I’ve been married to the military since I graduated high school in a small town in middle Georgia. I wanted to see the world, but mainly I saw North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Kansas, D.C., Virginia and Maryland after that first exotic detour to Guam.
Year after year, the assignment list would release and we would get a normal CONUS (continental US) assignment while our friends headed to fabulous OCONUS (overseas) locations in Germany, Korea, Alaska or Hawaii. Finally, in 2013 and 2014, Jerry spent a year in Izmir, Turkey working for NATO and our travels throughout Turkey and Europe only made us hungry for more.
Meanwhile, life continued for us in the National Capital Region and thoughts of retirement became our nightly topic of conversation. We were convinced we wanted to go to Fort Leavenworth and then retire from there.
Once again, the deployment gods called out Jerry’s name in 2017 and a few months later he called from Afghanistan to give me an early Christmas present. The Army had offered us a three year tour in Italy! I could scarcely believe my ears. With only hours to decide, we took a leap of faith and Jerry accepted the assignment.
The six months between that call and Jerry’s flight to Italy were a whirlwind. Jerry returned from Afghanistan. We went to Jamaica with our dear friends and relaxed away the cares of deployment and prepared ourselves for the business of moving to Italy and out-processing at Fort Meade.
Our oldest daughter was married in D.C. Work projects and deadlines loomed. Jerry finished and successfully defended his dissertation and graduated from Kansas State University with a Ph.D. in Security Studies. We prepped our house to move and sold a truck and John Deere tractor while deciding what household items were to stay in storage and what we would put on a boat for Italy.
Visits to parents and extended family involved a road trip through Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. Finally, the three moving trucks were gone and we started what is currently at two months and counting in a hotel or Airbnb. That’s a lot of eating out, sharing one TV, carting luggage and parking fees.
Jerry left to report a few weeks before I did so that I could wrap up a major event at work. I made good use of those last weeks in the US. Goodbye dinners, farewell cocktails, adios lunches, sunset dinners with my mama, ciao ice creams with my grandbaby* and see you soon calls from a US number I’d had for 11 years. I stocked up on extra crispy bacon experiences, buttermilk biscuits, Mexican food and things like club sandwiches without an egg.
*It’s a whole other blog about saying goodbye to Lucas and how much I miss him.
Finally, my travel day arrived and after checking in ALL this luggage, I was ready to jet to Europe for a few years. Thank goodness Delta has generous military baggage limits when you are PCSing on orders.
From previous visits to Italy I already knew I would love it. But I also knew we would face major cultural adjustment and challenges. We are prepared to jump into learning the language and determined to be part of our village wherever we live.
No matter how much I’m going to love Italy, it seemed surreal to walk toward that American flag and know that I would be receiving an Italian social security number and a permanent resident visa for another country on the other end of the flight.
But I’m not afraid. Let the adventures begin! I already know there is no place like home.
#dayzero as I walk the long concourse at National Airport and head for security.