well.

There are a few wives over at armywives.com who are unaccompanied...how about writing a post over there?

Good luck to you!

December 18, 2008 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Since I do get a lot of new Army wife questions, especially about relocating, please follow these tips below:

http://www.goarmy.com/families/relocating.jsp

When you know your new duty station, you can investigate the Army's Relocation Readiness Program of your new post... Army Community Service (ACS) runs this program. Find an Army post in your area and google "the name of the post, ACS, relocation readiness program"...you can get some resources now. Here's an example of one.

Ft Hood
http://www.hoodmwr.com/ACS/rrb.html

December 18, 2008 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger rachel said...

Thank you so much for this site! I'm still unclear on one thing though and I feel in my search on the internet I have found the right place for the answers. My fiance is stationed in Kansas but deployed in Iraq right now. He comes back in August and is coming to California where I live so we can get married. He has orders to move to Germany in November and of course I want to join him. I still have some school to finish up and won't be able to leave California until October. Is there anyway the military will pay for us to move my things from California to Kansas or even better yet California to Germany? Or will we have to pay out of pocket for my things to be moved to Kansas then the military will pay to move them to Germany? OH! Also can we sign me up while he's on leave for DEERS and Tricare at a base close to me instead of the one he's stationed at in Kansas? Thanks again. Your help is so greatly appreciated!

June 21, 2010 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Congrats! Once you get officially married, your husband can do all the paperwork to get you in DEERS and Tricare thru his unit (where he is located). You can then travel to your nearest Army post to get your ID card and any other admin things that need to be done.

Tours to Germany are accompanied tours, meaning you can bring your family. He has to make sure he gets you written on his orders (assignment on paper to Germany). Only then can a movement be authorized for your goods from CA to Germany. The best place to get your question answered, after you are married, is to contact the Transportation Office (can google that + name of post) and ask them. I don't personally know what you are authorized. I know we get authorized a shipment into storage, a main household goods shipment and an unaccompanied baggage shipment to Germany...you can google those phrases to find their definitions. You may also want to ask on one of the military.com spouse message boards. Good luck to you.

June 21, 2010 at 9:36 PM  
Blogger rachel said...

Thank you so much again. All your help is greatly appreciated not only from me but I'm sure from so many others. Last time I was PCSing I was an AF brat and it was quite some time ago. Looking forward to the move to Germany even if it will be incredibly stressful, a bit scary, and still yet so familiar. :)

June 21, 2010 at 10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for all this info..so far I have not found a site as detailed as this as far as "what to expect". I really appreceiate it. I do have a question I cant seem to find an answer to and am hoping you can direct me in the right direction. How does all this work with kids from previous marriage? I have a 10 and 9 year old, my custody agreement states I am the primary provider, and I can live in any geographical location. It also stated that I had the sole authority to obtain a passport for them-didnt have to have his permission. How will this agreement hold up with the NAVY? My fiancee is overseas now and will be PCSing about 4 months after we get married, most likely to another station overseas. Where does that leave us. Can my ex stop us from joing him if he gets accompanied orders?

January 21, 2011 at 2:14 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Congrats to you! I wish I could give you better advice...unfortunately, I know very little about adopting other than foreign births AFTER you are married.

I would think that if you do not have sole custody, the father, in most states, would have the right to agree (or disagree) with what the kids are up to.

You should tell your fiance to stop by his post's legal office ASAP and get guidance from them, as I am sure he is not the first one to be faced with this.

If you like, I'd love to have the information you find on my site...if you find you'd like to help after you have delved into this, please let me know, and we could put the information on this blog to help others.

Good luck!

January 21, 2011 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger pink_suspenders said...

Hi! Thanks so much for the info. I'm in a relationship with an E6 in the us army, and we've been talking about getting married some time next year. I'm currently located in South East Asia, while he's in the US. If we get married and I move to the US, does the Army pay for the move or we'd have to pay for it on our own? Right now, he's in SC but might be getting orders to move in a year or two. Thanks so much!

May 1, 2011 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Congrats to you! Unfortunately, you'd be paying for the move out of pocket. It is my understanding that only if you are a dependent (so married to him) BEFORE he gets orders to his next duty location would the government pay for your move to the next duty location. You may want to double check with his nearest Transportation Office on his post for verfication, but that is how I understand the regulations. Sorry about that!

May 1, 2011 at 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My fiance is fixing to graduate from Ait school. He already has two Dependants so they said to wait to get married until the little time we have in between him graduating and getting stationed but we have to do it in between those couple of days in order for us to go with him. would it affect him getting a job having three Dependants because I really want to go ahead and get married before they tell us where we are going inorder to have all the paperwork done in time. Any suggestions?

August 5, 2011 at 6:33 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Your husband's marital status has absolutely no bearing on any future assignments. You are going to have to decide what is best for you and your new family. Obviously, being in the military is a way of life, so technically, you do have to plan around his schedule and when he is free. It would be nice for him to have time off afterwards but military life doesn't always support that.

August 5, 2011 at 3:04 PM  

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