My husband officially retired from the US Air Force the end of April 2022, and he was on terminal leave from the end of December 2021.
Twenty years is such a long time, but also a short time.
We met when he was on his first tour – at Warner Robins, GA. It’s been about eighteen years for me. The lifetime of a military spouse.
The bittersweet of giving up a career in academia to homeschool children and keep house while traveling to various duty stations, trying to create a new life every three years.
There’s been good, bad, ugly.
There were seasons of joy and seasons of depression. There were sometimes too long moments when I didn’t want this life anymore and wondered if I could find something, anything better elsewhere.
Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night, disoriented, feeling out of time. Which house is this? Where am I? I almost expect my kids to wander in as toddlers, but they’re teens now. I am the keeper of all the memories since it all runs together for them. We have only pictures to remind them.
I am not a good military wife.
Oh, I tried over and over, but always failed miserably, to be a good military wife.
I had to purge so many possessions every time we moved. I regret and resent some of my collectibles and memories are gone forever because my husband was concerned with weight allowances for our packing out. Books signed by the author, my teapot collection, knickknacks, toys from my childhood, castoff furniture from my parents. Somehow, it was always my things that had to go?
I often lost and found myself in a spiral of packing materials, moving boxes, lost or stolen items, and so many broken glasses.
There’s a metaphor there somewhere.
Every time we moved, we could recreate ourselves.
It was never quite spoken aloud, but I think we all realized we could be whoever we wanted to be, sloughing off the old skins we wore at our last location and trying on someone new, seeing how it tasted in our mouths and felt in our hands.
I searched for community in churches, homeschool groups, co-ops, mom clubs, military spouse orgs.
I never felt that I fit and then it was time to leave again anyway.
Out of sight, out of mind.
No one stayed my friend.
I realize they were just acquaintances for a season.
My kids lost everyone every few years. They don’t even know their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents.
It’s been a lonely life. It’s still lonesome.
It infuriates me that we are so disposable.
Out of sight, out of mind.
So much loss over the years – broken items, broken hearts.
What to Expect with Military Retirement:
Hitting the Button
It was a bittersweet day when my husband officially requested retirement papers.
Military members can apply no earlier than 12 months prior to their retirement effective date. It is recommended that applications are submitted no later than 180 days prior to their effective pay date to ensure payment is received on time.
There were transition videos (TAP) and checklists to complete. It was worse than PCS checkout or high school graduation week!
I think there are options to cash in leave or take terminal leave before the actual retirement date. It might be different for various services or groups.
Taking terminal leave lets you use accrued leave in lieu of selling the leave. Terminal leave is granted at the discretion of your command.
It was a little bit awkward for us since there was six months of terminal leave, and this was all during COVID, so there were no parties or ceremonies.
When retiring from the military, you are permitted a last move to whatever location you choose within the U.S.A., a place that is known as your “home of selection.” You have a year to file for this.
We chose to stay in Dayton, Ohio.
My husband finally has an unexpired driver’s license with a current picture after updating it to Ohio from Illinois!
We lost SGLI, so we are choosing to purchase Term Life Insurance and opting to take all the precautions in case of death so the benefits continue for me and the kids. VGLI is another option.
USAA offers insurance and other services to look into and compare prices.
Tricare is still a great health insurance since we live right near Wright Patterson AFB. We like the continuity of care. We’re all in great health, but it’s familiar and easy and cheaper than alternatives for us. The retiree option has copays, so that’s different for us.
We chose to get dental and vision insurance through my husband’s new job.
My husband gets veteran medical care at WPAFB.
While some may be able or even want to be retired and putter around, we are still young and have teens who need all the things. Not working just isn’t an option yet.
If choosing to work right away on base in a GS, contractor, or similar capacity, there is a waiting period, but some can request a waiver and work immediately if there is a job offer.
My husband updated his LinkedIn and created a résumé. We thought it would be easy, but it was not. It was stressful and he had several interviews that were a joke. No one wanted to pay him what he was worth.
My husband was able to find a civilian job in January.
I had to buy him clothes! It’s so much more work having to choose chinos and a polo and socks and shoes than wearing a military uniform!
We chose to retire in Ohio because military pensions are not taxed. Some states have various tax breaks for military retirees.
Federal taxes may come as a surprise the first couple years with the military pension and his new job, so we’re opting to have more withheld and will probably hire a tax professional to help us navigate this year. I just hope to break even.
VA Rating and Benefits
There were so many medical appointments at private clinics and hospitals to ensure there was no fraud or cronyism. They checked every body system. It seemed each appointment was for one little thing. It took months.
He requested all his medical records and had to submit those as proof of any issues.
My husband received his VA benefits letter on May 2, 2022. He received his first VA check on June 1, 2022. There was no back pay.
VA benefits are not taxed.
Each state has different benefits based on ratings.
We had purchased our home with a VA Loan. The kids have a year of his GI Bill for college. VA education benefits are great in Ohio. There are free and discounted homeowner taxes and car license plates.
We need to update our financial investments, wills, and POAs. We haven’t updated these since the last deployment.
Some of this slid by since the JAG office has been closed during COVID.
There was so much military equipment to go through, give back, donate, sell. What would we ever need it for again?
I’m sure everyone’s military retirement process is a little different, but this was our rather simplified experience.
I’m glad we don’t have to deal with the dread of deployments or PCS anymore. Our kids are 12, 15, 16, and 21. We are relieved to have a home where we can finally feel like we can put down some roots.
Onward to the next stage of our lives!
You might also like:
- Stages of Grief: PCS Edition
- Putting Dreams on Hold
- Surviving Deployment as an Introvert Spouse
- Making a House a Home
- I Long for More
- Retiring?: Your Next Chapter Is about Much More Than Money by Ted Kaufman
- The 5 Years Before You Retire: Retirement Planning When You Need It the Most by Emily Guy Birken
- Empty Nest, Full Pockets: How to Emotionally and Financially Prepare for Your Family’s Future by Matt Meline
- What Color Is Your Parachute? for Retirement: Planning a Prosperous, Healthy, and Happy Future by John E. Nelson
- The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life by Lynne Twist
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