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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our first O-conus PCS

Our first O-conus PCS (that is Outside the Continental US - Permanent Change of Duty Station) 

It seems fitting that I start this blog with one of the toughest times I've encountered as a military wife. Also fitting because I am so far from family, so they can kind of 'keep up' with me, if you will, and follow along my daily life as a military wife =)

Bear with me as I back up one month, to September 19th, 2011; our first Oconus PCS. I suppose that’s not very accurate though, since NO PCS is done in a day. So I guess I’ll just start at the beginning…..
August 2010. My family took a vacation to Germany. It was a big affair. My father (who is from Germany), my mother, my sister Gretchen, her husband Tom, my littlest brother Hans, (who’s not so little at 6’2), and my husband Alex, our daughter Lexi, (then 13mos) and I - all went! We stayed 2 weeks and toured where my dad was born and grew up. It was awesome! We got to meet a lot of family for the first time and we just really enjoyed ourselves!

All of us in Germany on the last day 17 Aug 2010. In the town of Neckarsteinach along the Rhine-Neckar.

No sooner did we get back to Ft Lewis (where we were stationed at the time) when we heard all kinds of things about people coming down on orders, some of them… to Germany. (It seems everything happens while you’re away!) I was all kinds of excited! I kept praying, ‘God if it is your will... please let us go to Germany’ (but don’t tell my husband this!! Ha!)

Well, no lie, October rolled around and my husband came home and said he had received an email that day from... don’t ask ME who… the PCS gods I presume… and we would be PCS’ing to Germany come May. It was kind of funny, really. He broke the news to me all gently, like, ‘I know, this is going to be tough.’ Meanwhile I’m doing cartwheels on the inside!!! (but don’t tell my husband this!!)

So, it was a long ways off and there was MUCH to do! Back then my husband worked LONG hours! We awoke at and he didn’t come home until . It didn’t help that we lived almost an hour from the post. And I should mention that he had only just gotten home that June from a year long deployment to Iraq, his 4th Iraq/Afghanistan deployment. It was tough. But somehow, as usual, we made it work. We filled every spare moment with family time. People offered to watch our daughter so we could have a ‘date’ night but for us it was more fun to do things with our daughter and with our two dogs, the boys.

Favorite memory that summer after Alex came home? Driving to town to get ice cream and sharing it with Lexi and the dogs!

this pic was actually taken in Frbruary 2010 on Alex's R&R but I love it. And as you can see it's a long standing family tradition to go get ice cream togehter =)

Come January 2011 (just 6mos from returning from a year long deployment) he was off again to some school in Georgia. He was going to be gone for 2 school back to back and wasn't expected home until May. We actually got our PCS date moved back to June because of it.

For some reason, while he was gone, I had a very tough time. I ended up being so distraught and depressed that my sister, Gretchen, helped pay for our sister in law, Kelly, to come visit me. Kelly is married to our other little brother Ludwig (also not so little at 6’1, haha!) but he was deployed to Afghanistan at the time. (this is why he missed the big family trip to Germany the previous August). Kelly ended up spending 3 weeks with me helping me cope and helping me take care of Lexi. It is a time in my life I never want to remember and I blame it on having just rehomed my 3 horses (which was phase 1 of our oconus pcs) and just Alex being gone again and the stress of an upcoming PCS. Whatever it was, my sister and sister in law were my angels and really stepped up and came to my rescue.

After Kelly left I drove Lexi (then 18mos) and our 2 boys (the dogs) 17 hours down south to California to stay with Alex’s side of the family. Alex ended up coming home earlier than planned and I drove back up to be with him again in April. But remember, we had been apart since January.

A month and a half later, the end of May, as the movers finished up packing our house, Lexi and I kissed Alex goodbye and headed to NH. We had flown my father out to accompany me, Lexi and the two dogs on our cross country road trip from WA to NH. And it wasn’t a direct one, either!

We went from WA down south to CA, to stop one last time to see Alex’s side of the family. Then north east to CO to see my sister in law (who had JUST moved there from NH in anticipation of my brother Ludwig’s homecoming) from there we WOULD have gone to Ft. Riley KS to see my brother Hans but he had JUST deployed to Afghanistan as well. So... what did we do instead of heading straight to NH from there? Well we headed south again to Ft Sill Oklahoma to be with one of my bestest friends. (yes auto correct is trying to fix the word ‘bestest’ I don’t care! I love her). After a couple days with her family we finally headed to New England and good ol’ NH!

As we were approaching the finish line, (2 whole weeks later), Alex was getting on his direct flight from Seattle WA to Frankfurt Germany.

So, I relaxed. Phases two (the movers) and three (the cross country drive) of our Oconus PCS were over. We enjoyed the summer with my side of the family and all my close friends from grade school on up, but (a BIG but) we were missing Alex… a feeling that is all too familiar. And he was missing us. He had a lot to do to get settled in but he was definitely spending his free time checking out the area and enjoying himself. I had no clue JUST how much time he spent inprocessing until I arrived and and had to inprocess!!

Towards the end of summer it was, how do I say, GO time. There were a million things to do. I had to jump through a lot of hoops getting the dogs’ paperwork in order. This included faxing their records from the Fort Lewis vet, two trips to a military vet on an air base an hour away and then tracking down a USDA office 2.5 hrs away. (yes, I said USDA.. and no, we were not bringing cows with us, just our dogs!) Now mind you, all of this needs to be done last minute, and not by choice. But the paperwork has to all be dated within a certain amount of time before arrival in Germany. We had to show their vaccines, a bilingual health certificate and rabies vaccination sheet and a flight health certificate. On top of all that one of our dogs ended up needing to have a 2nd chip put in him because apparently the one he had wasn’t up to international standards! And all this information you need doesn’t come easy. It comes in pieces and you have to do your homework on it all. Otherwise, you have the fear of your dogs being quarantined up to 90 days on the other side. Something that would not only be heartbreaking for them and us (I mean they sleep on the bed with us) but would also cost us hundreds of dollars! Let me tell you, the Army does not make it easy for you to bring your pet!
Here I will let your eyes rest and finish up the story in my next posting.
                      ‘Til next time… I’ll be living my life as a soldier’s wife. Sooo dreamy =)

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