Thursday, May 28, 2009

Warning: Not for the faint hearted!

Life in the Marine Corps is not for the faint hearted. This goes double for their spouses and children. There are many special challenges for dependents of Marine's. One of the first are periodic moves to different locations, Marine's average one move every 3 years. Uprooting a life with friends and known conditions is at best harrowing even if everything goes correctly. When something goes wrong, such as belongings that show up late, it can get downright horrific.

Another special challenge is the community standard. Living on base exposes everyone to the needs and requirements of the service. While it is possible to annoy neighbors in a community by letting the grass grow too high, in a military community that is a punishable offense.

Another of the challenges to be overcome is relative isolation. While military bases have many amenities, this is not the same as having everything you might desire or need, and typically the area immediately around a military base isn’t family friendly.

The most harrowing issue is of course deployment. Staying behind while the service member is sent overseas, possible to a war zone is one of the hardest tasks a family will ever face. While military units will try to prepare both the service member and dependents, this is never really enough.

The ways to combat this vary from family to family, but all units will have some sort of family association, or Family Readiness Group that should provide help. From a welcome committee which can provide you with maps and tell you where necessities can be found to a support group which can help each other out with needs or a shoulder to cry on during deployments. Having other families who can show up and help deal with the burdens when they grow overwhelming can be a lifesaver. Helping others in need can also provide a needed lift for you.

Dependants will quickly learn to have their ID handy. This will be required for services like the commissary. The actions and appearances of dependents will effect the promotion and progression of their service member. Military posts are much like small towns, with enough people around to make secrets difficult to keep. There is an old saying that anyone can make colonel, but it takes a wife to make a general. This emphasizes the importance a family can have on a career.

Military bases will normally have a commissary of some sort where you can purchase groceries, a MCX (BX/PX) which can be discribed as a department store, and smaller "mini mart" type stores which many call "7 day stores" and then some franchises to allow some semblance of normal life like a library and a school or schools. Often there will be neighborhood playgrounds. Sometimes there are other facilities, such as workshops where service members and dependants can perform automotive maintenance, woodworking or other tasks.

There are visitor’s centers which can point you towards the various features of the base. Another option is to search online. Many posts will have websites which discuss the post and locale, and there are many blogs where dependents discuss life around the service and how to deal with it.

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