By Crystal Lewis Brown, Fort Jackson LeaderSeptember 8, 2011
For the first time in six years, where I live -- and how we pay for it -- won't be taken care of by the Army. And when I make a phone call about health insurance, child care or, anything really, the person on the other line won't care about my sponsor's Social Security number. Because come this fall, I will no longer be a dependent; I'll just be a civilian.
And so will my husband.
While he will be going into the Reserves, I would be lying if I said that leaving the "traditional" Army family doesn't give me pause. There's just something about the security the military brings. For one; I've never had my own health insurance. And two, the relationships I've made since my husband started his career are invaluable. I can probably count on one hand my close friends who have no military affiliation whatsoever.
It's hard to imagine not heading to the Commissary or the Exchange to do my shopping. And what will my social calendar look like without the regular "Hail and farewell" dinners, Family Readiness Group meetings and military balls? And of course, many of my friends will go on to new duty stations in different cities, states, or even countries, while we forge ahead in this new civilian life.
While I am not saying goodbye completely -- as an Army civilian, I know I am still part of the Army family and the Fort Jackson community -- it still won't be the same.
When I married into the Army in February 2005, I didn't know what I was getting into. I took my first flight just months before on a small prop-plane that flew me into Fort Sill, Okla., where my husband was attending his officer basic course.
And while most people think our wedding date was chosen to center around Valentine's Day, the truth is a lot less romantic -- we chose a date that gave him two weeks to help plan the wedding and two weeks to pack for his new duty station in Germany where I joined him three months later.
Truth be told, I wasn't too keen on the military lifestyle at first. I found out a year or so later that just days into landing in Germany, I'd somehow already offended a bunch of people I'd never met, most likely based on someone not understanding my unusual sense of humor. That was the first of many misunderstandings I had, most of which I can now look back on and laugh.
Despite those missteps, I enjoyed being an Army spouse. I dove in headfirst, being assigned the task of FRG co-leader before I even really knew what the FRG was. I joined the spouses' club, and was even on the board before we headed back to the states. I made a number of friends, many with whom I am still in contact today. Friends that, during our husbands' deployments, knew when to get me out of the house and when I just needed to be left alone. For every Soldier who knew me as "Lt. Brown's wife," there was a spouse who knew him as "Crystal Brown's husband."
When we left that first duty station three years ago, in addition to German wine, I brought home some lifelong friendships and some lessons learned. But, unlike the wine, those lessons will stick with me. And, hopefully, so will the friendships.
So in a month or so, when my Soldier officially becomes Mr. Brown, I will be losing a big part of something that has been a major part of my adult life. And frankly, it's scary. But I know that having been a part of this family is something I will never forget, and something that has made me and my family stronger.